Communication Skills To Succeed In Business

Scientific American blog about the role of luck in success mentions the popularity of magazines such as Success, Forbes, Inc., and Entrepreneur and argues that we can learn to be successful by reading about successful people:

There is a deep underlying assumption, however, that we can learn from them because it’s their personal characteristics – such as talent, skill, mental toughness, hard work, tenacity, optimism, growth mindset, and emotional intelligence – that got them where they are today. This assumption doesn’t only underlie success magazines, but also how we distribute resources in society, from work opportunities to fame to government grants to public policy decisions. We tend to give out resources to those who have a past history of success, and tend to ignore those who have been unsuccessful, assuming that the most successful are also the most competent.

While not discounting the role that luck, or family inheritance and reputation might have in success, consider the massive role that good communication skills play in success. For example, if you cannot express yourself well, your proposal will be unsuccessful. If your business plan is full of grammar errors, then even if the financials add up, and you can show a past history of success, you are less likely to get the funding you’re after.

There are many daily examples where stronger communication skills would have made the difference between success and failure. If a junior data processor bypasses her line manager to ask another manager for help with entering a batch of data in a different format, but is not clear about the batch names, she is unlikely to be successful in getting her job done. Jumping ranks will not go down well in corporate hierarchies, for starters. Moreover, if she lacks the corporate know-how to avoid this faux pas once, she is likely to blunder several times, thus generating the impression that she is disloyal to her own line manager and not a valued team-player. On the other hand, the lack of clarity in her emails can very effectively be overcome by improving her business communication skills.

Effective business emails need to be short and to the point, with very specific detail, especially if a request or instruction is given. The reader cannot be expected to do anything if they do not know what is actually being requested. It may be a simple case of giving the label names of the data batches, as in this example, but often managers grumble about staff being incompetent or lazy when the problem is their own poor communication skills and inability to use email effectively.

The best part of this solution is that it does not rely on luck. We all have the innate ability to improve our own communication skills. For those who want to improve their communication skills mindfully, there are short courses that take only a few hours a week for a couple of months that will give them insights into well researched theories and techniques so that they can apply these strategically in their personal and professional lives.

In the reading about luck, talent is defined as “whatever set of personal characteristics allow a person to exploit lucky opportunities” and talent includes “intelligence, skill, motivation, determination, creative thinking, emotional intelligence”. These skills are highlighted in the Wits Plus Effective Business Communication short course to equip our students to make the most of opportunities. Studies have shown that the most talented people are not the most successful in life, but that luck and opportunity may play an unseen role in that success. Excellent communication skills are key to making the most of opportunities and breaking through to success!

Article by Nicky Lowe, Wits Plus Lecturer in Business Communication.

Source: Entrepreneur Magazine

The journey so far: Faith Kabira, founder and CEO, Aleezas

Faith Kabira is the founder and CEO of Aleezas, a beauty salon, barbershop and spa with three branches spread across the Kenyan capital, Nairobi.

1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.

Challenges. They almost become part of the furniture at the salon.

On a more serious note, one of the greatest challenges, for me, was training my team to be professional all round. In the hair and beauty industry, you find professionalism is mostly in the technical skill, but not in etiquette, grooming or general conduct.

It took a lot of time and effort to deliver a “five-star-resort” kind of service, from language to demeanour and, of course, the technical prowess. I partnered with L’Oréal Professional, who’s been training us on international service delivery standards. We also have quarterly in-house refresher training sessions on customer service.

 2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?

Opening the first 100% professional premier salon in Kenya – I am still relishing this one.

After five years of running two branches of Aleezas salon and spa, I finally opened a third branch, which is a platinum salon. I always say when you think priority and premier banking, you will, at the same time, think of our platinum salon.

Platinum is chiefly in three facets: professionalism, people and place.

At Aleezas Platinum, we use only professional products, which you don’t get off the shelf like consumer brands (they are made specifically for salon professionals). Our team of hair stylists and beauty therapists is professionally trained by local and international trainers. I have managed to send some team members overseas for training, in our quest to achieve our vision of being globally competitive. The furniture is also from Maletti, a renowned Italian designer of salon furniture and equipment.

I am also extremely proud that I have created a platform for many young men and women to earn a living. This keeps me going every, single day.

3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.

I am too ambitious in doing things differently. I want to stand out in everything I do and I want to do it perfectly.

