Tips for small business owners to keep their employees motivated

Zig Ziglar, renowned American author and motivational speaker said: You don’t build a business. You build people and people build the business. As a small business owner, the up-keep of staff morale is vital to keep employees motivated so that they can contribute towards building and growing your business.

Employee motivation is based on providing an appropriate blend of rewards such as recognition, remuneration, relationships, security, and challenges of new projects and a sense of doing something worthwhile. Addressing these different aspects of employee motivation, makes employees aware of the opportunities available to them in the business and in the process they feel that they can influence results by their actions and follow their ambition.

Another way to successfully motivate employees is for small business owners provide clarity regarding the goals for the business and what is expected from their employees. The goals set for the company need to be turned into achievable goals for the people working in it. If employees can see how their success contributes to the big picture, they will feel motivated and part of the team.

With this in mind, it is important to give everyone a chance at success. For example, a bookkeeper is more likely to stop debtors taking liberties if they know why this matters so much and are responsible for bringing the figures down.. If employees understand problems, they often come up with solutions themselves.

When it comes to praise and criticism, it is imperative to let employees know when they are doing well and when they are doing badly. Remember, feedback is given to improve performance, provide lessons and build employees’ motivation and confidence in their capabilities.

In order to be clear, business owners should say exactly why they are congratulating an employee or wanting to help them improve. However, it is imperative to avoid getting personal. Describe the negative consequences of an action, rather than criticizing and then encourage the employee to brainstorm how better results could be achieved.

Small business owners should identify which employees have the capacity to learn new skills, and increase the variety of tasks to make the work more stimulating. Giving employees the chance to shoulder more responsibility increases their sense of involvement. This is to avoid losing talented employees due to them being under-utilised, frustrated or bored. In order to know which individual employees are ambitious and which are content to stay in the same jobs ask employees the key question: ‘If you could improve just one thing about your work situation, what would it be?’

The attitude of the business owners towards their employees is key when it comes to motivating employees. Below are additional pointers for small business owners to consider:

1. Treat employees as partners in the business

Keep them informed about business performance and management decisions and ask them for their input on decisions that affect them. Create a good working environment and provide training and resources for their job.

2. Build an atmosphere of trust and teamwork

A company run on defensiveness and fear is an unpleasant place to work. Employees will avoid making decisions in case they are wrong, so accept that mistakes are an inevitable part of the learning process and encourage people to ask for help when problems arise.

3. Keep communication open and honest

Schedule regular appraisals to review progress, problems and plans. Encourage employees to do most of the talking during these sessions, by using open questions like: ‘How well do you feel you are doing?’

4. Take an interest in employees’ lives

Without interfering, be prepared to discuss things your employees are interested in. Listen actively, and be consistent and fair in your approach.

5. Build team spirit with regular briefings

Hold daily or weekly meetings to plan work, establish goals and discuss any special events and deadlines. Share any news and problems and give employees credit for their contributions and achievements.

The importance of motivated and inspired employees is crucial to the success of any business. As such, small business owners should make sure to continue to build on the employee management approach in order to retain great employees and for the business to survive and thrive.

Nine tips for entrepreneurs to attract investors and secure funding

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor South Africa 2016/2017 reports that two-thirds (67%) of small businesses closed in 2016 either because they were not profitable, or because they encountered problems in accessing financing. Access to finance is not only a significant constraint for early-stage entrepreneurs in South Africa, but also problematic for established businesses. However, contrary to what many entrepreneurs believe, there are various financiers and investors with funding available who are eager to invest in South African entrepreneurs which too often is not effectively accessed or tapped into.

Many excellent business ideas never get past the ‘spreadsheet stage’ because entrepreneurs cannot find the right investor for their specific business model, or do not manage to convince investors because the true potential of their business idea is not effectively conveyed.

Business owners who are seeking finance should conduct thorough research on different financiers before approaching them. Understanding the specific criteria of the investor or financier and matching their investment preferences to the entrepreneurs’ business saves not only time and effort, but can improve the success rate and result in a funding proposal that is aligned to both the needs of the financier and the entrepreneur.

