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Opening An International Business In SA – Renny Letswalo Shares Her Story

Renny Letswalo, a successful black female entrepreneur who has established the Cambridge Weight Plan franchise in Southern Africa, shares her entrepreneurial journey as well as pearls of wisdom with other entrepreneurs.

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Renny Letswalo’s first entrepreneurial venture was opening a guest house and mobile Thai Spa in her late 30’s. “I realised my entrepreneurial muscle later in life, but despite the late start, I am excited to keep learning,” says Letswalo. Her latest business venture as health and lifestyle coach and managing director of Cambridge Weight Plan Southern Africa was born out of her passion to help others be their best.

“When I struggled with my weight and health, I looked around for solutions and couldn’t find any that really could help. I was then introduced to Cambridge Weight Plan by a colleague who had just gone through a transformation themselves. I then went through the program, and it really helped me deal with my health and weight problems. When I realised that there is a solution that doesn’t only give you hope but is effective and delivers real results, I became a consultant for Cambridge Weight Plan and later then decided to re-establish the business in Southern Africa,” says Letswalo.

Letswalo’s vision is to help a million men and women overcome obesity and fulfill their potential for holistic health and wellness.  Letswalo’s plans also involve using her weight and health company as a vehicle to develop skills for young South African’s to start and operate sustainable businesses. Cambridge Weight Plan Southern Africa invites young individuals who wish to operate their own Cambridge Weight Plan Centre, to apply for the partnership opportunity. These individuals will be provided with support, skills and tools to kick start a successful business operation.

Renny has had extensive corporate experience over 25 years, up to executive management level, in a variety of industries from the motor industry, to clothing retail, financial services and oil & energy, in major companies such as VW, Edgars, Absa and BP. She has excelled in retail operations, marketing and business management as well as people development. Her experience in all these areas gives her an in-depth knowledge and skills to develop a business model that young South Africans can use to establish a successful sustainable small business.

Related: [Infographic] The World’s Most Influential Female Entrepreneurs

The journey so far

For Letswalo, the journey has been about small beginnings. She is re-establishing Cambridge Weight Plan Southern Africa from ground zero and would like to see it grow exponentially, not only in South Africa but in neighboring countries.

“Even with a few hurdles that I’ve had to overcome when establishing the business, I see more opportunities everyday”, says Renny Letswalo.

What keeps you motivated?

“I am glad to wake up every day with my vision of helping millions to be healthy while also assisting young people develop their businesses,” says Letswalo.

I have also been motivated by all the other entrepreneurs who run Cambridge Weight Plan in their various countries, who shows me that a small business can be made sustainable success.

Which entrepreneurs do you look up to and why?

“I look up to people like Richard Brandon who always shows us that they started brands like Virgin from small beginnings and kept on going; and have taken many steps and risks to grow their different ventures. I also look up to entrepreneurs who are not know but in the little fields and corners make a difference to others and provide solutions to people, while they feed themselves and their families,” adds Letswalo.

The greatest lessons learnt

Letswalo believes vision and focus have been her biggest learnings. “You need to take little steps everyday towards your vision. No matter how difficult, just take the step even if you don’t see results now, take the step.” Letswalo is clear that she is realistic about the challenges that still lie ahead.  

Words of wisdom for other entrepreneurs

Letswalo advises other entrepreneurs not to embark on the journey alone but to rather learn from others and seek their advice. She also recommends seeking out the help of a coach. “There are number of people that are my mentors, from my friends that are woman entrepreneurs to other entrepreneurs that have made it big as well as start-ups still trying to establish their businesses,” Letswalo also follows the lives of other entrepreneurs for inspiration.

Related: Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

What in your opinion makes an entrepreneur successful?

Letswalo believes there are 5 main things that she has learnt from other successful entrepreneurs that she applies in her life.

  1. Pursue a business that you passionate about, something you truly believe you are called for. Something that you love that even when the chips are down you won’t give in. You must be clear what that is and clearly develop this as your life mission.
  2. Learn everything about your field of business and make yourself an expert in that field and the related parts of that business.
  3. Apply what you learn everyday
  4. Measure the application of your leanings through results
  5. Repeat the learning, application and measurement – again, again and again. 