However, sometimes, this comes at a high cost because, for instance, in opening the platinum salon, the investment was huge. And even though the projections on returns are high, there’s a lot of groundwork to be done in selling this all-new idea of a professional salon. Therefore, you find that my ambition is sometimes costly, but, usually, the returns, albeit slow, are great.

 4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?

The popular belief that the ends justifies the means. In most cases for businesses, the end-game is profit. And we are told to work towards that profit no matter what.

I beg to differ, because the means matter a lot. Eventually, even though the end is the point, if the means were not ethical, or legal, or if shortcuts were taken, this comes back to bite hard. As you look towards a profitable end, ensure your means are justifiable. It’s also incredibly rewarding when you do things the right way and achieve results which are primarily from an honest day’s job.

 5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?

Wow. I wish I knew entrepreneurship was the tougher mountain to climb than employment.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, I had this fantastic idea that being my own boss would be so great; I’d determine my working hours, my pay; I could call all the shots. While I call the shots now, it takes blood, sweat and tears to keep a business running.

The sleepless nights are more than the ones I sleep sound. If there’s a problem, I have to solve it myself unlike when I was employed; the company’s problems were not mine. I am, however, thankful for every learning process because that is what makes one tough for this journey.

6. Name a business opportunity you would still like to pursue.

I think there’s a lot of untapped opportunity in manufacturing in Africa in all industries in general. We import almost everything, whereas most raw materials come from our continent.

There are, of course, economic and political barriers to entry; but the opportunity is there. Some of the few manufacturers we have still have to go to Asia for formulas, production and packaging because it’s cheaper. But we have the opportunity, and capacity, to do all this from here at home. If you look around, you will realise that people from outside the continent have noticed the opportunities we have and they are flocking our airports day and night to exploit these prospects.

Source: How We Made It In Africa

Leaving a cushy corporate job led to the Forbes 30 under 30 list

JOHANNESBURG – A young Johannesburg entrepreneur, who has made the 2018 Forbes 30 under 30 list, says he doesn’t regret leaving his cushy corporate job for business.
Jack Mthembu, 27, who graduated with a degree in chartered accountancy from North West University (NWU) in 2015, says he only worked for six weeks for a consulting firm before quitting his first job.
Mthembu is founder and chief executive of First One Adventures and The Entrepreneurs Club, headquartered in Johannesburg.
He established the companies in 2014 while still a student at NWU, where he served as president of Enactus, an international non-profit organisation bringing together student, academic and business leaders to improve people’s socio-economic wellbeing.
First One Adventures offers adventure tours, camps and travel packages for young people, especially high school pupils, and corporate organisations.
Mthembu says the weekend aways are not just adventure trips for learners, as the organisation further takes them on a development programme post the camp, through The Entrepreneurs Club, where they get equipped with entrepreneurship, leadership and nature conservations skills.
Jack Mthembu is founder and CEO of First One Adventures. He made the 2018 Forbes 30 under 30 list. PICTURE: SUPPLIED.
He says they mostly target former Model C schools in the inland provinces but adds that plans are afoot to expand the programme to township schools and coastal provinces such as KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape.
Understably, he says schools holidays are their busiest period. “We want to do partnerships with corporate companies so that we can give back to our learners who can’t afford to attend our camps.”
The company’s headquarters are in Johannesburg. “But we outsource camps in areas such as Magaliesburg and Bela-Bela in Limpopo,” says Mthembu, who is originally from Phalaborwa in Limpopo.
He says they have been motivated by President Cyril Ramaphosa’s bid to use entrepreneurship as means to create jobs and grow the economy.
“We want to inculcate entrepreneurship culture among learners so that they can study entrepreneurship in university and go on to become job creators.”
He says making this year’s sought after Forbes 30 under 30 list is exciting. “Being listed as one to look out in the near future is exciting, this means that one will need to work 100 times more than before,” says Mthembu, who also offers accounting services to small businesses.
“It also motivates one to continue on his entrepreneurial journey and says you have what it takes to become an African billionaire one day.”
Mthembu says he is all about impacting and developing the youth. “Our business is profitable but, really, we are not about profits. We want to shape the world to become a better place,” he maintains.
“After all, this is my full time job. After graduating I worked for six weeks for a consulting firm. I got my first pay cheque and I was like, ‘No man, there’s more to life than sitting behind a desk’.” 
Source: IOL

The jewellery boss who turned $500 into a $1bn business

Low on cash, a heavily pregnant Kendra Scott knew she had to come up with a way of making more money.