It is also important for entrepreneurs to realize that investors often invest more than just money into a business, they are often prepared to invest time by advising and supporting the entrepreneur behind the business –and this can only happen if the partnership between the two parties is a good match.

Finding the correct investor and successfully pitching your idea is a valuable business skill that can be continually enhanced. Entrepreneurs should consider the following suggestions to improve their success rate in raising finance:

1. Get connected and network. Investors are out there, and they are usually only one or two people away from those with whom you regularly do business. For example, accountants or suppliers can often recommend potential investors that may be a suitable fit. Emphasise the “work” in “network” by investigating your options and asking for referrals.

  1. Prepare a sharp and concise story outlining the purpose of the funding you are applying for (to start, expand, restructure, etc.). Investors need a clear and well quantified idea of what the money will be used for, as well as realistic financial projections that support the business’ ability to repay the debt or provide a return on investment.
  2. Know all the aspects of your business and incorporate the key points in your business plan especially your industry analysis and market segment identification. The more concise and crisp the business plan is the better. A compelling description of the core product or service being offered by the business is vital, how unique is it compared to other suppliers in the market and is there a demonstrated and proven need for the product or service; and is there sufficient market potential to make the investment worthwhile?
  3. Always have a detailed business plan ready. Not only will it help to solidify the knowledge mentioned in the previous point, but you will be able to send or present the plan quickly if a potential investor wants to have a closer look. This will help to convince them that the business owner is prepared.
  4. Understand the current state of the business. Investors want to know where in the life cycle of the business you find yourself and whether the business owner and the support team understand the industry in which the business operates or will operate. Knowing the background and business experience of both the entrepreneur and the support team, and the current state of the business can provide a level of comfort to the investor regarding their investment decision.
  5. Have an online presence. It is almost guaranteed nowadays that an investor who is interested in a business idea will do a background search on the internet. Therefore, it helps to have a good website and a strong presence on social media in which the entrepreneur’s successes are highlighted – not only in the current business, but in previous ventures and jobs. Most astute investors interrogate both the strengths of the business idea and the prowess of the entrepreneur.
  6. Be prepared to pitch in person, often investors will request a follow up meeting which includes a detailed presentation of the business plan, profit projections and industry insights. Be prepared for this request and have a more detailed presentation available in advance.
  7. Once contact has been made with a potential investor, stay in touch, even if it is just to ask for advice, such as how a proposed investment can best be restructured. The entrepreneur should also be open to feedback from potential investors. It is important to show investors that you are open-minded and adaptable. Chances are that the investors you are pitching to can enhance your idea with their advice, whether they decide to invest in your business or not.
  8. Have a realistic exit strategy for the investor. The investor’s thinking is likely to be around whether they can make the best return possible on the investment, so this point should be included in the exit plan. The time frames that most investors work with are between three and seven years.

How to raise profit margins without losing customers

The beginning of the year is the ideal time for small and medium enterprise (SME) owners to explore additional revenue streams and other means of increasing their profit margins. However, this process is expected to still present some challenges for SME owners owing to South Africa’s economic environment, which while showing some slivers of hope, is not out of the woods yet.

While the South African Reserve Bank (SARB) has increased the country’s economic growth outlook from 1, 2 to 1, 5 for 2018, the economy has not yet recovered which makes it difficult for local businesses to secure avenues for increasing their profit margins. The SARB outlook is also far from the 5% required to meaningfully impact poverty and unemployment.

These challenging conditions in relation to raising profit margins were confirmed by an analysis of the Quarterly Financial Statistics (QFS) released by Statistics SA over the 10 years between 2006 and 2016. The report found that the average profit margin for the South African formal business sector declined, from 0, 09 between June 2006 and September 2008 to 0, 05 between December 2013 and March 2016, showing that each unit of turnover generated less profit in the later period.

