Tag: small business

Get ahead on 2022 taxes

By Colin Timmis, general country manager and professional accountant, Xero South Africa

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) 2020 revenue outcome highlighted the severe economic impact of COVID‐19 on a struggling economy. As a result, expectations of tax base growth have deteriorated since the 2020 Budget.

Effective tax collection and expanding the tax-payer base are key ingredients to fostering economic growth. That’s why it’s more important than ever for SMBs to file their taxes correctly and on time to avoid a nasty fine.

The secret to successful filing is not leaving things to the last minute. As tax deadlines approach, SARS becomes busier and waiting times get longer. That’s why now is the perfect time to start laying the groundwork for your company’s 2022 taxes. Here are a few simple steps you can start taking now:

Get smart about eFiling taxes

Tax was one of the nine areas we outlined in our Time to Rebuild Manifesto, which set out recommendations for the government. One of these was making the tax process more streamlined and encouraging tech adoption to close the tax gap. Xero research shows that 27 percent of SMBs find submitting tax returns to be one of the top challenges they face.

The good news is that the process is already improving for small businesses. The introduction of eFiling options and integrations with popular technology solutions have made filing taxes with SARS simpler than ever. Most businesses – 81.2 percent in the 2019-20 financial year – have already adopted eFiling (according to SARS), but if yours hasn’t, now is a great time to make the switch.

We’ve integrated VAT eFiling directly into Xero so that SMBs can create, store and submit returns in a few simple steps. Learn how.

Organise what you can now

Get ahead of the crowd by ensuring that you have all your registration details correct now. SARS issues penalties for incorrect details, but it only takes a few minutes to check that everything is in order. Businesses that eFile can check their details online on the SARS website.

Keep your accountant or tax expert close

Our research shows that the pandemic has caused almost half of small businesses – 49 percent – to value their accountant as a business advisor, not just a number cruncher.

Almost a quarter of SMBs, 23 percent, have received a penalty fine because they did not understand the tax rules. Accountants are a valuable resource when it comes to understanding regulation and avoiding fines, and small business owners should use their knowledge to ensure they remain compliant. Your accountant can help you to maintain a healthy relationship with SARS and ensure that you’re confident about which exemptions apply.

Automate painful processes with technology

Constant engagement with finances isn’t just about taxes. There’s significant value to adopting an accounting system that takes in data at regular intervals and provides a deep understanding of how your business is doing throughout the year.

That’s why many businesses choose to adopt cloud accounting software, which can automatically share data through bank feeds. Bank feeds automatically and securely import your banking transactions into your accounting software each day.

This ensures that you can maintain a clear view of your financial position in the lead up to tax season and beyond. This will save you hours of time manually reconciling transactions at the last minute.

Go paperless

Technology can also free you from mountains of paperwork. The age of boxes of receipts, expense paperwork and invoices is over. Managing lots of paper documents is inefficient and introduces opportunities for human error, but fortunately there are plenty of tools that enable businesses of all sizes to go digital.

Modern accounting software, for instance, enables business owners and employees to simply take a picture of a receipt and upload it directly to their accounting platform. This will then automatically pull across all the information ready for efficient tax filing.

Stay informed

As we all know, circumstances can change quickly and nobody knows what’s around the corner. That’s why it’s important to listen out for updates from SARS and tips from the small business community.

The number of people who have tested positive for the coronavirus causing Covid-19 has gone up to 116 in South Africa.

On Sunday 15 March, President Ramaphosa announced a number of strict measures in order to curb the spread of the virus.

Social distancing and self-isolating are key aspects of the attempts to flatten the curve; however, these measures are having increasingly negative impacts on businesses both locally and globally.

