Category Archives: Info Hub

Five steps to choosing the right business partner

business partner

Is 2016 is the year that you take the leap to start your own business? If so, what is your strategy? Do you have your ducks in a row? And, more importantly: are you going it alone?

Every small business owner understands the pressure of starting a new venture. Cash flow will be tight. There might be months that you can’t draw a salary. And winning that first deal is always that little bit further away than you probably anticipated.

One way to reduce some of the pressure you’re likely to face is to tie up with a business partner, or two, or three.

The big question is: what kind of partner should you be looking for.

Play to your strengths

Karen Venter, a trainer for the United Nations’ Empretec international entrepreneurial programme and  owner of Innovate Biz that specialises in training entrepreneurs, says the ideal partner/s should have skills that complement your own.

“In general, look for a partner that has strengths where you have weaknesses,”she says.

It makes little sense to duplicate roles or responsibilities, particularly as you need to hit the ground running while covering as much ground as possible. It may be tempting to align with someone who also has strong sales skills – if that is your area of expertise – but it makes more sense to find a partner proficient in production, or procurement, accounting or even the legal aspects of your business.

Vision and values above all else

The strength of complementary skills really only comes to the fore if you share the same vision and values as your partners.

It is very easy for business growth to suffer because of diverging vision. A small business, especially, has to be single-minded in what it is trying to achieve and how it is going to do that. The last thing you need is to be wasting energy on internal misalignment when you should be focused on generating sales and managing cash flow.

Karen suggests that you engage in frank and transparent discussion with potential partners to ensure that you are clearly aligned on where you see the business going, how you’re going to achieve that and what your ultimate goal is.

Best friends forever?

It is not uncommon for friends to go into business together. There are obvious advantages in that you will have a better understanding of each other than with a newly-acquired business partner.

Karen suggests you carefully assess whether a friendship is a good enough reason to start a business together. Does your BFF, for instance, possess complementary skills needed to grow the business?

And, will your friendship survive a business fallout?

Unity is strength

Apart from the question of complementary business skills, Karen says one of the great advantages of a business partner is that you can share the trials and tribulations, highs and lows of running your own business.

Walking the entrepreneurial journey is that much easier when you’re able to share the load and have someone else to lean on.

Karen makes the point that it is also critical that your partner has as much to lose, or gain, as you do. A partnership requires shared risk and reward. If this relationship is unbalanced, you may find that you bear more of the burden if your partner is not as invested in a successful outcome for your business, and therefore possibly not pulling his/her weight.

Get it down on paper

This should probably be the starting point for a business partnership – certainly from a legal point of view: draw up a partnership agreement.

All the above are necessary ingredients to a good business partnership, but without a legal document that underpins it you could be setting yourself up for unnecessary pain.

Such a document should outline roles, responsibilities and contributions to the business, but almost more importantly it should stipulate how disputes are settled. By clarifying this up front, you and your partner/s will have certainty of the rules of engagement.

2016: the year of going digital

09_Office pet peeve

What is your strategy for tackling business growth in 2016? This is a question that should be top of mind as the year winds down. You may be caught in the holiday season sales flurry, but this is no reason to not be thinking ahead.

And that thinking has to start turning toward digital marketing if you’re not already using this medium to build audiences and sales. And sales need not be restricted to e-commerce: there are obvious advantages to online stores and sales, but feet through the door of your physical store or office will do just as well. Continue reading

Efficiency: your watch word for 2016


Businesses of all sizes have been feeling the effects of the country’s sluggish economy. With growth of a mere 1,5% expected this year and not much better in 2016, there is no denying it’s time to sharpen your pencil if your small business is to grow in these tight times.

“2016 should be about improving efficiencies and getting  the basics done with less effort,” suggests Brendon Darroll, project manager at SBP. “The number of distractions will only increase as the year continues, so the small business owner’s mantra for 2016 should be about getting more done with less.” Continue reading

Build success in 2016 with a proper budget


There is a strange sense of accomplishment and security in getting to grips with the finances of your small business. This is especially true of that most critical element – cash flow.

It is no secret that cash not coming into the business can strangle you. And the best way to avoid this disastrous situation is to have a clear idea of what your expenses are and when you expect money to flow in that allows you to cover those expenses. Continue reading

Planning for success in 2016


No amount of optimism or hope is going to drive the growth of your business in 2016. Without a clear battle plan for how you’re going to achieve your targets next year you’re unlikely to do just that.