While this decline in average profit margin appears to be quite minimal, it is important to remember that SMEs only account for a portion of the formal businesses surveyed and were likely the hardest hit during this period. Smaller businesses tend to be more vulnerable to sustained periods of low economic growth and increasing costs, compared to larger businesses who have the financial resources to sustain shrinking margins.

For SMEs to sustain themselves, business owners should consider the following strategies for improving their profit margins for the new year:

1. Find out what your customers value

It is vital to understand how customers perceive value, and to what extent your business can raise prices while still retaining its customer base; this can be done by engaging with your customers through conversations and surveys. Once there is an understanding of what customers value, business owners should work on meeting these customer expectations.  Business owners should also identify their unique selling point as this will help the business stand out from competitors, it could be superior service or quality.

2. Acquire new customers

The most straightforward method to improving profit margins is to acquire new customers from existing markets or industries, away from other players and competitors in the market. The quick and easy solution to attract new customers within an existing industry, is to reduce prices. However, given the increased competition to retain and attract customers, this can increase the risk of ‘price wars’ within a certain industry, resulting in profit margins coming under further pressure which business owners are advised to avoid. Understanding what customers value, as mentioned above, presents business owners with information they can use to attract new customers by responding to their requirements. Acquiring additional customers may not improve your gross margins but should improve your net margins.

3. Get comfortable with costing structures

Understanding costing structures and income and expenditure is crucial to managing and driving profit margins. Profit margin is made up of variable and fixed costs. Variable costs are incurred when producing or selling a product, while fixed costs, such as rent and wages, are payable regardless of whether the business sells anything or not. It is important for business decision-makers to consider these costs when pricing products or services, in order not to compromise on their projected profit margin.

While reducing prices may bring in more customers, overheads such as rent, remain the same, putting more pressure on margins. Similarly, raising prices could improve profit margins, but increases the risk of being priced above the market and potentially driving customers away.

4. Manage variable costs

It is also important to acknowledge that increasing prices may not be viable due to the reality that many business owners operate within the confines of limited economic growth and decreasing customer spending. As such, effectively managing variable costs – like utilities, raw materials and labour – is the next step when reviewing profit margins.

For example, business owners should aim to negotiate discounts with current suppliers or explore the use of alternative suppliers that can provide the same products or service at a lower cost without compromising on quality. To save on utilities such as electricity or water, a business can make a more conscious effort to utilise these resources more effectively. In terms of labour, businesses can incentivise staff to become more productive and deliver greater output during the same hours. Another avenue is ensuring the business has sufficient security and adequate stock controls in order to minimise theft.

5. Don’t lose sight of your business plan

Whichever option a business owner may choose to maximise their business’ profit margins, it is imperative to refer back to the business plan regularly as this might unearth ideas the business owner may have long forgotten. This should secure long-term business success, especially during trying economic conditions.

Building a business from the inside out

Nowadays, brands spend so much money on marketing and advertising but often forget about the employed workforce who have to implement what is communicated to the outside world. This is according to creative strategist, Lindy Scott, who is the Managing Director and founder of Conceptual Eyes – a Gauteng-based creative agency specialising in corporate internal communication.  

Identified as one of the top 40 women in the meetings, incentives, conferences and events (MICE) industry, 29-year-old Scott, who has a background in Fine Art, Digital Marketing, Strategy and international teambuilding experience, says that Conceptual Eyes designs and implements business content throughout an organisation.

“We focus on ensuring that the entire team is aligned with the company strategy, as well as preparing  employees on what to expect and deliver, and that they have a full understanding of what the business objectives are. This is achieved through visual tactics and strategy workshops with employees, who then build the business outwards.”

Through this process, Scott says that employees often have the solutions to problems currently plaguing a business. “Internal staff will often recognise and wrestle with potential issues long before senior personnel are aware of them. By creating a platform for discussion, we allow employees at all levels to share their insight, which often results in the implementation of simple, yet practical solutions. The value of this cannot be emphasised enough.”