On bed rest at home in Austin, Texas, awaiting the birth of her first child, she started designing jewellery in her and her first husband’s spare bedroom.

This was back in 2002, when the then 28-year-old Ms Scott had just $500 (£370) of savings with which to try to get her business up and running.

After her son was born, she decided that they would go out together to try to sell the earrings and other items.

“Once I had created my first collection, I strapped my infant son in a baby carrier and placed my jewellery samples in a tea box,” says Ms Scott, now 44.

“Then we went door-to-door to Austin boutiques, selling my pieces. I sold out in the first day. From there, I had a business.”

Kendra Scott would go out selling her jewellery with her son strapped to her chest

Today Ms Scott’s eponymous company Kendra Scott is valued at more than $1bn, and her personal wealth is estimated at $500m.

In Forbes magazine’s 2017 list of the richest self-made women in the US, she was in 36th place, above the likes of singers Taylor Swift and Beyonce.

Born and raised in the midwestern US state of Wisconsin, Ms Scott went to university in Texas, but a year later dropped out, and ended up living in Austin, Texas’ capital city.

She then set up and ran a business for two years, making comfortable hats for women going through chemotherapy. The inspiration came from her late stepfather’s battle with cancer, and she donated a portion of the profits to local hospitals.

The idea for the jewellery start-up came after she said she realised there was a large gap in the market – most jewellery was either very expensive or really cheap, with little in the middle.

So her plan was to try to produce quality gemstone pieces that she – and other women – would like to wear, at a more affordable price.

“Every woman, no matter where she stands economically, wants to feel confident and beautiful,” she says.

The company opened its first store in 2010

Initially just selling wholesale – supplying other shops rather than opening any outlets of her own – Kendra Scott grew slowly but steadily.

Ms Scott says she was bolstered by hiring good people, who helped her to grow the Austin-based business despite some challenges in her personal life – her first marriage ended following the birth of her second child.

“I focused on building a team of talented people to help me grow the business, and seven of my original employees – all women – are still with me today,” she says.

It was in 2010 that the company made the switch to retail, opening its first branch in Austin. Ms Scott says it was a pivotal moment for the business, and she was determined that her jewellery stores would be different from the norm.

“Jewellery stores are known for being intimidating and formal, with velvet ropes and closed cases,” Ms Scott says. “I wanted to create an experience that was warm, interactive, and most of all fun.”

As a result, customers at Kendra Scott stores are encouraged to pick up and try on the jewellery. Shoppers can also design their own pieces in-store, by mixing and matching different gem stones with different earrings, necklaces, bracelets and rings.

Kendra Scott says she noticed a gap in the jewellery market for high quality, affordable pieces

Today the business has 80 retail stores across the US, and a website that ships globally. In addition, its jewellery is stocked overseas by the likes of Selfridges in London.

The company has about 2,000 workers, 96% of whom are women. And while it is now backed by investment companies, Ms Scott remains the majority owner.

“Kendra is like a unicorn in our industry,” says Karen Giberson, president of the Accessories Council, a trade body that represents fashion accessory brands. “She defies trends. If you look at it, you are left thinking why is this brand on fire when others are struggling?”

Ms Giberson says that a key reason behind Kendra’s success is that the designer is “the real deal” – she was a young mother who worked very hard to get where she is.

“On top of all that, she is really nice, and that trickles down in the company, into the stories that foster a sense of community which customers enjoy,” says Ms Giberson. “It’s the shadow of the leader.”

In terms of her actual jewellery, Ms Scott has succeeded in offering customers exactly what they want, and at the right price, says Ken Downing, fashion director at department store group Neiman Marcus.

“What Kendra has done well is offer jewellery with a personal sense, and a strong look, at a price the customer can feel good about,” he says.

Ms Giberson adds that customers are also impressed by all the charity work done by the company.

Most of the company's workforce - 96% of staff - are female

Last year the company donated $5m in cash, and thousands of pieces of jewellery, to a number of charities, primarily for women and children.

One example of the company’s philanthropy is its Kendra Cares Program, whereby patients in children’s hospitals can make Kendra Scott jewellery – for free – for themselves, or a parent or other care giver.

Kendra Scott staff also committed more than 2,000 hours of volunteer work, and its stores across the US hosted more than 10,000 fundraising events.

