South Africa’s small businesses face a number of challenges, and tackling them will be key to securing their short and long-term future. Our recent State of SA Small Business 2017 report highlighted some of these challenges, and the findings were illuminating.
Some 68% of South Africa’s businesses cited economic volatility as their biggest challenge, and 35% said that cash flow worries kept them up at night. Most surprisingly, 89% believe that the Department of Small Business Development has not helped their company. This isn’t just non-specific anti-government sentiment either: they have very specific ideas about what they would like to see implemented. In particular, 48% of entrepreneurs want more funding, 44% want to see less red tape, 43% want more tax breaks, and 36% want improved access to finance.
These aren’t unreasonable requests, but if the government actions them, it’s likely they won’t take effect for a while. In the meantime, here are some things you – the small business owner, can do to overcome any challenges.
Challenges such as economic volatility are, to a significant extent, beyond the control of your business. But that doesn’t mean they can’t be tackled.
Remaining agile and changing with the market is one of the best ways to maintain your appeal to customers. Looking at your service and identifying ways to improve it is an obvious first step, though this can sometimes require significant investment. It’s also worth investigating whether you can lower your prices without causing undue damage to your margins.
But there aren’t any predetermined prescriptions, and that’s sort of the point. Addressing the pain points of your end-users requires a degree of flexibility, as they tend to vary from business to business. Over time a trifling inconvenience can become a deal breaker as technological advances are made.
One of the main advantages business startups have over larger competitors is their adaptability. So use it!
Invest in technology
When your business finances are foggy, it becomes harder to deal with cash flow challenges. Online accounting software can give you a much clearer picture of your financial situation at any point in time, and therefore boost insights. By providing a real-time window into your company finances, it lets you understand exactly where your funds are and how they’re being allocated.
This knowledge is invaluable. When you know the state of affairs, you can more easily put measures in place to improve them. Using technology, you can optimise processes and automate time-consuming tasks such as data entry and chasing invoices. This makes your business leaner and more competitive.
Focus on customer service
Tough economic times may be characterised by the tightening of belts and purse strings, but as a general rule, people still need to buy products. Make it easy for your customers to buy yours.
If you can’t compete on price, you can always compete on value. A great customer service experience is often enough to maintain loyalty – and times of economic difficulty are where the true worth of loyalty is often proven. Take care of your customers’ every need, to the point where they feel like they don’t have any needs in the first place. They will reward you for it.
Overcoming business challenges is a matter of attitude, awareness, and action. Make sure your company has all three and you’ll be well-prepared for any difficulties. The very best business owners equip their organisations to weather any storm – and indeed prosper in them. By focusing on technology, service, and agility, you can ensure company growth even in the most adverse circumstances. Resilient, innovative, and flexible entrepreneurs always succeed. Don’t ever let the economy get in the way of your ambitions.