Furthermore, the agency inspires creativity, promotes healthy internal communication, and helps to create a positive organisational culture. “Conceptual Eyes is lean, fast and able to draw creativity out of both employees and stakeholders. By investing in each individual, businesses will reap tremendous and often surprising rewards. Anyone can be creative, even if they are not artistic.”

To date, Conceptual Eyes has secured an impressive client list, including large mining companies, a variety of large corporations in the financial sector and the Glasgow Caledonian University, amongst others.

Scott’s vision for the business is to create a global footprint and add value to every delegate they engage with. “Conceptual Eyes is planning on opening a division in the UK in 2017 and have recently launched the Conceptual Eyes Creative Academy – a 360 degrees approach to strategic thinking – which we’ve based off of the business’ very own methodology. With this, we hope to continue empowering our clients and their employees to be more creative, designing and facilitating the process of creativity for the business.”

Lindy Scott is a finalist in the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS. For more information on her business, please visit the Conceptual Eyes website:

2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition now open for entries

The instrumental value that entrepreneurs add to the South African economy is undisputable – they are an important cog in the creation of the much needed jobs in the country. It is therefore encouraging that the challenges and obstacles which impede this valuable sector are receiving some much-needed attention from both the public and private sectors – with the inclusion of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in the State of the Nation Address (SONA) and National Budget Speech – beckoning for a more focused approach to entrepreneurial development in the country.

This is according to Ben Bierman, Managing Director at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who was speaking at the launch of the 2017 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, in Johannesburg today.

He adds that just as important as government’s efforts of building an inclusive, supportive and thriving entrepreneurial eco system, is the need for society to encourage and support entrepreneurs in starting and growing businesses which positively contribute towards the country’s growth. “We need to be creating more platforms that stimulate and support entrepreneurship, we should work to promote and celebrate the successes of entrepreneurs – those individuals that tirelessly, often without recognition, contribute to growing the local GDP and improving employment figures.”

Celebrating its 29th year, the Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS competition seeks to promote entrepreneurship in South Africa as a viable career path, by honouring dedicated entrepreneurs who have made great strides in their businesses and whose passion for growing their businesses and communities inspires and stimulates the nation.

Also speaking at the competition launch was esteemed entrepreneur, Sisa Ngebulana, CEO of Rebosis and Billion Group who spoke about his entrepreneurial journey including listing Rebosis on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE) in 2011 for R3, 6 billion.

Bierman adds that as 73% of the country’s adult population sees entrepreneurship as a good career choice (2017 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) report), industry leaders should be leveraging this to drive entrepreneurial participation in South Africa. “If we can create more entrepreneurs as a country, we can boost the economy which then in turn has various positive knock-on effects, such as creating jobs, introducing innovation and having a larger tax pool to fund all the key government projects including educating our young people.”

The Entrepreneur of the Year® competition sponsored by Sanlam and BUSINESS/PARTNERS, is a platform to reward and acknowledge the ongoing hard work of these entrepreneurs. With five categories, entrepreneurs from emerging to small and medium businesses can enter.

Prizes valued at over R 2 million can be won, which include cash prizes of R60 000 for each main category winner, and R160 000 for the overall winner. Competition winners will also receive valuable mentorship support, networking opportunities and national media exposure.

“Entrepreneurship can be a lonely endeavour, but also one of the most rewarding. Through the competition, we want to share the successes of these inspirational individuals who are making a difference, as well as create an environment in which entrepreneurs can engage, network and learn from each other.”

Entrepreneurs interested in entering the competition can download entry forms online at as well as interact with fellow entrepreneurs and entrants on the competition’s social media platforms and The closing date for the competition is 31 May 2017.

Give your employees some healthy options

Like retirement savings and disability cover, medical cover is a crucial part of everyone’s financial planning. “Good healthcare can be expensive and medical procedures can easily set you back by tens of thousands of rands,” says Sharon Rubens, Managing Director of Completemed Healthcare Consultants, a division of Sanlam Healthcare Management. “Add to that our alarming accident rate and increasing levels of chronic disease, then medical cover becomes an absolute necessity.”

