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Top Talent Boosts Business

When times are tough, invest in talent.

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Can internal coaching be used as a cost effective and strategic tool to steer an organisation through lean times? Absa believes so and has just been nominated for an ICF Prism Award for its innovative internal coaching strategy.

To navigate its way through challenging times, Absa is investing in talent. Throughout Absa, internal coaching has become a key strategic part of business as usual. According to Specialist, Coaching, Mentoring and Talent Development, Maria Cussell Humphries, this approach is saving the organisation money, whilst bolstering its in-house human resource capabilities.

“Coaching isn’t new in Absa and we realise that it is a powerful tool for unlocking talent and is a core skill to have internally,” says Cussell Humphries.

“So far we have found it extremely beneficial in terms of talent retention and leadership development,” she said. “In fact, we are seeing that not only are our HR professionals coming to do the programme, but so are some of our senior leadership.”

Developing talent

The programme in question was designed by the Centre for Coaching, situated at the UCT Graduate School of Business, and piloted in the organisation in 2010. The idea, according to Cussell Humphries, enabled Absa to offer leadership coaching and develop talent in a more cost effective way.

The Centre for Coaching programme makes use of a unique approach, Coaching Circles, which allows coaches to build trust amongst their peers, to receive immediate feedback about their approach and to understand fully, through practical experience, the role of a coach.

“Adults learn better under certain conditions,” says Janine Everson, co-director of the Centre for Coaching. “Being observed and being given feedback is pivotal to adult learning. And this needs to take place in an environment in which they feel safe enough to explore issues, to ask in-depth questions about their circumstances.”

Real time coaching

According to Everson, Coaching Circles, a relatively new technique for coaching in South Africa, creates a platform that supports development in real time and allows the individual to assess their long term performance and develop competencies in required areas of their lives.

Since 2010, Absa has fostered a core of 40 internal coaches, who undergo ongoing coaching supervision and master classes to maintain high coaching standards. They in turn spread the coaching philosophy throughout their teams and units.

“We used to have only external coaches to provide leadership coaching to develop our talent. It proved expensive,” says Cussell Humphries.

According to Cussell Humphries, the costs of providing external coaching to fifty individuals is estimated to be R3,5 million, and to send qualified coaches to other countries becomes exponentially more expensive.

“There are very few coaches in Africa, outside of South Africa, that are International Coach Federation (ICF) credentialed to Professional Level. So by creating a coaching culture throughout the Africa Region, by using an accredited organisation such as the Centre for Coaching, we can continue to offer coaching even when budgets are tight,” she says.

Strategic tools

Over the next few months Cussell Humphries will be travelling to a number of countries such as Botswana,Uganda and Ghana to assess the levels of interest in coaching.

“Already I’ve seen a great willingness around the continent to utilise internal coaching as a strategic tool in the organisation,” she says.

“There used to be a stigma around coaching, a belief that if you were nominated for coaching it meant that there was something wrong with your performance that needed to be rectified.

“But at Absa, our focus is on growing and nurturing our internal talent. Talented individuals with great potential are considered for coaching, from young talent and graduates coming into the organisation for the first time, to those in more senior leadership positions.

“If you are nominated for coaching, it means you have been seen to have potential to grow exponentially,” she says. “Coaching is a great way to fast track someone with potential, through gaining insights about themselves and their work environment and through the process contributing to their readiness to move into their next role in the organisation.”

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5 Things SME’s Need To Be Thinking About In 2018

In 2018, small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) will be looking for a glimpse of inspiration to chart a new growth path and scale their businesses. This is off the back of a tough 2017 and previous years which have inhibited the growth of local SMEs.

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In 2018, small-to-medium-sized enterprises (SME’s) will be looking for a glimpse of inspiration to chart a new growth path and scale their businesses. This is off the back of a tough 2017 and previous years which have inhibited the growth of local SMEs.

Jesse Weinberg, Head of the SME Customer Segment at FNB Business says “Small business success becomes a monumental task when there’s arguably very little to no real economic growth overall. However every challenge presents an opportunity, and in South Africa, not only are we fortunate to consistently have SME development as a key objective on the national government agenda, but most corporates are also  hungry to shift spend to smaller businesses as part of the procurement policies.”

