Mentorship: Adding invaluable outside skills to your business

Entrepreneurs are often exposed to duties, situations, problems and opportunities that many have never had to face before. Entrepreneurs also rarely have someone to discuss common problems with, or to turn to, for objective advice and honest feedback and this can sometimes lead entrepreneurs to feel like they have the loneliest job in the world.

According to Nimo Naidoo, project manager of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, a mentor will not only help an entrepreneur avoid isolation, but also become someone that he or she can confide in, as well as share uncertainties or successes.

She says that it is rare to find entrepreneurs who possess all the right qualities to make a business tick. “Entrepreneurs could be technically strong, yet lack financial knowledge, which is a vital cog in a business.

“Cash flow management, procurement and information analysis are just some of the challenges that specialised entrepreneurs find themselves facing in today’s complex business environment – which contains many risks that determine a business’ success or failure. Highly skilled in their own fields of expertise, entrepreneurs sometimes find themselves floundering when it comes to the overall management of their companies, and working with a mentor will effectively close these gaps.”

Naidoo adds that often many business owners just don’t know where or who to turn to for assistance and this is when a mentor can be so valuable, particularly when a business is in financial or operational difficulty and needs turnaround management in order to become profitable again.

“A mentor is able to provide specialist skills, not only when urgently required, but also as a preventive measure to ensure the entrepreneur doesn’t find himself in a challenging situation.”

While mentorship is a relatively new concept in the small and medium enterprise (SME) sector, there is a growing trend among entrepreneurs for industry-related mentors, due to the immense value they are able to offer an independent business, says Naidoo.

“For the first time ever, entrepreneurs have access to the same skills and experience that the country’s biggest businesses have and are able to harness the skills of experienced business and professional people to assist them in the successful management of their businesses.”

When seeking a mentor, it is important for entrepreneurs to look for experienced business professionals in the same business, or industry, as their company, or someone who has accomplished similar goals. “Selecting someone who has relevant knowledge and experience will not only help entrepreneurs get their business to where they envision it being, but will also accelerate their own learning and growth as an entrepreneur,” concludes Naidoo.

Women who are doing it all – the mompreneur

It is no secret that women business owners are more affected by the addition of a child in comparison to their male counterparts. However, female entrepreneurs are increasingly proving that they are able to successfully run a company and care for a family at the same time, and this has led to the rise of the ‘mompreneur’, a term given to female business owners who are actively balancing the role of being a mother and an entrepreneur.

According to Nimo Naidoo, project manager of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, the number of female-owned South African businesses is growing, and ‘mompreneurs’ are contributing towards this growth.

“The concept of working from home has gained popularity over the last few years and due to the advances in communication and information technologies allowing for a more mobile workforce, many individuals are choosing to run their businesses from home instead of renting office space.

“This development has also led to many mothers now having the option to run a business whilst also having the freedom and flexibility to spend time with their children.”

She points to a report by the United States Census Bureau, which revealed that about 30% of individuals working from home are self-employed women, compared to about 20% of men. “These figures highlight the growth of female run home-based businesses.”

Naidoo says that women are choosing to start businesses for many reasons, mostly for the flexibility it offers, but also because they have noticed a gap in the market, often inspired by motherhood.

“The rise of the ‘mompreneur’, and the awareness created around the possibility of running a business from home while still caring for the home and children, is extremely positive as it encourages women who may not have previously considered a career path of an entrepreneur as an option.”

While being a ‘mompreneur’ has its many benefits, juggling a start-up or small business, as well as the role of a mother, can sometimes be challenging.

Naidoo says that in order to successfully balance work and family, it is crucial to establish a suitable work environment at home. “This can be done by planning your workspace at home and by setting aside a dedicated office area. This will allow you to separate work and family effectively.”

