Quality is everything: give your business plan the once-over

Every business starts somewhere, and that’s usually with an idea that gets translated into a business plan. If you are looking to build your own business, it is absolutely essential that you have a plan to follow. This plan needs to be of the highest quality, as it forms a representation of your business as a whole. 

The quality of this plan will inevitably contribute towards determining your business’s overall success, as it will either open or close a lot of doors for you in your chosen industry. Below, you’ll find a list of essentials to include in your plan so that regardless of whether you own a big or small business, yours will be a solid one.

 

The basics

 

You need to be able to sum up exactly what your business is in nothing more than a few sentences. This summary needs to appear in the very beginning of your business plan, as anyone reading it will need to understand the context and concept of your proposal before reading any further. If you are hoping to get the backing of an investor or two, you will need to make sure that you carefully and clearly explain what it is you are hoping to do, as too much confusion can put people off immediately.

 

Analysis of industry and customers

 

In order for you to convince someone to support or invest in your business, you need to show them that you’ve done your research and you know what you’re doing. Include an analysis of both your industry and potential customers. The former should detail your closest competitors, the size of the industry and trends that have affected the industry in the past. The latter, on the other hand, will see you identify your target market and what its demographic is.

 

Your vision

 

Your vision for your business is important to whoever is reading your business plan, as it tells them that you are committed to ensuring the best possible outcomes because you have dedicated time and effort to figuring out which direction you want to go in. While it’s important to tell them what you want to do and where you see the business going, you also need to be sure that you are succinct in conveying your vision and avoid waxing lyrical. Potential investors just want to know the crux, so give them just that.

 

Executive summary

 

When it comes to researching what to detail in your business plan, you will no doubt encounter the buzz words “executive summary.” In essence, what this is is a two page breakdown of everything important in your business plan. Here, you will need to detail the key points you have made, including discussions on how your business will make it, how it is going to keep track of money, and why consumers will be interested in what you have to offer them. Think of it as your business’s flashcard.

 

Because each business is different, each business plan will be too. However, there are certain things that every business plan needs, especially if the financial backing of a bank or independent investor is needed. But for the most part, it is incredibly important to let your business idea guide the writing of your plan, as this is the most important aspect – after all, it may just be the idea that offers a product or service that everyone is looking for.

 

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A regulatory checklist for SMEs

If you’re running a small business, you might feel overwhelmed by the many regulatory bodies and requirements in South Africa. From labour laws and tax regulations to municipal bylaws, health and safety regulations and consumer protection laws, you’ll be spending a great deal of your time simply trying to comply with a range of legislative and regulatory demands.

If you’re running a small business, you might feel overwhelmed by the many regulatory bodies and requirements in South Africa. From labour laws and tax regulations to municipal bylaws, health and safety regulations and consumer protection laws, you’ll be spending a great deal of your time simply trying to comply with a range of legislative and regulatory demands.

But rather than seeing legal and regulatory compliance as a burden, you’d be wise to embrace it as an opportunity to run more efficiently says Ivan Epstein, co-founder of Softline and CEO of Sage AAMEA (Australia, Asia, Middle East and Africa). “Compliance is hard work, but it will keep you out of trouble with authorities such as the taxman and the Department of Labour,” he says. “Plus, putting the processes and systems in place you need to satisfy various laws and regulations will give you visibility into, and control over, your business. What’s more, it’s also good for your relationship with customers and your reputation in the market.”

The demands you face will vary according to the size and the structure of your business. But here are a few points to keep in mind as the owner of a small business.

1. The taxman’s due

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is one of the country’s most tenacious and professional government departments, so it’s wise to maintain a professional and transparent relationship. If you’re a sole proprietor or in a partnership, register with SARS as a provisional taxpayer.

If you have registered a company, be sure to register it with SARS, in addition to registering yourself as a taxpayer. If you have employees, you must remember to deduct tax from them and pay it to SARS each month. Also, you must collect and pay VAT if your business has an annual turnover in excess of R1 million.

2. Labour law

As an employer, familiarise yourself with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act. This law governs relationships between companies and employees, setting out rules around working hours, overtime, leave, and the processes that need to be followed should you need to dismiss an employee. You’ll also need to register with the Department of Labour and contribute to the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF).