Weinberg says as 2018 begins in earnest, there are some important insights that business owners should consider in order to grow their businesses.

The digital economy is in full swing

SME’s that are comfortably operating without adopting digital technology in their business will likely be outperformed by their competitors unless they adapt to the current reality. Across the globe, consumers and businesses are rapidly migrating services to digital channels for its sheer efficiency, convenience and scalability. This includes basic elements like digitising accounting processes with software, through to using social media to campaign to customers.

If you’re ever unsure where to start, start by observing your customers and listening carefully to how they expect to be dealing with a business like yours – you can’t go wrong by putting yourself in your customers’ shoes and then reflecting on your business through their eyes.

Related: 4 Unique Marketing Ideas For SMEs On A Budget

Expect little to no help from the economy

The Word Bank recently predicted that SA will grow at roughly 1.1% in 2018 and while this is not cast in stone, it’s a relatively firm indicator that SME’s will have to do the hard yards to engineer any form of business growth. The focus should thus mainly be on differentiating your business, products or services from your competitors through marketing or even innovation if possible.

Maximise your banking relationship

Banks are investing a lot of time to understand the needs of businesses and have some of the tools to help SME’s run efficiently. The relationship should not be only be limited to just banking. With the multitude of rewards and value-add services offering by most banks, with just a bit of time spent understanding the offerings, great value can be derived for you and your business. Examples of these offered by FNB include eBucks rewards, free Instant Accounting software and CIPC registration services.

‘Think Local, Act Global’

Your business may be based in South Africa but its potential to scale shouldn’t be hampered by your location. In other words, be open to the opportunity of growing your business beyond South African shores, especially if your service or product has universal appeal and relevance. With global marketplaces such as Alibaba and AirBnB, the world market has never been more accessible and easier to do business with.

Related: SchoemanLaw Shakes Up The Legal Industry To The Benefits Of SMEs

Avoid the race to the bottom

Market forces continue to show that consumers aren’t only focused on the cheapest product or service despite the tough economic conditions. These days offering great service will build trust and loyalty with customers and keep them coming back. If you combine this with good quality, accessible products and services you will generally have an edge over your competitors offering the same or similar products and services.

“Even though 2018 is unlikely to come with an SME development boom, a solid homegrown business can still grow sustainably. More than ever, business owners need to arm themselves with as much information and insights as they can to grow their businesses or even reduce the risk of total business failure. With South Africa’s level of unemployment showing little to no signs of reduction, we need to sustain the spotlight on growing our SME sector and offering as much support to it as possible. SME’s represent one of the most effective ways to create employment in local communities, especially if these businesses find ways to trade with customers beyond their normal operating territories.” says Weinberg.

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Surge In South Africans Swopping Their Cars For Bitcoin

The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has experienced a seemingly interminable rise. Early adopters have experience lottery-sized pay-outs on minor investments as the currency exploded in value in 2017.

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The cryptocurrency Bitcoin has experienced a seemingly interminable rise. Early adopters have experience lottery-sized pay-outs on minor investments as the currency exploded in value in 2017.

As South Africans are itching to get their hands on the digital currency, there’s been an increase in swops and bitcoin-only sales on Gumtree.co.za, says Claire Cobbledick, Head of Core at Gumtree. “This is particularly true for high-value items like cars, bikes and boats. Many sellers are willing to take a gamble with their assets in hopes of a large pay-out.”

This is on trend with other marketplaces. In the United States a McLaren 720S was put up for sale in exchange for 25 bitcoin, a theoretical value of $425,000.

Related: 11 Things You Need To Know About Bitcoin

While Gumtree does not allow for the sale of bitcoin miners or services, Cobbledick says that customers can exchange goods for bitcoin on the site, but should be fully aware of the risks. “Bitcoin is a volatile currency, so while you could easily see a 50% increase in your investment, you could just as easily end up with nothing. It’s up to the seller to decide if they are willing and able to take a gamble.”

Some cars currently up for sale in exchange for bitcoin includes a Land Rover Defender, BMW X5 and a rare 1970 Mercury Cougar V8.

“There are also a few other sellers accepting bitcoin in exchange for Kruger Rands,” says Cobbledick. “Perhaps proving that gold as a store of value is falling out of vogue.”

