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.
Build an 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
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.
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)
Global Guide For Entrepreneurs, Innovators Launches In Johannesburg
Startup Guide partners with SAP Next-Gen, Tshimologong Precinct to bring global guidebook to Johannesburg innovation ecosystem; calls for nominations.
Calling all entrepreneurs, accelerators, innovators, co-working spaces and experts in the City of Gold: Startup Guide, the leading global guide for start-ups in high-growth innovation hubs in Europe, the US and Middle East, is open to nominations in Johannesburg.
Founded in 2014, Startup Guide is a creative content and publishing company that produces guidebooks and tools to help entrepreneurs to connect to communities and resources in the leading start-up cities around the world. Its global footprint covers some of the most innovative and thriving start-up ecosystems in the US, Europe and the Middle East, including those of London, New York, Berlin, Tel Aviv, and Stockholm. After launching in Cape Town earlier in the year, Startup Guide now moves to Johannesburg.
According to Sissel Hansen, Founder and CEO of Startup Guide, South Africa’s largest city is emerging as a key innovation hub for start-ups.
“Johannesburg has recently emerged as a growing ecosystem for start-ups and entrepreneurs in Africa, particularly in the tech industry. We’re thrilled to have the opportunity to create a comprehensive guide of resources for aspiring founders wanting to do business in South Africa’s largest city.”
Startup Guide Johannesburg was launched at Wits University’s Tshimologong Precinct, one of Johannesburg’s newest high-tech addresses in the vibrant inner-city district of Braamfontein. Tshimologong, which means “new beginnings” in Setswana, focuses on the incubation of digital entrepreneurs, commercialisation of research and the development of high-level digital skills for students, working professionals and unemployed youth. Lesley Williams, CEO of Tshimologong Precinct, says: “South Africa is fast-becoming a go-to source for innovation, especially in the tech sector. We believe the introduction of a dedicated resource for the startup ecosystem in Johannesburg will unlock significant opportunities for innovation hubs such as ours to more easily connect with entrepreneurs, experts and other roleplayers, ultimately providing a more supportive environment for growth.”
Startup Guide has partnered with SAP Next-Gen, a purpose driven innovation university and community for the SAP ecosystem enabling companies, partners and universities to connect and innovate with purpose linked to the UN Sustainable Goals for Development. Ann Rosenberg, Senior Vice President and Head of Global SAP Next-Gen says:
“We strive to connect digital innovators in an open innovation community to drive the future success and growth of industries through the use of technology. As we have witnessed in other high-innovation cities around the world, the introduction of knowledge resources – supported by opportunities for collaboration and partnership in an open ecosystem – enhances the overall success of entire start-up communities. Johannesburg’s world-famous energy and business acumen will greatly benefit from the launch of Startup Guide Johannesburg and the support of industry partners, including SAP Next-Gen and the Tshimologong Precinct.”
Cathy Smith, Managing Director of SAP Africa, adds that the partnership with Startup Guide aligns well with the company’s commitment to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. “As an organisation we are committed to achieving the high ambitions set out by the SDGs. However, it is virtually impossible to do so alone: the concept of partnership with likeminded purpose-driven organisations and initiatives is vital not only to realising the SDGs but to foster a greater and more inclusive innovation ecosystem in Johannesburg and across the African continent.”
Nominations for the Johannesburg edition of Startup Guide are now open. If you know a start-up, entrepreneur, programme, space, accelerator, or experts and would like to see them featured in the book, please visit https://startupguide.com/shop/startup-guide-johannesburg and submit your nomination.
Aspirations For SMMEs In South Africa
Research released earlier this year, revealed that there are only 250 000 formal SMMEs in South Africa.
Entrepreneurs who have started up a business over the past 10 years have done so in an environment that has been largely negative, with slow economic growth and an unstable political landscape. “So, all in all, a very difficult setting to launch, grow or even maintain a business,” says Bizmod MD, Anne-Marie Pretorius.
Pretorius says that many entrepreneurs who operate in South Africa can be forgiven for often wondering if the slog is worth it. Yet they continue – despite economic uncertainty, strikes, retrenchments and downscaling. “It is this tenacity that sets entrepreneurs apart, and I often wonder how much more successful they would be in an easier and more supportive environment.”
Below, Pretorius shares her ideal pro-entrepreneur outlook for the future:
- Greater policy certainty on all key government policies from land reform to regulations surrounding labour broking.