Fortunately, Sanlam has produced this handy guide – Your Annual Business Game Plan For Success – that you can use to get to grips with any business challenges the new year may throw at you. Continue reading

Five steps to improving your procurement

keep your head together

Sourcing goods that your business sells, or uses in the manufacture of goods that you sell, can be a constant headache if you don’t stay on top of things. Not only must you find cost-effective suppliers, but you often need to manage those relationships and ensure you have a reliable flow of goods to keep your business ticking over.

“This sounds simple and easy to do, yet small businesses struggle with this aspect of their businesses,” says JJ Oosthuysen of Go-Hi Consulting, which specialises in helping small business manage their growth. “By their very nature, small businesses are informal, do not have complicated processes, are less standardised and the owner manager often works directly with suppliers themselves. Continue reading

Negotiate like an ace

closing the deal

Getting the best price from your suppliers is a predicament for every entrepreneur. If you’re unable to get a competitive price, either the price to your customers will be unattractive, or your profit margin suffers.

Erich Viedge, a business and executive leadership coach, says that mastering negotiation is a sure-fire way to help you get the prices that you need. He says that following four tips can help take your procurement to the next level. Continue reading

Applying big business thinking to your small business procurement

Big business thinking

As a small business owner it is easy to think you don’t need to follow the rules that big corporations apply. In certain respects this is true, but then there is probably a good reason bigger organisations have these rules.

Take procurement, for example. Why do large companies have whole teams dedicated to their buying department? For good reason: unless you monitor and mange your costs, your profitability will suffer. Continue reading

How to benefit from economies of scale

manage your funds

Buying in bulk is a great way to gain leverage that allows you to negotiate better prices from your suppliers. Accountants and economists like to talk about ‘economies of scale’ – for a small business owner this is simply ‘good business sense’.

Gaining a cost advantage by buying in bulk also sounds a lot easier than it is. A large order, even at a great price, means that you’re going to have to sacrifice cash flow to pay for that order. And as all small business owners know: cash flow is king. So unless you have some certainty that you’ll be able to sell that stock quickly, your good buy could well turn out to be a bad buy. Continue reading

Get the best value out of Google Adwords


Written by: Johann Barnard

Targeting specific online audiences for your paid advertising on services such as Google Adwords has never been easier. The benefit of this is that you can gain maximum value from your adspend as you’ll be sure your reaching people who are genuinely interested in your product or service.

Google Adwords is undoubtedly the king of online advertising, although Facebook has rolled out similar affordable, targeted services. Twitter is still refining its offering but is one to watch if your aim is to build an audience. Continue reading

All you need to know about content marketing

content marketing

Written by: Johann Barnard

The digital age has transformed marketing over the past few decades, and continuous to do so at break-neck speed. So much so that it’s difficult to keep up with the latest trends.

One of the major reasons for this is that the audience has moved to digital platforms, which have introduced all manner of new ways to reach your audience. Traditional forms of marketing such as print advertisements, pamphlets and television advertising have been swept aside as digital platforms offer a direct route to the customer.

For many small businesses this digital platform is their website. Apart from the usual pages promoting products and services, the clever marketers have started using tools like blogs and video content to promote their message and engage with customers. Continue reading

Email remains a strong direct marketing tool

Email - direct marketing tool

Written by: Johann Barnard

Despite social media being all the rage, there is still a very strong case to be made for using email as a marketing tool. A case that is 40 times stronger than social media, in fact, according to a recent report by management consulting firm McKinsey.

This is not to say that you should suddenly switch out of social media or other forms of direct marketing to use only email. But a well-crafted and directed email campaign can still deliver positive sales outcomes. Continue reading

Use cloud It services to stay competitive

Trudon cloud

Written by: Johann Barnard

Small business owners who are not harnessing the power of technology to improve their competitiveness are missing a trick. Whether you’re a one-man band or an organisation with numerous staff and even offices, cloud computing services offer affordable, scalable and customisable options that can simplify your life.

So what exactly is cloud computing? If you use Gmail, Dropbox or Microsoft’s Office 365 suite of products then you’re using cloud services – even if you didn’t realise it. Continue reading

The future of social media marketing

Social Marketing Campaign

Written by: Johann Barnard

Using social media for your marketing sounds like a good idea. Because it is. But keeping up with the latest trends can seem like an unending quest as it’s such a rapidly evolving landscape.

US social media platform The Social Media Examiner conducted a study with nearly 4 000 marketers to find out what they are using, how they’re using it and where they’re focusing their social media attention. Continue reading

Build your brand with these four tips on using video

Build your brand

Written by: Johann Barnard

Video is a growth industry and an opportunity ripe for the picking by brands that have the budget, and balls, to create engaging, interesting content that speaks to their customers’ aspirations and interests.

