Tag Archive: business plan


Sage Business Index by Softline shows local confidence in business prospects remain stable, but confidence in SA economic prospects dips

8th November 2012, Johannesburg: Softline, part of the Sage Group PLC, today released the results of The Sage Business Index – Local and International Business Insights.

The Index is a global measure of confidence across small and medium sized businesses. Nearly 11,000 small and medium sized companies in 15 countries across Europe, North America, Brazil, South Africa and Asia responded to the survey. The Index shows that whilst there is a general decline in confidence in global and local economies, businesses remain cautiously optimistic in their own growth prospects.

In South Africa, confidence in both individual business prospects and the outlook for the global economy remain largely unchanged, down slightly from March 2012 (Index scores: 64.44 to 64.19 and 44.71 to 44.54 respectively). Confidence in South Africa’s own economic prospects has fallen slightly further from 46.11 in March 2012 to 43.03 in September 2012.

South African Index Scores* September 2012 March 2012 September 2011
Global economic confidence 44.54 44.71 45.92
SA’s Country economic confidence 43.03 46.11 44.10
Own business confidence SA 64.19 64.44 62.58

(Below 50 is decline/less confident above 50 is improvement/more confident, 50 is no different)*

The research, which included 1 879 South African small to medium size businesses, was carried out by Populus, a UK based opinion and research consultancy firm.

Economic confidence – local concerns in line with macro-economic trends

All countries, with the exception of Brazil, registered an index score below 50 showing that respondents generally feel that the global economy is continuing to decline. Unsurprisingly, the Eurozone countries feel the most negative, with fears of a “double dip” recession having risen sharply.

In South Africa, businesses surveyed are feeling less confident about the prospects for the local economy, with the index declining from 46.11 to 43.03 over the past 6 months. This, however, is in sharp contrast with how they feel about their own business prospects which scored positively at 64.19.

Commenting at the official results presentation in Johannesburg today, Ivan Epstein, CEO (and co-founder) of Softline and Sage AAMEA (Asia, Australia, Middle East and Africa) said, “Looking at the results against an international backdrop, South Africa scored the second highest index rating of all the countries polled in terms of individual business confidence. Entrepreneurial spirit and business culture is identified by businesses as one of the most important aspects for doing business successfully in South Africa. This endorses my strong belief that South Africa is a fertile environment for successful entrepreneurs and small businesses.”

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Business performance and challenges – revenues maintained, cost challenges

There are some positive signs in the global survey with 63 percent of respondents saying that over the past 6 months revenue has either increased or held steady whilst 82 percent have either increased or maintained employee numbers.

South Africa achieved a similar score with 65 percent of businesses polled showing either steady or increasing revenue and 84 percent of businesses either increasing or maintaining employee numbers.

Rob Wilkie, CFO of Softline and Sage AAMEA commented that “72 percent of South African businesses said that they have adapted to the challenges of the current economic climate. The agility and resilience of businesses in South Africa is testament to a strong entrepreneurial business culture and strength of South Africa as a place to do business”.

Increasing costs are the number one concern of businesses surveyed in South Africa. Wilkie commented that “this was expected given that CPI is on an upward trend with the main drivers being food prices, fuel and electricity. In addition, an inevitable consequence of the recent high wage increases seen in the mining and transport sectors is going to be higher inflation, particularly when decoupled from increased productivity”.

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Government – businesses call on government to do more

All countries participating in the global survey feel that their governments don’t provide sufficient support for business, with the exception of Singapore where 54% of respondents indicated that their Government provides adequate support.

In South Africa businesses are calling for skills development and education (46%), the reduction of bureaucracy and legislation (40%), a reduction in business tax (34%) and currency stability (28%).  Wilkie commented, “in order to enhance its competitiveness, government must address the quality of primary education, particularly in view of a very high unemployment rate. Over-regulation and red tape is a further obstacle, specifically firing and hiring practices, wage determination, public sector tender procedures and enforcement of contracts”.

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Investment for growth – future prospects

In considering the year ahead, 29 percent of South African businesses surveyed said they were looking to diversify into new markets, 28 percent would invest further in marketing and sales within their existing markets and 27 percent would invest in skills development and training.

