Improving your business and boosting your bottom line does not always require a dramatic new strategy. Business experts on the advisory board of SA’s leading small business platform, the annual Small Business Expo, Business Services Expo and #BuyaBusiness Expo recommend these simple moves for instant business benefits:
Get modern business tools
Nokwazi Mzobe, Matoyana Business Solutions Founder and Lead Consultant, says creating efficient systems and processes will save small businesses money, and more importantly, make time for them to focus on what’s really important in the business.
“Stop using excel or word doc invoice templates and invest in systems like Sage; Quick book and SMEasy to make your life easier,” she says.
“Familiarise yourself with free tools that can add value in different parts of your business for example: Canva – for good designs; WeTransfer – to send large files; and Google forms – for surveys. If you’re looking for professional skills, specialist work or part-time resources, consider using platforms such as recruitmymom.co.za and upwork.com to find the people you need.”
Marang Marekimane, Founder of Business Process Mechanics and Managing Partner at Lean Business Platform, also believes that free online tools, social media and new apps can make marketing and running a business instantly easier. She suggests that businesses use social media analytics to understand their followers better, for example. “From this, entrepreneurs will know if their followers prefer video/pictures/text content, and learn more about their age, gender and other interests. This information could improve their marketing strategies,” she says.
Upgrade your website functions
Marekimane also suggests improving your website functionality for long-term business benefits. “For example, to improve efficiency, businesses can allow clients to book appointments and make payments via their websites. This saves time, because there are no back and forth emails, and puts the client in control of the invoice and payment,” she says.
Scrutinise your service
Mzobe adds that businesses need to take a critical look at their service levels. “Customers expect good quality products and value for money from everyone. The real differentiator is service. People remember how they were treated or made to feel, long after they have utilised your service or product. Keeping this in mind, ask yourself: what kind of experience am I creating for my customers? From the moment the customer clicks onto your website; sends you a DM on your Instagram business page; walks into your store; responds to a call from your service agent or sales rep – how are they made to feel? Map out your customer experience, from beginning to end, and ensure you have the right systems and processes that give your customer superior service and experience,” she advises.
Do quick and easy market research
Rick Ed, Creative Enterprises Hub co-founder says the GEM (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor) adult population survey found that, although 73% of survey respondents see entrepreneurship as a good career choice, SA has only 2 SMEs per 1000 people (for 83,943 in total). Worryingly, most start-ups fail in their first few years. Ed believes one key reason for this is that people battle to sell their products and services. “Too many businesses fail to find out if the market actually wants their product or service, so they could be putting a lot of effort into producing something the market doesn’t want,” he says. Ed suggests these quick and easy ways to carry out market research:
- Start with existing customers. Ask if they’re happy with the product, whether they would recommend it to others, and how it could be improved. Ask what they don’t like about the products they’re leaving on the shelves.
- For a small fee, you can advertise products on a platform like Facebook. Select a small number of products to advertise simultaneously, and pay to boost them to your target market. You may find a great response to some products and no response to others, giving you a good indication of where to focus your efforts and which products to discontinue.
Update your email signature
“Every email you send is an opportunity to sell. Look at your email signature and decide if you think that it is doing the job. Most email signatures are descriptive and usually only about contact details. Change it to something that describes the business problem you are solving. Each signature should be a call to action,” says York Zucchi, SME Movement Forum.
Tap into communities
For easy gains and growth support, Zucchi also suggests that business owners collaborate more. “Learn to share with the wider world what you are working on (e.g. building a school, running a coffee shop, transporting people, etc.). The more people know what you are working on the more the chance that they will contact you to collaborate as well as think you have a track record. Share what you are doing on LinkedIn, Facebook and BOM.”
There is an enormous amount of goodwill out there, with millions of people and businesses wanting to help SMEs, Zucchi says.
“Tap into it. That doesn’t mean they will invest/send you money, but it means that they might have spare resources that you can tap into – such as working space, storage or manufacturing. Learn to ask the world when you need something!”
Network, network, network
Langa Manqele, fintech businessman and chairman of the Black Management Forum (BMF) in Gauteng, believes that information sharing and networking is crucial for business growth. “Small businesses cannot be all things to all people – they need to build networks of trusted suppliers and partners, allowing them to take on larger projects and grow. To expand your network, you need to join industry bodies and attend all the networking events you can. At events such as the Small Business Expo, which is the biggest small business event in the country, businesses can meet potential business partners and investors to grow their partner network,” he says.
Get free information
Carol Weaving, veteran entrepreneur and MD of Small Business Expo organisers Reed Exhibitions, says learning wherever possible helps small business owners stay in touch with changing trends. Events such as the Small Business Expo offer three days of intensive business workshops, covering everything from financial management to new business trends, so business owners can learn, ask questions and go home with tips they can implement immediately,” she says.