Let’s talk business & technology

The Small to Medium Enterprise sector in South Africa is under a lot of pressure; the stubbornly high rate of unemployment requires that businesses become economically and societally successful in order to contribute to the country’s GDP and to create job opportunities.

Entrepreneurs are not exempt from this pressure. As a matter of opinion, it appears that the responsibility to convert the astounding failure of government(s) to create jobs and create scalable businesses into opportunities sits squarely on the very shoulders of aspiring and already achieved business men and women.

 

Of course, the conditions to achieve this economical and societal success aren’t the easiest to overcome (and perhaps they aren’t supposed to be), otherwise everyone would pursue entrepreneurship and the world would be an oyster.

Here are some of these conditions that I’m referring to:

  • Job seekers still prefer corporate careers;
  • The second recession since ’94 has dropped confidence in the economy;
  • For many reasons (risk, society, etc) there’s a low tolerance for failure of entrepreneurs;
  • There are expected discrepancies between funding mandates & entrepreneur’s eligibility;
  • The oversupply of entrepreneurs in saturated markets is not showing signs of decline;
  • Overwhelming failures by Enterprise Development initiatives to realize real transformation;
  • The easily accessible forms of capital require security and collateral that entrepreneurs lack;
  • Attracting & retaining top talent is increasingly difficult within small business; and
  • Priority sectors getting government support are capital intensive and often monopolized.

 

South African businesses, small and large, that have garnered an appreciation for these conditions understand the value of the competitive advantage offered by technology. The result of this is seen in industry leaders across various sectors such as insurance and financial services; over the past few years, they demonstrated how the power of digitalisation can directly drive positive over-all growth and impact a business’ bottom-line.

It goes without saying that entrepreneurs, managers and customers respectively recognize technology as a tool for growth, to operate effectively and engaging businesses.

However, I’m not purporting that technology/digitalisation will soon be an answer to everything. We must recognize that accessing markets, networks and the necessary early stage financial support is as important to empowering businesses in a way that guarantees that is aligned and desirable to the nation’s 2030 ambitions.

I’m not the first, but I’m purporting that we adopt the aggressive mindset that says we’re to take advantage of the tools and opportunities that are near us, economically exploit these opportunities in a way that ensures meaningful economic participation & positive societal impact and build an ecosystem of financial & high moral value exchange.

What are your thoughts? Let’s talk business & technology…

@TsholoSehume on popular social platforms

By: Tsholo Sehume (MaruAfrica, CEO) – 19 January 2019


Image Src: The Real Estate of South African Entrepreneurship (www.seedengine.co.za)

10 ‘Must Have’ Tools for African Startups & Small/Medium Business to remain competitive (PART 2)

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to break the bank on great systems for your small business to get started.
You simply need to find relevant technology to creatively and efficiently help you get your hustle on! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s that easy for a startup or small/medium business to thrive in Africa. I’ll do my best to keep this short and informative.

This is PART 2. You can read part 1 here

So, here we go:

6. File Storage & Synchronisation (Google Drive)

Storing documents to allow for easy collaboration has always been a bit tricky for teams working together on a project, but no longer with Google Drive, Google’s cloud based office suite. Drive includes a word processor (Google Docs), spreadsheets (Google Sheets), a presentation program (Google Slides), and a form builder (Google Forms). We’ve compiled a list of a few of the reasons we love Google Drive and some tools that can make it even more powerful.

The nicest thing so far as I’m concerned, about Google Drive, is that it is FREE and comes with:

  • Document processing capabilities for (‘Word’, ‘Excel’ and ‘Powerpoint’)
  • A familiar and easy to use interface
  • 15GB disk space
  • Collaboration capabilities
  • Forms and surveys

This means you can get started writing proposals, presenting presentations, recording numbers of a spreadsheet, and much much more without having to spend a single cent on Licenses. Learn more about Google Drive

7. MailChimp

MailChimp is a marketing automation platform and an email marketing service. It provides marketing automation for e-commerce businesses. Send beautiful emails, connect your e-commerce store, advertise, and build your brand.

