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Sailing the Stormy Seas of Recession

Preparing for a tough economic year in 2012.

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The world is moving yet again towards the threat of recession, with exchange rates yo-yoing. Under these circumstances, the natural instinct of many is to batten down the hatches and find a safe shelter in which to weather out the storm.

According to Kevin Phillips, MD of idu Software, one typical manifestation of this instinct is that companies stop spending on any but the most obvious of necessities; they do what they must to survive, but no more.

“Interestingly, often those who come out strongest on the other side of bad times are the companies who have remained proactive rather than retreating into reactive mode,” he says. “It’s precisely in times of danger that we have the best opportunity to refine our processes so that they deliver the maximum benefit for the lowest possible cost, not only in terms of money but also in time and resources.”

Using the bad for good

Phillips elaborates: “When times are easy, many firms treat their budgeting process as a ‘nice to have’ – so it doesn’t matter if it takes three months to complete, relies on dodgy figures and is never checked again by anybody outside the accounts department.”

He believes that when things get tough, there’s no room for this kind of indulgence. “The budget is the most visible and important tool through which you manage your costs, and it should be part of the daily awareness of everyone who ever signs off an expense,” he says.

“Every cost centre manager, in other words, needs to manage his or her own budget. And to do that, they need both accurate, timely information and autonomy to act in their own area of responsibility.

“If we come back to the idea of a company in recession being like a ship in a storm, there are lessons to be learned from how the chain of command functioned in the days when information moved at the speed of sail and it took weeks, months or sometimes years to relay orders.”

Accountability

As readers of the great nautical novelist Patrick O’Brian will know, the success of an admiral depended greatly on the quality of his captains. Within the context of the orders which set his overall mission, each captain was empowered to do whatever was necessary, in his judgment, to fulfill those orders given the circumstances he found. When your ship is weeks or months away from the nearest communication, checking back with your boss before you act is not an option. Of course, the captain was also completely accountable for the results of his actions.

“In exactly the same way, cost centre managers need to be empowered to carry out their orders according to their own judgment. Rather than a directive from on high to ‘cut your travel costs’, let the fleet order be ‘cut your costs’ – and let the individual captain decide where in his cost centre those cuts should come. Maybe travel for the IT department is no big loss; limit your sales team’s travel, though, and you could be losing sales.

“Micromanagement, centralisation of power – whatever you call it, it’s a natural response to uncertainty – but it doesn’t work. It leads only to paralysis and stagnation. In the bad times almost more than any other, staying afloat means empowering everyone to manage their own domain to the best of their ability – and being responsible for the consequences,” Phillips concludes.

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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Dream Big – Engen Dealer Lydia Ramatisa

All the odds were stacked against her, but Engen service station owner Lydia Ramatisa is proof that with hard work, commitment and passion, success is indeed possible.

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Lydia Ramatisa, franchisee at Engen’s Orkney Convenience Centre in Klerksdorp in the North West, could easily have become yet another teenage-mother dropout. Instead, the arrival of her baby girl Rethabile 14 years ago sharpened her focus, driving her to chase her dreams.

“I was in Grade 11 and suddenly I had to find work so I could feed my baby. It was a tough lesson,” Ramatisa recalls.

Today she is a beneficiary of Engen’s decision to prioritise the empowerment of black women in a bid to effect positive change in South Africa.

In 2012, the National Empowerment Fund set up a R50-million affordable loan facility for black entrepreneurs to acquire Engen retail dealerships.

According to Unathi Njokweni-Magida, Engen’s Head of Transformation and Stakeholder Engagement, 46% of the company’s 1 020 retail service station are now black-owned, with 10% of them women-owned.

Ramatisa recalls how she got her first position with Engen as a cashier at the Uncle George Service Station in her home town of Jouberton, also in Klerksdorp, 12 years ago. She had sought a better-paying job after first working in a bakery for just R800 a month.

Related: Engen Gave Me The Platform To Chase My True Calling – Former Pump Attendant

“I used to work extra hours at the Uncle George location, just to make sure the business was running well. My main aim was to see the customers always happy with our service,” she says.

That’s because while Ramatisa may not have an education beyond Grade 11, she quickly figured out that if the customers were happy, the business would thrive.

“I got interested in everything about the operations of the service station, and soon began acting as a supervisor, directing, managing and helping train the staff to do their best work.”

After eight years at the Jouberton location, where she rose to assistant manager, Ramatisa got the chance to run her own concern when her boss, Dr Abdool Ebrahim, suggested she apply for her own Engen franchise.

