Tag Archive: SME’s


South African businesses are confident about their own prospects, but they are worried about the country’s economy. That’s one of the key insights to emerge from the Sage Business Index for 2013, an annual survey of more than 11,500 SMEs around the world. More than 1200 South African SME’s also participated in this survey.

Business partners , media and Sage staff joined us on 18 October at our Woodmead offices to hear the local results of this annual survey. In addition to presentations from Sage’s Ivan Epstein and Rob Wilkie, Alec Hogg presented a very encouraging view of South Africa’s economic future. Pavlo Phitidis also led a fascinating panel discussion about the future of small business in South Africa.

Delegates heard that global scores this year were the highest since the Business Index began in February 2011, suggesting that business confidence is returning worldwide in the wake of the global economic crisis. But South African companies, on the whole, were concerned about conditions in their own country.

Some 23% of South African businesses say their biggest challenge is the preponderance of bureaucracy and business legislation. And 15% name the government’s handling of current economic challenges as an obstacle.

Close to half (48%) argue that skills development and education is one of the most important things the government could do to boost confidence, followed by bringing stability to exchange rates (47%) and reducing bureaucracy and business legislation (42%).

For more findings from the Sage Business Index look out for future posts or visit businessindex.sage.com

Saul Symanowitz (Divisional Manager: Sage Pastel BEE123) , Hon. Rob Davies (Minister: Department of Trade and Industry), Thulani Fakude (Business Development Executive: Sage Pastel BEE123)

Saul Symanowitz (Divisional Manager: Sage Pastel BEE123) , Hon. Rob Davies (Minister: Department of Trade and Industry), Thulani Fakude (Business Development Executive: Sage Pastel BEE123)

Sage Pastel, has donated R7.5 million of software, training and other support interventions to the newly formed Black Management Forum (BMF) SMME Programme.

Launched this week by the Minister of Trade and Industry, Rob Davies, the BMF is extending its support for the development and empowerment of black businesses in the SME sector.

“With a 70% first-year failure rate amongst local start-ups, small business owners need as much support as possible,” said Saul Symanowitz, head of Sage Pastel’s BEE123 division. “Foundational business systems and basic business knowledge are not always part of an entrepreneur’s skill set and the Sage Pastel business toolkit will go a long way to providing that support.”

Sage Pastel will contribute to the BMF SMME Programme by donating 500 toolkits to participating small businesses.  This business support system, which is dubbed the BMF SMME Business Bundle, covers the key areas of accounting, legal, human resources, BEE and marketing. The retail price of the toolkit would be prohibitive for most small businesses.

Sage Pastel has been the leading developer of business and accounting software for small, medium and growing businesses for over 23 years and acknowledges the importance of this sector in building the local economy.  “This donation is part of our on going support for small businesses in South Africa. SMEs play a vital role in economic growth and employment creation. It is essential to ensure that businesses operating in this sector are viable and sustainable in the long term.” comments Symanowitz.

Minister Davies stated that his department supports the development of strong and productive enterprises, endorsing President Jacob Zuma’s position of the need to develop black industrialists. He also indicated the importance of encouraging symbiotic relations between small and big business, and using BEE codes to ensure small business development and the growth and expansion of a healthy SMME sector.

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

Scroll down for graphical analysis: South African results.

Softline, part of the Sage Group PLC, today released the results of The Sage Business Index – International and Local Business Insights. Polling over 10,000 businesses across Europe, North America, South Africa and Asia, the Index shows that while confidence in the global economic outlook continues to decline, the outlook for local market conditions and businesses is improving. In South Africa, over 1000 small and medium business decision makers were surveyed by Populus, a UK based opinion and research consultancy firm.

This year, The Sage Group PLC have created an infographic to display insights from their 2012 Business Index in a visual and interactive way. For the full infographic, detailed data, graphics and country summaries, please visit The Sage Business IndexBusiness Insights microsite.

Interested in getting more of the results and insights first? Sign up for our Newsletter…

Key Findings from the March 2012 Business Index

Responses show that while confidence in businesses’ own prospects (business outlook) has marginally improved against the last Index, there has been a slight drop in the rate of growth, with 67 percent of businesses experiencing either neutral or positive growth, a drop of two percent on the results from the Index in September 2011. South African businesses’ growth rate also decreased by two percent from the Index in September 2011 to 67 percent. This can perhaps be explained by concerns around the rising costs of fuel and raw materials which is the number one challenge to growth. However, the improvement in both local economic confidence and business outlook suggests a more optimistic mood exists within individual companies.

Economic Confidence – global pessimism, local optimism

Interestingly, South Africans are slightly more pessimistic than their global counterparts about the outlook for the global economy with a 1.21 decrease in the Index score compared to the .52 decrease of global sample.

