There is no question that small to medium enterprises (SMEs) are important to the South African economy; however, running a small business is no easy feat. Each SME must overcome a multitude of challenges ranging from getting the business up-and-running to keeping it afloat.
According to Wanda Matandela, managing executive: small medium enterprise at Vodacom Business, “South Africa’s SME landscape differs greatly from their global counterparts in that the majority of these businesses are set up out of necessity by individuals who cannot secure permanent employment. As such, they often lack the business skills and training required to run a business.”
Vodacom Business has identified four of the key challenges facing South African SMEs that can be addressed to assist these businesses to become more efficient.
These include:
* Start-up funding and support – sourcing and maintaining a healthy cash flow is daunting for small business owners. Overhead, administration and infrastructure costs are real and play a pivotal role in the success or failure of a small business.
“Taking this into account, Vodacom has introduced the Opex growth module, which is aimed specifically at assisting SMEs in overcoming this hurdle,” says Matandela.
“The Opex growth module gives the small business owner the option to pay for their telecommunications and IT solutions on a monthly basis as opposed to the standard norm of purchasing all IT infrastructures upfront when capital is often limited.”
* Skills development – many small business owners require a wide range of business expertise, from financial to IT skills, and knowledge of the products or services they provide.
“Understanding what IT systems the business needs and how these operate is often a huge stumbling block for SMEs,” says Matandela.
“To help ease the pressure from these business owners, we appoint a dedicated telephone account manager to each SME. These virtual CIOs have a vested interest in the business and provide much needed insight into the IT solutions that are available for each business according to their individual needs.”
* Access to business development opportunities – in today’s business environment, being connected is essential. Having access to telephony, email and the internet are the basic requirements for staying in touch with your customer base. However, since many start-ups are cash strapped, they often consider these tools to be luxury items and don’t invest in them upfront.
“We have seen the negative impact that having no or limited access to basic connectivity can have on a small business. Something as simple as having access to the internet and setting up a webpage makes it easier for people to find your business,” says Matandela.
“With the right technology solutions in place, SMEs can use these tools to affordably advertise their business and get the exposure they need to grow their customer base.”
* Access to IT and telecommunications systems that enhance competencies and cost control – Vodacom realises that the one-size-fit-all solution can no longer be adopted. Each SME has a different business IT and telecommunications need and as such Vodacom offers tailor made, cost effective packages suited to each business.
“Mobile communications has advanced far beyond voice calls on cell phones. We see more and more businesses embracing the many possibilities that mobile solutions afford them,” says Matandela.
“Running a small business can be a challenge but if you have the right partner in place to focus on the non-core business processes, it can ease some of the pressure that small business owners face today, particularly in our tough economy.”