We all have opportunities to create jobs and improve our standard of living,” says Letswalo.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.

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3 Stealthy Tax Hikes Payroll Managers And Employees Need To Take Note Of

By Rob Cooper, tax expert at Sage, and chairman of the Payroll Authors Group of South Africa

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“Dammed if you do and dammed if you don’t.” 

The adage summarises the difficult decisions government and the Finance Minister faced when balancing the country’s books, rescuing state-owned enterprises, and reviving the growth of our economy. Given the economic pressure that most taxpayers are facing, government ideally needed to achieve all of that without direct increases to personal income tax in the most recent Budget Speech.

Personal income tax has comprised at least a third of South Africa’s total tax revenue in recent tax years, despite growing unemployment. The 2019 Budget, presented in February, forecasts that personal income tax will account for nearly 39% of tax collected during the upcoming (2019/20) tax year. Given that we are in an election year and that the tax base is fragile, it’s not surprising that the Finance Minister and the National Treasury avoided direct increases to the statutory tax tables used to calculate PAYE for employees in the budget.

Nonetheless, government has made inflation work in its favour to impose some tax increases by stealth. Here are three ways government is raising more revenue without direct tax increases:

1. Bracket creep

The statutory tax tables used by payrolls and employers have not been changed for 2019/20, nor have the brackets been adjusted for inflation. This effectively amounts to an indirect tax increase that will yield a revenue saving of approximately R12.8 billion for government’s coffers.

It is not unusual for government to use ‘bracket creep’ to effectively raise more revenue. But unlike previous tax years, even low- and middle-income earners are not getting much relief. Rebates and the tax threshold are being increased by small amounts to allow some relief, but many people this year will feel the pain as inflationary salary increases push them into a higher tax bracket.

2. Medical aid credit not adjusted for inflation 

As proposed in the 2018 Budget, the Finance Minister did not apply an inflationary increase to the Medical Tax Credit, which allowed him to raise an extra R1 billion in revenue for the year. Surprisingly, these funds will be allocated to general tax revenue rather than ring-fenced for healthcare. In previous tax years, revenue generated from below-inflation increases on medical scheme credits was used to fund National Health Insurance (NHI) pilot projects.

There is still no clarity on how the NHI is going to be funded except for a general statement that the funding model is a problem for the National Treasury to solve, and that the principles of cross-subsidisation will apply. One wonders if any real progress will be made soon, given the fiscal constraints government faces.

3. Business travel deduction left untouched

The Budget leaves the per-kilometre cost rates used to determine tax deductions for business travel untouched. By not increasing travel rates to account for inflation, government effectively increases income tax collection at the cost of the taxpayer. This will be a blow for people who need to claim from their employers for business travel in their personal vehicles. This change has slipped through largely unnoticed and the budget does not provide numbers for the expected increase in tax revenue.

Closing words

Amid political turmoil and uncertainty, the Finance Minister presented a balanced budget for 2019/20 that offers hope for the future along with some tough love. With government taking steps to accelerate economic growth and improve revenue collection, we should hopefully see a steady improvement in government finances, which will translate into less pressure on the taxpayer in future years.

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SMEs: Staying On The Right Side Of The Taxman

Remaining SARS compliant can be a constant challenge for small- to medium-enterprises (SMEs), especially when they are trying to focus on growing their businesses and streamlining their operations.

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EasyBiz Managing Director, Gary Epstein, says submitting taxes can be a seamless process that does not have to take up more time than is necessary. “If business owners understand what is required of them and they put a few processes into place to deal with their tax submissions properly, their lives will be so much easier.”

What are the top three considerations for SMEs when submitting tax returns?

“Firstly,” says Epstein, “SARS returns must be accurate and submitted in terms of the relevant Act. Secondly, returns should be submitted and paid on time to avoid unnecessary penalties and interest, and thirdly, business owners must follow up on queries issued by SARS. “Do not ignore these queries, act on them as soon as possible”.

What are the major SARS submission deadlines for SMEs?

Epstein points out that small business owners need to adhere to various tax deadlines, each with their own particular dates for submission. “It is important that business owners diarise the dates (and set advance reminders for themselves) and/or enlist the services of an accountant or financial adviser to help them keep abreast of requirements.”