Ms Scott says that the company is committed to continue to do all this charity work because she established the business on three core pillars – “family, fashion and philanthropy”, which “guide everything we do”.

To meet the “family” pillar the company offers generous parental leave for both full and part-time employees, adoption and infertility financial assistance, and a fund that supports families in times of crisis. Staff can also take babies and small children to work with them.

“While jewellery and fashion may seem like a superficial industry, I see it much more importantly as an opportunity to do good in our communities,” says Ms Scott, who is married with three children.

Source: BBC

How Your Clothes Can Help You Get Promoted

Even though it took place 26 years ago, I remember the conversation well. I was a young manager for a conservative Fortune 500 financial services company. My own manager, a VP with impeccably tailored Brooks Brothers style, took me aside one day and said to me simply: “You know, Vic, I think you should consider getting your shirts pressed. You’ll look crisper and more executive — it sends the right message.”

At first I was a little taken aback. I had a young family and plenty of expenses and was dog-tired getting an MBA at night. Pressing my shirts was one more thing to do and would cost an extra $2 a day, roughly $40 a month.

So I talked to my wife about it, who amid the chaos of my own mind I could always count on for wise clear-headed career counsel. As usual her advice was direct and to the point.

“Do it,” she said.

I was disappointed. I’d been expecting more empathy and support for my old look.

“Listen to him,” she said simply. “What do you want to look like — a rumpled editor or an executive?” Before going into the business world I’d worked in journalism, where the general dress code was considerably more casual.

So I went out and bought a bunch of white and blue Brooks Brothers shirts, a couple of good dark suits, had the shirts pressed every day, and that was what I wore to work virtually every single day for the next 20 years.

It was an investment in myself. An investment I never for one nanosecond regretted.

The right message

This old but true story was on my mind as I was reading over some new research from Office Team on clothing and promotability, “What you wear to work may be preventing you from getting a promotion.”

A key finding from the survey: 86% of workers and 80% of managers believe “clothing choices affect a person’s chances of being promoted.”

My own opinion about this? Just seven words: Yep. Yes. Absolutely. No doubt about it.

That’s not to say of course that everyone should wear white shirts and dark suits. Far from it. Every business has its own norms and styles. But given those differences, if you want to optimize your chances of advancing in your career, be conscious of those norms and styles.

Dressing well can’t get you promoted, but not dressing well will work against you. Do you want to send the right message or the wrong one?

Let’s look at a few more findings from this recent survey.

Amount of time spent:

“Professionals spend an average of 11 minutes a day choosing their office attire.” Interestingly, the data showed men spent more time on this activity than did women — 12 minutes a day versus 9 minutes. My own experience: Once I got into the pressed-shirt mode, I’d estimate my daily time spent was about 13 seconds. I’d grab without thinking a white shirt or blue shirt (usually white) to go with a dark suit and the only choice I had was what tie to select, which was actually enjoyable, as I built up a collection of colorful arty ties to brighten the basic conservatism of my wardrobe.

Sartorial trends:

The survey showed that, compared to five years ago, jeans, tennis shoes and leggings are now “more acceptable” to wear to work. And tank tops, “cold shoulder tops” and shorts are “less acceptable.” And I know for sure that suits and ties are way less ubiquitous than they were 26 years ago.

Candid clothing conversations:

So how do managers feel about having candid clothing conversations? Not surprisingly, there’s a wide range of comfort levels. 44% of have spoken to an employee about “inappropriate attire” and 32% have sent employees home based on what they were wearing. Of this group of managers who had such conversations, half were comfortable with them, 35% felt awkward about it, and 15% didn’t want to have the conversation at all.

All I can say is that back in the day I’m grateful my own manager was straight with me.

My current focus is on coaching and developing new managers. My book is The Type B Manager.

By Victor Lipman 

Source: Forbes

Should You Start A Business With A Friend? These Experts Weigh In.

You may be tempted to start a business with a close friend because you two get along well, but it’s not always the way to go. Working with friends can be a very enjoyable experience, but it doesn’t come without challenges. If you go for it, always communicate expectations clearly as the line between work and personal life can become blurry.

