How to progress your business

If you are working on something exciting that you really care about, you don’t have to be pushed. The vision pulls you.
Steve Jobs

The point of departure with this article is that you have already developed an empowering vision and crystal clear mission statement for your business. (If not, read this article)

With these strategic elements intact, we will focus on the current reality of the elements which all have a bearing on the realisation of the strategic goals of the business.

  • The financial state of my business:
    • What is the gap between the current financial indicators (turnover, profit and cost) and the financial growth targets of my business?
  • Target market:
    • Do we have a clearly defined target market? Do we know how many of these clients do we need on our books and what the sales value per client should be to realise our financial objectives?
  • Value proposition:
    • Is our product and service offer meeting the needs and requirements of our target market?
  • Employees:
    • Is our employees fully skilled and capable to service our clients?
  • Service delivery:
    • Is there a culture of service excellence vested in the “DNA” of my business? Do I lead front the front? Do I have proof of this?
  • Competitors:
    • Do I know enough about my competitors to counter their offerings in the market place?
  • IT
    • Is my IT infrastructure optimal to support the execution of my business strategy?
  • Networks:
    • Are we using the access which our trusted and vested business networks can give us to potential clients?
  • Community:
    • Are we giving back to the community which supports our business?

Note: This is in no means a complete list, but merely to jog the mind to get you on the right track.

How to develop an action plan to close the gaps identified in the business elements listed above:

  1. Evaluate each element listed and identify performance gaps and missed opportunities (put it in writing).
  2. Prioritise the list (choose the “low hanging fruit” and the elements most important to your business).
  3. Set goals/targets per prioritised element.
  4. Allocate resources to ensure delivery (people, time, funding).
  5. Implement.
  6. Evaluate progress.
  7. Adjust focus where needed.
  8. Keep monitoring until implemented.
  9. Quantify the outcome and determine the contribution to overall targets and goals.

May these guidelines spur you into action and help you to move closer to your defined goals and targets, hence realising the vision and mission of your business.

To support business owners with the important task of business planning, Sanlam gives you free access to the book Your Annual Business Game Plan for Success, which provides an easy and straightforward framework needed to draft a well-crafted game plan that will create the positive change and growth necessary for business success. Go to to download your free copy.

Article written by Jannie Rossouw, Head: Sanlam Business Market

15 finalists selected to advance in SA’s premier entrepreneurial competition

After carefully sifting through a record amount of entries, the 2014 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® judging panel have identified the 15 finalists who have been selected to advance to the final round of the competition.

According to Christo Botes, spokesperson for the 2014 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, the amount of entries received this year is a dramatic increase in comparison to the 2013 and 2012 competition. “We are pleased to announce that we received 214 entries in 2014, which is the highest volume recorded to date and an increase of 21% compared to last year. The entries have once again impressed the judging panel and have highlighted the quality of entrepreneurial talent and success present in the country.”

Botes says that he believes that the quality and quantity of this year’s entries is a direct result of previous winners’ success, as well as the status which the competition has established for itself within the entrepreneurial community. “The quality of the 2014 entries confirmed that the future of the entrepreneurial community in South Africa is very promising.”

He says that the 15 finalists operate in various sectors, the most prominent being the services and manufacturing sectors, with the majority originating from Gauteng and the Western Cape.

“The profile of the entries gave us even more inspiration to further celebrate entrepreneurial success. The types of businesses and the niches they fill in their respective sectors and markets shows that there are still many opportunities in our economy. What is needed from local entrepreneurs is the open-mindedness and guts to identify and grab the opportunities that are just waiting to be harvested.

“We commend all entrants and encourage individuals who have not been selected for the next round to try again next year. It is encouraging that South African entrepreneurs are not afraid to stand up and take pride in the businesses that they have created. It is vital for the country to recognise these individuals as they play a vital role in the economy by creating jobs and economic growth. Even though entrepreneurs have not been officially recognised yet – they all deserve to be celebrated.”

This year’s entries represent a wide array of sectors in South Africa, including the engineering, IT, services, retail, hospitality and education industries. Botes says that the demographics of this years’ entries are exciting to say the least. “Close on 30% of the entrants were located outside the four large metropolitan areas, which indicates that our rural economy continues to have thriving businesses, and that SMEs remain the backbone of those areas. Gauteng (43.9%) and Western Cape (22.4%) make up two thirds of all the entries, which throws out a challenge to the other provinces to be more bold in entering the competition as these two provinces seems to be more confident in celebrating their success.

