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When the Lights Go Out

Don’t let power outages interrupt your business.

Greg Mason

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The recent power outages have highlighted a weakness in many small businesses… the lack of business continuity and disaster recovery systems.

Small business owners rarely take the time to document the risks to their business and make contingency plans for situations that cause interruptions to the smooth running of the business.

Yet it is small businesses that suffer the most at the hands of unforeseen circumstances.

Power outages are a case in point. I have spoken to many small business owners who simply could not conduct business during the recent power outages.

Think like a big business

There are two issues at play here. One is a mindset, and the other is the practical implementation of a business interruption policy.

Small business owners need to stop thinking like small business owners. If you want your business to grow and prosper you need to put systems and procedures in place like a “big thinking” organisation. Stop thinking it will never happen to you.

Stop making excuses that you are too busy. And stop thinking you can’t afford a backup plan.

The question you need to ask yourself is can you afford NOT to have a business continuity plan.

You need to weigh up the costs of implementing a business continuity plan versus the impact on your business.

Know the risks

The first step for every business is to think about, articulate and document the risks to your business. In the case of an extended power outage, what would the impact be on your business?

If you are in the restaurant business, or require refrigeration, or if the service you provide relies on power to offer the service, you absolutely have to have a contingency plan in place to continue operating in the event of a power outage.

No business is immune to the impact of a power outage. Telephone systems that rely on power can’t operate in a power outage. This means that potential customers contacting the business are unable to get through. How many potential customers could be lost in this time?

If they get through but can’t be transferred to the correct person, this has a negative impact on the company’s professionalism and image.

A major hiccough in the event of a power outage is access to computers and information stored on the server.

In addition, power surges and unexpected shut downs can lead to the loss of data.

At the very least, small businesses need to install a UPS (uninterrupted power supply) at the office. A UPS allows key equipment to operate without electricity for a limited period and allows you to safely shut down computers, etc.

But a UPS won’t get you back up and running in the event of an extended power outage.

Identify a solution

Depending on your business, you have two options. First prize is always a generator. It allows you to continue operating as normal and ensures the least interruption to your business.

The second option I recommend to small business owners, is to make use of laptop computers which have some battery power and are portable.

In the event of a power outage, the business can still run from another location – your employees’ homes / a coffee shop or an alternative venue where there is power.

For this solution to work, it is also important to store all your office documents “in the cloud”.

This means all documentation can be accessed from any remote site where there is power and an internet connection.

They say the only certainties in life are death and taxes. And in South Africa… power outages! Take action, and make sure your business is not left out in the dark.

Greg Mason is the CEO of bizHQ – The Business Headquarters – and is one of the most experienced and acclaimed business and executive coaches in the country. He draws on his diverse experience in business, including accounting, HR, IT, strategy and business planning, change management, project management and programme management to assist businesses in identifying their business objectives and coaching them through a process to realise their potential.

Entrepreneur Today

Government Injection To SMEs Cautiously Welcomed

Mboweni said the Jobs Fund is a vital complement to private sector job creation. “The Fund has disbursed R4.6bn in grant funding, and created well over 200,000 jobs since inception. The allocation to this Fund will rise over the next three years to R1.1bn,” said Mboweni.

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Riversands Incubation Hub has welcomed the allocation of R481.6m of the 2019 national budget to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) to expand the small business incubation programme, saying this will strengthen co-ordination and partnership agreements with other SME agencies and incubation programmes.

“South Africa’s entrepreneurial economy is built on linkages and networks across industry sectors, and the stronger these are, the higher the chances of SMEs surviving and thriving, which is critical if the economy is to grow,” says Jenny Retief, CEO of Riversands Incubation Hub.

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni also undertook to free entrepreneurs from stifling regulations and complicated taxes, which Retief said would encourage and boost trade in this sector. “The frustrations that many entrepreneurs feel in the current business space, which is overburdened with tax red tape and obstructive labour regulations, will hopefully be alleviated. The sustainability of many early-stage SMEs is significantly dependent on ease of doing business,” says Retief.

Mboweni said the Jobs Fund is a vital complement to private sector job creation. “The Fund has disbursed R4.6bn in grant funding, and created well over 200,000 jobs since inception. The allocation to this Fund will rise over the next three years to R1.1bn,” said Mboweni.

The Government has also allocated R19.8bn for industrial business incentives, of which R600m has gone to the clothing and textile competitiveness programme. This will support 35 500 existing jobs and create about 25 000 new jobs over the next three years.

