Archive for August, 2012

The National Small Business Chamber (NSBC) alongside official sponsor Nedbank, has been promoting the concept of Small Business Friday. The initiative, which culminates on Friday the 7th of September, aims to promote and support small business throughout South Africa.  Literature on the official website states that the future of the SA economy and the solution to unemployment lies in assisting small business to grow and thrive.

This concept has been close to our hearts since the inception of Softline, and as such, we will be supporting Small Business Friday during the course of next week through the posting of helpful tips, hints and advice for small business owners.

As a starting point, we’d like to point out a few opportunities for small business to gain recognition in SA through several awards taking place at the moment. The first of which is the Small Business Awards run by Softline Pastel and 567 Cape Talk. The following was taken from the official press release issued by the awards organisers:

The small business sector in South Africa has the potential to make a significant contribution to economic growth and employment. It is through innovation that better service and increased employment becomes a natural consequence. The annual Small Business Awards in partnership with 567 Cape Talk and Softline Pastel, focuses on supporting and fostering this entrepreneurial culture and have done so since 2008. Entries for the 2012 nominations have now opened.

Once again, consumers are asked to nominate businesses that have provided them with excellent service. From the hundreds of businesses that are nominated, 30 are selected and the business owners are interviewed on either the Kieno Kammies breakfast or the John Maytham drive shows on 567 Cape Talk.

So chat to your customers, let them know about the awards, and then hold thumbs for a nomination. Check out the site at visit for more. Good luck!

The second award to highlight is the National Small Business Champion Awards.  This award aims to recognise the tireless journey of small business success and provides business owners recognition for their outstanding achievements.

The website for the awards  is and it lists the following criteria for entry:

All service, commercial or industrial companies that manufacture or sell a product or service. Such companies are not allowed to be:

  • Members or affiliated members of a listed group on a national or international stock exchange
  • A government or semi-government enterprise
  • An enterprise in whom government is a stakeholder

Visit the site and get your entry in!

We hope to see you on the blog next week for small business tips and hints. Have a great weekend!

Softline was recently very proud to be involved as a sponsor organisation with SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise), an international non-profit organisation that brings together South Africa’s top leaders with students, with the aim of creating a better, more sustainable world through the positive power of business.

SIFE hosted the SA 2012 national competition in July this year and 26 higher education institutions participated.  Participating students are required to form teams on their campuses and apply business concepts to develop outreach projects that improve the quality of life and standard of living for people in need.  The SIFE competition held last month was an opportunity for all teams to showcase the results from their projects and win the chance to compete in the SIFE World Cup.

SIFE South Africa CEO, Letitia de Wet says that all the participating teams showed great commitment in developing their communities and enriching their outreach through the creation of sustainable businesses. “It is heart-warming to see such commitment from these youths as it gives us hope that South Africa’s talent and entrepreneurial outlook is increasing – enabling a future led by inspiring and focused leaders who will constantly look for ways in which to not only develop their own skills but also integrate these learning’s and uplift the communities in which they operate.”

Nozipho Tshabalala, Organisational Development Consultant for Softline says that the sponsorship of the SIFE initiative is aligned to the Softline motto of not waiting for someone to help you, but rather taking steps to help yourself. “Learning about the projects and initiatives launched as a result of this competition has been inspiring, specifically the long term effects these students are having on the communities they live and study in.”

“Development of an entrepreneurial spirit is key for scholars and students in South Africa, and projects like these go a long way to educate young South Africans about starting and running small businesses with the added bonus of benefitting a community.”

The University of KwaZulu Natal has won consecutively for five years now, and this year they were awarded the National Champion title because of the outcome and impact they have achieved through the development and implementation of outstanding sustainable community outreach projects. As a result, they will be competing against winning teams from 38 different countries globally, where they will represent South Africa at the 2012 SIFE World Cup in Washington (D.C.), taking place from the 30th of September to 2nd October 2012.

We wish them all the best for this global competition and we at Softline are proud to be associated with such an uplifting initiative.


The conventional channel structure is being revolutionised by technology in an ever-evolving environment that requires channel partners to adapt to ongoing change and add value in new ways.

Laurica Kok, general manager and channel manager at Softline Pastel Payroll, part of the Softline and Sage Group plc, says technology and payment plans are driving the restructuring of rebates and subscription pricing is rapidly becoming a reality for software vendors. Technology and the Internet are playing a big role, bringing in online products that are changing the playing field.