3. Health and safety regulations

The Occupational Health and Safety Act give workers a range of rights in terms of health and safety in the workplace. Regulations in the Act provide guidelines around aspects of workplace safety such as first aid, protective clothing, machinery, ladders, firefighting equipment, ventilation, lighting, temperature, noise and asbestos.

4. Municipal bylaws

Municipal bylaws, governing zoning, noise levels, hygiene, and so forth will also have impact on your business. For example, you will probably need permissions to run a noisy manufacturing operation or a night club in a quiet suburban street, and should you wish to renovate your office building you may also need permission for that

5. Consumer protection

With laws such as the Consumer Protection Act, government and regulators are becoming more stringent about consumer rights in South Africa. You should investigate what these laws have to say about how you should advertise your goods, structure your contracts with consumers, handle customer data, deal with merchandise returns under warranty, and so on.

Epstein says that many of these laws and regulations can seem intimidating to an entrepreneur just striking out on his or her own. “It’s not a bad idea to consult an expert for help when you’re not sure about how the law might affect your business,” says Epstein. “Rather seek professional tax, accounting or legal help than risking non-compliance—it will be well worth the investment.

Cloud-based applications for SMEs I Cloud myth-busting

South African SMEs are enthusiastically embracing cloud-based applications such as Dropbox and Google Apps. Though the market is becoming more sophisticated, there are still a few myths that prevail about the risks and benefits of cloud computing, says Ivan Epstein, CEO of Sage Australia, Asia, Middle East and Africa. “The cloud promises to make the use of business IT resources online and on-demand as easy as services such as Gmail and Dropbox,” says Epstein. “It’s about having a flexible new way of buying technology applications and services you need. Many of the fears that surround the cloud are now out of date.”

South African SMEs are enthusiastically embracing cloud-based applications such as Dropbox and Google Apps. Though the market is becoming more sophisticated, there are still a few myths that prevail about the risks and benefits of cloud computing, says Ivan Epstein, CEO of Sage Australia, Asia, Middle East and Africa.

“The cloud promises to make the use of business IT resources online and on-demand as easy as services such as Gmail and Dropbox,” says Epstein. “It’s about having a flexible new way of buying technology applications and services you need. Many of the fears that surround the cloud are now out of date.”

Myth 1: It’s not secure

Many SMEs worry that their data will not be safe with a cloud software provider. But provided you choose a credible vendor, it will host and manage your application and data in a top-tier data centre underpinned by world-class technology, says Epstein. Such a facility will feature the latest and best information and physical security, he says.  “These facilities will be as secure as those where your bank keeps your confidential financial information locked up. No SME can afford to spend as much on security as a good cloud service provider does.”

Myth 2: An ordinary mobile broadband or ADSL line isn’t good enough

Many SMEs are already using cloud services on standard ADSL and mobile broadband connections with no problem. The user experience is more than acceptable for most services including accounting and payroll software. “You don’t need a fast, uncapped fibre line to use cloud apps,” he says. “Your ADSL line will do just fine and you won’t burn through huge amounts of bandwidth.”

Myth 3: You have to commit fully to the cloud or stay off it

Many SMEs think that taking advantage of services in the cloud means throwing out their existing applications and committing completely to a cloud provider. That’s not true, says Epstein, since you can opt for “connected services” that allow you to move over to the cloud at your own pace. “Connected services offer hooks into the cloud so you can benefit from working online while still using a PC software package,” says Epstein. “For example, a desktop accounting solution might allow you to access a range of digital transaction and payment solutions from within the package’s interface. We believe the future is in the cloud, but not everyone is ready to move completely over to using their software online.”

Myth 4: It’s just about cost-savings

The cloud can help you to save money on buying servers and installing software. It can also allow you to pay for your software per month rather than committing a big some upfront to buy a software package. Those are important benefits, but they are not as significant as the way the cloud gives your business more flexibility, he adds.

“The cloud turns IT consumed into a utility, transforming fixed costs into variable costs,” Epstein says. “It allows you to buy applications such as accounting not as a software suite but as a collection of services. You can buy what you need and increase your use of these services with a few clicks when you need to.” And the cloud makes information and business services available everywhere your employees have Internet access, making your workforce faster, more responsive and better informed.