According to Epstein, “economic and political reforms in Africa have resulted in an improved business environment and offer an attractive opportunity for South African businesses to diversify and expand across their border.”

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In conclusion Epstein said, “ We’ve seen evidence in this research report and others, that small and medium sized business in South Africa require more focused attention from our leaders. The future of the South African economy, and most importantly, the ability to create employment in this country will be dependent the stimulation of more businesses that are sustainable over the long term. Private business and Government have a pivotal role to play in the economic growth and development of small business in South Africa.”

To view the full article, please visit http://businessindex.sage.com/

For more, please follow Softline on Twitter http://twitter.com/SageGroupZA

Softline Pastel, South Africa’s leading developer of business and accounting software, today launched a portal for its range of online applications. The platform, known as Sage Pastel Online, provides the entrepreneur on-the-go one central location to access the company’s bouquet of cloud-based business tools, making running a small business a little easier.

Pastel Accounting launched South Africa’s first online accounting program, My Business Online, in May 2009 and since then has brought several online innovations to the local SME market.

“Times have changed,” says Steven Cohen, managing director of Pastel Accounting. “We have entered an age where technology is pervasive, allowing us more mobility than ever – and business has to be part of the revolution to remain competitive.”

The portal can be found at www.sagepastelonline.com and offers online accounting, payroll and marketing services – allowing business owners the freedom to run their businesses at any time from anywhere. Additionally, Pastel’s BEE one-stop-information-hub, BEE123 and brand new free-to-all-users personal finance applications are also available in the same location.

Pastel My Business Online is a full-function accounting program, designed specifically for the small business owner. All accounting lingo has been changed to simple English, so even the layman can manage the business’s books. It’s a multi-user system with dashboards, graphs and drill-downs to source transactions that provide a bird’s eye view of the business. The system allows users to manage customers, suppliers and inventory items and keeps track of sales and purchases. It comes with a comprehensive list of reports so that month-end management packs are quick and easy to create.

Pastel My Payroll Online is a simple payroll solution that allows SME owners to pay their employees anywhere, anytime.  It’s a SARS compliant system aligned to even the most complex legislation, including PAYE and UIF. Users can also process leave online with leave types already defined according to the BCEA requirements. Like, My Business, My Payroll contains no confusing jargon.

Did you know 70% of SMEs don’t have a website, or at least one with limited marketing capabilities or integration with smartphones and social media. Pastel My Webspace is an online marketing engine for SMEs with an HTML5 website builder designed for optimal marketing and e-commerce capabilities. In addition My Brand will manage users’ search engine optimisation, and mobile and social media integration. My Brand effectively integrates everything for the user and provides an all-in-one e-marketing service with analytics, social media insights, and creating and mailing a fully dynamic newsletter with marketing feedback.

“Moving your business applications online is a must for anyone who wants to ensure that they remain at the cutting edge of service delivery,” said Cohen at the launch event that celebrated the mobile business of the future.

As part of Pastel’s drive for business mobility, it has also formed a relationship with Samsung Enterprise Mobility. Selected Samsung devices will now come preloaded with the My Business Online Android app and Pastel is a reseller of Samsung’s SIII, Note and Tablet devices; all preloaded with a year’s free access to Pastel My Business Online. The devices will be available for purchase via the Pastel Webstore.

The end of the year is in sight and companies face the administrative burden of making the complex calculations related to determining the correct leave pay due to individual employees.

The process is governed by the Basic Conditions of Employment Act (BCEA) which sets out the legal structure of all employment contracts and the rights of employees to ensure they are fairly treated in terms of annual leave and severance or notice pay.

Many of the calculations for leave pay are quite complex and arriving at the correct allocations manually or on spreadsheets is a time consuming exercise.

“All of these calculations have to be correct or the company will breach the provisions of the BCEA,” says Phil Meyer, technology director of payroll and HR software specialist Pastel Payroll, part of the Softline Group and Sage Group plc.

The BCEA aims to ensure that leave pay is fully representative of individual employees’ actual earnings and Meyer says the calculations have to take into account variable income types and must be based on the average earnings of each employee over the 13 weeks preceding the date upon which leave becomes effective.