It is an incredible and free tool that can help you reach many clients through periodic e-newsletters. We always recommend MailChimp for this purpose, and here are some compelling reasons for doing so.
  •  It’s easy to see who has opened your e-mail and how many times. This means you can quickly see who’s engaging with you the most and prioritise them for follow up through your sales pipeline.
  • It’ll help you write more interesting content. By checking the “click rate” on articles you can see what’s appealing to your readers – and what’s not.
  • It can help you to track the performance of your newsletter i.e. How many customers opened it, etc. If you link your Woo Commerce to MailChimp you can use advanced e-commerce responders to monitor your customers’ progress. If they abandon their shopping cart, you can send them an autoresponder to help close the deal.

8. VoIP (Make Calls using Data & cheaper airtime)

Competitiveness

VoIP services are generally more price competitive than the incumbent fixed line providers. Savings can be achieved through more cost effective line rentals, as well as discounted call rates. VoIP providers also offer a substantial discount when calling between branches or other users on their network (known as On-Network). It is becoming clear that traditional telco providers cannot compete with Voice over IP (VoIP ).

Complete Portability

The beauty of Voice over IP is that you can take the service with you, make and receive calls from anywhere provided you have internet connection.

Flexibility and Scalability

You are able to have more than one phone number on a single internet broadband line, and adding additional lines only requires increasing the size of the internet line – allowing superior scalability on the fly.

You have the option of incorporating extra features into your service – quickly and easily! These extras include features such as Hunting Facility, Direct line numbers, Caller ID, etc which are often standard features with a VoIP service.

Location independence

For Incoming Calls, your VoIP number could be Non-Geographic (i.e. 087) it is not tied to a specific area or line – you could appear to be a national company and can keep the same number wherever you go. You do however also have the option for other numbers such as 010, 020, etc – just enquire with your provider.

 

 

9. Sage One Accounting (The simplest and most cost effective way to get a handle on your finances)

Sage One empowers South Africa’s small businesses. Free yourself from admin with clever, easy features, built around you.

 

Everything you need to take care of business.
From sales and purchases to cashflow, VAT and reporting, Sage One’s features support every step in your business process.
Your business, at your fingertips.
Take care of invoicing on the road, banking at the office and leave from home. Works with PCs, Macs, iOS, Android, and Windows.

From sales and purchases to cash flow, VAT and reporting, Sage One’s features support every step in your business process. Create quotes, and invoices in seconds, send them to your customers and track what they owe. Use budgets to keep track of your company’s performance against targets you have set.

 

 

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10. Others

Since there are so many tools out there that can help you handle your business better, I thought it best to just list other things to consider. So here goes:

  • Online Backup – because laptops get stolen, ‘smash and grab’ is a thing, disaster occur. We can offer you a solution that backs up your laptops, desktops, servers, etc. Consult online for free 
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – for example; do you have something in place to remind you of your best paying client’s birthday? I’ve oversimplified the use of a CRM here but it’s small things like following up on emails, knowing the stage you are on your sales process, setting reminders to make calls, etc.
  • Virtual Meetings – You need a combination of Visuals and Audio to host or participate in meetings that take place without you physically being there. The internet allows us to now collaborate from anywhere in the world, so long as we’re connected. Yes! If you are thinking Skype, it’s one such a tool. But there are others with more features and better suited for team collaboration.

Hey,

Thanks for reading, let’s continue this another time

 

10 ‘Must Have’ Tools for African Startups & Small/Medium Business to remain competitive (PART 1)

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t need to break the bank on great systems for your small business to get started.
You simply need to find relevant technology to creatively and efficiently help you get your hustle on! Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying it’s that easy for a startup or small/medium business to thrive in Africa. I’ll do my best to keep this short and informative.

I will share 2 lists: the 10 tools and another list from SARS (just as a reminder)…

So, here we go:

1. Have Online Presence (Website)

If you don’t have a website, your chance of ending up in customer online searches is significantly reduced. Most of us Google a company when we’re preparing for an interview or looking for products to buy or even checking if a company is ‘legitimate’. Today, there are more reasons for you to invest in online presence than ever before. A website is a TOOL  you can use to market and promote your business, products, yourself, and even use to trade. Here are some facts:

  • A website increases your credibility & it’s your online “first impression”
  • 46% of the world’s population (3,42 bn) has internet access
  • Your competitors probably already have a website
  • Your website will promote you 24 hours 7 days a week

Learn how your website is found on Google and how you can get an amazing website, packed with features, from as little as R1500 a year

2. Tawk.To

tawk.to is jam packed with all the features you need to provide winning customer support – it is lightning fast, reliable and scalable.