She adds that managing time effectively can sometimes be a challenge. “Being a mother is a full time job, and the additional responsibilities that come with running a business can seem daunting. In order to manage your time as effectively as possible, draft a rough schedule that includes all daily activities. This will allow structured work periods at a time that best suits your schedule. It may be working in the morning when the children have gone to school, or in the afternoon when they are having an afternoon nap or doing homework. While this schedule is likely to change given the nature of home life, it will assist in balancing your time between work and family time.”

One of the other possible challenges ‘mompreneurs’ might encounter along their entrepreneurial journey is finding the balance of how and when to expand the business. “’Mompreneurs’ often start a business to afford the opportunity to watch their children grow up and may be hesitant, or decide against, expanding their business for the fear of taking away time from the family.

“Instead, ‘mompreneurs’ should take the opportunity to expand their business as their children grow up and start spending more time at school and with friends,” concludes Naidoo.

Finalists for leading entrepreneurial competition announced

Quality of 2013 entrants praised by judges

After a gruelling first round of judging the 2013 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® judges have announced that 14 finalists have been chosen to go through to the next round of the competition, with the ultimate winner to be announced in September.

According to Nimo Naidoo, project manager of the 2013 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, the quality of entries received this year significantly impressed the judging panel and have set a precedent in terms of entrepreneurial talent and success in South Africa.

She says that they received a record number of entries from talented South African entrepreneurs this year – an increase of over 100% on the 2012 competition. “The calibre of entrants and quality submission content has improved tremendously in comparison to previous years, which bodes well for South Africa’s entrepreneurial future.

We would like to congratulate and commend all entrants, as these are the individuals addressing the unemployment crisis in South Africa and positively playing a role in the growth of our economy. They have all made a significant contribution towards society and all deserve to be celebrated.

This year entrepreneurs from numerous sectors entered the competition, which included the manufacturing, services, retail and construction industry.

She says that there was a slight increase in the number of entries received from female, as well as black entrepreneurs. They also noted that the entries were very varied in terms of location, and that the entrepreneurs seem to be spread throughout South Africa. It was also encouraging to see entries from under-developed areas as these entrepreneurs are making great strides in creating jobs for the community.

“We were very pleased with the number of entries received from entrepreneurs who make a distinct impact on the economy. The number of jobs created by these individuals, in addition to the businesses’ turnover and tax contributions they make, play an important role in the country.”

Naidoo says that the 14 finalists operate in various sectors, the most prominent being the manufacturing and engineering and services sectors.

“Entries from these industries highlight that businesses within the critical manufacturing sector are thriving. It is encouraging that South African entrepreneurs are not afraid to enter this vital job-creation sector, even in the tough current economic climate.”

Naidoo says that in the tough economic climate it is encouraging to receive such an overwhelming response from thriving entrepreneurs who are creating jobs and contributing towards the economy. “In the sometimes challenging business environment, successful entrepreneurial role models need to be celebrated and recognised, which is what the competition strives to do.”

She says that the 2013 finalists stand the chance to win prizes worth R 1 340 000, which includes cash prizes to the value of R300 000. “Beyond the chance to win prizes, previous entrants and finalists have benefitted from the competition’s various networking opportunities and associated marketing efforts.”

The 2013 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® winners will be announced on 4 September 2013 at the official awards breakfast in Johannesburg. “We are very excited to venture into the final stages of this year’s competition and wish all of the entrants the best of luck,” concludes Naidoo.

2013 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® finalists:

Jonathan David Pepler (Silverline Group), Wendy Kemp (Accountability Group), Tim Matthis (Thirty by Thirty Marketing), Andrew and Chris Brown (The Daily Buzz), Sue Hadcroft (Cubicle Manufacturing Solutions), Anton Rossouw (Life Path Health), Margaret Hirsch (Hirsch’s), Mariaan Du Plessis and Conrad Smith (The Medical Nutritional Institute), Nandha Moodley (Rubber Engineering), Lewis Thomas (Partners Hair Design), Ebrahim Patel (Malcom-Ezindaleni Hydraulics & Engineering (Pty) Ltd), Andre Visser (Fabrinox), Tommy Makhatho (Bibi Cash and Carry), Paul Kent (Sureswipe).