Ivan Epstein, CEO (and co-founder) of Softline and Sage AAMEA (Africa, Australia, Middle East and Asia) said: “It is encouraging to see that once again, businesses in South Africa are more confident about their own prospects. Companies are focussed on the day-to-day challenge of maintaining and improving their businesses, and Government should do all they can to harness and help the entrepreneurial spirit that already exists. We wait in anticipation to assess the impact of the latest fuel price increase on local sentiment when we conduct the annualised Business Index later this year.”

Business Confidence – South Africa

Business Confidence – World

March ’12 September 11
Index Scores Global SA Global SA
Global economic confidence 43.95 44.71 44.47 45.92
Country Economic Confidence 47.26 46.11 47.11 44.10
Business Outlook 58.86 64.44 57.88 62.58

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

When looking at the data from a regional level the findings also mirror the broader economic news agenda. The UK and the US, who were the most pessimistic of the countries surveyed in September 2011 (with country index scores of 40.65 and 41.53 respectively), have both improved (44.97 and 49.28 respectively) while Euro-zone countries, Germany, Spain and France have all seen drops in confidence.  Malaysia and Singapore are still confident with a score of 51.53, but this is down from 53.26 last time.  South Africa showed increased optimism with an Index score of 46.11 up 2.01 from September 2011.

Business Performance and Challenges – revenues maintained, energy cost challenges

While local confidence is increasing and the rate of decline in global confidence slowing for the global sample, there are still a number of challenges facing businesses. Rising inflation and the increasing cost of fuel, energy and raw materials topped the list with all countries citing this as their top concern and locally 58 percent of businesses listed this among their top three concerns with 25% ranking it as their number one concern. Over a third of South African businesses see instability or uncertainty in the local economic market as a worry, and a similar proportion (34 percent) say the same of reduced cash flow in the supply chain.

Adds Epstein: “The Index is a vital tool for Softline and Sage in the region to take stock of the challenges and worries affecting our customers. The next six months will be telling and despite the input cost challenges that SME’s face going forward; we hope that the results indicate the first green shoots of recovery in South Africa with overall business outlook continuing to improve. As an indicator for the rest of 2012, three quarters of our respondents said that customer service has become even more important to their operations over the past year, which will guide how we will approach our business in the next six months.”

Revenue – World

Revenue – SA

About Softline

Softline is a leading provider of business software and related services. Founded in 1988 by Ivan Epstein, Alan Osrin and Steven Cohen, Softline was established during the formative years of the business software industry. Whilst Softline’s heritage is in the SME market the group also offers expertise and solutions that meet the needs of specific industries and larger organisations. In 2003 Softline was acquired by The Sage Group plc, a FTSE 100 company. Softline has a solid track record offering customers local expertise backed by the global Sage brand. The group delivers quality software solutions to make customers’ business lives easier.

About Sage

The Sage Group plc is a leading global supplier of business management software and related products and services, principally for small to medium-sized enterprises. Formed in 1981, Sage was floated on the London Stock Exchange in 1989. Sage has 6 million customers and more than 12,300 employees worldwide. We operate in over 23 countries covering the UK, mainland Europe, North America, South Africa, Australia and India. For further information please visit www.sage.com.

About The Sage Business Index

The Sage Business Index polled 10,009 small and medium-sized businesses across 10 countries – US, Canada, Germany, Austria France, UK, Spain, South Africa, Malaysia and Singapore over a two week period in March 2012.  Businesses were asked a range of questions regarding such issues as business confidence and outlook, how they feel about the global and local economies and what challenges they currently face.

For the full report inforgraphic, detailed data, graphics and country summaries, as well as to read to see the full results of the first and second Business Indices, please visit The Sage Business Index – Business Insights.

Survey Methodology

Populus provided online interviews with 10,009 decision makers in businesses in the UK, USA, Canada, German, France, Spain, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore, Austria.  The businesses were drawn from two sources:

  • 8,575 respondents were drawn from Sage’s local customer databases across the UK, USA, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, South Africa, Malaysia, Singapore and Austria.  Sage’s local operating companies sent an email invitation to participate to specially selected databases with a survey link provided by Populus.  In Malaysia and Singapore, customers were invited to participate via a letter which included the details of how to enter online.  All responses were collected centrally by Populus.
  • 1,434 respondents were drawn from a dedicated online panel of business people, which has 2.4 million members worldwide.  200 interviews were conducted in all markets apart from Austria, Malaysia and Singapore where research was undertaken via Sage local operating companies, as above.  A random sample of respondents whose profiles met the client criteria were invited to take part in the survey, ensuring a spread of business sizes and industries.  Respondents were then asked a screener question to ensure that they were a decision maker at their business.

*Index Methodology

As this is the third Sage Business Index, we have applied an index methodology which allows us to measure the changing mood of the businesses surveyed in relation to business and economic confidence.  The index is based on a scale of one to 100 where 0 means a significant decline, 100 means a significant improvement, and 50 means it is no different. For the business confidence question the scale translates to below 50 as less confident and over 50 is more confident, 50 is no different.