With many open schemes in South Africa, you want to make sure that you deal with a reputable service provider that has a good track record, is solvent and covers a wide variety of conditions and procedures. Do not be shy to do your homework and check on the scheme’s payment and claims history and annual average increases. Reputable schemes will have proper annual statements and good financial record-keeping that reflects the state of their finances and you can call medical institutions or healthcare consultants to enquire if they have experienced any trouble with payments from the scheme in the past. ”

As an employer, you also want to make sure that your employees have access to options that address all their needs, preferably at an affordable price. Although affordability is important, cheapest isn’t always best advice. “They should be basing their decisions on the mix of benefits which best suits their needs,” says Sharon.

When choosing a medical scheme, your employees should consider their individual circumstances carefully. Do they have minor dependents? How often do they visit the GP? Would they be comfortable paying for doctor’s consultations and medication from their own pocket or do they need a savings account to cover it. Do they or their dependents have conditions that require chronic medication or treatment? Does the scheme offer a comprehensive optical benefit should they or their children require spectacles? Does it offer a good dental plan?

Does the scheme pay 100% of the in-hospital charges, or will they have to cover a portion? “Schemes differentiate between actual tariffs charged by the medical institution and scheme tariffs (the maximum rate the scheme pays for the procedure, service or medication). If the scheme tariff is less than the actual amount charged, the member will be responsible for the shortfall or it will be deducted from the savings account where applicable. Knowing exactly how much the scheme pays for what can therefore prevent nasty surprises later.”

“Lastly, your employees should check exclusions and limits. Some schemes exclude claims on certain conditions for a limited period of time when you join, or require medical screening beforehand that may lead to permanent exclusions of a pre-existing condition. They may also limit claims on the day-to-day benefits if a member is new to the scheme, or has never belonged to a medical scheme before. “Make certain employees understand the above aspects, exclusions and limits before they finally settle on a choice,” says Sharon.

For added peace of mind, you or your employees should enlist the assistance of a professional who can ensure that they understand and consider that the benefits offered by the scheme match their individual needs. “Talk to a healthcare adviser who can guide you through all the above mentioned pitfalls and terminology, this will give employees more peace of mind.

If you need free advice when implementing healthcare policies or decisions, contact Completemed and we will assist in making the process a whole lot easier. Our purpose and passion is to assist Employer Groups in providing on-going healthcare advice to enable continuous enhancement of their employees’ wellness and well-being.

All our clients are provided with quality support and assistance in their dealings with various open schemes and medical insurance providers in South Africa.

Completemed contact details:

Direct client care line: 0860 122 340
E-mail address:
Physical address: 2 Strand Street, Bellville, 7530.

EOY entrant moving forward in the transport industry

Ashley-Van-der-berg_MD_Rail2RailIn light of October being Transport Month we chat to 2012 competition entrant Ashley van der Berg, Managing Director of Rail2Rail, about his journey as an entrepreneur in the transport industry.

1. Briefly describe your business and the industry you operate in?

Rail2Rail is a specialised concrete railway sleeper manufacturer, based in Kimberley in the Northern Cape.

2. Where did the business concept originate from and when did you start your business?

I noticed a project initiative being undertaken by Transnet (in respect of their enterprise development programme) and established the business in 2007 after we were commissioned to supply one million concrete sleepers to Transnet Freight Rail, for the maintenance of railway lines through South Africa’s 22 000km network.

3. Have you always aspired to start your own business?

I have always effectively been an entrepreneur from an early age. I am currently an active shareholder in two other businesses namely Levenbach Building & Roofing, a construction company and A & H Salvage, both of which are based in Cape Town.

4. Briefly describe some of the challenges that you have experienced as an entrepreneur?

Making concrete railways sleepers is a lot more complicated than it sounds, especially with the technology that is imported from Germany. The skills required to operate this technology have been in short supply, but as a company we have made huge strides in educating our employees, thus ensuring that our products produced are of the best quality amongst our competitors. Being able to secure a reliable supplier in the Northern Cape remains a challenge, particularly in light of our rapid growth.