Brian Holmes, a founding partner of Scarlet Letter, points out that producing marketing videos is cheaper and easier than full-scale television production but still eats into your budget. But by adopting the right content strategy and social media campaign, video presents an opportunity to make a big impact. Continue reading

Six awesome hashtag tips


Written by: Johann Barnard

It would be fair to say that if you don’t know what a #hashtag is that you’ve been living a closeted life. Which is not a criticism, but does indicate that you could be missing out on some powerful marketing reach.

The hashtag gained popularity on Twitter as a way to tag and follow conversations and topics of interest. They’re a great way to build engagement, especially to reach out to users that are not directly following you. Hashtags are now used across all social media platforms, not only Twitter, which is really powerful. Continue reading

10 sales quotes to hang in your office

Written by: Johann Barnard

Keeping your sales team inspired is a constant challenge, but a necessary one if you want your business to continue growing. It’s easy to fall into a rut or routine that turns your weekly sales meeting into more of a chore than an essential part of your sales strategy.

To help build inspiration and renewed energy in your sales team’s efforts, we have gathered some inspirational quotes from political and business leaders that could help you and your team remain motivated. Continue reading

How to impress a disappointed customer

impressed customer

Written by: Johann Barnard

Everyone has, at some stage, had a bad customer experience – whether as the customer, or the business owner having to deal with a disappointed customer. Large businesses may be able to shake off one or a few lost customers, but for a small business this could be deadly.

So how do you not only resolve the problem a disappointed customer has had, but turn that experience into one that wins you a customer for life? Continue reading

How does the Google search ranking change affect me?

measured and analysed

Written by: Johann Barnard

Search engine rankings matter, especially for small businesses competing against large corporates that can afford an army of people to ensure that their websites are optimised to appear at the top of search engine results.

This discipline is known as content marketing and can be crucial to the success of your business – especially if you sell products or services online. Continue reading

5 Steps to closing a sale

closing the deal

Written by: Johann Barnard

Not everyone is a born salesperson, which can be a problem for a small business owner not secure in how to close a sale. Fortunately, this can be learned like any other business skill and one you can improve on through practice.

JJ Oosthuysen, a small business management consultant, says that sales is both a science and an art form that requires certain selling techniques. “The economy is tight and people are holding onto the cash they have available. Sales people therefore have to work smarter and apply specific skills to close a sale. In order to be successful at sales, you have to understand that selling is a process,”he says. Continue reading

Attitude trumps experience in the hiring process

Recruiting staff

Written by: Johann Barnard

Recruiting staff can be a daunting undertaking. Apart from the legal formalities and compliance issues, it is essential that you feel you’re making the right hiring decision.

Ivan Walsh, a director of successful restaurant chain Doppio Zero, has some useful advice for business owners who are expanding and need to hire staff. Ivan is largely responsible for recruitment for the group, and has extensive experience working abroad for global chains such as Starbucks. Continue reading

Boost your productivity with these tools

Boost your productivity

Written by: Johann Barnard

“There just aren’t enough hours in the day,” is a common refrain one hears from small business owners. All too often this is because of a lack of resources or people to get all the tasks done to keep your small business running.

While not much can be done to extend the day beyond 24 hours, there are a host of tools that can help you work more effectively. Fortunately, these also won’t break the bank as many are free tools, or provide premium features at very reasonable rates. Continue reading

Selling online made simple

buying online
Written by: Johann Barnard

Selling your products online is the right thing to do, isn’t it? This is probably a question you’ve asked yourself before. The problem, generally, is how to do it. Surely it requires technical skills or a fair amount of money to set up an online store?

This may have been the case in years gone by, but the options to set up your own store have grown rapidly to the point that this can now be done with no technical expertise, and very little investment. Continue reading

How to: develop a social marketing campaign

social marketing campaign

Written by: Johann Barnard

Facebook likes. Retweets on Twitter. Instagram followers. YouTube videos: wherever you look, the world appears to be dominated by social media. And in many ways it is, which presents an opportunity for small business owners who wish to market their business on these platforms.

The upside is that social media is definitely a viable way to reach out to customers. The downside is that doing so successfully requires more than simply posting updates to your Facebook page. Continue reading

Advertise and get noticed online

Advertising your business online

Written by: Johann Barnard

Digital marketing is great way to grow your business. It’s generally cheaper, more immediate, more targeted, and you can track and analyse your results more effectively. Also, you can implement campaigns yourself.

Digital agencies obviously have a role to play as they have the expertise from doing this on a daily basis, but you can easily take the first steps yourself by following a few basic guidelines.

