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Top Tips For Building A Successful Business From Your Home

Technology is making it possible to run many kinds of businesses remotely – but do note that planning is key.

Morné Stoltz

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We’ve all seen the pictures: the surfer sitting under the palm leaves at a beach bar on his laptop, clinching a deal in New York – or Joburg. This kind of scenario does seem a little far-fetched (what beach bar has good WiFi, for starters?) but the concept is becoming increasingly practical. For most people, the real benefits of this approach would be the opportunity to run a business from home or, for a limited period, from a holiday destination. 

So what are some of the key success levers for setting up and then building a successful business that is remotely managed? 

Examine the business model

It’s very important to think through the business model carefully, and decide whether remote management is indeed possible.

Part of the decision will rest on where in the business life cycle you are. For example, a start-up manufacturer would probably need to be in the factory every day to get the right production and quality systems in place, and to visit key clients personally.

Once the business is established and good managers are in place, overseeing it remotely becomes more possible. 

Related: 50 Jobs, Gigs And Side Hustles You Can Do From Home

Build an ecosystem

ecosystem

This ecosystem concept is coming to define modern business models, in contrast to the closed system. Put simply, an increasing number of businesses are learning that there are advantages in using partners rather than trying to do everything themselves. Even conventionally run businesses are using this model, but it has particular relevance for the remote model.

Thus, for example, a manufacturer does not need to own or run its own logistics operation any more than it needs to pay the salary of a legal advisor or a digital marketing specialist. Rather, these non-core services should be contracted in from expert suppliers. In this way, even a start-up or small company can access the same calibre of specialist skills that a massive corporate can, but without having to tie up capital or management focus.

A lot of time should thus be spent finding the right partners and building the right kind of relationships with them. If one is going to rely on a business partner to deliver on your behalf while you are in Greyton, or The Philippines, the relationship has to be more than simply transactional. Fulfilment is one crucial but non-core activity that most businesses could hand over to a third party. 

Leverage the power of virtual assistants

High-quality assistance can be obtained virtually from other remote workers. Again, the key is finding the right ones. Sites like Bizserv, VA Connect and Recruit My Mom offer ways of accessing freelancers and virtual assistant spanning mobile software development through to accountants and personal assistants.

Remember to always ask for references and check on them. Virtual assistants can take care of administrative or regular tasks on a contract basis, with specialists such as digital marketers or analytics experts called in as needed. 

Use software to set parameters

All businesses these days, remotely run ones pre-eminently, are reliant on software platforms. Make sure that you set them up so that you are alerted when significant activity takes place; for example, when an order is dispatched, a payment is made or a product over a certain value is ordered. 

Move onto the cloud

cloud-computing

The advent of cloud computing is a godsend for anyone wanting to start or run a business remotely. Not only does it allow one to access skills and services virtually, it also provides a platform that facilitates remote working and collaboration.

For example, using cloud storage services like Dropbox, means that all documents can be accessed from anywhere securely. The result of this, of course, is that the business must be paperless, with any paper documentation scanned as soon as possible. 

Related: 8 Mistakes to Avoid When Starting a Business From Home

Learn how to communicate virtually

Any business owner knows that staying in touch with employees, business partners and clients is critical. However, this does not need to be in person all the time.

The Internet offers a multiplicity of ways to keep in touch with key role-players in your business, supplementing the alerts you have set up on the various software platforms used by the business.

Again, it is worth spending time familiarising yourself with what is available, and working out which works best for you and your extended team. Some channels are better suited for specific functions. For example, a webinar platform might be better for presenting a new product or sales idea, whereas a Skype teleconference is sufficient to deal with a specific issue, and so on. Suit the channel to the type of communication you are planning.

South Africans in particular are addicted to face-to-face meetings, but this is changing. Videoconferencing and virtual meetings have come a long way and thanks to abundant bandwidth, now work well. Such technologies allow one to establish eye contact and read facial expressions.

Providing a regular e-newsletter can also be an effective way to keep everybody in touch. 

Manage your risk

Every business owner needs to assess regularly what the risks facing the business are and how best to mitigate them. As the business gets bigger, it is probably a good idea to enlist the help of a specialist business continuity consultant, but at the beginning it will likely live on the owner’s to-do list. 

One important element is IT disaster recovery which can now be purchased as a service from a specialist provider. Many businesses assume that their cloud providers act as a de facto disaster recovery capability, but this may not be the case – establish with your cloud provider what its backup plans for its own systems are, and what its obligations are in the event that your data or applications are unavailable. 

When it comes to risk, the small business owner’s secret weapon is a close relationship with an insurer or broker. The right kind of insurance will provide not only for compensation in the event of a disaster, but also offer access to service providers to put things back on track. Insurers are experts at risk profiling and are invaluable business partners. 