“Technology is enabling do-it-yourself as opposed to services, with the internet as the key element in changing the way that organisations conduct business. Pastel Payroll’s channel partners have been very active in terms of sales but technology is ringing in changes that are leading to the structuring of new incentives for channel parters.

“The adoption of what many consider to be commoditised uses for the internet is seen as a steady evolutionary process and the switch from legacy desktop applications to the cloud is proving to be a gradual adoption rather than a rush to jump on the bandwagon.”

Pastel Payroll has started introducing new functionality and is making use of frictionless updates that enable traditional desktop applications to seamlessly update over the internet with minimal intervention from the end-user of the software.

“Customers no longer need to visit a website to download and install updates manually and install CD versions, the software now does it all for them. The days of CD-based updates and disruptive installation and implementation cycles are over,” says Kok.

“Generally accepted standard online applications – those which many people are comfortable using on a daily basis such as internet banking and online flight reservations systems, news feeds and social media sites are all being complemented by steady streams of new online business applications and services. The younger generation has a strong affinity with online business and payroll solutions, eliminating the traditional support and assistance models. Pastel Payroll has to keep up with the times and offer customers a variety of software solutions.”

“The technology boom has driven structural changes to evolve with the new trends and we have seen major movement towards subscriptions, monthly payment options and the development of a pay-as-you-go environment as longer term budgeting is increasingly implemented. We have had open discussions with channel partners regarding this changing environment as it requires different incentive structures,” said Kok

Traditional channel programs used to involve an upfront payment and an annual licence fee structure.  However, increasing numbers of customers are feeling the economic pinch and looking for monthly payment options with budgeting becoming longer term. “Pay as you go is also becoming a popular option with customers,” concluded Kok.

Saving to grow?

by Rob Wilkie, CFO Softline and Sage AAMEA

Rob Wilkie

Rob Wilkie

I read a few interesting statistics in a MoneyWeb article posted in June ‘12.

  • South Africa has a net saving to GDP ratio of 16.5% mostly thanks to savings by our large corporates. This implies that small businesses (like households) have saved negative amounts, borrowing more than they save and earn.
  • In China the ratio is 50% and in India it is over 30%. With the exception of South Africa, the level of savings in BRICS countries is trending upwards.

Three primary reasons are commonly given for why saving levels in South Africa are so low.

  • An emerging middle class previously without access to consumer goods and financial services are borrowing for consumption instead of saving in order to bridge the lifestyle gap.
  • The state offers a small pension reducing the incentive to save for retirement. In China there is no state pension and the Chinese therefore have no choice but to save for retirement.
  • Interest rates are at a 30 year low. Being lower than the inflation rate, the real return of putting your money in the bank is negative.

Savings are important when a business needs to accelerate growth; they are the most important and reliable source of investment to boost growth. The alternative to savings as a source of investment is borrowings; this source however is costly and less reliable.

In 2008 when the global financial crises hit, the SA government was forced to borrow in order to support the economic downturn through government spending and infrastructure investment. The result was a budget deficit (previously a healthy budget surplus) and accumulated debt on the country’s balance sheet (debt as a % of GDP increased from 25% to 40%).  The implication has been a deterioration in our fiscal environment and outlook which in turn has precipitated a downward revision to SA’s credit rating and a threat to government borrowing costs. The country needs to invest more to boost growth, but ratings agencies have made it clear that they don’t want to see SA taking on further debt. It therefore has no choice now but to boost domestic savings as a source of investment.

The same applies to businesses who have borrowed excessively in order to boost their historic growth. In the existing climate banks are hesitant to lend further and many now face a cash crunch in a slowing economic cycle. It is precisely at this time that businesses need to invest in order to sustain and protect their earnings growth, however without a savings treasure chest or the capacity to borrow further they are forced into survival mode and will likely lose their competitive edge.

The Women of Softline VIP

We hope you had a great Women’s Day yesterday. We’re very fortunate to have some extraordinary women in our team. Read a bit about the women of Softline VIP below…

Anja Hartman-Weitz

Anja is the HR Director of Softline VIP, part of the Sage Group plc, and she is responsible for the Human Capital within the company with a specific focus of maintaining Softline VIP’s status as an employer of choice.

Success is a responsibility to set an example in all aspects of life, not just at work. It means that you must be satisfied with the influence you had and the contribution you made at the end of each day.  I strongly believe that you need to be true to yourself and treat all people with the same kindness and respect.