Gathering clouds

“Judging from the demand for our online solutions, the cloud is gathering traction in South Africa’s SME sector. As the next step in Sage South Africa’s continued investment in the cloud, we have consolidated our Sage Pastel My Business Online, Sage Pastel My Payroll Online and Sage VIP Liquid offerings under the Sage One brand name.” Sage has built on this solid South African foundation, and applied global insights gleaned from the Sage One businesses in Europe and the US, to bring Sage One to South Africa, he adds.

Tips for growing your small business successfully

Starting your own business can be difficult, but growing it can be even more of a challenge. There are often multiple obstacles you have to overcome in order to get your business off the ground, followed by a large dose of passion, dedication and patience needed to make it successful. Growing a business requires flexibility as well as strong organisational and planning skills, to name but a few.

Starting your own business can be difficult, but growing it can be even more of a challenge. There are often multiple obstacles you have to overcome in order to get your business off the ground, followed by a large dose of passion, dedication and patience needed to make it successful. Growing a business requires flexibility as well as strong organisational and planning skills, to name but a few. Here are a few further essential tips for ensuring your business grows.

Identify and maintain your mission

When you start a business, it’s important for you to have a clear vision of what you’re setting out to achieve. Right at the beginning, you would have hopefully created a strategic plan aimed at guiding you in accomplishing your goals. As a business begins to grow, it’s easy to lose sight of your main purpose so it’s important that you constantly remind yourself of your company’s mission and do what you can to maintain it. You may need to adjust the original plan as you move along, but you shouldn’t veer too much from your chosen path. Most importantly, customers value consistency and everything should be done to uphold this.

Get organised

Staying on top of things is vital at the best of times, but even more so when you’re trying to grow your business. If everything is in order and running smoothly, you’ll have a better chance of growing your business with minimal hiccups, and when they do arise, you’ll be better equipped to deal with them. If things are not in order, it makes it increasingly difficult for a business to flourish.

Right team, basic structure

A business will not be able to grow if it doesn’t have a solid foundation as well as a strong and capable group of people leading it. A detailed business plan, thorough understanding of the financial side of things as well as strong relationships with both customers and vendors that are being nurtured, need to be firmly in place if a business is to have any chance of expanding successfully. Cultivating trust and loyalty between yourself and your vendors/consumers make a business stronger, automatically increasing its growth potential. On top of those things, you need a loyal and talented employee base that is committed to the business and will help develop it further. If there are people who don’t meet the requirements, you should consider restructuring your team.

Analyse the competition and listen to customers

Your competitors can actually be a great source of information for you and your business. Study and learn from your competitors – you may just discover ways to improve your business above and beyond simply through observation of your competition. Customers are also key and at the end of the day, you want your business to serve their needs. Listen to them and act on what they say – customers are essentially a reliable compass for assessing whether or not your business is delivering as it should. Social media provides a variety of accessible platforms for both you and your consumers, so if you’re thinking of growing your business and you don’t have a social media presence, you should strongly consider creating one.

Be creative

You want to stand out from the rest so be open to new ideas and approaches. Sometimes in order to expand your business, you need to take some risks and make some necessary changes. This can be daunting and things can go wrong, but as long as those changes and risks are as calculated as possible, you’re likely to reap the benefits in the long-term.

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Five South African start-ups to watch

It has to be said that South Africans are nothing short of innovative. This is evident more than ever in the number of start-ups that have exploded on to the scene in the last few years. More and more people seem to be taking the plunge into the exciting world of entrepreneurship, much to the delight of their fellow South Africans who luckily get to reap the rewards of some seriously fantastic ideas that are being made into realities.

It has to be said that South Africans are nothing short of innovative. This is evident more than ever in the number of start-ups that have exploded on to the scene in the last few years. More and more people seem to be taking the plunge into the exciting world of entrepreneurship, much to the delight of their fellow South Africans who luckily get to reap the rewards of some seriously fantastic ideas that are being made into realities. Here are just four of the many fledgling South African start-ups worth keeping your eye on.

Mellowcabs

The brainchild of Neil Du Preez and Kobus Breytenbach and inspired by alternative means of transport available in Europe, Mellowcabs is an exciting Franschhoek-based taxi start-up. Tapping into the niche market of “last mile commuters”, Mellowcabs offers an ecofriendly, efficient, urban micro transportation option, and the best part is, it’s free. How do they make money then, you ask? Through banner ads, of course. The ads appear on the sides of the electric mini cabs and give advertisers a unique opportunity to promote their brands. The cherry on top has to be the on-board tablets that utilise geo-location software that trigger location-specific adverts. The taxi industry just took an exciting turn.