The National Small Business Chamber has provided a number of strategies for brick-and-mortar businesses to stay relevant during this time:

  • Communicate openly with your customers and they will likely empathise during this time. Inform them of the steps you’re taking to mitigate risk within your business and the community at large
  • Offer alternatives to in-store visitations, such as online delivery or teleconferencing
  • If you do greet your customers in person, smile and wave, fist-bump, foot-tap or elbow-knock rather than shaking hands
  • When communicating about the Covid-19 virus make sure you get your facts from a reliable source. Don’t spread false news and add to the panic. Spreading fake news about the virus is now punishable by law in South Africa
  • Let customers know what you’re doing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Send an email outlining the steps you have taken, or post signage in your stores. Offer your clients and staff hand sanitiser or disinfectant soap so that they can clean their hands as often as possible
  • Increase your social media presence. Customers are checking in much more frequently to get the latest updates on the virus, so it may be helpful to increase your posting frequency to ensure you are showing up in their newsfeeds. Make sure you are not forgotten
  • Offer online deals to remind customers that they can still shop for their favourite items on your website. It might even help to offer a coupon or discount to encourage online shopping, as most people are now staying at home
  • Service-based businesses like restaurants or salons may want to consider offering online sales of gift certificates. This will help maintain sales, while giving your customers something to look forward to
  • Minimise spending on items which are not critical for the operation of your business. It is time to cut down on the nice-to-haves and rather focus on the bare essentials. This will help to make your business run as efficiently as possible
  • Assist your customers through digital channels. Increase your customer service capabilities and ensure your customers can reach you, no matter where they are
  • Strategise with your team and create a contingency plan. Look critically at your business and make a business continuity plan. Use this time to think of innovative ways to get your product or service into the hands of your clients
  • Institute remote working, if possible, or some degree of flexi-time
  • Advise those who are showing the symptoms to stay home and self-isolate for 14 days
  • Consider how you will handle absenteeism and think about how you will communicate if people get sick. Try to be as understanding as possible and have a contingency plan in case you suddenly become short-staffed
  • Don’t panic!

Most of the small businesses are going to run on really low budgets. When an office is needed we often see that the company struggles to create it. That is mainly because of the fact that the small budget is spent on items that are not at all necessary. It is really important to be sure that you are going to get the essentials.

Obviously, the basic office supplies that are needed for one company may be completely different than those needed for another small business. For instance, in the event you run a business that often prints documents for clients, you will surely need a good supply of printer ink before you open your doors. However, if your business is mainly connected to the online world, printer ink will not be that needed.

What you need to do is to assess the specific basic needs the office has when the business is launched. Besides that, you will need basic office supplies. They are almost always needed to make operations professional and smooth. The appropriate supplies are always going to be needed when home based businesses are operated. In this case you want to separate the business and the home for tax, business and practical reasons so office basics will be even more important.

1. Office Essentials
The small business has some pretty simple office essentials that have to be taken into account. This includes comfortable office chairs that are ergonomically correct and desks. Then, you most likely need proper task lighting and file cabinets that can be locked. Larger whiteboards or an erasable calendar can be added so that scheduling becomes simpler while adding to planning projects and deadline tracking.

2. Office Equipment
Since this is 2017, there is a huge possibility you will have to invest in a laptop computer or a desktop computer for every single employee. If you need paperwork, pairing everything with printer access will be necessary. You will most likely need internet access and business email accounts should be set up to make everything as professional as possible. Besides the office equipment, you will need common supplies. This does include ink cartridges, printer paper, heavyweight stationary (you may want to print it with a letterhead and business name) and sometimes you will also need a larger scale printer or a copier, based on business scope. Learn more here on how to build a successful startup.

3. A Communication System
For starters, you will need to set up a phone system. As customers call you, a professional and prompt response has to come in. The phone system that has some individual extensions and at least voice mail is something that is seen as a basic. When there is no receptionist, remote phone management is an opportunity. The alternative to the regular phone system that is now gaining popularity is using VoIP based phone systems. They take advantage of the internet to handle phone calls, similarly to what Skype is used for at home. Using Skype is not professional because of quality concerns. However, other options are going to be available through VoIP. These systems offer many interesting advantages that will only make the business better at prices that are much lower than what you initially expect. Cloud based solutions help you to save even more and offer professional services, which is exactly what customers expect.