If you’re unsure whether or not it’s the right thing for you, learn from these founders who’ve managed to run successful businesses with their friends:

Peter Yang founded Pokéworks with his college buddies

After many trips to Hawaii filled with lots of poke, this group of friends combined their multi-faceted backgrounds and strong management skills to scale their vision of bringing high-quality and affordable, flavorful food to the masses, founding Pokéworks in 2015. In January 2016, Pokéworks introduced the poke burrito to the world with a viral video that received more than 49 million views. Today, Pokéworks is a millennial-fueled brand serving Hawaiian-inspired poke burritos and bowls, catering to the rising trend focusing on healthy and sustainable lifestyles. Pokéworks has become one of the largest and fastest-growing poké brands in the nation with more than 120 locations open and under development across the U.S. and Canada.

Here’s what they had to say:

“A business partnership is like a marriage. Some of the key traits you would look for in a spouse include trust, communication, honesty, respect and the ability to compromise. We also value these same traits when looking to build a business partnership.

Certain times friends and family members make good business partners. Since you’ve already spent a great deal of time together, you have unique insights into the relationship to help you decide whether they will make good business partners or not. That said, not all friendships can evolve into business partnerships, so carefully choosing who you work with is essential. The most important part when starting a business is to make sure everyone has similar expectations and values.

Open communication and radical honesty are key to ensuring everyone’s on the same page and aligned with the company’s mission. We value each other’s opinions and explore each other’s perspective to determine the best outcome. We also respect each other’s unique personality and background. We do not always agree with each other, but with time, we’ve learned to compromise and be objective as for what’s best for the company.”

Friendly Duo Summer Vasilas and Alex Arlotta started Waxing The City

These friends loved the beauty industry, but struggled to make ends meet as beauticians. After discovering the opportunity to create a waxing-only business at a time when no one else believed in its success, the two women founded Waxing The City, a fast-growing franchise of specialty waxing-only studios that have grown into a multi-million-dollar national company.

Before Summer and Alex founded Waxing The City, they had bonded over their shared passion for the industry and decided to go into business with each other.

Here’s their advice:

Spend time with your potential business partner

When you are starting a business from scratch, your professional life and personal life blend together. We were working 18 hours a day and always thinking and talking about Waxing The City. Despite the workload, we made time to go out and dine together so we can talk about other aspects of our lives. We genuinely enjoyed each other’s company, so it was easy to spend time together after work. We found that we quickly became each other’s support through the hard times.

Consider the stage of life you’re both in

When you’re starting a business with a friend, you have to make sure you’re at the same stage of life and can put in equal amounts of work. If only one partner puts in the majority of the work, it could lead to resentment and ultimately jeopardize the relationship.

When we started Waxing The City, we were both single and could dedicate most of our time and energy to growing it. Even if you aren’t at the same stage in life, once you determine the common interest in the work, be clear about the time commitment and ensure you both can meet these expectations.

Learn about your friend’s strengths and weaknesses

At the beginning, everyone involved in the business will likely have a hand in every detail. While this may work for a period of time, it is not the most effective way of reaching your common goals. You want to know what each team member is good at so that you can properly distribute tasks among yourself and be more efficient.

When running a business with your friend, you have to connect with them on a regular basis. Are they still interested in the business? Is their performance still at the best it can be? Be honest with each and allow yourselves to thrive in the areas you’re experts in.

Childhood friends Chris Covelli and Garret Green started #GETFRIED FRY CAFÉ

After discovering that every American, on average, consumes nearly 30 pounds of French fries each year, this duo started #getfried Fry Cafe. A big part of their strategy is to leverage the ubiquity of the hashtag to resonate with their target consumer: young, rebellious, risk-taking, edgy millennials. #getfried Fry Café is a quick-serve restaurant chain specializing in gourmet topped French fries and finger foods for the busy consumer.

Their best advice?

Assign roles from the beginning

One of the smartest things we did as partners was assign roles to each based on our strengths and weaknesses. It was clear from day one what each of us was responsible for. To this day, we have never had a major conflict in our business and it’s thanks to the specificity and clarity of our responsibilities. This avoids conflict and makes sure you’re both clear on expectations from the jump.

Stay open-minded

Don’t be quick to turn down differing ideas and opinions. Make everyone part of the conversation and consider their input. The diversity of thoughts, backgrounds and experiences in a business can position it to remain forward-thinking, innovative, dynamic and creative—and this, as you can guess, will boost the bottom line.

Chuck Runyon and Dave Mortensen created Anytime Fitness

This duo quit school to start a fitness marketing company and purchase a full-service fitness club. During their time as owners of the club, the two launched Anytime Fitness, which has grown to 4,000 gyms on six continents in less than two decades.