“I told him I was an uneducated woman but he was adamant that I was young and ambitious, and that I was exactly the kind of person Engen was looking for, who they could help to learn and grow.

“Once I got to the interview I had no more fear. I just wanted to show them exactly what I had to offer,” she remembers.

That was in 2015, when the Orkney site was ready to reopen after a two-year shutdown.

“Engen put their trust in me, and I became the majority shareholder in the operation, which includes the petrol and Quickshop, as well as a Corner Bakery and Barcelos.

Ramatisa and her team have since doubled previous sales figures for all parts of the operation, and were named by Engen in the top two operations for the region in July.

“It’s extremely hard work, but I am so proud of what we are achieving,” she adds.

Ramatisa also changed the future for Rethabile, and her other daughter, Bonita, 3, explaining that she invests in their education wherever possible.

“I may be a single mother, and I may not have much of an education, but I am proof that hard work really does pay off. When I failed to matriculate, I promised myself that that would be my last failure.

“Other women out there need to know that they can do the same if they put in the time and effort, and if they have love for what they do.”

Njokweni-Magida says that by continuing to attract and grow the talents of young women like Ramatisa, Engen is helping build a prosperous future for all South Africans.

Related: How Does One Start a Petrol Station in South Africa?

“We are focused on integrating more women across our entire value chain, and are very proud of success stories like this one.”

Other than the significant boost in the number of black and women dealership owners, the Engen Limited board comprises 54% black members, and 31% black women. The Engen management committee is 64% black, and 36% black female, while senior management in the organisation is 65% black of which 36% are black female.

Ramatisa says she “fell in love” with Engen’s operational methods.

“I remain passionate about the Engen brand, and thank the company for proving that if you offer someone an opportunity, along with mentorship and guidance, anything is possible.”

Her message to other women like her? “Don’t be afraid to dream big. I am proof that you can do anything you want in life.”

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Winners Of The 2018 FAIRLADY Santam Women Of The Future Awards Announced

FAIRLADY magazine has announced the winners of the annual FAIRLADY Santam Women of the Future Awards at an exclusive VIP luncheon at Summer Place in Hyde Park.

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The three winners were selected from a shortlist of finalists by a panel of South African judges – FAIRLADY editor Suzy Brokensha, Professor Thuli Madonsela, Head HR business partners at Santam Annette La Grange, media entrepreneur and international speaker Jo-Ann Strauss and businesswoman Dawn Nathan-Jones.

Through an independent survey, Santam found that the first 1 000 days of a business are the hardest. If you’re still in business by day 1 001, they’ve found, you’re likely to succeed long term. These high-fliers have either already surpassed that critical point or are well on the way to doing so!

“Through this competition, we have seen remarkable women that have achieved amazing results.  Our aim is to ensure that these businesses have a greater impact in the South African economy. We’re honoured to have been part of their entrepreneurial journey.” said Mokaedi Dilotsotlhe, Chief Marketing Officer at Santam.

Related: 13 Female Entrepreneurs Rising To The Top In SA

We are proud to announce the winners:

Patricia Schröder of Reclite SA has been named the 2018 FAIRLADY Santam Woman of the Future (awarded to a female entrepreneur who has survived the first 1 000 days of business). Reclite SA collects, transports and recycles lighting, batteries and electronics. ‘Winning the Woman of the Future Award is recognition for all the hard work that my team and I have done and a reminder that hard work does pay off in the end! It will also serve as inspiration for other women to chase their dreams and passions,’ says Patricia.

She receives R50 000 in cash, a mentoring session with one of the judges, an Issey Miyake fragrance hamper worth R6 990, an IMM Graduate School short course worth R15 000, a Michel Herbelin watch worth R10 500, a Samsonite Karissa Biz Bailhandle and Spinner suitcase worth R7 298, a Madrid ladies handbag and purse from Jekyll & Hide valued at R4 799, a Cross pen worth R2 500 and one media training session.

Vere Shaba of Shaba & Ramplin Green Building Solutions is the winner of the 2018 FAIRLADY Santam Rising Star Award (awarded to a female entrepreneur who is still within her 1 000 days of business). Her engineering consulting firm specialises in green building certifications, engineering solutions, energy solutions and strategic partnerships across the African continent. ‘Winning this award will enable me to create opportunities in the green building sector for South Africans in the future, as well as expand the business into key economic hubs in Africa and Europe,’ says Vere.