How to beat with winter blues

Most businesses, at some stage or another, are likely to experience seasonal fluctuations, which are often related to various seasonal periods and holidays. Some may be more affected than others, for example businesses operating in the retail or tourism industry.

However, according to Nimo Naidoo, project manager of the Sanlam Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, while a business may not sell its products or services throughout the year, it doesn’t mean that the business concept isn’t viable, it just means that the business needs to be managed appropriately in order to survive all year round.

She says that while extensive planning and execution is crucial for all entrepreneurs, it is even more so for seasonal business owners.

“A seasonal business is noticeably more difficult to manage than other businesses as they not only experience the challenges that all entrepreneurs and small business owners are faced with, such as red tape compliance, but also specific challenges unique to a seasonal business, such as inconsistent cash flow.”

Naidoo offers the following tips for seasonal business owners to consider in order to survive the quieter months:

  • Save when business is booming: It is no secret that ‘cash is king’ for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and a significant challenge for seasonal businesses can be to successfully manage finances due to the irregular cash flow a seasonal business is likely to experience.

    As the majority of a seasonal business’ income is obtained in a set period, often limited to a few months each year, it is vital that a portion of this income is saved and allocated to the quieter months in order to cover the cash outflows for during these periods. While it might be tempting to spend this additional money earned during the busy months, it is important to keep in mind that the quieter months are just around the corner.

  • Market your business wisely: Increasing marketing efforts in the lead up to, and during, the busy season will assist with increasing a business’ profile and ultimately assist the business in maximising its revenues for the in-season period. Business should however also maintain an active marketing plan during the quieter months in order to keep the business top of mind for customers. An annual marketing plan should be implemented, which will ensure that all possible channels are utilised all year round in order to maximise sales and performance.
  • Choose your staff carefully: Seasonal businesses need to strike a balance between maximising profits during their high season while also operating with skeletal staff during the off-season. Fixed-term or temporary employees provide cost-effective solutions for seasonal businesses as it isn’t always feasible to keep full time employees due to the nature of the business. It is however important to allocate enough time before the peak season to recruit the correct people for the job.
  • Manage your business effectively year round: The quieter months for a seasonal business shouldn’t be thought of as a holiday, but as a time to conduct further market research to establish how the business can improve its products and services, and ultimately increase revenues during its peak season.

Businesses should also prepare for the upcoming season by ascertaining the expected demand. This will assist when placing orders, as unsold stock and produce for a seasonal business could be costly, and should this not be sold or utilised during season, the product runs the risk of expiring or becoming out-dated before the next peak season.

Perception shift needed among SA youth to create next generation of entrepreneurs

It was recently revealed by a UN agency report that global youth unemployment has risen to near its crisis peak and predicted that it will keep on rising over the next five years. According to Nimo Naidoo of the Sanlam/Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, South Africa is in a similar situation and says that the most effective method to counteract this crisis it to create a desirability around entrepreneurship amongst the youth.

Naidoo says that although youth unemployment is a global issue, South Africa’s situation is dire. “According to the recently released Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2012 South Africa report, entrepreneurship does not seem to be a desirable career choice amongst the youth. Approximately 20% of South Africa’s youth population are potential entrepreneurs, and only 15% possess entrepreneurial intensions.”

She says that the rising levels of youth unemployment can be effectively curbed through the promotion of entrepreneurship as a viable career choice for South Africa’s youth. However, it requires a committed change in South Africa’s public perception and culture.

As the youth unemployment rate in South Africa is a very high 48%, Naidoo says that many youth are being driven to entrepreneurship through necessity, which is not necessarily appealing. “Many of today’s youth view informal, survivalist businesses as undesirable, and therefore do not choose to possess entrepreneurial intensions and often find entrepreneurship undesirable.”

