Thursday, September 27, 2007

Small Business gets R1Bil cash injection

Small business in South Africa stands to receive a cash injection of R1Bil through the IDC. With the SA economy relying on small business to boost employment rates, international investment, exports and of course tax contributions, this investment comes as no surprise and for those who receive it as more than welcome.

Many will agree that investment itself is certainly not enough to answer the prayers of entrepreneurs around the country. What is need is a effective control mechanism through which the money is distributed and results measured. Lets ensure that the money reaches those who it is meant for and fulfill the purpose it was intended for.

The 1Bil mentioned above is certainly not all that goes into smme's. A quick bit of research recently revealed that that:

R83m of the of the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSI) budgets in the 2006/2007 period were used to support industrial innovation by enterprises and R48m was allocated to technology incubators that assist small enterprises to adopt and adapt new technologies. A further R10m was made available for a technology venture capital fund and R6m for the Technology for Women in Business programme.

If you are into these type of statistics I can further tell you that a further R1 billion of the 2006/2007 was given towards Government enterprise development agencies such as Khula, the IDC, Business Partners and the National Empowerment Fund.

The government understandably has been under some real pressure of late (finally) as few entrepreneurs, and the corporations who contribute the money have seen any notable results from these large investments.

Finally this year public outcry lead to new legislation governing the CSI industry with specific focus on effective management of funds and measurement of results created by CSI.

Lets not hold our breath while waiting for this money to come to an entrepreneur near you. Be proactive and assertive in getting the investments your business needs.

My comments follow the recent story in the Business Day

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Weekly Humor: Can you guess the sex?

Female or Male?
Often other languages refers to objects as being either female or male. The ideas that follow here are mostly from my local newspaper who recently asked readers to suggest the sex of certain objects. See if you can guess!

SWISS ARMY KNIFE: Male, because even though it appears useful for a wide variety of work, it spends most of its time just opening bottles.

KIDNEYS: Female, because they always go to the bathroom in pairs.

HOT AIR BALLOON: Male, because to get it to go anywhere you have to light a fire under it.and, of course, there's the hot air part.

SPONGES: Female, because they are soft and squeezable and retain water.

SHOE: Male, because it is usually unpolished, with its tongue hanging out.

COPIER: Female, because once turned off, it takes a while to warm up. Because it is an effective reproductive device when the right buttons are pushed. Because it can wreak havoc when the wrong buttons are pushed.

ZIPLOC BAGS: Male, because they hold everything in, but you can always see right through them.

WEB PAGE: Female, because it is always getting hit on.

SUBWAY: Male, because it uses the same old lines to pick people up.

HAMMER: Male, because it hasn't evolved much over the last 5,000 years, but it's handy to have around.

REMOTE CONTROL: Female...Ha! thought I'd say male. But consider, it gives a man pleasure, he'd be lost without it, and while he doesn't always know the right buttons to push, he keeps trying.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Start-up idea of the week: IT support to the small business

This is a much needed idea aimed at all businesses who either cant afford an IT department or are just fedup with the high cost of contractors.

This of you who have worked for large organisation's knows that when something goes wrong with you PC, laptop or network connection you simply call the IT department and they come and sort out the problems. But what about individuals, small businesses, contractors and others who are responsible for their own computer equipment? is bringing large-scale IT support to the small business.

Launched in the US, offers these services directly to consumers for just a fraction of what they might pay for computer repair services elsewhere. All services range from R 290 to R990 and include data back-up, spy ware detection and removal, system tune-up, and training and troubleshooting for printers, digital cameras and other equipment. Unlike similar ventures, customers are’t charged a monthly ‘subscription’ fee. Most repairs can be done over the phone or online via a secure web server. And if a problem isn't resolved to a customer's satisfaction, a full refund is available.

When customers contact either through the website or toll-free number, they connect with specially trained experts —not to customer service representatives. “Our Solutions Engineers don't just know computers; they are experienced in home networking, high-speed data services and popular gadgets from MP3 players to smart phones and personal digital assistants.” With more and more people telecommuting, starting small businesses, and networking home computers for personal or professional pursuits, catering to home office needs could be big business for entrepreneurs who can bring big business solutions directly to consumers. One to start up locally!

Website: Contact: customer
This business can easily be run from home initially until growth demands office space of your own.

Upside: You only have to remember your own IT frustrations to know how valuable this type of service is to small business owners with tight deadlines and tighter budgets.Downside: Its fairly easy to start-up and once you make a success out of it you can be assured that competitors will follow.

Verdict: A great idea for entrepreneurs with IT savvy, a bit of cash and the drive to make it work. Initial set-up costs may be relatively low but a solid marketing plan and budget to support it is a must. My research has shown nothing similar in South Africa yet, so the early bird is likely to grab market share.

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You need a bit of purpose - ok.. allot!!

This week I offer my thoughts on the purpose of your business.

I have often written about the importance of purpose in life, and in business there can be no question. There is absolutely no room for confusion on this issue. The purpose of any business is to serve your customers to the best of your ability and ensure that they remain, not only customers but satisfied and loyal supporters of your business.

Sure, you want to make a profit. Of course, you want to serve your customer in ways that are convenient, satisfying and (obviously) legal and moral. But the bottom line is always the same, to serve a customer.

So the first and primary question for any business is: What exactly do you do for your customers?

Some restaurants provide meals that are fast or inexpensive, that have particular ethnic or nutritional styles, or that are conveniently located. No restaurant can be all things to all people, but every restaurant has one main purpose. McDonald's provides predictability and speed. Protea Hotels provides elegance and memories. Pizza Hut delivers pizza in 30 minutes or less.
We see this with large companies everywhere. These companies which you go back to time after time are the ones who have provided you with good services and realised a long time ago that service is the one thing which will ensure customers return time after time.

We simply spend to much of our budgets on finding new customers and not enough on getting existing customers to stay. Take a minute and work out the value of one client buying your products once a month over 25 years. Now isn't that enough to convince you that customer service is your number one purpose?

Your business has only one primary purpose. When you are clear about that, and clearly communicate it in every message you send, your business is will to grow.
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