Chuck’s best advice? The really basic stuff is what’s most important – and what works:

  • Be willing to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. I made a mistake.”
  • Never say “I told you so.”

As simple as it sounds, these two principles can help resolve conflict. For example, we once agreed to fire someone who happened to be a relative of mine. But, I had second thoughts and wanted to reassign this person to a new department in our company.

After arguing for some time, Dave considered my proposal and moved that person to a new team, where they’re actually performing at their best. During our weeklong argument, I told Dave that I made a mistake in the process, then I apologized. Dave was rightfully angry, and he felt undermined, but he let go of his frustration and made a conscious decision not to be stubborn for the sake of his pride. Additionally, I haven’t given in to temptation and allowed my ego to go to Dave and selfishly say, “Told you so, I was right”.

It’s the little, soft emotional stuff that matters. Hard to master, but so essential to the wellbeing of any relationship.

By Shelcy V. Joseph 

Source: Forbes 

An entrepreneur making her mark on the forestry sector

CAPE TOWN –  Lilian Ndhlovu, owner of Mirian and Lilian Transport PTY LTD, is an entrepreneur who owns and operates a forestry contractor business in Mpumalanga’s White River/Nelspruit area and is beginning to make her mark on the industry.

(Image: Lilian Ndhlovu, owner of Mirian and Lilian Transport PTY LTD)

Ndhlovu’s dream came alive thanks to an MTO Contractor Development Programme, which was established with the explicit goal of enriching and galvanising MTO’s supply chain.

“My inspiration was developed through my love and passion for the forestry sector, as well as starting my own business. I want to help reduce the unemployment rate and at the same time eradicate poverty in the country”, said Ndhlovu.

The program was created in 2016 after a leadership change in the previous year.

MTO Group CEO Lawrence Polkinghorne saw room to help develop the large community of businesses that work with MTO Forestry and invited forestry development veteran Parmas Chetty to help establish the MTO Contractor Development Programme.

Polkinghorne said, “The goal is to teach them the peripheral business skills that will help them expand and improve their companies. For Ndhlovu, this was a unique opportunity to enhance her business skills. The program aims to develop 36 contractors at any given time and is currently home to 24 contractors who, over a three to five year period, will learn valuable business skills and relationships.”

“People like Lilian are the beneficiaries, but so is MTO. Instead of a development initiative made to bolster BBBEE and empowerment credentials, this programme was established with the explicit goal of improving MTO Forestry as an enterprise”, explains Polkinghorne.

“Our contractors have always been loyal to MTO, especially through some of our most testing times,” said Polkinghorne.

“During the fires across our Cape region, all of the programme’s contractors put their teams and their own lives on the line to save the plantations that they build their livelihoods on. This programme is not for BBBEE purposes. It’s the right thing to do, for communities and for MTO’s business. Supporting our locally owned business and communities adds massive value to us, we are privileged to be able to empower and grow with our partners”, said Polkinghorne.

Her journey started from humble beginnings, initially working alongside her husband as he offered silviculture, harvesting and transportation services to MTO Forestry in the region.

Ndhlovu was born and raised in Acornhoek, which is based in Bushbuckridge in the Limpopo Province.

After matriculating, she studied Business Management at Boston City Campus & Business College, then later studied for an HR Management Degree, Productivity and Road Maintenance Certificate and Productivity Management Certificate.

“I also achieved certificates in Finance, HR management and Entrepreneurship at MTO”, Ndhlovu said.

This introduced her to the relevant skills and experience, not to mention a love for forestry. “Looking at the lack of black women in the forestry industry, I then decided to register my own company and explore available opportunities. I approached MTO Forestry management and was awarded a short-term contract of six months on a trial basis. Based on excellent performance, relationships and my willingness to learn, the contract was then extended to a longer-term basis”, said Ndhlovu.

Her diligence and professionalism helped Ndhlovu qualify for MTO’s new incubation program to help develop its contractors.

“I wanted to learn and get improvement from my weaknesses. I’ve learned about improved financial management, the importance of record keeping, statutory and legal compliance as well as the benefit of being actively involved in the daily running of the business. I am still learning more on business communication in terms of protocols, etiquettes and presentations, and also the importance of monitoring and measuring the performance of each employee”, she said.