“We also are delighted at the growth in the number of black entries as for the first time it grew to more than half the entries at 54.7%. Female entries also reached a new high at 31.78% and if one further considers that many of the male entrants also have, at the core of their businesses, a spouse that is just as committed to the business as the male entrant.”

Botes explains that the next step in the judging process is the selection of the winners in the different categories. “The judging process is completely independent and is monitored by PwC. The judges also represent different areas of the business community and include successful seasoned entrepreneurs, as well as a representative from each of the sponsors and a director from PwC. The evaluation process runs through three different filtering processes, which ensure that everything is checked and rechecked to remove any human error or human preference which otherwise could have crept into the process.”

He says that the 2014 finalists stand the chance to win prizes worth R1 340 000, which includes cash prizes to the value of R350 000. “Beyond the chance to win prizes, previous entrants and finalists have benefitted from the competition’s various networking opportunities and associated marketing efforts. Certain winners have also gone on to win other prominent awards and form valuable partnerships as a result of their success in the competition.

“We are eager to move onto the next round of the competition and wish all the finalists continued success and good fortune,” concludes Botes.

The 2014 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® winners will be announced on 3 September 2014 at the official awards breakfast in Johannesburg.

2014 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® finalists:

Wendy Kemp (Accountability Group), Dudu & Leema Mofokeng (Legaći Superior Dry Cleaning & Laundry Services), Marthie Jansen van Rensburg (Ekurhuleni Artisans & Skills Training Centre), Dr Michelle Booysen & MJ Fick (Pétanque Consultancy), Karabo Songo & Olatoye Amosun (Olive Communications), David Green (Thegreencompany Importers (Pty) Ltd), Lorimer Gowar (Larrem (Pty) Ltd), Johan Eksteen (Agricon), Adri & Faan Kruger (Tzaneen Country Lodge), Hans van Aardt (Microworks (Pty) Ltd), Theri Rossouw (Therific Naturals), Hassan Suleman (Form Force (Pty) Ltd), Johan Kilian & Lukas Loots (Pie City), Daniel Guasco & Wayne Gosling (Groupon South Africa), Theresa Cupido (ATN Roadmarking & Civils).

Build your own support network

The business support landscape in South Africa for young entrepreneurs is like the business world itself: it is teeming with opportunities, but you will have to seek them out yourself and build your own support network. Nobody is going to hand it to you on a silver platter.

For decades, various spheres of government, corporates and development organisations have been setting up “one-stop shops”, “help desks” and “local business service centres” – places where an entrepreneur can get affordable help with anything ranging from compiling business plans to finding finance and setting up administration systems.

The idea is good, says Byron Jeacocks, regional general manager for Business Partners, but so far none of these projects has managed to sustain and grow a consistently good service. He points, for example, to parts of the Umsobomvu Youth Fund which had been successful in helping a number of young entrepreneurs set up in franchising, but it ended when the fund was collapsed into the National Youth Development Agency.

Support opportunities may well be found in the many similar institutions established at municipalities, provincial governments, and national agencies such as the Small Enterprise Development Agency and the new Small Enterprise Finance Agency.

The advantage is that services are often subsidised and are therefore affordable. Finance may even be available in the form of grants. But the disadvantage is that the quality of service may vary considerably, and young entrepreneurs should scout around widely for good alternatives if the subsidised ones fail to live up to their promises.

In fact, it is entirely possible for young business owners to build an excellent support network for their business without any state-sector support.

It starts, says Jeacocks, with the acknowledgement by the young entrepreneur that business support is much wider than access to business finance. “If you don’t have to borrow money, don’t. You don’t need a million rand to start a business.”

More often than not, young entrepreneurs rather need support in setting up and managing systems in their businesses, including people management, VAT returns, sales, bookkeeping and cashflow forecasting. Because many entrepreneurs are unaware of where to find help in building these systems, they simply focus on production (fixing cars, landscaping or whatever the core service of the business is) and neglect the other aspects of running a successful business.

Once they acknowledge that they need help and that there is no single state institution set up to provide such support, young entrepreneurs must set about building their own support network.

For general business skills training they can reach out to dozens of commercial institutions offering part-time courses in every city and university, and correspondence learning is accessible in even the most far-flung rural town in South Africa. It is hard to pay the kind of rates charged by unsubsidised courses, and it is even harder to commit the time and energy required to finish a course while running a business. But Jeacocks says it is often the single investment with the highest return that business owners make in their career.