“There are many elements that affect the calculations such as overtime, commissions, allowances and other payments. The bottom line is that they lead to fluctuating income so each employee’s income has to be calculated individually. It can be a nightmare to execute this manually or on spreadsheets.”

Automated payroll and HR software retains detail of all of the variable income paid to each employee so that the calculation for the average income over the 13 weeks preceding the leave is not only accurate but is available immediately with a few key strokes.

Circumstances may lead to some employees benefiting from higher variable earnings during the three months prior to the leave date. For example accounting staff may take leave when company financial year-end audits are completed, thereby benefiting from the overtime payments they may have received during the preceding 13 weeks.

Similarly, people employed in the construction industry which usually shuts down in mid-December, are also likely to have worked overtime to ensure contracts are completed before shut-down and therefore their leave pay calculations will be affected.

“In consultation with management, payroll administrators can establish parameters that the software will automatically follow so that calculations of average earnings are always consistent with the requirements of the BCEA and fair to all concerned,” said Meyer.

Users of automated payroll and HR software also benefit from the fact that the software developers monitor amendments to the BCEA and provide updated versions whenever new legal requirements are promulgated. “The automated payroll and HR software therefore always operates in full compliance with the Act, ensuring also that the BCEA leave payments are not subject to basic finger trouble, interpretation or even fraud.”

In addition, automated payroll and HR software solutions offer functionality that enables the user to give the entire company an increase, based on either a set value or a specific percentage as well as process a production bonus or commission using only one screen. This not only saves time, it allows global changes to be made to any transaction within the payroll system for all, or a selection of employees.

Employee Self Service (ESS) is a web-based self-service tool that enables employees to manage and maintain their own information online as well as submit leave online to carry some of the overall HR administration burden. This saves the Payroll Administrators time and eliminates manual leave applications and capturing. In addition, companies can view a leave summary of their teams according to leave types (annual, sick, family, unpaid) and leave status (approved, applied, declined) for easy leave management and skeleton staff planning over December holiday times.

By Gerhard Hartman, Head of the Africa Division at Softline VIP, part of the Sage Group plc.

Gerhard Hartman

Gerhard Hartman

The African continent has enjoyed its best growth decade on record and is currently one of the world’s fastest growing regions, with six of the ten fastest growing economies in the world. It therefore makes business sense for South African firms to look at expanding into Africa and opening branches in other parts of the continent.

Companies expanding into Africa either need to send South African staff into these countries as expatriates or need to open an operating entity in that country that comprises of local staff members. Either way, companies face challenges in expanding into Africa, especially in setting up their auditing, taxation, accounting and payroll systems that are accurate and compliant with the local legislation of that African country.

In response to this trend, and in an attempt to aid local companies with their expansion plans into Africa, Sage VIP Payroll has partnered with BDO Audit – Advisory and Tax services – and Sage Pastel Evaluation to provide local companies with everything they may need to enter a new country of operation, with confidence.

One of Sage VIP Payroll’s main strategic goals is focused around expansion into Africa with the company currently being operational in 24 African countries. The VIP Payroll Africa Division holds offices in Gaborone, Windhoek and Nairobi; with active alliance partnerships in Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Nigeria, Ghana, DRC, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Angola, Mozambique and Rwanda.

Companies in Africa are starting to realise the importance of automation and how VIP Payroll can help them make more informed decisions, creating more efficient environments for company growth and return on investment. Salaries continue to be one of the biggest expenses in any organisation while the market for employment is becoming more competitive, making HR an essential part of any company’s strategic advantage. VIP Payroll provides an integrated solution for any size business to manage salary payments and HR strategies effectively. The system enables statutory compliance with authorities in African countries and local support is provided through alliance partners in the country of operation.

BDO has a large amount of experience servicing multi-national companies from across the globe. The organisation aids companies to build a country specific business model for operations in Africa. BDO also has contacts and alliance partners in every country in Africa, except Somalia, making it the best business to partner with when expanding into Africa. BDO’s three phase process includes advising companies on the implications of doing business in another African country, implementation of licensing, permits, registrations and applications in that country, and setting up compliance and business controls for payroll, auditing and accounting.