“I established Marian and Lilian Transport and started operating it in July 2016, at Hazyview MacMac, with my own small capital investment”.

She added that the program gave her chance to interact with fellow contractors, helping her realise the importance of those relationships, learning from each other instead of just competing.

Currently,  Mirian and Lilian Transport PTY LTD employs 25 people and operates MTO contracts in the Bergvliet, White River, area for silviculture – forest growth and management – services.

(Image: Lilian Ndhlovu, owner of Mirian and Lilian Transport PTY LTD, and her employees inside an MTO forest. Lilian is one of the students of MTO’s Contractor Development Programme and her company provides silviculture services to the group)

Ndhlovu explains that transportation was her biggest challenge when starting her business.

“When the business started, we focused on harvesting and silviculture, which is forest maintenance. It was a challenge transporting the product to the markets. I struggled to get financial backup to allocate funds for the transportation”, she said.

When starting her business Ndhlovu made personal sacrifices.

“I relied on personal savings. No proper financial funding was sourced from the outside or other parties”, she said.

“The future for Marian and Lilian Transport is in more harvesting and silviculture, so I want to create large expansions and working towards those goals. I would like to expand both internally and externally, including expanding the number of employees we have”, concluded Ndhlovu.

Source: IOL

Tips for Small Businesses to Survive Fuel Price Hikes

Petrol now costs 82 cents more per litre since 6 June, as confirmed by the Energy Department last week. This follows the VAT increase by one percentage point to 15% that took effect from 1 April.

For small businesses in South Africa, these additional costs are crippling and extremely tight financial controls are required to survive.

“The reality is that fuel hikes have a negative impact on most businesses because every tangible product which needs to be moved from point A to B needs to be transported and therefore, incurs these extra costs. Service providers will also need to take increased transport costs into account,” says Jannie Rossouw, Head: Sanlam Business Market.

Given that the SME sector is estimated to represent almost 40% of business in South Africa and is also a key employer, the mounting financial pressure felt by business owners should be of concern to everyone. There are also certain industries that are more at risk.

“Agriculture, infrastructure and construction, manufacturing and mining, travel and tourism, retail and wholesale trade, transportation and aviation will likely be most affected,” says Rossouw.

Having a clear view on business finances and implementing conservative measures can help protect business owners from rising fuel levies. Reducing all costs by 10% as a blanket approach is worth considering and Rossouw suggests the following additional tips:

  • Examine your business expenses to trim any unnecessary costs
  • Review your pricing strategy (align with market or choose a niche target market which is not as price-sensitive)
  • Consider doing away with any discounting
  • Appoint a commission-only sales team
  • Reconsider how to restructure overtime pay
  • “Right size” your staff complement
  • Consider how you could decrease employees’ working hours by implementing a ‘2/3 shift policy’
  • Set monthly expenditure budgets and monitor these
  • Decrease your debtor’s terms

Source: SME South Africa

Build a Smarter Business – Start using Data to make Decisions

Data and analytics are quickly becoming part of mainstream business jargon. The successful use of data and analytics can assist improving efficiency in almost any industry or department.

While it is difficult to ascertain the full extent of data usage in South Africa currently, but in general the pace of incorporating analytics into organisations has been generally slow says Dr Yudhvir Seetharam, Head of Analytics at FNB Business.

“This can be due to a variety of reasons – either lack of resources (technology or people) or lack of direction on what to do with the data.

For data to be most effective to a business’ bottom line, there must be a clear business direction. This enables the business to know what to look for and gives it an idea of the skills and other resources it requires to achieve this,” says Dr Seetharam.

Dr Seetharam shares some thoughts on how businesses could make the most out of data analytics:

Sales and marketing

The spray and pray approach to sales and marketing is fast becoming obsolete due to increased regulation, along with consumers being increasingly cautious about their privacy. By adopting a targeted approach to campaigns, businesses can save costs in their sales efforts.

Customer behaviour

The sales of products to new or existing customers allows new revenue streams, but the optimisation of existing revenue streams needs the same amount of attention if not more. Once a potential customer becomes a regular customer, it is up to the business to optimise interaction with that customer. For example, a business could incentivise a customer to buy offering a discount after certain number of repeat sales.

Market and Industry research

A somewhat odd fit into the analytics realm, but still necessary for businesses to survive and thrive. Research is necessary to obtain “direct” information from your customers as opposed to analysing data in an ivory tower. Research can answer questions such as whether your product is relevant in the market, how do you stack up against competitors and what should be the next big innovation coming in your industry.