She says that by uplifting local entrepreneurial role models, communities will be able build a society that appreciates entrepreneurial activity. “Entrepreneurs which employ a handful of people are effectively assisting to combat the unemployment crisis and should therefore be celebrated.

“A method of instilling a system which celebrates entrepreneurial success could inspire the youth to consider entrepreneurship as a career.”

Naidoo says that according to the GEM report, where perceived opportunities are concerned, South Africa’s rate for perceived opportunities for its youth (39%) is the lowest of the sub-Saharan African countries, as well as substantially below the average of 64%.

She says that the manner in which a country supports and recognises its entrepreneurs determines the culture of entrepreneurship and ultimately moulds the future of the country’s economy. “A positive entrepreneurial culture is not something that can be simply put in place. It begins at the roots of society and needs to be carefully nurtured.

“The level of desirability of entrepreneurship to an individual has an influence on whether or not that person will ultimately pursue an opportunity. Cultural and social norms play significant roles in the lives of individuals and may influence the extent to which an individual perceives entrepreneurship as a desirable option.

According to the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship’s Young Upstarts 2010 Report, most young people reported not having enough role models to look to or learn from and found it easier to settle for the comfort and predictability of a job, instead of perusing a risky entrepreneurial venture.

Naidoo says that the perception of entrepreneurship amongst the youth in South Africa needs to be raised. “Marketing and strategic platforms, such as entrepreneurial competitions, is a method of doing so, as a great deal of positive exposure is generated around successful entrepreneurs.

“By creating South African entrepreneurial role models out of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® winners, we are effectively building role models for the youth to imitate,” concludes Naidoo.

Entries drawing to a close for 2013 Entrepreneur of the Year® competition

With just less than a month until entries close for the 2013 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, South African entrepreneurs are encouraged to enter in order to be recognised and rewarded for the vital role they play within the country’s economy.

Not only will entrepreneurs stand a chance at winning prizes worth a total value of R1 340 000, which includes cash prizes of R300 000, but all finalists and winners are also provided with the opportunity to expand their networks and receive invaluable exposure for their businesses.

Now in its 25th year, the free-to-enter competition is dedicated to celebrating and profiling the success of entrepreneurs from across South Africa and boosting the level of entrepreneurship in South Africa.

Nimo Naidoo, project manager of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, says that entrepreneurs are faced with various challenges and that the competition aims to assist entrepreneurs overcome these.

“Obtaining a credible reputation amongst various other competitors and securing additional capital to grow a business are often two key challenges that business owners encounter on their entrepreneurial journey.

“In challenging economic conditions, competitions offer an affordable marketing platform, and by utilising these platforms, entrepreneurs can grow their business by increasing both their brand reputation and bottom line.

“As an example, Tabisa Nomnganga of Bravo Promotions, winner of the 2012 Emerging Entrepreneur Award, has accredited the competition for increasing her client base, as well as increasing her bottom line profits by over 40% from the previous financial year.”

Naidoo adds that due to the success and exposure that many of the 2012 winners encountered, they are already exceeding the number of entries received during last year’s campaign, with still a few weeks to go until the closing date. “We have already received entries from exceptional entrepreneurs with very promising businesses and look forward to responses from the remainder of the local entrepreneurial community.”

The competition is open to entrepreneurs from all industries and for businesses of any sizes. Categories for the competition include: Emerging Entrepreneur, Small Business Entrepreneur, Medium Business Entrepreneur, Innovator of the Year, Job Creator of the Year and overall Entrepreneur of the Year 2013.

Business owners urged to prepare for upcoming ‘silly season’

With the festive season looming, entrepreneurs often get caught up in the rush and forget to step back and analyse how their business operates within this busy period of the year.

According to Nimo Naidoo, project manager of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year Competition®, the festive season can be one of the most busy and costly periods of the year, especially for businesses operating within the tourism, hospitality and entertainment sectors.