- Being able to do away with bad policy faster. An example of where this did not happen was in the changes of visa requirements; leading to an unnecessary dent in our tourism industry, an industry that should be targeted for growth.
- Lower compliance requirements for companies with a turnover under R50 million. The cost of compliance for smaller enterprises is significantly higher in comparison to their income and the cash they have available. Smaller companies need simpler frameworks where compliance is required. A portal similar to SARS e-filing, which makes compliance across various pieces of legislation clear and simple, would be ideal.
- The Labour Relations Act is a key piece of legislation that has done a lot to protect the rights of the employee. It has attempted to balance the power relationship between employee and employer. Some innovation is however required in labour practices, allowing for mutually beneficial flexible working relationships that keep pace with the changing work environment.
- Buy small, buy South African! A framework whereby large corporations and government would have to allocate a certain minimum percentage to buying from smaller local companies. There are encouraging signs that this is happening more, however this is still not an ingrained practice. In addition, consumers should be more informed on what items are South African produced, in order for them to be encouraged to purchase locally.
- Easier access to funds enabling entrepreneurs to grow their businesses. There are currently a few options available, but all of the options require significant governance and red tape. Whilst this is understandable from the lenders perspective, it does hamper the agility and growth of companies.
- Make good financial governance aspirational, attractive and easily accessible.
- The process for tenders to be corruption free and fair, enabling more companies to add value.
- Pay SMME’s on 30 days or less. Enormous pressure exists on smaller companies when not paid on time. They simply do not have the cash flow to carry a debtor’s book of 90 days and this inevitably hampers their growth.
- Tax SMME’s at a lower tax rate. Profit tax should be lowered in order to drive entrepreneurship.
- Creating a platform that makes it simpler to employ young individuals with potential and create support programmes for SMMEs to upskill them. There is a significant financial and time investment required to train a young person, which can make SMME’s sometimes wary to do so.
“If we are able to make only some of these ideals a reality, there is no doubt that we would see economic growth, entrepreneurial growth, and more employment opportunities,” concludes Pretorius.
Related: A – Z Easy Small Business Ideas
South African Students Win R50 000 In The Universities Business Challenge
Students from Mangosuthu University of Technology beat 500 students from 13 different universities across South Africa.
The Overlings from Mangosuthu University of Technology are the 2018 winners of Cognity Advisory’s Universities Business Challenge (UBC), sponsored by General Electric (GE). The winning team of four students are walking away with R50,000 to turn their business idea into reality.
Launched in July this year, the UBC has seen 500 students from 13 different universities across South Africa participate in a business simulation competition designed to develop entrepreneurship skills.
When the competition launched, all teams were challenged to form virtual companies and to virtually manufacture and sell bicycles.
The final 10 teams were from the University of Limpopo, Mangosuthu University of Technology, Vaal University of Technology, University of KwaZulu-Natal and North-West University.
During the two-day final, the teams played six rounds of simulations. Each simulation gave the teams a chance to re-evaluate their progress and better certain areas that needed improving. The winning team realised during one of their simulations that in order to maximise profits they would need to introduce two new products and market it differently from their initial product. They paid special attention to their customer’s needs.
The aim of the UBC was designed to tackle South Africa’s high level of youth unemployment. Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) that South Africa’s official unemployment rate increased by 0.3 of a percentage point to 27.5% in the third quarter of 2018.
Nkosinathi Sokhulu from the winning team said, “Even though we didn’t have a great presentation we made the most profit. This experience taught us a lot about ourselves and business. Most of the decisions that we made came from serious debates. We learnt that market research is crucial when starting a business. We learnt that marketing starts and ends with the customer.”
“Based on this market research information we realised that it was important for us to introduce two new products and this, in addition to the main product we were selling, helped us to maximise profits. We saw an opportunity to add more products and it paid off” said Mbali Tshozi.
Tope Toogun, development advisor and CEO of Cognity Advisory said, “All the teams showed tremendous promise and I was very impressed by their levels of engagement with one another and their tenacity.”
“We really want to ensure that students are equipped with the necessary skills to not only start a business but to run it effectively. While we have selected one winner, our hope is that each team has benefitted by having learned the skills needed in the workplace.”
“The competition is designed to develop the ‘soft skills’ that are important for those wanting to set up their own business or simply be successful at work. With rising unemployment and ongoing talent shortages, having these skills is crucial for those wanting to get a job.”
The UBC, now in its second year in South Africa, will continue into its third year in 2019 and will run as the Africa Enterprise Challenge (AEC).
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