5. What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

Never give up! Find your niche, ensure that it is different and use it to your competitive advantage.

6. Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?

Being a key player in the in the supply and production of concrete railway sleepers in South Africa and continuing our company growth plan to expand our current client base and increase production capacity, which will aid our company to become more sustainable. Taking advantage of opportunities in the SADC region.

7. What does a day-in-the-life of Ashley van der Berg consist of?

My focus is on ensuring I keep a finger on the pulse of all aspects of the business, including the daily production reports completed by day and night shifts. I oversee and manage all financial aspects of the business, including cash flow updates. I also make a concerted effort to have regular meetings with customers, both existing and prospective.

8. What is your most memorable experience as an entrepreneur?

Witnessing the construction and opening of our factory, followed by experiencing the factory become operational, as well as seeing the business grow to a level which at first I thought was impossible.

9. What benefits has the development of the transport industry had on South African SMEs?

Transnet Freight Rail and the Department of Transport, as the decision makers in the development of the transport industry, have ensured that there are opportunities for SMEs to grow in this sector. Both entities have created realistic, achievable targets and have played an impactful role in the implementation thereof. In addition, transport (in other non rail sectors) play an important role for all SMEs as the sector ensures they receive supplies and deliver their finished goods and end product to their markets.

10. What are some of the key challenges SMEs owners face in transport industry?

The main challenge is a lack of competition. As we operate within a niche market, we are unable to compare our products to that of our competitors. I feel competition is healthy for any business as it ensures that the end product is of the best quality. Another challenge is the availability of financial assistance for entrepreneurs; this is a key barrier which hinders the growth of entrepreneurship within South Africa.

11. Why would you recommend that fellow entrepreneurs get involved with initiatives such as Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year?

As an entrepreneur you have the opportunity to meet other entrepreneurs and listen to their success stories and advice. The media exposure you receive is also extremely valuable and lastly, it is an excellent benchmarking exercise.

Why EOY is valuable to the entrepreneurial community

NickeyMannya-web2013 competition entrant, Nickey Mannya, Managing Director of Rural Brands, shares some information and insight about his entrepreneurial journey and discusses why he decided to enter the competition.

Briefly describe your business and the industry you operate in?

At Rural Brands we develop and produce technologically advanced online solutions to help businesses achieve “efficiency through technology”.

We operate in the information and communication technologies (ICT) sector. Rural Brands develop Enterprise Content Management (ECM) Systems, which organise and store a company’s documents and other content related to company processes. These systems are used on company websites and intranets.

We also develop an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) tool named DDAY. This tool allows both internal and external audiences to share information, and is often used by finance and sales departments.

We pride ourselves in that our products are home-grown and developed in-house.

Where did your business concept originate from and when did you start your business?

After gaining a number of years experience within the ICT sector, I started Rural Brands in 2008. With the growth of the ICT sector and the proliferation of the Internet, I was consistently inspired to create ideas which would provide solutions to make my own job easier. This is what motivated me to actually build products as opposed to purchasing them.

I draw a lot of inspiration from the Silicon Valley Entrepreneurs and local pioneers such as Mark Shuttleworth, Vinny Lingham and Phuthuma Nhleko, who all have had great success in the ICT industry.

What advice can you give to aspiring to entrepreneurs?

Always be honest with yourself. There is a very fine line between being an Entrepreneur and a Dreamer. Most of us romanticise about the idea of being our own boss and the perks that come along with the title. This may result in overlooking the hard work, sacrifices and vast challenges that accompany the title. Not recognising these aspects from the beginning could result in failure.

Be sure you have what it takes, take your time, make sure you are in it for the long haul and have fun! As entrepreneurs, we should realise that money comes as a by-product.

Also, discipline, integrity and business ethics should take preference above reproach. Entrepreneurs should never lose those principals as they are priceless.

Where do you see your business in the next five years?

