South Africa’s entrepreneurial community has endured much uncertainty and instability of late and many small business owners believe it shows no signs of abating. According to our 2017 State of Small Business report, 62% of South Africa’s small business owners have noticed a reduction in consumer demand over the year so far, and 68% say economic volatility is their biggest business challenge.
Despite this South Africa’s entrepreneurs remain optimistic. Overall, 45% expect their business to stay the same over the next year, while 40% anticipate growth. This level of ambition is encouraging – but in a tough economic climate, a company needs more than ambition.
If you’re looking to stimulate growth in adverse economic circumstances, here are three ways to do so.
1. Don’t hesitate – automate!
A business’ most precious resource is time. The more that’s wasted on unprofitable tasks, the less efficient the business is. A key means of fuelling growth is to maximise the time your company has.
Technology that automates repetitive jobs provides an obvious means of doing so. It takes care of routine tasks that might otherwise require human input, such as data entry, report preparation, and much of the accounts payable and receivable processes. For example, frustrating jobs like chasing clients for payment can be conducted with the click of a button. Invoices can be issued and payment followed up without any great effort from anyone.
But the most important effect of automation isn’t in the elimination of any single task. It’s in the time it frees up for more important things. When you have the capacity to focus on strategy, you’re exponentially more likely to have the ideas and energy needed for growth.
2. Focus on finance
This should be fairly self-explanatory. Money is tighter in tough economic times, so having a good grip on your finances can dramatically improve your prospects for growth – and indeed, survival. Here, the basic rules of prudence (minimise outgoings, maximise incomings, etc.) will serve you well.
You’ll also be well served by using online accounting software. It handles cash flow management and financial administration tasks. This reduces the possibility of human error, maximises your available time, and ensures that the pool of available cash is never shallower than it needs to be. Times of great uncertainty are only ever made worse by great complexity. The right cloud technology can simplify things and provide valuable insights into the state of your business’ finances.
3. Invest wisely
Finally, the small businesses that grow the most despite a weak national economy are those who invest wisely. If the investment isn’t necessary or won’t yield a good return, it’s worth putting off until you can afford any losses.
Having full visibility into your company finances will give you a better understanding of where you should and should not allocate your business funds. Using cloud technology, you can see where a marketing campaign might help you generate enough inbound leads to offset the costs; where customer service initiatives might result in repeat business; where software development might improve the customer experience and reinforce loyalty. Make the most out of the money you already have, and you’re likely to make more in future.
Automating tasks that might otherwise require extensive labour, centralising and consolidating payment information, doing whatever you can to ensure maximum return on investment and financial continuity – these things make a difference in trying times. Ambition is a necessary condition if you hope to grow in an uncertain economic climate, but it’s not sufficient. It’s essential to have the right tools at your disposal.