4. Business Forms
In order to appropriately track and budget expenses, to manage billing, formalise contractual agreements, account receivables and more, it is important to have business documents. That includes invoices, agreement letters and business contracts. Such materials are important as they will help you to run the business in a more fluid way, especially from the financial standpoint. At the same time, the business forms help the company to properly manage budgets, keep records and prepare the taxes. When vendor disputes appear, as an example, the forms help to set things straight.

5. Marketing Materials
Many small businesses invest the budget they have in office equipment and forget about marketing material. Nobody should do this if success is desired. A part of your startup budget should be added to marketing materials. Promotion will always be necessary so you want to produce business cards and even flyers or brochures when launching a local business. When it is possible, create a website that offers a company overview, products descriptions, services descriptions and testimonials as soon as they appear.

As you can easily see, there are many things that have to be taken into account when you set up any office for a small business. We talked about the essentials that are almost always needed but you should use your due diligence, of course. In some cases you can get rid of some of the essentials mentioned but you should be careful. In so many situations a launch without the office essentials will lead to business operations that are not as effective as they should be.
By Ady Wilson for www.businesscomputingworld.co.uk

Times are tough for everyone at the moment and many South Africans are looking for ways to boost their income with after-hour (or full-time) home businesses, says Claire Cobbledick, head of Marketing for Gumtree South Africa.

“We’ve definitely seen an uptick in home businesses as belts are tightening. Demand for these services has also increased, because home-based businesses are able to offer their services at a decreased price as overheads are much lower. It’s a great solution for stay at home moms or pensioners that do not want to re-enter the formal workplace or entrepreneurs who do not have the means to rent a premises.”

Doggy day-care/grooming
If you love dogs and have a lot of patience and skills, you may want to look into doggy day care. “Dogs require companionship and can become quite destructive if left at home all day, which is why many working pet owners are happy to pay someone to look after their furkids while they are at the office,” says Cobbledick. “If you have plenty of garden space (and neighbours who are willing to oblige) this is a great line of business. Dog groomers (particularly mobile ones) are also in vogue – it saves the stress of going to a parlour and is usually a bit cheaper.”
Just make sure that your business isn’t too disruptive. “A big pack of dogs can create a lot of noise and your neighbours will be within their rights to lodge a complaint about your business if they bark all day or if you let hygiene slide. Make sure that you are able to walk the pets in your care and preferably warn the postman!”

Cash injection potential: R50-R250 per day for day-care / R150-R200 per grooming session

Housesitting is another popular business on Gumtree, particularly for pensioners and students who have free time during the holidays. “It might be a little harder to get started with this business – it requires a lot of trust from the home owner. Make sure that you have contactable references and a great ad. It helps if you are able to perform services such as pet sitting and minimal gardening. Once you’ve been going for a while, you’ll soon find lots of repeat business and recommendations.”

Cash injection potential: R150 – R250 per day

Mobile salon and beauty treatments
A lot of people simply do not have the time to make it to their local salon during business hours, which is why savvy and skilled beauty and massage therapists and hairdressers are making a killing after hours with their mobile salons. “Many beauty parlours and salons require that you purchase your own products anyway, so this is a good way of supplementing your income and using your skills to your advantage. It does require a bit of capital to build up products, but once you’re set up, your running costs are fairly low. You can work from home or meet clients at their homes and businesses. Make sure that you calculate your travel costs carefully and charge a surplus for outlying areas to keep your profit margins healthy.”

Cash injection potential: R120 – R850 per client depending on treatment

Driver for hire
Applying for a Professional Driving Permit (PDP) enables you to act as a driver for hire – for any occasion. “Good drivers are always needed for parties, rugby matches, the school run or errands. If you have a roomy car and a professional driving permit, you are good to go. New Year’s is a particularly lucrative day, but you have the potential to earn money year-round for this.”