Rural Brands is in the process of developing our own Enterprise Resource Planning tool, which we plan to launch in 2014. This will be a great accomplishment for the company.

I also see the business growing steadily and offering employment opportunities to young South Africans within the technology sector who display talent.

I believe that we have what it takes, and with the right motivation, the courage and the tenacity we have displayed thus far, we are getting there. We have erected a strong foundation and learnt from our mistakes. As a business we know where we are heading and we are carefully forging ahead, making our mark within the industry.

What is your opinion on the reports of the Western Cape becoming the Silicon Valley of South Africa?

I think it is a great idea and a great moral booster to most ‘tech geeks’, including myself. It will put us on the global ICT map and should also foster further innovation and job creation in the sector.

Why did you decide to enter the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition?

I believe as an emerging entrepreneur I have much to offer. Apart from being a young and educated South African, I am also developing home-grown products and solutions that will hopefully highlight our country’s innovative talent. I believe that our country can compete internationally with places such Silicon Valley, which has become synonymous with technological innovation.

Why would you recommend that fellow entrepreneurs get involved with initiatives such as Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year®?

You will never know if you or your products are making it, or whether they are relevant in the market, unless you benchmark yourself against your peers. This will not only allow you to learn from other individuals’ experiences, but also alert you to any shortcomings in your business or improvements that can be made.

Marketing a key to success for small businesses and entrepreneurs

In the current economic climate entrepreneurs are required to keep their businesses profitable, while spending as little money as possible. As a result, entrepreneurs should adopt an integrated approach to marketing their business, as the heart of a business’s success lies in its marketing strategy.

This is according to Justin Hawes, Managing Director of Scan Display Solutions and 2012 finalist of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, who says that marketing is essential for the growth of a small business.

“Marketing is a process by which a product or service is introduced and promoted to potential customers. Without marketing, a business may offer the best products or services in its respective industry, but potential customers would not know about it. This makes it a vital tool for any entrepreneur entering new markets,” says Hawes.

He says that within the industry there is also a perception that only larger, more established businesses need to adopt marketing strategies. “This perception is definitely incorrect. Businesses of all sizes need to be continually marketed, even in a small way, or it is unlikely that they will grow.”

Hawes says that the marketing world is consistently evolving, creating new ways to engage with consumers, as well as influence them to try new products and services. “These new channels may intimidate small business owners and young entrepreneurs from a technological perspective, but in the current economic climate communication channels such as social media platforms can be very effective, low-cost marketing tools.

Kobus Engelbrecht, Marketing Head of Sanlam Business Market and co -sponsor of the Sanlam/ Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® competition says that while marketers continue to enjoy new media and technology enabled tools, the fundamental marketing model itself has not changed. “People and businesses essentially still want useful products and services.”

Engelbrecht adds that without marketing, potential customers may never be aware of a business’s offerings and business may not be given the opportunity to progress and succeed. “Using marketing to promote your product, service and company provides your business with the best possible chance of being ‘discovered’ by prospective customers.”

He says that marketing also fosters an environment in the marketplace for healthy competition. “Without competition, recognised businesses will continue to dominate the market while lesser known, or new businesses, stand less of a chance of ever becoming successful.”

Hawes says that a marketing programme which gives SMEs the best chance of success often consists of a healthy mix of different forms of marketing, ranging from traditional means to online and social media channels.

He says that traditional marketing activities such as face-to-face communication should not be overlooked. “I really believe in the power of face-to-face communication and strongly advise that SMEs include exhibitions, conferences and networking functions in their strategies. Industry-related networking functions should also not be overlooked as these are cost-effective platforms for promoting a business.

“By spending a little bit of time and effort on marketing, entrepreneurs will see the benefit of investing in this area. In today’s competitive environment, marketing is a powerful tool that will help businesses stand out from the clutter,” concludes Hawes.