“It is particularly exciting to see this commitment, because the lack of locally produced textiles is a significant constraint for the local fashion industry. It also offers strong synergies for desperately needed rural development. A counterpart in the Department of Rural Development and Land Reform was recently telling me about South Africa’s capacity to produce a superb range of raw materials such as wool – not only from sheep but also alpacas and of course cotton. Building the local textile industry to beneficiate these raw materials offers benefits all round,” comments Retief.

Retief said these injections will stimulate entrepreneurship in sectors that are under-resourced, but that ongoing support is essential to ensuring that these jobs survive. “Business savvy and financial literacy is a road that requires solid guidance along the way. This is where incubation programmes such as ours provide critical value and sustainability,” says Retief.

Retief endorsed the recent call by the Small Business Institute for the Finance Ministry to request an audit of government’s overall financial support to small businesses, to gauge where targets are not being met and equally, where there are success stories. “This will provide a clearer picture of where fiscal priorities should lie going forward,” said Retief.

While the allocation of R69bn towards the plan to unbundle Eskom is laudable, Retief said it remains to be seen whether this will improve the prognosis for Eskom, and by extension, the viability of millions of entrepreneurs and SMEs dependent on consistent electricity flow. “Ongoing load-shedding would be nothing short of disastrous for countless small businesses across the country, so we will be watching the Eskom situation closely in the coming months. Our own business has also been set back by power cuts over the past month,” says Retief.

Mboweni’s emphasis on the private sector as the key engine for job creation was correctly placed, along with his policy actions aimed at ending the uncertainty that has undermined confidence and constrained private sector investment, Retief said. “The devil is in the detail, however, and the sooner entrepreneurs and SMEs feel these differences, the more growth we will see from this vital sector,” she says.

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Entrepreneur Today

#Budget2019: But What About Small Businesses?

Where is the focus on growing South Africa’s small business sector?

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That is the overriding question we are left with at the end of Finance Minister Tito Mboweni’s maiden budget speech. The few mentions the Minister made about Small & Medium Businesses were short on detail at a time when we desperately need to supercharge the growth of this segment.

A highlight of the speech from Sage’s perspective was the Minister’s acknowledgement that we must free small businesses from stifling regulations and complicated taxes because we desperately need them to boost employment and drive competition. This aligns with President Ramaphosa’s pledge to improve the ease of doing business in his State of the Nation Address this year.

However, these pronouncements need to be followed rapidly by concrete policies and regulation. We believe that there are many steps government could take to streamline red-tape for small businesses -from streamlining some SARS processes such as VAT refunds and issuing of tax clearance certificates to increasing the maximum thresholds for turnover tax and VAT registration.

We hope to hear more about such steps after the May general election and in the October Medium Term Budget Policy Statement.

One welcome announcement in the speech was the allocation of R481.6 million to the Small Enterprise Development Agency to expand the small business incubation programme. Such programmes can play an invaluable role in helping small businesses to survive the difficult start-up phase and then scale up into larger businesses.

As a software company, we were also pleased that the Minister spoke about using the budget to get our country ready for technology. His focus on the importance of technology in education, his commitment to working with the Minister of Communications to resolve the issue of spectrum licensing in order to drive down data costs, and his mention of FinTech innovation programmes at the Reserve Bank all point to a focus on creating a competitive, digital country that ready for the future.

However, I would have liked to have seen more of a specific focus on innovation as a vehicle for driving economic growth. The fourth industrial revolution and the rise of a digital economy has been a theme of recent government speeches and addresses, and it would be good to see the words matched with investments and policies.

On the whole, Minister Mboweni and the National Treasury have done a good job of negotiating a challenging economic climate. They are to be commended for balancing the books, keeping a lid on government spending, taking steps to put Eskom and other state-owned entities on a more sustainable footing, and committing towards investing in infrastructure.

Such steps could help boost business confidence and create an enabling environment for businesses of all sizes. As the Minister notes, the private sector is the key engine for job creation. Taking policy actions that offer more certainty to the business community will help to reinvigorate investment in the economy and unlock entrepreneurial activity.

Budget2019: Commentary by Rob Cooper

General comments

As expected, this was a conservative budget with no sweeping changes to most forms of taxation. The Finance Minister took advantage of some new revenue sources such as carbon taxes, but, for the most part, continued to stick to the script of limiting bracket creep adjustment, sin taxes and fuel levies to raise more money.