Common mistakes that companies make when expanding into Africa include not having sufficient knowledge of the country and a lack of operational planning. Preparation is essential as is a solid understanding of the local tax laws and company legislation. Companies also need to educate themselves on the foreign exchange regime, economic environment, legal system and the foreign company processes in each country.  This is where BDO is able to aid companies with relevant information that will adequately prepare them for their new venture.

Pastel Evolution has been operational in Africa since 2001 and has offices in South Africa and Kenya. The organisation has over 2500 corporate customers in Africa and over 70 business partners on the continent, as well as 15 project implementation consultants and 50 call centre support staff. Pastel Evolution empowers business management through finance, inventory management, relationship management, payroll and business intelligence. These systems streamline business processes and enable employees to make informed decisions.

Many companies make the mistake of purchasing systems for accounting, HR, payroll and auditing to be used in their new African venture, that do not offer the in-country support that is needed to implement the software, nor is it compliant with the local legislation.

VIP, BDO and Pastel have a support base of local partners that are more than able to provide tried and tested advice in addition to on-site support to African businesses. All VIP, BDO and Pastel software is customised to comply with local legislation, which effectively takes the hassle out of setting up branches in other countries.

Hard Facts about Africa

  • The 1 billion people that live on the African continent comprises 14% of the global population, half of which are under the age of 35 and nearly half live in cities.
  • The African economy of $1,6-trillion is expected to grow to 2,6-trillion by 2020.
  • Since 2009, Angola, Nigeria, Ghana, Zambia and DRC have been top investment destinations.
  • In 2012 Ghana is expected to show the strongest GDP growth, with Nigeria in fourth position.
  • New investment destinations also include Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Madagascar, Gabon, Cameroon, Mozambique, Liberia and the Congo.
  • The main sectors for investment in Africa include mining, construction, property development, retail, supplier services to the oil, gas and mobile telephone industries, ICT, security, agriculture, tourism and hospitality.

Doesn’t it make absolute sense to invest in Africa?

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.

by Darryl Smith

Darryl Smith

Darryl Smith

This is a difficult topic to discuss, particularly as I am a passionate employee of a Business Intelligence (BI) software vendor. So of course Alchemex is the best solution, but seriously in the interests of fair blogging and not to market our own product, I will try to be as objective as I can and keep away from naming vendors.

I was in a meeting in Europe last week and in the meeting there was a person from a large ERP vendor trying to make a selection from a set of BI tools. They were evaluating from a list of 250 BI products! And a large portion of these were developed in just one country, Germany.  I was quite amazed. 10 years ago or so there were only a handful of BI vendors to choose from. Wow things have changed.

These days none can really answer the question “which BI tool is best for SMB’s?” as it is very general. The good news is that in this time the set of technologies, solutions and practices that sit under the BI banner has expanded vastly creating more specific niche areas within that BI banner that individual vendors can choose to excel in and then to eat their piece of an ever expanding pie.

No BI vendor can be the best, or realistically even do well, at any one time in all areas. Those that specialise well for the market segment they serve will continue to thrive. This still does not mean that the task of selecting a BI solution is not daunting for the end customer (SMB customers for the purpose of this blog). They are generally not IT savvy and the BI jargon and technologies can take years to fully understand. It is like being English and being in a foreign country ordering food off a menu with no English translations.

But perhaps a way of simplifying it is not to look through the vast menu of BI vendors and then the non-trivial menu that each of these provide for the components in their stack, but rather to identify what the business needs most and through this trying to quickly eliminate the majority and then spending more time looking deeper into a refined list. Kind of like arriving at a restaurant having a good idea of what you would like to eat and then zooming in on that area.

I am going to generalize as an example but some of the generalizations would probably ring true for customers in the SMB space. Assumptions….

1.            I am an SMB with only an ERP system

2.            My primary areas that I need insights into are around Financials

3.            Understanding my sales is also important to me

4.            I am interested in other information in my system to but these are less critical to me

5.            My ERP system is desktop based (bear in mind that ERP SAAS offerings are still a small part of the market today although this is changing)

6.            I don’t have a complex IT infrastructure

7.            I don’t want to spend large amounts of money on implementation, consulting and support

8.            I don’t want to pay large license fees

Immediately criteria 6, 7 and 8 eliminate ALL enterprise level vendors, criteria 5 and 6 eliminate Web based solutions and criteria 7 eliminates any solution that does not ship with reports for your specific ERP system out the box.

