Financial Data
Updated 16 Jan 2021

The real challenges you face as an SME in SA

The most important thing business owners can learn early on is how to remain calm in the difficult times and how to take control of their finances.

Damian Michael , 12 May 2018  Share  0 comments  Print

All the answers to your unique business lifestage questions

The world is facing many challenges and one of them is financial freedom. An entitlement mentality is epidemic, creating people who expect their governments, employers or families to take care of them. You cannot solve money problems with money, you can solve money problems with financial education, discipline, technique and perseverance.

The government’s focus on SME development, shows that they are serious about SME growth and economic improvement. However, things are still tough for SMEs. The South African economy will grow at about 1.1% in 2018 and while this is only a forecast; it is an indicator that SME’s will continue to face many challenges ahead to grow their businesses. 

Although it’s not an easy road to start a business, I love being an entrepreneur. I love the creativity, the technology, the people, the challenges and the rewards. I love the excitement of developing something new, and the process of business expansion and growth. Every day is exciting and educational, even on a bad day. 

Related: Why it’s great to be an SME owner

Practice the art of calmness

One of the most important things that business owners can learn early on is how to remain calm in the difficult times, and how to take control, especially when it comes to finances. For example, if you are an employee, you have very little control over how much you earn, if you get a promotion, if you receive a bonus, when you go on holiday and at times, even when you take a lunch break.

Since employees have varying levels of education and experience, they can struggle to take control of their personal finances. The same applies to SMEs who might have little or no education in running a business in SA. It’s a well-known fact that most SMEs will fail within the first two years of operation, and I believe a lot of this has to do with not having efficient control over finances.

3 Challenges you face that require a calm approach 

Small businesses represent more than 90% of enterprises in all economies and also constitute a majority of a country’s employment worldwide. But, while SMEs are key in South Africa’s economy, here are 3 key challenges they face – and what to do to overcome them:

1. Access to markets

Limited access is a key barrier for growth to all SMEs in SA. Big businesses have the lion’s share of the market and make it tough for small business to compete. SMEs need to gain access into various markets and supply chains to help them grow and become larger enterprises.

2. Marketing

Developing a great marketing campaign needs a highly skilled individual, money and the correct technology. It is costly to develop an online campaign to help customer acquisition and retention, create product and brand awareness as well as generate leads for the organisation. SMEs should therefore become familiar with online marketing tools, social media and public realtions to build their brand and survive in an advanced technological era.

Related: Why SMEs rock: 5 Steps to becoming a super SME owner

3. Technology

We are living in the 4th Industrial Revolution and the digital economy is in full swing. If you are operating with legacy technology in your business, you will likely be outperformed or disrupted. Across the world, SMEs are rapidly migrating services to digital channels for efficiency, scalability and customer experience. SMEs in SA have a perception that utilising best of breed technology is expensive, but this is a myth. Finding a technology provider can help you implement a world class technology stack that will help you survive and sustain your business over a long period. 

In these uncertain economic times, it is important that SMEs pay attention and apply what they learn on a daily basis. I do believe that with the right business structures, mentors and coaches available, we could see some great unicorns develop in South Africa.

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About the author

Damian Michael

Damian Michael is the founder of Innovo Networks, a connectivity, cloud & cyber security provider, with the core focus of helping businesses make the right technology decisions for expansion and growth. He has previously spent time with operators like Vodacom and MTN and was involved in successfully launching Neotel in South Africa. Since launching Innovo Networks in 2013, he has been selected Top 10 IT Personality of the Year and nominated twice for Entrepreneur of the Year.

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