We retrospectively applied this index methodology to the countries that took place in the first business survey in February 2011 (US, Canada, UK, Germany and France) where the questions were asked as follows:

  • “Do you feel your country’s economy is recovering or declining?” and “Do you feel the global economy is recovering or declining?” Index scores have been derived from this data where answer options in this study, and their index score weighting, were: “It is recovering significantly (100)”, “It is recovering slightly (75)”, “It is no different (50)”, “It is declining slightly (25)”, “It is declining significantly (0)”
  •  “Are you more or less confident of your business prospects over the next year?” Index scores have been derived from this data where answer options in this study, and their index score weighting, were: “More confident (75)”, “No different (50)” and “Less confident (25)”

About Populus

Populus is an opinion research and consultancy firm that specialises in understanding the views of the general public, customers, businesses and key stakeholders.  Best known for its social and political research as pollsters to media organisations such as The Times, the BBC and ITV News, it conducts large, regular, research programmes for a wide variety of clients, such as large multinational companies in retailing, food manufacturing, pharmaceutical, financial services and communications sectors, to public institutions, membership organisations and NGOs.

  • Populus has significant experience in:
  • one-to-one depth interviews with senior decision-makers and stakeholders (e.g. Members of Parliament, senior business executives, investors and analysts, specialist journalists, government advisers and civil servants, members of EU institutions, and leaders of NGOs and trade associations);
  • constructing bespoke online panels for clients wishing to engage with their stakeholders, memberships, or consumers on a continuing basis;
  • employing call-centre based or access panel research both nationally and internationally for polling Business to Business groups, the general population and specific sub-samples of the public;
  • organising focus groups – including among hard-to-reach groups – to gain greater understanding of what drives opinion and motivates key audiences or to test messaging concepts and to use stimulus material.

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Ivan Epstein, CEO, Softline, says that irrespective of the nature or size of your business, selecting the right business software is important for streamlining financial management and business processes. Having a handle on your accounting, inventory control, customer data and the availability to generate powerful reporting are useful when meeting the challenges of today’s business demands.

Opportunities for both web and non-web based solutions continue to abound inSouth Africaand Epstein believes we’re in a good position to embrace our emerging markets, in which the SME sector continues to show strong signs of growth.

“The increasing reliance on systems by businesses of all sizes is driving fundamental change in the way business software is being provided to the SME sector. No traditional software application is immune to web-based competition, so it stands to reason that adopting web application technologies and business practices are an area that local vendors and customers are continuing to adopt.”

Vendors have seen a gradual move in the industry over the past few years, Epstein says. Customers are more frequently adopting Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) models wherein web-based applications are explored as an alternative to traditional desktop applications. For the small business owner, perhaps one of the most challenging aspects is simply deciding which application is most appropriate for their business, as well as sourcing reputable options.

“In the past, SaaS offerings were limited to applications such as ERP, CRM, and the like. Today companies, of all sizes, are also looking at online infrastructure services – applications such as backup and storage. Online backup can help small businesses deal with the challenge of exponentially growing data volumes. It presents a new opportunity for small businesses by giving them all the benefits of enterprise-class backup without the associated management complexity and cost. Better yet, as more mature backup vendors start to offer their software through an online delivery model, small businesses can be sure their data is safely in the hands of proven experts.”

The challenge, however, for SMEs in South Africa which are interested in web-based solutions is the country’s bandwidth challenges “This will continue to improve over time”. Also, Epstein says, some businesses, particularly SMEs, are simply not comfortable giving their sensitive data to others to manage. Others have found that a web-based solution may actually be more secure than their current configuration.

“Either way, I would advise business owners to carefully investigate the issue of security in more detail if they’re exploring the benefits of web-based solutions for their business. Leading web-based vendors realise that this is a critical issue, and they have taken significant measures to ensure the security of their customers’ data files. Vendors must provide a secure data environment for their customers,” Epstein concludes.

Softline part of The Sage Group plc and leading provider of business management software to SME’s, has acquired business intelligence technology company Alchemex.

What is Alchemex?
Alchemex provides affordable and flexible excel-based business intelligence software for SME’s. It bridges the gap between Excel spreadsheets and the data that lives in the business application, by providing flexible, customer centric reporting. Businesses require timeous and quality information delivered in an easily understood and usable format. Alchemex fulfils this need. It can be deployed on either the desktop or the internet allowing real-time access to data from anywhere in the world.

Software Synergy for SME’s
The synergies between the businesses of Softline and Alchemex are readily apparent; the Alchemex business intelligence solution is a natural extension of Softline’s business applications; it serves the same market as Softline, being predominantly SMEs; and it affords existing and future users of Softline applications a greater breadth of service offering, under a single banner.

Better, Together: Quality, affordable SME business software
In a competitive market value-added offerings such as business intelligence are necessary to grow market share. Companies have a real need for an affordable tool such as Alchemex in order achieve a higher level of clarity in their business, to make better decisions and to become more profitable.