So in this generalised scenario one would be left with more commoditised affordable desktop solutions that target the ERP system with bundled solutions. This should narrow it down to a handful of product options and that is when it is important to  really start looking at the finer detail of a business’s needs.

And if one wants to get information in a familiar environment like Microsoft Excel, the choices are narrowed down even further.

Over the last few years most ERP vendors have acquired the BI solutions that they feel work best for their market. And you may find your ERP vendor is one of these that provide a bundled solution. This could eliminate many costs of ownership for you and the single point of ownership from the vendor can eliminate a lot of pointing fingers when you do require support.

By Steven Cohen, Managing Director Softline Pastel, part of The Sage Group plc.

Accounting in the cloud

Accounting in the cloud is exactly the same as the accounting we’re all used to; the only real difference relates to where the software application is hosted and where the client’s data is stored.

This way of working will not fundamentally change how the core business process is conducted but it will certainly make it easier for businesses to manage their accounting processes, particularly with an increasingly mobile workforce and the growing number of external corporate consultants. Accounting in the cloud gives accountants and business owners alike the ability to conveniently access records and transact from remote locations with little or no advanced setup.

But working online is about far more than just accessibility; the cloud makes the lives of users considerably easier. It removes the need for manual program installations, and the array of associated hassles. It also means that users never have to worry about upgrades or backups as the system will automatically be the latest available version that is, by its nature, backed up as information is saved.

So for those willing to embrace accounting in the cloud, the result will be a streamlined book keeping and accounting process across every client that feeds into a central database and minimises the risk of data errors, or worse, losses. The more tangible benefits are felt when new legislation or tax rate adjustments, for example, simply feed into the system without the cost or aggravation of having to buy and install new programs.

Safe as houses

Our survey also tells us that security concerns are a major driving force preventing the uptake of cloud-based services amongst SMEs. I hear this kind of commentary from our clients all the time. And I repeat myself at every opportunity that security concerns shouldn’t deter users from embracing the cloud because service providers in this sector probably offer better security than regular IT vendors, leaving your vital business information safer in the cloud than on your local network.

For example, the security for our online accounting solution, Pastel My Business Online is iron clad. It includes physical armed security and restricted access to our data centres. We have firewall and intrusion detection with ongoing system reviews to identify possible weaknesses and new vulnerabilities. There are also technologies in place to ensure that if server errors do occur we can minimise downtime. And we back up data daily and store that information in two separate locations.

Making the move

Moving your business applications online is a must for anyone who wants to ensure that they remain at the cutting edge of service delivery. The fact that the cloud assists with streamlining internal business processes is also a good reason to make the move!

While users remain apprehensive about all of their data and activities taking place in what they consider to be cyber space, I’ve started recommending a hybrid approach to tackling the move online. A less scary approach is to keep certain applications on your actual server while others run in the cloud. This allows users to remain in control of the majority of their work but can slowly familiarise themselves with the way online services work.

I would suggest that there is one of two ways to split the application locations. The cloud is either for the mundane yet necessary activities that end users spend disproportionate amounts of time getting right on their own or for highly specialised services that require outside expertise. The heart of the system –client and financial data – should sit on your mainframe in the office.

Technology: adapt or die (Part1)

By Steven Cohen, Managing Director Softline Pastel, part of The Sage Group plc.

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I recently realised that the term ‘cloud computing’ is not as broadly understood as I had assumed. Maybe it’s because I work in the tech sector that these buzz words are part of my everyday vocabulary but I was surprised to discover that 77% of professional accountants claim to have no understanding of what accounting in the cloud is.

This statistic comes from independent research we recently conducted. And what is interesting to me is that while a large proportion of professional accountants don’t know what cloud computing is, 53% would recommend an online accounting product to their SME clients. So, there’s obviously confusion out there because cloud computing and working with an online application is exactly the same thing. And accountants are clever people, so if they are grappling with the principles of the cloud, so must many others!

Cloud computing 101

When we refer to the cloud we’re talking about where the program is hosted, or stored, and the answer is that it lives on the web and not your computer. It’s the same as your Facebook account where all your information is stored ‘somewhere on the internet’.