But the most unusual swop would have to go to an entrepreneurial seller who is offering carnivorous plants in exchange for the cryptocurrency.

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Zando Sold 80 Items A Minute During Black Friday – By Doing This

Black Friday has brought immense success for numerous local online retailers – reflecting the potential of e-commerce in South Africa. Why not learn from Zando’s success in 2017 to ensure your success during the 2018 Black Friday sales season?

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For South African e-retailers, Black Friday is a big sales event. But you need to ensure you’re prepared for the web traffic and that your e-commerce store can handle the logistics of thousands of orders.

zando-sascha-breussAccording to Zando, they experience 100% up-time during Black Friday and less than a week after the season sales event, 95% of customer orders have already been shipped.

To help fellow e-tailers perform better next year, Zando’s CEO, Sascha Breuss answers some key questions about the company’s preparations and learnings around Black Friday:

1. How did you encourage greater sales on Black Friday?

Over the last few years Black Friday has developed a following in South Africa, so we benefitted from the existing hype around it. We didn’t focus too much on upfront marketing, but put our energy into flawless execution and of course great deals for the customers.

Related: The Evolution Of Retail: From Corner Store To Artificial Intelligence

2. How much planning went into ensuring your store platform ran at optimum?

The real ‘hot phase’ started with the first day of November when our IT department went into a ‘feature freeze’ and we focused 100% on site-stability and scalability.

We went through some intense testing of our site with loads up to 15 times the average daily amount of visitors. So, when the actual day came, we were confident in our systems.

3. How were you able to successfully co-ordinate logistics during Black Friday?

Early preparation and experience from past years have been the key to success. We increased our head count in both Warehouse and Customer Service well in advance so that we could rely on well-trained and experienced colleagues come Black Friday.

4. How did you ensure a seamless experience between your website and your app?

We know that our customers are browsing Zando on all platforms, desktop, mobile and app so we implemented some handy features to make the transition between each platform easier. For example, shared baskets and wish lists are now a feature. Some of the deals however have been app-only and sometimes we reward our app users with early access to shop the best deals. So it is definitely worth it to download our app.

Related: How SA’s Online Retailers Can Cash In On Black Friday Fever

5. How did you scale your entire operation for a single event?

This is easy to summarise in one word – TEAMWORK. The Zando staff did an amazing job and were the backbone of our success. Not only did they put the required extra hours in and worked hard until the job was done, but they also showed real team-spirit. When you called our Customer Service during Black Friday it’s very possible that you spoke to someone in our HR, Social Media or Legal team who helped out answering calls.

6. How did your marketing campaign affect traffic on your platforms?

The most surprising element was probably the high volume of traffic that we saw during the night. Visits started to increase every minute before midnight and during the first two hours of the day we saw peaks that were higher than on our strongest week day. This traffic never dropped with a lot of orders being placed between 2am and 3am on Black Friday.

7. How did your technology systems handle the influx of shopper traffic?

In the build up to Black Friday we added additional server capacity and changed the way we handled the flow of traffic. This made us very flexible to switch on additional capacity wherever required. So it was a combination of intensive preparation, close monitoring and ultimately very little sleep for a couple of days to ensure we monitored our system health 24 hours a day.

8. What was your sales strategy?

For us everything that had a discount of 40%-80%, and was still a relevant and recent look, qualified for Black Friday 2017. Once these criteria were fulfilled we made sure that we had sufficient stock available – in some cases the demand was so high that we brought on additional stock from our suppliers during the Black Friday weekend.

Related: 5 Last-Minute Tips For Small Retailers To Boost Black Friday Sales

9. What were your biggest learnings?

We have been very successful in our approach to remain true to the idea of Black Friday – offering great deals on relevant product and not outdated clearance ranges. The customer is very educated and will identify a good deal, and we have seen consumers’ negative comments on stores who used Black Friday solely as a warehouse clearance opportunity.

10. What surprised you about Zando’s success during Black Friday?

Thanks to extensive preparation we have been able to achieve an uptime of 100% for the full month of November. We also kept the deliveries and returns 100% free regardless of discount or basket size. It seems like our customers appreciated this approach and we have actually seen very positive sales numbers after Black Friday while we expected a drop. I believe the full focus and investment on the Customer Experience has worked for us.

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