“Both private and public institutions need to realise that using data to improve business efficiencies is fast becoming the new mainstream. With businesses evolving more into the digital realm, businesses need to ask if they are suited up to ride the wave,” concludes Dr Seetharam.

Source: SME South Africa

How to Grow Your Business: Tried and True Ways

Learning how to grow your business isn’t just a worthy goal; growing your business is often a necessity for your business’s survival and your economic well-being. What can you do to get your business beyond the bare sustenance level? What can you do to turn it into the income-generating powerhouse you envision? Try one or more of these growth strategies. All have been successfully used by other businesses and, with some planning and investment, will work for you.

1. Penetrate your existing market.

When you think about how to grow your business, the first thing that probably comes to mind is getting new customers. But the customers you already have are your best bet for increasing your sales; it’s easier and more cost-effective to get people who are already buying from you to buy more than to find new customers and persuade them to buy from you. See 6 Sure Ways to Increase Sales and 10 Low-Cost Ways to Promote Your Business for more.

2. Ask for referrals.

That’s not to say that getting new customers is a bad approach. One of the easiest ways to do this is to ask your current customers for referrals. But notice the verb. Having good products and great customer service and just assuming that your customers are passing the word about your business isn’t going to do much to increase your customer base; you have to actively seek referrals. During or after every job or sale, ask your satisfied customer if he knows anyone else who would be interested in your products or services.

3. Innovate your product or service.

Discovering and promoting new uses for your products or services is a great way to both get existing customers to buy more and attract new customers. Think petroleum jelly and duct tape—and how few of these would actually be sold if they only had one use!

4. Extend your market reach.

There are several ways of growing your business by making your product or service available to a new pool of customers.

The most obvious is to open stores in new locations, such as opening a store or kiosk in a new town. New locations can also be virtual, such as a website with an online store. Another approach is to extend your reach through advertising. Once you’ve identified a new market, you might advertise in select media that targets that market. If your new market consists of a younger demographic, you may want to use social media for advertising, (See How to Create a Social Media Plan.)

5. Participate in trade shows.

Trade shows can be a great way to grow too. Because trade shows draw people who are already interested in the type of product or service you offer, they can powerfully improve your bottom line. The trick is to select the trade shows you participate in carefully, seeking the right match for your product or service. Trade Show Tips will help you get the best return on your investment.

6. Conquer a niche market.

Remember the analogy of the big fish in the small pond? That’s essentially how this strategy for growing your business works. The niche market is the pond; a narrowly defined group of customers. Think of them as a subset whose needs are not being met and concentrate on meeting those unmet needs.

A nursery, for instance, might specialize in roses while a home design business might focus on window treatments.

7. Contain your costs.

Surprised? Bear in mind that when we’re talking about growing your business, we’re actually talking about growing your business’s bottom line. And the difference between pre-tax and post-tax money can make this a very effective growth strategy. There are two main approaches to cutting costs; liquidating your “loser” products and improving your inventory turnover10 Ways to Cut Business Costs provides details on these two strategies and more.

8. Diversify your products or services.

The key to successful growth through diversification is similarity. You want to focus on the related needs of your already established market or on market segments with similar needs and characteristics.

An artist might also sell frames and framing services, for instance. Or a mountain bike rental business might switch to renting skis and snowshoes in the winter season.

9. Franchising

The stories of entrepreneurs who have become both well known and well heeled due to franchising their small businesses are legion – and not just stories. If you have a successful business and can develop a system that ensures that others can duplicate your success, franchising may be the fast track for growing your business. Is Franchising the Business for You?

10. Exporting

Expanding into international markets can also be a powerful boost to your business’s bottom line. Like franchising, this is a way of growing your business that requires quite a commitment of time and resources, but can be extremely rewarding. How to Develop an Export Marketing Plan outlines the process of getting into exporting if this way of growing your business interests you.

Time to Grow

There you have it; how to grow your business. Don’t let this list overwhelm you; pick one or two of these ideas that are suitable to your business and your circumstances and get your plan for growing your business underway. Quick-Start Business Planning will get you started.

While you probably won’t experience growth right away, whichever way of expanding your business you choose, you will see progress if you keep at it, and will successfully transform your business into all you want it to be.

Source: The Balance Small Business

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