Q&A with Mmabatho Mokiti

Youth Month is celebrated annually throughout the month of June. Not only does this month coincide with the historically significant Youth Day, but represents the government’s commitment to confronting youth unemployment in South Africa. In order to counteract the increasing levels of youth unemployment, it is crucial to communicate and promote entrepreneurship as an attractive employment opportunity to South Africa’s youth.

Mmabatho Mokiti is an inspirational South African entrepreneur who is the proud founder of Mathemaniacs, a private tutoring company, and was also the runner up in the 2011 SME Toolkit South Africa Young Entrepreneurs Business Plan competition.

Nazeem Martin, Managing Director of the competition’s co-sponsor Business Partners Limited, described the finalists as role models to the rest of South Africa’s youth. “Their innovation, tenacity and dedication to chasing their dreams can serve as a true inspiration to all aspiring entrepreneurs.”

You were the runner up in the 2011 Young Entrepreneurs Business Plan Competition, why did you enter the competition?

I entered the competition because my business needed a “kick start”. My business was already running, but I didn’t have a business plan. I felt this would be a challenge and that it could also be very rewarding.

The prizes were very attractive and could assist me in taking my business to the next level. Prizes such as mentoring added a lot of value to my business.

Could you please provide a brief description of the business you created the business plan for?

Mathemaniacs is a two year old private mathematics, science and accounting tutoring company aimed at bringing ‘the FUN’ into studying maths, science and accounting. Most learners have developed a negative attitude towards these subjects. We therefore aim to eliminate the negative connotations around these topics by giving the learners private one-on-one lessons in their place of safety, where they feel most comfortable.

We bring ‘the FUN’ out of these subjects by using innovative teaching methods and applying Maths and Science to real life experiences, thus making the work easier for the learners to understand and remember. We attempt to make learning enjoyable, which then builds the learners’ confidence as a result of improved school results. Our target market consists of school, university and adult students.

We also organise workshops and camps for larger groups, where we again, strive to make learning Maths and Science an enjoyable experience.

We have also started to develop a statistics department, where we help postgraduates with their data analysis for their theses, by helping them to build a regression model and measure the impact of a project.

Have you always aspired to become an entrepreneur?

From a young age I have always wanted to be an entrepreneur. I grew up around my grandfather, who was an entrepreneur, and watched him do what he loved, while making money. This experience motivated me to pursue the same thing.

At that time I didn’t know what type of business I wanted to start, but when I finished studying I decided to make use of my passion for mathematics, science, education and youth development to form a business. I had just finished university and was sure that I didn’t want to work in a nine-to-five job. I decided to use my last R500, which I had earned from a student job as a tutor, and bought my first textbooks. I printed a couple of flyers and asked my cousin to help me distribute them at a school parking lot.

A week later a parent called me desperately in need of lessons for her child. Soon after my lessons started the child’s marks began to improve. Soon after, my business started to expand as my clientele began to grow via the positive word of mouth generated from my first student.

How important do you believe a strong business plan and pitch is in the success of a business?

A strong business plan is crucial to the success of a business. Firstly, a business plan is a good indicator of your proposal’s feasibility. Secondly, a business plan helps an entrepreneur structure their business, by implementing processes and objectives.

Most times aspiring entrepreneurs think that they only need a business plan in order to apply for funding, but a business plan establishes basic business guidelines. A concrete plan allows you to assess your environment and establish if a need and a niche in the market exists, hence determining whether your business will be a success or not.

What are the biggest challenges you have experienced as an entrepreneur?

The biggest challenge has been convincing students to leave their current tutoring company to join Mathemaniacs. I also struggled to convince parents that enlisting with Mathemaniacs would improve their children’s marks while, teaching them to enjoy the subject matter.

If you could provide advice to other young aspiring entrepreneurs, what would it be?

If you dream of becoming an entrepreneur, go for it! Everyone may not believe in your idea in the beginning, but you need to remain fully committed. You should believe so strongly in your business that you end up convincing others to do the same. Being an entrepreneur is much like being a sales person, because at the end of the day, you need to convince others to believe in your idea. Nothing makes a business more successful than passion.