GUST Pay

Co-found by Joe Botha, Werner van Zyl and Jan Pool, GUST Pay is essentially a quick and easy mobile payment alternative. The Stellenbosch-based start-up brings the idea of wearable technology to life with its NFC wristband technology, making payments at festivals and other large-scale events quick and painless. The GUST Pay mobile application is available on both iOS and android phones, and transforms a usually lengthy and fairly complicated payment process into a simple and fast one. Ultimately, it means shorter queues, cashless transactions and an overall seamless ticketing experience for both buyers and sellers. In a game where convenience is key, GUST Pay delivers.

Tuluntulu

The high costs of broadband and data connections across Africa is a nagging issue and one to which many South Africans are unfortunately more than familiar. The low data speeds mean lagging video steaming and ultimately, frustrated users. Enter Tuluntulu – a content distribution application for mobile phones. Launched by founder Pierre van der Hoven in 2012, Tuluntulu “is designed to meet the challenges of the developing world’s congested mobile networks and low-bandwidth environments”. Its main aim is to deliver users a viewing experience that is both inexpensive and uninterrupted. It’s built with South Africans in mind with the vision of combining low data speeds with video delivery in a way that allows access to TV anytime, anywhere.

SPOTTM

Wherever you are in South Africa, there tends to be a strong sense of community. SPOTTM is a private social platform created for you and your neighbours that allows you to fight crime as well as connect socially. Think of it as a virtual notice board that can be used to report crime in your area, find your lost pet or invite your neighbours to a neighbourhood gathering. As SPOTTM says: “Our aim is to use technology to create safer and socially engaged neighbourhoods.” It’s an excellent way to connect with your neighbours, help prevent crime and hopefully live in a safer, more close-knit community.

South African talent is manifesting in a number of exciting and innovative small companies that are really going places. There’s no doubt that there will be many more start-ups to follow so watch this space.

SME’s can enjoy simplified online accounting and payroll options with the assistance of Sage One Accounting.

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Winning the Talk Radio 702 Small Business Awards with Sage One helps Roof Rats to skyrocket its business

Gauteng-based roof cleaning company, Roof Rats, has quadrupled its business since it won the Talk Radio 702 Small Business Awards with Sage One in 2013. What’s more, the company has grown its headcount from 11 to 44 people in the past year– creating much-needed jobs in the process– and has expanded from a home business in a backyard Wendy House into a formal company with offices and a factory. 

Gauteng-based roof cleaning company, Roof Rats, has quadrupled its business since it won the Talk Radio 702 Small Business Awards with Sage One in 2013.

What’s more, the company has grown its headcount from 11 to 44 people in the past year– creating much-needed jobs in the process– and has expanded from a home business in a backyard Wendy House into a formal company with offices and a factory.

Its achievements are testament both to this SME’s innovative and customer-focused approach and to the exposure companies can get from taking part in the Awards.

Roof Rats clears bats, rats, dust and all the other accumulated mess out of ceilings. This company turns ceiling clearance into a fine art, underpinned by a high level of professionalism and a serious commitment to customer satisfaction.

Roof Rats did not know about the Small Business Awards before a client nominated them for excellent service. Since then, its business has taken off, partly thanks to the exposure it received from the competition.

“Winning this competition took our business to the next level,” says Diederik van’t Hof, owner of Roof Rats. “Since winning the award, I have worked harder than ever before in my life. It has just been crazy, unbelievable, and phenomenal.” The impact of winning the awards was immediate, he adds.

“On the same day I had my finalist’s interview with John Robbie on Talk Radio 702, we had 17 orders,” says Van’t Hof. “The day after that, we received 14 orders. So we received three weeks of work in two days. Before the awards, we were lucky if we got five orders per week. We have been working 16 hour days ever since.”

The 2014 Talk Radio 702/ 567 Cape Talk Small Business Awards with Sage One are currently seeking out small businesses of the same caliber as Roof Rats for the 2014 awards – companies that impress with their service, products, ambition and energy.

The Awards are sponsored by Sage One – simple, secure and affordable online accounting and payroll for small, growing business. Sage One is powered by Sage Pastel and Sage VIP. Time is running out to nominate your favourite local company and help it to hit the big time.