Getting noticed
One of the easiest ways to make sure potential customers find your business is to have your web site appear in search engine queries. Continue reading

Offline and online marketing: what’s the difference?

Offline marketing

Developing a marketing strategy is essential if you want your small business to grow. Online tools and mechanisms have made this more affordable for small businesses, but you’re missing a trick if you don’t align activities across both realms.

An article by Carla van Staden, published by online education provider GetSmarter, offers some tips.

Everything is based on strategy
Carla says that although an online presence is a necessity for any business, successful marketing strategies combine online and offline tactics. Continue reading

Understanding digital marketing

measured and analysed

Written by: Johann Barnard

So you’re considering this thing called digital marketing? You might have heard it’s cheaper than traditional marketing. Maybe you’ve been told it’s the next big thing? Or maybe you’re simply ahead of your time.

The thing with digital marketing is that it’s evolving all the time. Marketers have many decades worth of evidence to explain why certain types of traditional marketing work. Digital marketing is still fairly new, and with new platforms and tools emerging all the time it can be difficult to know where to start.

Two of the most powerful benefits of digital marketing are audience identification and measurement. Continue reading

Understanding your audience

Target Audience

Written by: Johann Barnard

One of the many requirements of a successful marketing strategy is ‘understanding your audience’.

What does this mean? How can you truly know what existing and prospective customers want, and how do you turn that to your advantage? Short of acting like the National Security Agency and monitoring people’s every conversation, email or digital communications, this is an unreal goal.

What you can do, however, is to measure and monitor aspects of your marketing that offer valuable insights into how your messages are received and whether they produce the desired buying action.
Continue reading

How to: think about your marketing strategy

Think strategically

Written by: Johann Barnard

The key to developing a marketing strategy for your business is having a clear understanding of your business, the need that it satisfies and who’s need you are satisfying.

So says Brian Holmes, a founding partner of Scarlet Letter.

“You may not need to create a vision, mission statement and values statement, but you do need an elevator pitch – the 30-second overview of what your business offers, to whom, and the need that it meets,” he says.
Continue reading

Tax matters, a lot

Time for taxes
Written by: Johann Barnard

It’s that time of the year again – financial year-end, which means scrambling to get your business accounts in order and to prepare to file and pay over tax on profits to SARS.

Jonathan Marshall, a chartered accountant with TSL Corporate Administrators that specialises in small business accounting, says that while this time is generally considered the high point in the financial year, ignoring all the other business taxes is looking for trouble.
Continue reading

Direct marketing: The devil is in the detail

The devil is in the detail
Written by: Johann Barnard

Special holidays and celebrations throughout the year offer small businesses the opportunity to boost revenue and win new customers with discounts and special deals. Just think of the amount of business that florists and restaurants gain on Valentine’s Day.

In order to attract this business, however, often requires the marketing of those specials. And as much as this presents an opportunity, there is also a distinct danger if not done correctly.

Gugulethu Majija, a candidate attorney at Phukubje Pierce Masithela Attorneys, warns that marketing is no longer simply a case of sending out emails or SMS messages to prospective customers.
Continue reading

Love me tender, love me true, all my dreams fulfilled…

Completing your tender submission

Written by: Johann Barnard

Tenders are big business that could help your small business take a step up the revenue ladder. With government issuing tenders valued at more than R500 billion in the 2013/14 financial year this is a market well worth considering.

The reality is that competition is tough and the qualifying criteria are quite strict.

There are a number of online services that compile the many thousands of tenders issued by government into a format that is easier to view and respond to. One such is OnlineTenders, which has provided some handy tips for business owners who wish to get in on the tender act.
Continue reading

All you need to know about the SARS small business help desks

tax authorities

Written by: Johann Barnard

Dealing with the tax authorities is to become a whole lot easier for small business owners from 1 April when dedicated help desks will be available at SARS offices to answer queries and process many common transactions.

SARS deputy spokesperson Marika Muller says the small business desks have been created specifically for business owners who do not have professional assistants like Tax Practitioners and third-party accountants.
Continue reading

A big boost for small business

Written by: Johann Barnard

The 2015 National Budget speech delivered at the end of February was littered with good news for small businesses. These ranged from tax breaks to the announcement of new procedures when dealing with government for tenders.

The most significant benefit comes in the way of the lowering of Turnover Tax, which is applied to businesses with annual turnover under R1 million.
Continue reading

The ABC of labour laws

Written by: Johann Barnard

South Africa’s labour laws are notoriously stringent and a source of frustration for many small business owners who do not have the resources that larger organisations can dedicate to this important issue.

The bottom line is that no matter how constricting these laws are for small businesses, there is no way around your legal obligations when you employ staff members.