She receives R20 000 in cash, a mentoring session with one of the judges, an Issey Miyake fragrance hamper worth R6 990, an IMM Graduate School short course worth R15 000, a Michel Herbelin watch worth R10 500, a Samsonite Karissa Biz Bailhandle and Spinner suitcase worth R7 298, a Madrid ladies handbag and purse from Jekyll & Hide valued at R4 799, a Cross pen worth R2 500 and one media training session.

Lindiwe Matlali of Africa Teen Geeks won the 2018 FAIRLADY Santam Social Entrepreneur Award (awarded to a female entrepreneur who is making a real difference in her community). Africa Teen Geeks offers children between the ages of six and 18 free lessons on how to code. The NPO has partnered with UNISA to facilitate Saturday classes in their computer labs countrywide. ‘Knowing that we give kids hope and raise their aspirations is my biggest achievement and driver,’ says Lindiwe.

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

She receives R20 000 in cash, a mentoring session with one of the judges, an Issey Miyake fragrance hamper worth R6 990, an IMM Graduate School short course worth R15 000, a Michel Herbelin watch worth R10 500, a Samsonite Karissa Biz Bailhandle and Spinner suitcase worth R7 298, a Madrid ladies handbag and purse from Jekyll & Hide valued at R4 799, a Cross pen worth R2 500 and one media training session

‘I always find the winners of the FAIRLADY Santam Women of the Future Awards absolutely admirable,’ says FAIRLADY editor Suzy Brokensha. ‘But what has really struck me about this year’s winners is how they are future-proofing the world through their businesses: Patricia and Vere through huge green initiatives that have gone out of the domestic and into the commercial world, and Lindiwe through giving marginalised kids a real shot at competing in this economy on an equal footing.’

Guests in attendance at the luncheon included businesswoman Wendy Luhabe, philanthropist and author Sonia Booth, businesswoman Judi Nwokedi, Miss World SA Thulisa Keyi, international activist Catherine Constantinides, media personalities Ashley Hayden and Penny Lebyane.

Read more about the winners and their businesses in the latest issue of FAIRLADY magazine, on sale Monday, 20 August 2018.

Follow FAIRLADY on Facebook, www.facebook.com/fairladymag, @FairladyMag on Twitter and @Fairlady_Magazine on Instagram.

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Business Linkages And Investment Readiness

The Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) is hosting its flagship Growth Accelerator Programme for 2018, sponsored by Nedbank.

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The Africa Women Innovation & Entrepreneurship Forum (AWIEF) is hosting its flagship Growth Accelerator Programme for 2018, sponsored by Nedbank. AWIEF is seeking 25 ambitious, innovative and committed early-growth-stage South African women entrepreneurs, from a variety of sectors, looking for support to scale their businesses.

Access to finance is the most cited challenge to the growth of women-owned businesses in Africa. Bankability and investment readiness are major impediments to attracting business finance.

This is an intensive six-week programme designed to support participants with the business modelling and growth strategy required to scale their enterprises, become investment ready and develop entrepreneurial leadership. The programme will cover:

  • purpose and values
  • target market, competitive landscape and value proposition
  • delivery model
  • financial modelling
  • conduct a creative force
  • growth strategy
  • financing for scale
  • pitch training.

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

Nirmala Reddy, Senior Manager of Nedbank Enterprise Development, says: ‘We support initiatives such as this in line with our pledge to help clients see money differently, which is aimed at making a difference in South Africa, not just for women and children and business, but also for communities throughout the country. The bank strongly focuses on the development of female employees and black-women-owned suppliers, and this can be seen through our development and training programmes. We are also proud that women make up 62% of the workforce at Nedbank.’

The 2018 AWIEF Growth Accelerator, with its first 25 participants, is implemented as a build-up programme that will culminate at the 2018 AWIEF Conference, Exhibition and Awards event taking place on 8 and 9 November at the Cape Town International Convention Centre, where participating entrepreneurs will pitch their business to an audience of investors, business leaders and corporate decision-makers.

The three best ventures stand to win monetary prizes from AWIEF and financial management advice from Nedbank.

The programme details are as follows:

  • Dates: Starts on 17 September and culminates on 8 and 9 November 2018
  • Location: Cape Town and Johannesburg
  • Participation fee: Free 

Eligibility

Businesses must be:

  • in a post-revenue phase;
  • scalable and innovative ventures;
  • in operation for not less than two years (ideally three to five years);
  • owned or led by ambitious and committed women entrepreneurs; and
  • seeking investment or funding to grow.

If you are interested in participating, click here to apply. Applications close on 31 August 2018.

The event is hosted by AWIEF and sponsored by Nedbank.

Read next: Kid Entrepreneurs Who Have Already Built Successful Businesses (And How You Can Too)

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