“Roof Rats is a great example of what we’re looking for — a small business that sets itself apart from the pack with clever thinking and excellent customer service,” says Ivan Epstein, CEO for Sage AAMEA.

“Since it was established in 2011, Roof Rats has carved out a new market by providing a unique service to its customers.  Diederik has achieved a lot since he started out from home with one employee, a few small ads and a Web page – and his customers love the work Roof Rats does,” he adds.

“It’s also encouraging how Roof Rats is creating work and benefitting the wider economy. This year, we’ll once again showcase some great small companies that are contributing to driving the South African economy through job creation and hopefully we’ll be able to play a role in taking their businesses to the next level.”

Sage One will award winners with a laptop with free access to Sage One Accounting and Sage One Payroll software, including one year’s worth of software support, and a training course or seminar of their choice, giving them the freedom they need to run their business anywhere, anytime. Sage One will also provide the winners with R25 000 worth of advertising exposure on the Google Display Network.

An airtime package to the value of R250 000 on Talk Radio 702/ 567 Cape Talk will also be awarded to the winners to further promote their businesses.

The two runners-up will receive Sage One Accounting and Sage One Payroll software, including a year’s worth of software support. They will also receive a free training course or seminar of their choice as well as an airtime package to the value of R150 000 on Talk Radio 702/ 567 Cape Talk.

If you have received exceptional service from a small business, Talk Radio 702, 567 Cape Talk and Sage One want to recognise it, so be sure to submit your nomination before 22 August 2014. Visit www.sba.702.co.za or www.sba.capetalk.co.za for more information.

Research Unit hailed as 2014 Cape Talk Small Business Awards winner

Leather goods manufacturer Research Unit has beaten stiff competition from 30 finalists to win the Cape Talk 567 Small Business Awards with Sage One, powered by Sage Pastel and Sage VIP. The runner-ups are confectionary maker Sweet Temptations Toffees  and upmarket holiday home rental specialist Perfect Hideaways. The Awards aim to recognise and celebrate small businesses that offer exceptional service.

Leather goods manufacturer Research Unit has beaten stiff competition from 30 finalists to win the Cape Talk 567 Small Business Awards with Sage One, powered by Sage Pastel and Sage VIP. The runner-ups are confectionary maker Sweet Temptations Toffees  and upmarket holiday home rental specialist Perfect Hideaways.

The Awards aim to recognise and celebrate small businesses that offer exceptional service, and provide them with the necessary exposure to help them grow, and inspire other entrepreneurs to follow in their footsteps. The Awards are sponsored by Sage One– simple, secure and affordable online accounting and payroll for small, growing businesses.

Run by a husband and wife team, Research Unit designs and makes quality leather goods from its own studio in Cape Town. Since its humble beginnings in 2011, it has focused its energy on building a leather goods brand that is recognised as an example of quality, innovation, minimalism and elegance.

“This year’s entries are a clear reflection of the diversity and strength of the small business sector in Cape Town. With their willingness to go the extra mile, their obsession with quality, and their innovative use of materials and processes, Research Unit really stands out as a great small business,” says Ivan Epstein, co-founder of Softline and CEO of Sage AAMEA (Australia, Asia, Middle East and Africa). “Our winner and our two runner-ups illustrate just how much potential there is in South Africa for small businesses that dream big and execute well. Congratulations to them.”

“It’s exciting to be named as the winner of the Cape Talk Small Business Awards for 2014,” says Owners, Chad and Erin-Lee Petersen at Research Unit. “We pride ourselves on excellent customer service because we believe that the customer experience continues long after their purchases have been made. Winning this Award will inspire us to do even better in the future.”

Courtesy of Sage One, Research Unit wins a laptop with free access to Sage One Accounting and Sage One Payroll software, including one year’s worth of software support, and a training course or seminar of their choice, giving them the freedom they need to run their business anywhere, anytime.

The company also receives an airtime package to the value of R250 000 on Cape Talk and one month’s advertising exposure on the Google Display Network to the value of R25 000 will also be awarded to the winners to further promote their businesses.

Runner-up Sweet Temptations and Perfect Hideaways will each receive Sage One Accounting and Sage One Payroll software, including a year’s worth of software support. They will also receive a free training course or seminar of their choice as well as an airtime package to the value of R150 000 on Cape Talk.

 Visit www.sba.702.co.za or www.sba.capetalk.co.za to check out the finalists.