As over-indebted consumers reduce their spending, entrepreneurs are facing increasingly challenging circumstances.
A whopping 90% of entrepreneurs surveyed in a new report said that business was tough, with several saying they were taking pay cuts just to survive.
The Retail Capital Roll with the Punches report surveyed over 700 entrepreneurs.
According to the report, SMEs must work smart and make changes if need be, because it is not “business as usual”.
Retail Capital CEO Karl Westvig has 10 tips for entrepreneurs wanting to move “from panic to profit”.
1. Speed up cash flow
Speed up your inflows by having arrangements with bigger clients. If you have corporates or bigger companies on your book, ask for preferential payment terms and try to convince them to support you as an SME, as it is really their responsibility to assist.
2. Protect cash flow
If you can, reduce expenses and look at your overheads. Don’t get caught in the trap of a few consecutive months of overspending which could become the norm.
3. Build a data bank
This is a valuable asset for you, as it opens up new channels of funding. One of the biggest constraints for SMEs is funding.
If funders have data that is reliable and gives a track record of how the company operates – trading patterns, turnover levels, card vs. cash – this information can be leveraged to gain access to funding.
4. Know your funders
It is up to you to position your business in a way that speaks to the funders’ requirements. Importantly, there are also different funders for different stages of the business’ life cycle.
Get involved with an entrepreneurial community that is on the same journey as you, but not necessarily at the same level. Find one that exposes you to more mature businesses from whom you can learn.
6. Change direction
If you have a bad business model or it isn’t working, change direction. There is no straight curve, and it’s important that business owners understand that.
A tough market provides the opportunity to re-evaluate what matters to you as a business owner and your clients. You need to understand what’s most important to ensure that what you are offering stays relevant.
8. Embrace digital
More and more people are buying online and doing comparisons, so the more you embrace the opportunities that these online channels present, the better. There are plenty of tools available online – you just need to do some digging.
Having a positive attitude is essential. See the opportunity among the challenges and look for those gaps. You also need perspective when you face the challenge of rising costs, tighter margins and lower demand.
It can all be seen as an existential threat and you might want to put your head in the sand. Or you can process it and take it up as a challenge.
10. Be nice
People will do business with you if you’re a nice person, grateful and forgiving.
Q: I have a business account with FNB. It’s a cheque account that has operational capital of about R70,000 in it. However, this account doesn’t pay interest on a positive balance. What type of account at FNB should I use to keep such extra funds? I need to be able to access the money on 14 days’ notice, should the need arise. – EB
A: Stephanus Buys, the head of strategic business development at FNB cash investments, recommends either the FNB savings account or the seven-day notice account. The FNB savings account, which gives the customer unfettered access to their money, pays 5.25% interest on balances of between R25,000 and R74,999, but this account is exclusive to customers with an Easy Account with FNB.
Buys says that if FNB is not the customer’s primary bank, the Money on Call product can be used instead: it pays interest of 5.10% on balances of between R70,000 and R79,999.
The customer would get the best rates if invested in a seven-day notice account. A sum of R70,000 would attract interest of between 6.35% and 6.45%, depending on how long it was invested (1-32 days, 33-63 days, or more than 65 days).
Charl Nel, the head of strategic communications at Capitec Bank, says Capitec pays interest of 5.40% on positive balances of between R25,000 and R99,999, and the customer need not use Capitec as their primary bank.
While Capitec does not offer business banking, many of its clients who are small-business owners opt to use its Global One account as a business account because of the competitive interest rate offered on a positive balance, as well as the low monthly fees.
Suspected bogus police stole an estimated $15-million (R194,2-million) in cash in a daring late night robbery at Johannesburg’s O.R. Tambo International Airport.
The heist occurred when “police” stopped GuardForce personnel as they were transporting the money to an awaiting flight bound for London on Tuesday night.
The total annual cost to the country in lost earnings due to employees being absent from work is estimated at R40-billion per annum (equal to 2,2% of the GDP), according to a 2013 South African Stress and Health Survey (SASH). With employee absenteeism costing SA businesses billions each year due to reduced productivity, implementing employee wellness programmes (EWPs) can have significant financial benefits for businesses.
This is according to Vuyokazi Lekhelebana, executive consulting psychologist at Work Dynamics, who says that employee absenteeism is considered to be an indicator of poor organisational health and is directly associated with disengagement and poor morale.
“Employee absence levels often provide a very accurate depiction of the overall health of an organisation. Absenteeism however, is retrospective or ‘reactive’ to a bigger issue and the cost and loss in productivity associated with employee absenteeism, calls for a more proactive stance that is focused on prevention.”
She points to a survey conducted by Canadian based organisation, Officevibe, which indicated that companies that implement EWPs can expect a 28% reduction in sick leave.
“Unfortunately, there is no ‘generic’ approach when it comes to EWPs, so organisations may benefit from conducting some internal research to gauge employee attitudes and preferences.”
Lekhelebana explains that a well-researched strategy ensures the highest likelihood of success and utilisation for a EWP. “Typical wellness interventions range from health and fitness programmes, health screening, smoke cessation support and creating wellness incentive programmes, There are a wide range of EWPs that institutions can choose from, these would include in-house wellness programs on a small scale as well as outsourced wellness initiatives, such as psychological consultancies, where the primary focus is on the psychosocial and mental well-being of employees.
She stresses the importance of the role of management with regards to employee wellness and explains that it extends far beyond facilitating policy development on wellness issues, but includes endorsing and supporting the programme.
“When management participates in the programme, employees will usually follow suit and buy into the benefits of the programme. Employee participation is after all a prerequisite for any successful employee wellness initiative.”
“Forming external partnerships with HR and psychology consulting firms has become an essential factor in fostering business growth and refining company moral, as the financial benefits of a successful programme far outweigh the initial investment,” concludes Lekhelebana.
“Mobile money, while undoubtedly achieving impressive growth across Africa, is really still in its infancy,” says Vahid Monadjem, co-founder and CEO of cash-based POS platform provider Nomanini.