The Department of Labour provides a quick guide to all aspects of the labour laws on this site.
Continue reading


Written by: Johann Barnard

Although Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (BBBEE) has become a staple of the South African business environment, it is an element that many small enterprises feel is beyond them: either due to cost or difficulty in complying.

This needn’t be so, says JJ Oostuysen, who provides management consultancy and business support services to small businesses. He adds that obtaining a certificate is no guartantee that you will be more successful, but it could give you a competitive edge while your business is still growing.
Continue reading

The (legal) ins and outs of operating a restaurant

Written by: Johann Barnard

Many people dream of opening their own restaurant, often driven by visions of satisfying loyal customers with good food, drink and a hearty atmosphere. As important as these three elements are to running a successful eatery, they ignore the (sometimes) mundane legal and licensing requirements needed to operate such a business.

Lindy Pretorius, joint owner of La Luna and The Brauhaus in Johannesburg’s trendy Melville, had similar visions but was quickly introduced to the many practical, sometimes unexpected, aspects of opening a restaurant.
Continue reading

Four steps to registering your new business

Written by: Johann Barnard

Starting a new business can be a notoriously frustrating process if you venture out without the necessary preparation, or without prior knowledge of what and with which organisation you need to register.

David Masterton, a director of  auditing firm Nolands that specialises in the small and medium business sector, offers some helpful advice on what to do and the time it may take to do so.
Continue reading

Startup cash flow management

Written by: Johann Barnard

As much as it’s a cliché to say that cash flow is the life blood of any business, this is also a universal truth and stark reality. Many a business has had to shut up shop because the money simply hasn’t come in quick enough, or at the right time, to allow the business to continue trading.

The best weapon against this crisis is to make use of a cash flow forecast. This is a spreadsheet that allows business owners to ‘see’ into the future based on projections of when cash will be received from sales and when expenses will be incurred. Continue reading

Trudon SME funding

Written by: Johann Barnard

Funding your new business

Funding your new business is probably one of the biggest headaches you’re likely to encounter. If you’re in the service industry the capital required may be smaller than a retail business, but in either event you’re going to have startup costs you have to cover in one way or the other.

Steven Cohen, managing director at Sage Pastel Accounting, says that while the commercial banks are often the first port of call they are not the only option available. He has the following suggestions: Continue reading

The benefits of a shared office space

11_Shared office space

Traditional commercial leases require many tenants to sign up to long-term leases with 24-month commitments not an uncommon condition. Such agreements are generally for more space than is required and at a cost that is more than most early stage businesses can afford or really need to pay. By sharing a space small business can cut down on their initial expenses and free up some money to increase cash flow.

Networking accounts for 87% of business in the marketplace. Shared office spaces do away with the homogeneity of a traditional office and bring together different businesses, all with networks of their own. The likelihood of getting the key introductions or strategic partnership you’ve been looking for increases significantly in a shared office space.

Most shared office space platforms offer bookings by the hour, day, week or month, which is ideal for business trips, short term engagements or simply for the peace of mind that comes with flexibility. Businesses only pay for the amount of desks that they need, when they use them. The flexibility that comes with the space also means you can work from different spaces and expand your network even further.

Innovation doesn’t happen in a bubble. Sharing office space means you always have somebody to bounce ideas off or get insights from. Don’t know your SEO from your PPC? Chances are somebody in the office, particularly those with established businesses, would have asked the same questions at some point and gone through the same challenges.

Business can be tough and running one can be tougher. Sometimes all you need is to share your experience with others that are going through the same thing and the sense of community that comes with a shared office space helps to facilitate such conversations. Simply going to a common place of business puts you on the same page and makes it harder to throw in the towel when the time gets tough.

What is the difference between a website and a mini-site?

10_Website vs minisite

A mini-site is like a smaller website. They are usually used by small new businesses just to have a presence on the web and can be quite effective.Oftentimes businesses delay launching their first website because they know the money, time, and energy investment will be significant.

These delays are completely understandable—especially when you consider one of the biggest problems businesses run into after starting a website is the frustration, and delays of the amount of time/energy required to create an effective business website and then constantly needing to update and maintain it. In this sense a mini-site can be a viable and valuable alternative. A mini-site only has to be a couple of pages big, and can relay only the most important information about your company.

It can also act as a stepping-stone toward a larger website in the future. More importantly though, when done right, it tackles the core challenge that businesses without sites are facing—potential customers assuming they’re either extremely behind the times or not at all legitimate.

Plus, mini-sites can be launched with comparatively small commitments of money, time, and energy. It also allows business to ‘test the digital waters’ before committing to a full web experience.