Facebook (although I am not an avid user) is a great example. When you’re using it, I guarantee that you don’t think about whether it’s the latest version or if the information you see is the most current. You just know that the answer is yes and that somebody clever ‘out there’ is taking care of everything!!

Well the ‘out there’ is the cloud! Perfectionists will criticise me for this – but the heart of the argument is that the cloud refers to the web or the internet – they’re basically the same thing.

So, what are the advantages of the cloud?

I’m finding that in my personal life, things are getting messy. Between my desktop, laptop and iPad, my data is stored in too many places and I’m struggling to remember which version is the most current. But I firmly believe that this is the transition phase of migrating from the traditional way of doing things to having all my stuff working from the cloud. And I’m starting to make the shift by storing the documents that I work on regularly in Dropbox; a data keeper in the cloud. Dropbox makes sure that my data is always up to date and I can access it from anywhere, so I’ve already solved two main issues – my data is current and safe!

The anecdote: encyclopaedias go electronic

Remember Encarta – Microsoft’s excellent encyclopaedia that was around in the late 90s and early 2000s? I love this analogy. Let’s trace it from the beginning: For hundreds of years leading up to the 1980s, encyclopaedias like World Book and Britannica were actual physical books. There were usually 24 hefty books in a set; one for each letter of the alphabet as well as the annual year book which intended to keep the base information relevant.

Then a massive shift; encyclopaedias went electronic and two meters of shelf space in every home were freed-up. Encarta was available as a disk and offered something like 60 000 pieces of reference material including interactive images, timelines and maps. The ability to simply click links and jump around topics was great; you got the info you wanted quickly and knew it wasn’t dated. But can you believe that Encarta – this great invention – couldn’t have lasted for more than 10 years because the whole thing shifted to the cloud and is now called Wikipedia.

Books were our point of reference for several hundred years and now we just don’t use them anymore.

The moral of the story?

The world has changed – there’s a new way of doing things. Using the encyclopaedia example, no one questioned the shift to online – in fact it was a welcome progression, so why are we apprehensive about cloud computing when we make so much use of it already?

If businesses do not adapt to this new, and better, way of working, they run the risk of very quickly becoming prehistoric in their service delivery which is just not a sustainable strategy for success.

To read Part 2, click here

By Charles Pittaway, Managing Director of Netcash

Charles Pittaway shares his other 5 tips for surviving the entrepreneurial experience.

Charles Pittaway

5. Accountability

I love working in flat organisations without lots of structure and hierarchy – it’s one of the reasons I started Netcash. But it would be naïve to think we could survive without some structures and channels for making decisions.  When people start looking for direction, they need to know where it’s coming from.

6. Isolation at the top

Even if you keep an open door and employees know they can give you honest feedback, sometimes you need a trusted advisor outside the business. Your lawyer or accountant is not necessarily the right person – how many of them run their own businesses?   Find a mentor or peer group of other entrepreneurs who have faced the same issues.

7. Leverage

It’s tempting to fund a business with debt and keep 100% ownership – but very dangerous. Your bank is not your partner and it has no real stake in the success of your business – if things go wrong it’s got your house, your car and everything you own to fall back on.  An equity partner, on the other hand, has got to pitch in to make the business work. As the saying goes, it’s better to have 50% of something than 100% of nothing.

8. Too many eggs in one basket

It’s great to have a bread-and-butter client, a big account that keeps the money rolling in. But if you lose that client, your entire business could be at risk.  Keep your client base as diverse as possible – and if you can’t, make a plan for what you will do if you lose that account.

9. Competitive advantage

One successful product or service doesn’t make a business. If you really have found an attractive market, you can bet there are competitors looking to take a piece of it. Keep on researching, developing, introducing new products and new levels of service.  Make the competition scramble to keep up, rather than digging yourself a static position and defending it with everything you’ve got.

10. Moving on

At some point in the life of almost every business, the original founder needs to step aside and let someone else manage it. The skills and attitudes needed for a successful start up are very different from those needed to manage a stable, mature company.  If you stay on past your sell-by date, you run the risk of poisoning the business.  Rather get out while you’re ahead and either enjoy the rewards of success, or move on to a new challenge. Then read this advice all over again.