We can but hope that the decision for the government not to take on Eskom’s debt and a reduction of public expenditure by around R50 billion since the October mini-budget will be enough to convince Moody’s not to downgrade South Africa’s sovereign credit rating.

Personal income tax

The Minister and his team have raised income taxes by stealth by choosing not to adjust tax brackets to allow for inflation this year. Unlike previous years, even low- and middle-income earners are not getting much respite. Rebates and the tax threshold are being increased by small amounts to allow a bit of relief from inflation, but most people earning above the tax threshold (raised from R78,150 to R79,000) will feel some pain.  This measure will raise around R12.8 billion in revenue for the tax year. 

National Health Insurance

The Finance Minister decided not to apply an inflationary increase to the Medical Tax Credit, which will allow him to raise an extra R1 billion in revenue for the year. This is not surprising since government is phasing out this credit and gearing up for a wider rollout of the National Health Insurance (NHI) scheme.

What is surprising is that the funds will be allocated to general revenue rather than NHI, as was the case in previous years when below-inflation increase on medical scheme credits were used to fund NHI pilot projects. I am glad that the tax credit is still with us because it helps to make private medical cover affordable for millions of low-income South Africans. We heard no news about how the NHI will be funded and will need to wait for the government to table the bill that includes funding to find out more.

Employment tax incentive

It was heartening to hear that about 1.1 million young people have been employed under the Employment Tax Incentive scheme. The incentive of up to R1 000 can now be claimed for employees earning up to R4,500 per month, up from R4,000, and the remuneration threshold has been increased by R500 to R6,500. This is a necessary and welcome adjustment for inflation.

Bearing in mind that the ETI has been extend for 10 years, I was hoping for an indication in the budget that the policy-makers will be considering changes to simplify the ETI requirements, thereby increasing the take-up by employers.

Tax collection

We can expect to see tax reforms in the years to come, with Minister Mboweni recommitting to improving administration at SARS. Judge Dennis Davis will be assessing the tax gap — the difference between revenue SARS collects and what it should collect. Restoring SARS to a world-class administration machine and improving compliance could go a long way to cushioning compliant taxpayers from tax increases and new taxes in the year to come.

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2019 National Budget Speech: Five Positive, Key Take Outs For Local SMEs

Finance Minister Tito Mboweni today referenced the private sector as the key engine for job creation in his National Budget speech.

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Ben Bierman, MD of Business Partners Limited, fully supports this statement, and says that there are five key take outs that local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) will benefit from:

1. Falling data costs

Minister Mboweni was adamant that the cost of data must fall, and committed to work relentlessly with the necessary parties to ensure this happens. As data gets cheaper, there will be more opportunities for SMEs and entrepreneurs to build their business and for new technology businesses to emerge. Making data more affordable and accessible can go a long way in driving economic and SME growth.

2. The R30 billion allocated to build new schools and maintain school infrastructure spend

National infrastructure spend is likely to be a big contributor to SME growth, and will create positive knock-on effects for job creation in the sector. Not only will SMEs be included in the supply stream, but as infrastructure projects are rolled out, economic growth will be positively impacted, having a downstream effect on small business.

3. Relaxed visa requirements

Relaxed visa requirements provide an enhanced opportunity for SMEs operating in the tourism industry, driving growth and the creation of new jobs. As tourism is a substantial contributor to the country’s GDP, the increasing the number of visitors to South Africa is extremely beneficial to the macro environment as well as for businesses operating both directly and indirectly in the tourism sector.

4. Allocation of R3.2 billion to operationalise the small business and innovation fund over the MTEF

The R3.2 billion budget allocation for the small business and innovation fund is a definite positive development for the country’s entrepreneurial eco-system and is anticipated to contribute to the creation of more innovative businesses that can respond to the opportunities presented by the 4th Industrial Revolution.

Also noteworthy is the R481.6 million allocated to the Small Enterprise Development Agency’s incubation programme expected to bolster the creation of new businesses and survival rate of existing businesses.

5. Industrial business incentives

The R19.8 billion allocated to industrial business incentives will not only benefit the national economy as a whole, but it will yield opportunities for local industrial SMEs and create job opportunities.

The R600 million assigned to the clothing and textile competitiveness programme is also a much needed boost to revitalise this struggling sector of our economy that has historically been a driver of economic growth.

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