Three ways to grow SA's small businesses in 2019


The year 2019 brings with it a range of risks and opportunities for start-ups and growing businesses. Some of the challenges your business will face – a volatile rand, load shedding, tax and labour laws – are beyond your control.

To thrive this year, focus on what you can control by optimising your operations and enhancing productivity.

Growing your business is all about efficient use of staff, scaling business systems and processes, and using data more effectively. The beginning of a new year is an ideal opportunity to review and enhance your business to iron out glitches in productivity and maximise profits.

Here are a few tips to evaluate and improve processes and technology.

1.       Identify where poor-fitting or old technology is slowing you down 

Begin with a thorough review of processes and technology to identify key potential wins. If your business has been going for a few years, you may have old technology in place that was right for the time, but which is a bad fit for current and future requirements.

Even if your business is relatively new, there might be opportunities to streamline processes further or to introduce technologies that offer better visibility into business performance.

For example, you might be using spreadsheets to manage inventory or your payroll, which is time-intensive, error-prone and inefficient, or your accounting system may not integrate with your e-commerce and inventory management systems.

If you find that you or your team are spending a lot of time on manual processes or on capturing data across multiple systems, you probably have some opportunities to automate. For example, a payroll solution can manage your payslips and SARS submissions with the press of a button. An affordable cloud accounting solution can let you easily generate invoices, quotes and VAT returns.

2.       Set goals for process and technology improvement

Once you have identified the pain points in your business, you should evaluate what you want technology to do for you.

Is the goal to free up more time for your team to focus on activities that produce more income? Try to quantify the hours you wish to save and how they will be reinvested in the growth of the business.

Do you want to improve your insight into the performance of your business? Think about which financial metrics you want to measure, and which data and tools can provide the insights you need. Perhaps you want to improve the customer experience, in which case you should look at how CRM systems could give you better insights, enabling you to respond to and even predict your customers’ needs. 

Here are some ideas:

·         Automating manual processes: Make better use of your people by reducing their workload and offloading the trivial, repetitive tasks while freeing up their time and creativity for tasks that continue to grow the business.

·         Data analytics and intelligence: Ensure not only that everyone can see the data they need when they need it, but also that the data is current. This allows a predictive approach to opportunities and problems.

·         Improving accessibility: Ensure data is shared across departments and that it’s available to all 24/7, across all kinds of technologies, including mobile devices.

3.       Identify the right tools and solutions for the job

With so many business solutions to choose from, it can be difficult to decide where to invest and how to prioritise. Some factors you should consider as you look at possible solutions include:

Integration: Ensure the systems you set up today can be integrated with third-party solutions in the future, and that they can easily integrate with your customer and vendor systems. For example, an integrated payroll and accounting solution will save hours because you won’t need to capture payroll transactions twice.

Scalability: Look for a system that not only meets your needs today, but can also evolve with your business. By automating today with the right solution, you can avoid growing pains and the need for further complex integrations and implementations down the line.

Mobility: Business today should not be limited to office hours or physical boundaries. Look for a solution that puts your customers’ and financial information in the palm of your hand. This will enable you to work remotely and boost productivity and responsiveness.

Changing to fast, agile and efficient is not easy, but it’s essential to enable scalability. High-growth firms aren’t stuck with balls and chains around their ankles, holding them back. They have typically built efficient, automatic processes and are using new cloud technology with a light human touch to focus on the business essentials.

Viresh Harduth is Vice President: New Customer Acquisition (Start-up and Small Business) for Sage Africa & Middle East. Views expressed are his own.

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