Cash injection potential: Dependent on distance and duration

Anyone who has ever guiltily relegated a “project” to the corner of the house will testify that sometimes it’s just easier to get a handyman in to do the little jobs you’ve been meaning to get to. “Hanging pictures, changing plugs, fixing up skirting boards, painting and all the other odd jobs that we end up putting off because we don’t have the time or the right tools call for a home handyman. If you have some plumbing or electrical skills on top of DIY work, you will never be short of clients. Don’t forget to charge for materials and wear and tear on your tools though!”

Cash injection potential: R150 per hour plus call-out fees and materials (more for plumbing/electrical jobs)

(If you are looking for on call plumber in Fairfield, check the website of Silver Water Plumbing)

Cobbledick says that Gumtree has thousands of home-based services listed on the site, which is why it’s important to keep your business top of mind. “Pay to bump up your ads every now and again. Include pictures and examples of previous work. And always respond to queries in a timeous fashion – downloading the app provides access to instant messaging, which literally allows you to respond to a client in seconds.”

If you don’t measure your small business’ performance, you won’t be able to improve it. There are a range of indicators that you can use to measure your company’s growth and help you to determine whether your business is on track, as well as help you to meet your business goals, says Charles Teversham, MD at Sage Intelligence.

Here are a few indicators to determine how well your business is doing, as well as some tools that you can use to help.

Web traffic
Most small businesses today have a Web site and possibly even e-commerce capabilities. Use tools such as Google Analytics (it’s free) to measure the traffic to your Web site and to see how people interact with your Web content. You will soon be able to determine how people are finding out about you and which of your products or services they are the most interested in.
Also, look at your search engine rankings. For example, when someone searches for your product or service, is your company near the top of the results? Being on the first page of results is definitely first prize! If it is not, you need to do some work improving your Web site’s search engine optimisation. Understanding search terms used will also give you some ideas about how to refine you sales pitch or your product range to improve sales.

Customer satisfaction
Small businesses stand or fall by how happy their customers are. Make a point of measuring customer satisfaction, whether it’s by talking to your customers directly, or by asking them to fill in a simple satisfaction survey. Online tools such as SurveyMonkey make it a snap to run your own polls for market research.
Very importantly, take action quickly based on customer feedback.

Social media
Do you have a presence on channels such as Twitter and Facebook? It is here where customers praise brands they’re satisfied with and a platform where they can address concerns that they may have toward specific products or services. You don’t need to spend all day on social media; use a tool such as Hootsuite (again, the entry level version is free) to schedule social media posts that are relevant to your target audience, perhaps once a week. However, do check for customer comments and responses at least once a day – you can learn a lot from interacting with customers on social media.
Monitor customer loyalty and satisfaction trends over time – if satisfaction is rising, you’re doing well. If it’s falling, take action.

Failures in financial budgeting, forecasting, and reporting are among the biggest reasons why small businesses fail. Keep comparing your current cash flow to historical performance to ensure you can budget effectively for the future. The right software tools can help you to track financial performance indicators and answer questions such as:
* Are you turning inventory around quickly enough so that you aren’t vulnerable to falling prices and so that you have money coming in to pay the suppliers?
* Is your revenue growth on track?
* How do your costs compare to the industry average in your market?
* Are all your products lines, customers, and territories performing as well as they should be?
* How much has profitability sales grown or shrunk against the same period last year? Why?
* What impact will the anticipated electricity tariff increase have on your profitability?
* How much income is each employee generating?
A financial reporting tool such as Sage Intelligence is affordable, intuitive, and delivers information in Excel, which most small business owners know how to use. These tools can help track the health of your business and having the answers to these and other questions can really help you improve your business’s performance. In a time of seismic technological change and digital invention, our smart people use the smartest technology to reinvent and simplify business accounting and reporting.

If you employ people, you should be able to measure how efficient and productive they are in a consistent manner. The measurement of productivity will depend on the nature of your business – it might be as straightforward as billable hours if you sell labour, or it could be measured in the quantity of items a worker produces per day or hour.
Try to compare yourself to other businesses – does you productivity align with the benchmarks for your industry? And compare employees to each other. Measure productivity trends by quarter or by year so that you can spot the trends and take action. For example, think about whether tablet computers could make your mobile techies more productive, or whether your artisans need more training to work more efficiently. Tracking and improving productivity is a sure fire way of beating the competition.