In conclusion, running a business from home – or from anywhere for that matter – is not that different from running it in person, but it does require more planning. Technology is what makes it all possible, so the non-negotiable is excellent and reliable connectivity – but that still leaves one with many desirable options.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970)

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Entrepreneur Today

This Is A Call To The Curious – Applications For The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Fellowship Programme Are Open

The Allan Gray Orbis Foundation is calling on all young, entrepreneurially-minded South Africans to enlist in the most comprehensive and stimulating Fellowship opportunity in Southern African. Applications opened on 22 January 2018.

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The Foundation takes a holistic approach to entrepreneurial development and believes that entrepreneurially-minded individuals with ethical values and strong leadership skills hold the key to change in South Africa and the globe. The Foundation supports entrepreneurs to improve the socio-economic landscape of Southern Africa. Further, it provides youth who demonstrate the highest potential access to education and assists them with cultivating an entrepreneurial mindset.

The Fellowship’s entrepreneurial and personal development programme runs throughout the academic year alongside the Candidate Fellow’s university studies. The Fellowship provides access to university education and includes comprehensive tertiary financial support to selected students.

Criteria for Grade 12 Learners

  • Level 5 in Pure Mathematics for Grade 11 final results
  • Level 6 average for your final Grade 11 results (excluding Life Orientation)
  • Completion of the National Benchmark Test by 30 September 2018
  • Under the age of 21 in your application year
  • South African citizens.

Related: 10 Young Entrepreneurs Under 30 Share Their Start-Up Secrets

Intention to study towards a degree in Commerce, Science (excluding Medicine), Engineering, Law or Humanities (majoring in Politics, Philosophy or Economics) at the University of Witwatersrand (WITS); University of Johannesburg (UJ); University of the Free State (UF); University of Cape Town (UCT); Nelson Mandela University (NMU), Rhodes University; the University of the Western Cape (UWC); University of Stellenbosch or the University of Pretoria (UP).

What it covers

  • The full cost of university tuition
  • The full cost of university accommodation, meals, books and tutor allowance
  • A monthly living stipend
  • Academic support and access to entrepreneurial and personal development programmes
  • Mentorship from individually assigned Foundation staff as well as business mentors
  • Access to potential postgraduate funding for graduated Candidate Fellows
  • There are no postgraduate contractual obligations with the Foundation.

Related: 9 Top Tips For Young Entrepreneurs

How to apply

Visit www.allangrayorbis.org to download an application form or SMS “Gr12 and your fax number or email address” to 36777. The application closing date is the 11 May 2018.

Watch this video to learn more about the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation. More information is available at www.allangrayorbis.org and www.facebook.com/allangrayorbis.

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Facebook Launches A Classifieds Marketplace In South Africa

Facebook has launched Marketplace in South Africa, offering users a single destination on Facebook where they can easily discover and buy and sell goods with other people in their local community.

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Available in 47 countries, with more than 550 million people from around the world visiting Facebook to buy and sell goods each month, Marketplace makes it easier for people to trade with others on Facebook.

Using Marketplace

  • To use Marketplace, tap on the Marketplace icon
  • To find what you’re looking for, search at the top and filter your results by location, category or price
  • To sell something, take a photo, describe your item, set your price and you are done
  • Buyers and sellers can communicate with each other using Facebook Messenger.

Related: 10 Motivational Quotes from Facebook Genius Mark Zuckerberg

Trading Safely

Facebook helps you trade safely on Marketplace by offering safety tips, privacy controls and easy-to-use reporting tools.

Top tips for trading safely on Marketplace:

Commerce Policy

Items, products or services sold on Facebook must comply with Facebook Community Standards and Commerce Policies. Please view the list of items prohibited on Facebook.

Verify the item

When buying an item, examine it carefully for quality, condition and authenticity before paying. For high-value items (watches, luxury bags), consider requesting a certificate of authenticity or proof of purchase.

Related: How You Can Avoid The ‘Facebook Effect’

Be shipping savvy

facebook-shipping-productsIf the seller offers to ship the item rather than exchanging it in person, you may not have the opportunity to verify the item before completing your purchase. You can use a service such as Standard Bank’s Shepherd to arrange safe payment and shipment. Shepherd keeps the money for a transaction in a trust account and releases it to the seller once the buyer verifies he or she has received the correct item in good condition.

Meet in a safe location

Don’t invite buyers or sellers to your home. Meet in a public place like a coffee shop or the mall. Before going, tell a family member or a friend where you will be, bring your cell phone, and consider asking another adult to come with you.

Use cash, COD, or person-to-person payment methods

Buyers and sellers may offer or accept cash or person-to-person (P2P) payments. If you choose to pay electronically using EFT, avoid payment links and log in directly through the payment method’s website. If the value of the item you intend to buy or sell requires a significant amount of cash, you might consider using a person-to-person payment method, such as PayPal or FNB eWallet.

Protect your privacy

Don’t share your financial account information (example: Payment login and password, bank account info) with buyers or sellers. Additionally, make sure your Facebook Privacy Settings are up-to-date. These settings help limit what other people can see (example: status updates, location, photos) on your profile page and what you share on Facebook.

Report someone

If you’re having a problem with someone in Marketplace, you can report them.

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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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