A crucial part of any business support network that young entrepreneurs often overlook is other business owners. Jeacocks says he finds that inexperienced entrepreneurs are the only ones that try to keep their operations and plans secret. If they are lucky, they find out sooner rather than later that experienced business owners are remarkably willing to share information, tips, advice and even customers. There is no harm in reaching out to business owners around you.

They are often busy, however, and one of the best ways in which to network with other business owners is through your local business chamber where you can meet them when they are themselves in networking mode. Jeacocks believes that South African business chambers are untapped and unappreciated for their potential to support young entrepreneurs.

Many successful entrepreneurs acknowledge the role of a mentor in their career. This can be a family member, a business teacher or an older or retired business owner. Such mentors are everywhere in South Africa. Sometimes they are formally organised in projects such as Business Partners’ Mentorship programme, but more often they need to be sought out purposefully by young entrepreneurs at business chamber meetings, industry associations and through referrals from other business owners.

Jeacocks draws a distinction between a consultant, who charges by the hour and wants to make a living out of advising businesses, and mentors, who do not need the money and who simply want to give something back to the business community by advising young entrepreneurs.

A key figure in a business owner’s support network is the accountant. In too many businesses, the accountant is seen as a monthly grudge payment made to keep the taxman from the door. Such an attitude is a waste of a potential goldmine of business support.

Good accountants will help you set up your bookkeeping system so that your accounting fees are kept to a minimum. They will help you understand financial statements so that you can use them to manage your business. They will use their insights into other, similar businesses to advise you on whether you are operating according to industry benchmarks. They can help you to prioritise your compliance to laws and regulations. They can use their network to help you set up other members of your support team – a labour expert, lawyer and even service providers such as an IT expert. None of this is free, of course, but a good accountant will make sure that it’s worth the money.

Spend a good bit of time and energy in finding a good accountant, starting with referrals from other business owners. This is one appointment that you should not simply make out of the Yellow Pages.

By its very nature, starting your own business is a do-it-yourself project, and young entrepreneurs must not expect individuals and institutions to fall over themselves to offer support. But an entrepreneur does not have to be lonely, says Jeacock. With the right attitude and willingness to work at it, young business owners can build a substantial network of people around them who really want to see them succeed.

Western Cape on track to become the ‘Silicon Valley’ of Africa

Globally known for its serene natural beauty and cultural diversity, the Western Cape is on track to becoming more than just a tourist destination. The region, renowned for its robust entrepreneurial activity, is fast establishing itself as Africa’s ‘Silicon Valley’, a region in California which is home to some of the world’s largest technology companies, as well as many entrepreneurial ventures.

This is according to Stuart Forrest, owner of Triggerfish Animation and 2012 winner of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, who says that the easy accessibility of technology and lower costs for business startups encourages more individuals within the space to undertake entrepreneurial ventures.

He says that the consistent growth of small tech-focused businesses in Cape Town and the accessibility of educational institutions continue to create fertile ground for entrepreneurial activity within the region.

Kobus Engelbrecht, spokesperson and co-sponsor of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, is of the same opinion. “Due to the city’s entrepreneurial culture, Cape Town has seen an influx of IT and tech startups. By attracting the best entrepreneurs, technical brains and foreign direct investment, Cape Town is quickly becoming a local ‘Silicon Valley’.”

Forrest says that because of the industry growth the provincial government and the City of Cape Town have invested over R150m in Cape Town’s broadband infrastructure project. While delivering his provincial budget speech MEC Alan Winde said the project would also receive approximately R500m over the 2013 medium-term expenditure framework.

Engelbrecht says that other influential players such as Vinny Lingham and Justin Stanford – both local tech entrepreneurs – have recognised the Cape’s great potential for fostering entrepreneurship in the IT and technology space. In 2009, the two entrepreneurs launched Silicon Cape, a local high-tech innovation hub based on the international concept of Silicon Valley and aimed at attracting top technical talent and entrepreneurs to the Western Cape, ultimately creating an environment for local IT and tech companies to compete with similar hubs around the world.

“Initiatives such as this will generate seeds for a successful entrepreneurial ecosystem in Cape Town and positively contribute towards economic growth and development within South Africa.” says Forrest.