While South Africa has pinned its hopes on small business development to address unemployment, an increasingly gloomy economic outlook may seem set to undermine these hopes.

“There’s an economic malaise coming,” says Tshepo Phakathi, Group CEO of Phakathi Holdings. “We can expect more pressure on emerging markets, exacerbated by a spike in food prices as a result of the sub-Saharan African drought.” However, tough times ahead do not necessarily mean bad news for small businesses, he says. With the right strategies and innovation, entrepreneurs can take advantage of a changing market to build their businesses and thrive, he says.

Learn to meet next gen customer demands

Phakathi, whose KAELLO initiative promotes entrepreneurship and mentors thousands of aspiring entrepreneurs, and who serves as an advisor and ambassador for the expo, says small business owners who change their business strategies now stand to benefit in an uncertain market.

“In the five or more years that I have been involved in the expo, we have seen significant changes in the market,” he says. “In addition to slowing economic growth, a key change has been the advent of high speed internet access and social media, which has completely changed customer expectations.” Customisation and instant gratification are the keys to meeting customer demands today, he notes. However, local small businesses have been slow to change accordingly. Phakathi says: “Consumers have become more discerning. It’s a consumer market now, and people expect more of what they want, where and when they want it.”

To survive and thrive in this new environment, Phakathi says: “We need to batten down the hatches, tighten our belts, and take care not to be over consumptive as a business. Businesses also need to be more innovative and more deliberate about customer satisfaction, and they need to ‘stick to their knitting’. This is not the time to dabble and over-diversify: the more competitive a market becomes, the more niche it becomes,” he says.

Phakathi, who will speak at the #Buy-A-Business Expo & Small Business Expo on strategies for thriving in the current economic environment, believes small businesses need support in changing their strategies and understanding how to harness IT to meet new customer expectations.

Embrace structure and order

Brian Walsh, CEO of the Real Success Network and member of the Small Business Expo advisory board, says structure and order are key components of business success. “For small businesses to thrive, they need to learn to create systems that run the businesses,” says Walsh. “A new business is always chaotic at first, but the chaos is supposed to abate after a few years. With the help of the right service providers, businesses can get organized faster.”

Walsh believes having access to a network of service providers goes a long way toward supporting small business growth. “The problem is that many new and small business owners need assistance with marketing, web site development and accounting, for example, but they are often uninformed about the support and opportunities open to them, and frequently spend too much time trying to source service providers or carry out functions that are not core to their business.”

Walsh says these challenges informed the Small Business Expo’s stepped up focus on service providers. “The expos will include seminars on business management and structure, but will also showcase service providers and interventions that will help business owners take their businesses to the next level,” he says.

Exposure and networking

On the back of decades of hosting South Africa’s top expos in South Africa, Small Business Expo organisers Thebe Reed Exhibitions believes that networking and exposure are crucial for small business growth. “Opportunities for small businesses to meet a broad range of investors, partners and service providers are important, but rare,” says Carol Weaving, MD of Thebe Reed Exhibitions.

“In our years of experience in supporting small business development, our research has found that networking opportunities are invaluable for business growth. Therefore, the Small Business Expo delivers optimal opportunities for small business owners, service providers, funder and partners to engage, learn and expand business relationships.”

Among the highlights of the Small Business Expo will be:

  • Business Speed Dating sessions;
  • An all-new Investors club for high profile investors and business partners;
  • Networking Circles;
  • Development Den workshops on business trends and strategy, management, financial and digital;
  • Online Business Matchmaking;
  • Business Bootcamp workshops for early stage start-ups;
  • Techpreneur Pavilion for tech-based small business and entrepreneurs;
  • The fast-growing international Get In The Ring entrepreneurship challenge;
  • Wealth Masterclasses; and
  • The Chat Room networking lounge and internet café.

The Small Business Expo and #BuyaBusiness Expo will take place concurrently at the TicketPro dome from 8 – 10 September 2016.

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