If you already use live chat on your site, there really is no reason to keep paying per agent! This sweet tool allows you to message your customers in Real Time.

Tawk to is a free messaging app that lets you monitor and chat with visitors on your website, mobile app or from a free customizable page. We use it on a daily basis.

 

3. eCommerce Plugin (Use your website to sell your products)

If you’re a small business owner looking for an e-commerce solution, look no further than WooCommerce by WooThemes, one of the most versatile WordPress plugins, and one of the most popular.  Since its launch in 2011, more than 1.6 million businesses in the U.S., the UK, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, China and India have downloaded Woocommerce, a testament to the many Woocommerce benefits for small business.  From its user-friendly experience to its flexibility and customisation options, Woocommerce continues to be the smart choice for smart designers—and smart businesses. Understand WooCoomerce in 2,5 minutes (Check the Video)

 

Some of the benefits include:

  • Well, for one, it’s free & easy to use
  • It Includes an Intuitive, Built-in Analytics System
  • It Offers A lot of Flexibility
  • Integrating with Multiple Payment Gateways

Which brings me to the next point

4. Accepting Online Payments (Payment Gateways)

A payment gateway is a merchant service provided by an e-commerce application service provider that authorizes credit card or direct payments processing for e-businesses, online retailers, bricks and clicks, or traditional brick and mortar.

A payment gateway facilitates the transfer of information between a payment portal (such as a website, mobile phone) and the Front End Processor or acquiring bank

Choosing your payment gateway is an important part of the process of setting up your ecommerce store. As the payment gateways have different pricing models, it is important to pick one that suits your business, and provides the features and security that will ensure that users can easily and securely transact with your store.

We have successfully intergrate multiple gateways onto our own and clients’ websites, these include:

 

5. Messaging for Teams (Slack)

 

Since the advent of the World Wide Web, the opportunity for collaboration has been one of its most touted features. Enter Slack! The innovative “team communication” solution offers groundbreaking functionality that is just too useful to pass up.

So, if you’re asking yourself, “What is Slack and how do I use it for my team?” 

As a simple instant messaging system, Slack has all the collaboration features you need in place. It’s when you throw in integration that things really get exciting. It’s the foundation for teamwork.

  • It simplifies communication
  • It helps everyone find the answers they need
  • It streamlines your workflows

 


Alright, the end… But one last thing….

Remember that there are basics that you also need to take care of. For example SARS put this on their website

  • Register with CIPC
  • Register for Income Tax
  • Register and do eFiling
  • Do your income tax as an individual
  • Do your payroll taxes as a business
  • Do Record Keeping
  • Categorise your business
  • Managing your Tax Compliance Status with SARS
  • Be a Representative for your tax matters
  • Do Turn-over Tax & Do Value-added Tax (VAT)
  • Check if your Tax Practitioner is registered and more.

 

We’ll add part 2 next week

How Blockchain is changing the way we do business?

Blockchain technology is gradually transforming peer-to-peer interactions in the digital world, disrupting traditional processes across almost all industries. Corporations including IBM, WalMart and Nestlé now look toward this new technology to improve on current systems.

Blockchain for business

Blockchain technology is a distributed ledger that eliminates information and data manipulation, while providing unparalleled transparency over an individual trade by making the accounting in any given transaction reviewable, and therefore public.

All parties involved can access the blockchain, which updates at specified intervals, for instance, the Bitcoin blockchain updates every ten minutes. This minimizes data or clerical issues usually encountered in manual processes. Blockchain technology, via automation of processes and protocols, removes the middleman or trusted third-parties. Companies and businesses are then afforded lower costs in reduced transaction fees and assurance that the most efficient track between end-user and end-user is achieved.

Blockchain platforms typically, if not allow, have their own Graphical User Interface in the form of a wallet application. Consumers use wallets in order to purchase items and exchange cryptocurrency, perhaps in exchange of Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies.

Complexities of Blockchain technology

There are currently hundreds of applications using blockchain technology. The blockchain can be a massive system wherein applications can unfold, or execute. To build software, developers must have knowledge and understanding of mathematics, coding, specifically in the Solidity language as well as cryptography.

However, the technology is now developing hurdles to these barriers of entry, especially in the realm of smart contract technology, an application for Blockchain.