He adds that from a skills perspective, the formation of a local version of Silicon Valley will also succeed in keeping some of our brightest tech entrepreneurs in the country. “You only have to look at people such as Elon Musk who left the country for Silicon Valley and duly co-founded a globally influential service such as PayPal.”

Forrest confirms that growth companies in the IT and telecoms industries have proven to generate significant positive cash flow and profitable reinvestment opportunities for its retained earnings. “High growth companies are also responsible for innovation, which is necessary for the development of any country, but in order for the industry to truly be successful we require investment.

“One of the major obstacles hindering the growth of the IT and telecoms industry within the Western Cape is the absence of risk capital. Investors in South Africa are very risk averse. To date, we have been a resource driven country with a history of investing in fixed assets and manufacturing businesses.

“The success and growth of Silicon Valley in the United States has proven that investors need to sometimes take a calculated risk and step out of their comfort zone in order to create a globally-influential technology hub,” concludes Forrest.

Separating the boys from the women

Malani Padayachee, MPA Consulting, 2011 finalist

Juggling three kids and a very successful company takes perseverance, stamina and an innovative mindset – characteristics that 2011 Entrepreneur of the Year® Awards finalist, Malani Padayachee-Saman, possesses all too well. Being at the helm of MPA Consulting Engineers and having majority women equity shareholding in a very male dominated sector, is what she believes makes her company unique.

Established on 1 July 1997 and situated in Randburg, Gauteng, with a satellite office in Middleburg, MPA Consulting Engineers was the first organisation with a majority women equity ownership to be registered with the Consulting Engineers South Africa (CESA) in 1998, and is currently only 1 of 2 such organisations registered with CESA. Providing consulting civil and structural engineering services to both public and private sector clients, the company has the expertise and knowledge to run with projects from feasibility all the way through to implementation.

After graduating with a BSc Civil Engineering from the University of Durban-Westville (1991), and later with a diploma in Engineering from the University of Witwatersrand (1998), Malani was employed by a consulting engineering practice firm where she worked for five years.

“Thereafter I received a scholarship from the British Trade and Industry and was placed with a consulting engineering practice in the UK for a year,” she recalls.

“It was during this period that I discovered just how competent South African Engineers are and was inspired to write a business plan, which I simply rolled out on my return to the country.”

Having worked abroad and after gaining her professional registration (Pr Eng – Registered Professional Engineer), Malani decided it was time to take the leap toward entrepreneurship.

The feminine touch

MPA Consulting Engineers believes that it is adequately placed to function as role models to other females who want to enter the engineering sector.

“We have already been instrumental in developing two other females within the sector who currently run very successful businesses,” Malani continues.

“While we are a small company, employing 30 individuals (most of whom are professionals), we participate in all areas of civil and structural engineering services thereby offering clients a one-stop service. In addition, we are instrumental on structured joint venture arrangements, working on large-scale projects. Assuring that our clients receive nothing less than service excellence is what makes us a cut above the rest.”

Engineering is a scarce profession in South Africa yet engineers are crucial in ensuring a country’s development. Malani says it is imperative that more young people are encouraged to select engineering as a preferred career path and, more importantly, consulting engineering is appropriately suited to women as they possess a number of inherent qualities and abilities that assist in rendering a good project.

“This career path does require perseverance and dedication, and ensuring that you surround yourself with good mentors who add value to your business.”

And, she adds, never compromise on IT.

“I see employment creation and participation of women in the construction sector as a key focus area and as an organisation, I believe that we have an important role to play in moving our country forward in both these areas and become leaders not only locally but also across the African continent.”

A balancing act

Malani is married with three children – a 13-year-old and a set of twins (10-year-old). Running a family alone isn’t easy but she owes the success of both her business and personal life to a good support system.

“I am a believer that true success is not measured by how successful you are but more so by how successful your children become. I would like to believe that one day, as a result of my influence on work ethics and social interactions, etc, that I will stand a proud parent.”

It is difficult achieving a work-life balance but Malani ensures that she prioritises her time efficiently. It also helps, she says, to ensure that all the necessary support structures are in place.

“I also find that as a working mother you become very innovative in your home environment, and often find time-saving mechanisms for simple everyday tasks.”

A member of the South African Institute of Civil Engineers (SAICE), SABTACO, Business Women’s Association (BWA), and Women in Finance (WIF); as well as serving on a number of councils such as the Engineering Council of SA (ECSA), CESA, and the SA Society of Trenchless Technology (SASTT), Malani is more than just a successful entrepreneur – she is a female force to be reckoned with!