Entrepreneurs urged to embrace online tools to overcome challenges

It is essential that South African entrepreneurs and small business owners utilise all tools and resources available at their disposal, in order to reduce the relatively high current business failure rate in the country and to overcome challenges they are experiencing.

This is according to Nimo Naidoo of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, who says there is a wealth of tools and information available online that can be used to empower business owners with crucial SME skills, as well as streamline existing administrative and marketing functions.

“Data from the most recent 2011 GEM Global Report reveals that South Africa has the second lowest established business ownership rate amongst all efficiency-driven economies, consisting of businesses older than 3.5 years. This illustrates a high rate of failure or lack of growth amongst entrepreneurs and small businesses,” says Naidoo.

To reverse this, she says it is crucial that local entrepreneurs constantly look for better ways to do business. “One of the most obvious and often underutilised resources is the internet. There is an abundance of tools and information available online and by harnessing these resources, entrepreneurs and small business owners can improve their business performance and efficiency in a highly cost effective manner.”

Naidoo explains that an obvious challenge is finding reliable relevant sources amongst the sea of information available. “Sites such as Fortune, Entrepreneur and Forbes offer credible sources of information and are often sourced from highly successful entrepreneurs and business people.

“Free online tools and virtual portals such as Business Mechanics offer myriad services that cater to the needs of the modern South African entrepreneur and SME owner. Not only does this online tool provide informative articles for users, but possesses valuable information on business property opportunities and contacts for accessing funding. An additional community component even allows entrepreneurs to network via platforms such as community forums and a business directory.”

She notes that small businesses and entrepreneurs are often incapable of completely fulfilling all the roles and functions of business adequately. “Many entrepreneurs are either not skilled experts in all fields or simply do not have the capacity to fully satisfy all of the business requirements. There are however many free or inexpensive resources available online that are designed to comprehensively satisfy the needs of small businesses. Tools such as Pastel offer unique accounting solutions catered to the needs of small business owners or start up entrepreneurs. Another example is Sanlam’s Cobalt which provides a diverse range of business solutions not limited to financial support. These type of offerings are suited to all individuals, ranging from the small business owner and start up entrepreneur, to students and employed professionals.”