Naidoo says that although most businesses have seasonal highs and lows, no matter which industry they’re involved in, many businesses within the lifestyle and hospitality sectors depend heavily upon revenue generated during this period, and can sometimes survive on this revenue throughout the year.

She says that businesses operating in these industries therefore need to take care when putting budgets in place. “Business owners operating in industries heavily reliant on seasonable revenue need to budget very carefully to ensure that they don’t overspend or extend themselves throughout the year.

“Expenses such as maintenance, taxes and equipment purchases need to be scheduled on an annual basis, and therefore businesses may need to budget far in advance for these expenses. If not properly budgeted for, businesses may run out of capital before these expenses are paid.

“Close attention also needs to be paid to cash flow and credit records, as having good credit is crucial for a seasonal business.”

Naidoo advises that seasonal businesses should plan carefully for the upcoming busy periods. “When careful planning is not done ahead of a busy period, business owners often spend valuable time planning, when they should be implementing and taking advantage of the increased amount of potential clients and customers. This potentially lucrative period only comes around once a year for most seasonable businesses, so should be taken advantage of.”

She says that advance planning can also help businesses reduce costs considerably. “For example, businesses which need to increase production in the festive season may be able to negotiate discounts from suppliers and service providers if the necessary orders are placed and arrangements are made early enough.

Naidoo says that although certain businesses consider November and December the most important months of the year, owners often struggle with staff productivity during this period. “The holiday season often has a very significant impact on labour productivity. As the holidays draw near and as the “Christmas spirit” begins to take hold, even the hardest working and most dependable of workers may very well find it hard to be productive. Making use of an incentives system to motivate staff during this period can prove to be successful as it encourages staff to work towards a specific target or goal which ultimately benefits the business.”

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.”

The state of entrepreneurship in South Africa

South Africa’s entrepreneurial activity, over the past eight years, has shown vast improvement, however the economy lags behind comparable economies and has not fully utilised the economic potential that is available in entrepreneurial opportunities.

According to Nimo Naidoo, project manager of the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, South Africa has the ability and the resources available to support entrepreneurs, but believes that the country has yet to develop a strong entrepreneurial culture to drive it.




Exciting times ahead for competition entrants

Entries into the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition have officially closed and we are fast approaching the awards breakfast where the overall Entrepreneur of the Year® for 2012 will be crowned. The entry forms and preparation packs submitted by the various entrepreneurs are now on the way to the competition judges who have the difficult task of choosing the category winners from an exceptional group of finalists.

According to Nimo Naidoo, project manager for the 2012 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® competition, the calibre of entrants and quality of preparation packs received in 2012, which is a combination of all necessary details required in order to assess the entrepreneurs, has improved tremendously in comparison to the 2011 entries.

She says that they have also noticed an increase in entries from the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal regions, and received more entries from female entrepreneurs in comparison to 2011.

“The Entrepreneur of the Year® competition has set a benchmark in terms of celebrating entrepreneurial excellence in the country, resulting in encouraging entries from very talented South African entrepreneurs.”

She says that it has been a remarkable six months for the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® team, who have thus far successfully completed 11 seminars around the country with the assistance of excellent speakers and support from the entrepreneurial community. “All delegates arrived hungry for information and left the various seminars with a vast amount of relevant information that will assist them in their individual capacity.”

Naidoo says that the various social media platforms created around the 2012 competition were a wonderful compliment to the competition and allowed for relaxed communication among competition entrants and seminar delegates. “We received an overwhelming response from the entrepreneurial community via Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, and will continue to use these communication tools to keep our followers up to date with the 2012 competition and awards ceremony, as well as the launch of the 2013 competition.

The Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® winners will be announced on 6 September 2012 at the official awards breakfast in Johannesburg. “We are very excited to venture into the final stages of the 2012 competition and wish all of the entrants the best of luck,” concludes Naidoo.