My advice to young women starting their careers, is to pursue your dreams and never give up. You are what you repeatedly do, so be passionate and focus on excellence. It is challenging to be a working mom and you need to aim at striking that ‘perfect balance’. What works for me is to focus 100% on what I am doing at that moment, should it be at work, in a meeting or at home with the kids.

I am inspired by her mother who has been a big influence on my life. I am one of four children and my mom has always been there for us, supporting and helping wherever she can regardless of the circumstances. Due to her continuous encouragement and inspiration she made me believe that I can achieve anything I want.

I love entertaining and spending time with family and friends.  What could be better than having the people you care about, sitting around a table with good food, wine and laughter.


Jenny Venter

Jenny is an Organisational Development Specialist at Softline VIP, part of the Sage Group plc, and she helps clients to overcome any human capital challenges.  To Jenny, being a successful woman in business means valuing relationships, being an expert at what you do and delivering on your promises.

My advice to young women, starting their careers, is to realise that their priorities and what they want from a career and from life will change as the different stages of their lives will.  Learn as much, and achieve as much as you can while you are young so that you have a skills set and track record that provides you with the mobility to craft and redesign your career in a fashion that will accommodate your lifestyle and personal needs.

I believe that you need to keep your priorities straight in life, loved ones are more important than work. Live with integrity, be kind, use your head when you are following your heart and have faith, especially when things go wrong. Don’t ever take your health for granted, take care of it.

I am also inspired by my mom.  She is a living example of someone who has endured all that life could throw at her with incredible resilience, while retaining her faith and her ability to love and care for others.


Sandra Swanepoel

Sandra is the Sales Director at Softline VIP, part of the Sage Group plc, and she is strategically involved in the management of the business as a whole.  Sandra is responsible for business development of new markets by growing Softline VIP’s market share across all market segments.  

Our business follows a direct sales model, which means that our consultants spend a great deal of time in face to face contact with customers daily. Our products are sold in South Africa and Africa at large to any size business ranging from small to large enterprises, with some businesses utilising our HR and Payroll packages to pay thousands of employees.  Our products help employees to reach their full potential, which is a very rewarding achievement when you see how they grow with the company.

A balanced life is key no matter what. It is important to always invest time in your family, health and finances in addition to your employees and career.  I strongly believe that you should search for that one thing that makes you want to get out of bed every morning and then invest your time and efforts to become the best at it.

You need to walk the talk and to put energy into everything that is important to you. My mother is my inspiration and at 83 she still runs her own business. She loves it!



Monika Roode

She is the National Call Centre Manager at Softline VIP, part of the Sage Group plc and she is in charge of the call centre and support operations. 

Success does not happen overnight, it takes a great deal of hard work, lost sleep and sacrifices. It is however important that you set realistic goals for yourself and to measure your journey against these goals.  As Charles Swindoll said, Attitude is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than what people do or say. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill.

My inspiration is Audrey Hepburn, an academy award winning actress and humanitarian. Apart from being a very modest, beautiful and a legendary actress she also devoted much of her life to UNICEF. She worked in some of the most profoundly disadvantaged communities in Africa, South America and Asia making a huge difference in many people’s lives.

It is vital to stay true to youself and your values and to try as far as possible to maintain a good work-life balance.


“For beautiful eyes, look for the good in others; for beautiful lips, speak only words of kindness; and for poise, walk with the knowledge that you are never alone.”
 Audrey Hepburn


Karen Schmikl

Karen is the Business Manager for VIP Liquid Payroll at Softline VIP, part of the Sage Group plc.  Karen manages Softline VIP’s online payroll product, Liquid and also oversees the legislation department.

You need to have passion for what you do in order to make a success of it, you also need to believe in yourself and do the job well.  I am sure there are still corporate cultures and industries where women have a tough time, but we are very privileged to be working for a great company that respects you for your competencies.  Set yourself a goal of what you want to achieve and go for it without losing focus of it.  Don’t ever sacrifice who you are or your principles.

I value people who stand up for their beliefs and do what is close to their heart.  I also have a great deal of respect for someone who is strong, someone who is able to survive and rise above her circumstances, such as Anne Frank and single moms.

It is important to live life with honesty, commitment and integrity. All the while, maintaining your life and work balance. From a work perspective I enjoy creativity and the satisfaction that comes from designing something from scratch and seeing it come to fruition.  From a personal point of view I love the outdoors, hiking, camping and gardening.