Ethereum

Lately, Ethereum is easily associated with blockchain technology capabilities. Ethereum is, at its core, a software-as-a-service blockchain platform. Ethereum allows developers to create decentralized applications on top of its framework like GnosisAlice.SiBitNation, and more.

Miners work to gain Ether, which is the native cryptocurrency that fuels the entire Ethereum network. It is used by developers to pay transaction fees and for services on the Ethereum network.

The Ethereum blockchain concentrates on running or executing the programming of a decentralized application. Ethereum runs these programs, or scripts, via smart contracts.

A smart contract is a virtual asset that defines the check and balances in a particular transaction. They can add functionalities or itself create specific applications on top of the blockchain they are executed on. With Ethereum, the program runs on how it is programmed and there is no chance of failure.

Benefits of Ethereum Blockchain

Ethereum’s decentralized platform is cryptographically-secure, which enables protection against fraudulent acts and hacking. Ethereum applications operate under the trustless principle of consensus. Involved parties in a particular transaction are not able to change or edit data. In addition, there is no down time as turning off the application would require the entire network failing, which is near to impossible under the current strength of the international system. There are nodes operating around the globe.

Smart Contracts

A smart contract is computer code, pure and simple. It is the foundation of a transaction on the blockchain, like the exchange of currency or property. If designed and programmed properly, a user can rest assure the transaction will run smooth and much more efficient than status quo, human-performed alternatives.

When Blockchain is running, the smart contract works as a self-operating program. People refer to the smart contract as a digital contract, a blockchain-based contract, or self-executing agreement wherein it converts the deal into computer code, stored in the system, and run by an international network of computers.

The result is the elimination of middlemen in the process of a financial transaction, exchange of assets, physical or digital, or any contractual agreement which contains a set of verifiable parameters.

Traditionally, people go to a lawyer to have contract papers notarized, but with a smart contract, you can drop your contractual agreement in the ledger. In its simplest form, smart contracts are instructions added to transactions on the blockchain.

Etherparty, touted as an easy-to-use smart contract creator, is striving to remove the high barriers of entry into the world of blockchain technology and its most powerful application to date, the smart contract.

Described as a contract wizard, the platform eliminates the intricacy in coding or programming a smart contract. Etherparty offers a template library wherein users can create a customized contract. The contract wizard will guide the user through the process of creating the agreement and can choose from data sources or contract clauses. It has a contract builder wherein the user can enjoy the interface and have access to the custom contract.

The platform offers a full suite of tools to properly manage and create a custom smart contract. A user is able to create and execute a custom smart contract or choose one from the Library. In addition, security testing, managing transaction fees, and monitoring tools are available to users to manage their smart contracts throughout the whole process.

Etherparty and Blockchain

With Ethereum, developers can create any number of applications all on a single platform, operated globally. The platform can serve all industries, public or private, with tailored applications which are programmed to handle bank loans, title registry, voting systems and more.

Credit: Public Domain

Unfortunately, only Ethereum programmers are able to leverage this kind of technology at current, this is due to the complex nature of the system and requirement to have an understanding of computer programming. Etherparty addresses this by making Blockchain and Smart Contracts easy to use through the web and later on a mobile app. Etherparty provides Smart Contracts that have been battle-tested and independently verified in addition to monitoring tools to make it easier for users to check on the status of their contracts.

With the recent announcement of the Rootstock-Etherparty integration, Etherparty will also integrate smart contracts on Bitcoin so users can decide which Blockchain they want to launch on, rather than managing different servers, waiting to sync the blockchain, and then using a command line to execute.

The main advantage: business entities that follow the paradigm shift will be able to save money and build trust through digital. Users will be able to create digital agreements that are safely stored in a transparent yet secure system, unlike traditional means, in other words, contracts written on paper — which is open to destruction, discarding, and misplacement.

The combination of blockchain technology, smart contract technology, and digital currency will make the principle of trade and governmental processes efficient, safe, fast, and scalable for the online environment of now and for future generations. Projects like Etherparty will serve as one of those early pioneers that paved the way towards a blockchain connected economy, powered by smart contract automation. No programming required.

Image Credit: Wikimedia / Public Domain  / Pixabay

Article source: https://thenextweb.com/contributors/2017/09/07/blockchain-changing-way-business/#.tnw_BSM0dpCp