Value-added tax (VAT)

VAT payments need to be submitted in the VAT period allocated to the business, according to various categories and ending on the last day of a calendar month. This may mean making payments once a month, once every two months, once every six months or annually, depending on the category.

Provisional taxes

Provisional tax should be submitted at the end of August (first provisional) and at the end of February (second provisional) – for February year-end companies.

Employee taxes

In addition to submitting an annual reconciliation (EMP501) for the period 1 March to end of February for Pay-As-You-Earn (PAYE), Skills Development Levy (SDL) and Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), employee tax, in the form of an EMP201 return, needs to be submitted by the seventh of every month.

When can SMEs get extensions and is it worth it?

Epstein says SMEs can apply for various extensions, but these are subject to the Income Tax Act and Tax Administration Act.

“It is best for SMEs to consult their tax professionals to get advice regarding extensions for their businesses.”

What is SARS not flexible about?

SARS is not flexible when it comes to late returns and late payments.

“I cannot stress enough how important it is for SME owners to ensure their tax returns are submitted on time. In this way, they will avoid the inconvenience and expense of additional fines and interest,” notes Epstein.

What skills do SMEs need in their organisations to be able to submit to SARS efficiently?

Business owners often don’t have the time or expertise to deal with tax submissions throughout the year. If the business cannot afford to employ a full-time accountant or financial services expert, it would do well to outsource its tax requirements to a registered tax practitioner.

“I would recommend that even if they are not submitting the tax returns themselves, business owners should have a broad understanding of the tax regulations and what is expected of them. There is a lot of helpful information on the various Acts and tax requirements on SARS’ website,” says Epstein.

How does the right software help SMEs remain SARS compliant?

SME’s (and their accountants’) jobs can be made easier by using reliable accounting software to calculate accurate VAT reports. These reports are only as accurate as the data entered into them, which means care needs to be taken when inputting data into the accounting programme. Epstein says a good accounting software package must be reliable, easy to use and functional.

“SMEs need to check that the software has thorough reporting capabilities and can interface with other software solutions. Of course, it is also important to find out whether the software is locally supported by the vendor or not.”

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4 Dangers Of Business Under-insurance

A common short-term insurance peril that many SMEs face when submitting a claim following an insured event is the risk of being underinsured.

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Malesela Maupa, Head of Products and Insurer Relationships at FNB Insurance Brokers says, many small business owners mistakenly believe that by merely having a short-term insurance policy in place they are adequately protected against unforeseen events.

“This is technically correct provided that the business is covered for the full replacement value of the items insured. However, in circumstances where the sum insured does not cover the full replacement value or material loss of the item insured, the business is underinsured,” explains Maupa, as he unpacks the dangers of business underinsurance:

1. Financial loss

The most common risk is financial loss on the part of the business. If the business is underinsured or the indemnity period understated, the short-term insurance policy will only pay out the sum insured for the stated indemnity period as stated in the schedule, with the business owner having to provide for the shortfall. This often leads to cash flow challenges, impacting profit margins or rendering it difficult for the business to recover following the financial loss.

2. Reputational damage

Should an underinsured business not have sufficient funds to replace a key business activity or critical component following a loss, this may impact its ability to fulfil its contractual obligations, leading to a loss of business or market share, and irreparable reputational damage in the worst-case scenario.

3. Legal action

A small business also faces the risk of customers or clients taking legal action against it, should it fail to deliver on goods and services following a loss or be unable to honour its financial commitments that they committed to prior to the loss.

4. Survival of the business

A catastrophic event such as fire, which could result in the loss of stock or company equipment and documentation, could threaten the survival of a small business that is not yet fully established, if the business assets are not adequately insured.

Working with an experienced short-term insurance broker or insurer is essential when taking up short-term insurance to ensure that business contents are covered for their full replacement value.

Furthermore, depending on the nature of the business or item insured, the policy should be reviewed on a regular basis to avoid underinsurance as the value of items often change overtime due to fluctuations in economic activity. Where it’s necessary, evaluation certificates need to be kept up to date.

“Lastly, SMEs should ensure that the sum insured does not exceed the replacement value, which would lead to over insurance. Should a business submit a claim following a loss, the insurer would only pay out the replacement value, regardless of the higher sum insured,” concludes Maupa.

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