Tips and advice from Santam to support your business

Santam understands that you’ve worked hard to build a business that your clients rely on. We also know that running a business comes with inherent risks and that as a business owner, you assume responsibility for the well-being and safe-keeping of your business and its people. That’s why it’s important to protect your assets, both business and personal. One of the best ways to do that is to make sure you and your business are adequately insured.  Whether you’re running an animation business or an accounting company, Santam has more than 100 years of experience and in-depth expertise to insure South African businesses good and proper.

Business in a post-pandemic world

What will the world of business look like post COVID-19? The pandemic has catalysed a period of business unusual, possibly entrenching some behaviours for the long term. Many of these behaviours can be seen in local tech start-up Khula, which has seen sustained growth during the lockdown. They demonstrate what tomorrow’s business landscape may look like. A world where more companies become connectors.

Ayanda Vana, COO of Khula, says the B2B ecommerce marketplace was founded with the intention of connecting farmers directly with buyers. “We provide a centralised platform for buyers to support emerging farmers. During COVID-19, we’ve had more traction as people increasingly turn to ecommerce as an alternative to physical shops. Additionally, we’ve found farmers are seeking new ways to access the market. There’s more openness on all sides.”

Mike Anderson, CEO at the National Small Business Chamber (NSBC), says Khula epitomises a drive many small businesses share to build on core competencies during this time. “We’ll see more businesses focusing on being increasingly digital, data driven and in the cloud. Ecommerce is an important avenue to explore. It will inevitably play a much stronger role that will drive the bottom line for retailers.”

Vana says Khula was founded three years ago and already has over 3 000 farmers on its system. She adds that one of the biggest struggles for emerging farmers is access to the market. Khula was created to help remove these barriers. “When selling at a traditional fresh-produce market, farmers typically lose about 16% of what they’re making to an agent. Then, a further 30% goes to logistics costs. To put it in perspective, a consumer could buy lettuce off the shelf for R36. But just R3 of that goes to the farmer. We wanted to solve the very real challenge of cutting out the middleman to put more money in farmers’ pockets to encourage farmer-buyer collaboration at fair prices.”

There are a few lessons to be learnt from this business model for other organisations hoping to revive their relevancy in a post-pandemic world.

  1. Solve a shared challenge: Vana says this is likely to be at the core of more businesses going forward. During COVID-19, thriving organisations are often those that spotted a shared challenge and implemented an intelligent solution.

  2. Look for ways to iteratively micro-innovate: Khula identified that logistics issues are another major concern for emerging farmers. Buying ‘input’ resources like fertiliser takes up valuable time. So Khula now offers input materials on its platform as well. The start-up kept asking ‘how can we improve the farming experience, to help more farmers grow and move out of the emerging space?’ By constantly seeking small step-changes, organisations can foster faster growth.

  3. Be a connector: It’s likely many more businesses will take on this role, now and in the future. With the growth of ecommerce and online platforms, there are myriad opportunities to connect service providers and suppliers to consumers, buyers or other businesses. This has been a long-standing tech company trend (Alibaba B2B marketplace, for example) and is driven by consumer expectations. Vana says, “Consumers now expect a centralised hub to act and transact from – think of Google. There’s a trend around tech being used to centralise connections. This will definitely grow.”

  4. Adopt tech the smart way: Vana says it is very expensive to build a tech solution from scratch. And it’s often unnecessary. Rather see what’s available and how you can integrate it to fit your needs.

  5. Consider ecommerce, but have the logistics to back up it up:  According to World Wide Worx, South Africa’s online retail industry accounts for only 1.4% of total retail right now. That’s already beginning to change. Buying patterns are shifting as South Africans trust ecommerce more. However, any company considering selling online needs to have a robust logistics plan in place. Customers don’t want to wait for their items. Delivery needs to be as quick as possible. Vana adds, “Hopefully, more businesses will also consider how to coordinate their logistics to better service remote rural areas as well.”

  6. Focus on shared value: Vana says, “The success of your business is based on the success of the community. If people don’t have jobs and steady sources of income, they can’t support you. Everything we do speaks to the heart of a problem or need that the community has. We want to effect actual social change through our offering.” This will be crucial in the post COVID-19 landscape. More than ever, businesses will be expected to be bastions of social change.  

Anderson concludes, “Our advice for businesses looking to adopt a tech-led approach is to investigate cost-effective, proven solutions that can be easily adopted – specifically, flexible pay-as-you-go solutions. Now’s the time to embrace change as inevitable and to focus on implementing a meaningful approach to creating shared value. Right now, sustainability-minded businesses that benefit communities will be the success stories of the future.”

Santam. Insurance good and proper. To find out about our insurance solutions best suited for your business, speak to your broker or visit: https://www.santam.co.za/products/commercial/business/.

How to change your business game plan in tense economic times

Adapting to unprecedented circumstances is not easy. Pivoting takes planning, agility, courage, and a collaborative approach. Now is the time for entrepreneurs to spot market gaps and come up with the micro-innovations required to fill them. Philippa Wild from Santam and Doris Viljoen from Stellenbosch University weigh in on how businesses can change their game plan to emerge stronger from these times of business unusual.

Philippa Wild, Head of Commercial Underwriting at Santam, says an entrepreneurial mindset is essential in the current climate. “To change your game plan and adapt to the pandemic – it’s pivotal to really hone in on what’s important right now. An entrepreneurial mindset begins with curiosity and a sustained hunger to learn. Harness this and use the pandemic to force focus and drive innovation.”

Here are some of Wild’s suggestions for nimbly taking a new route to strengthen a business:

  1. People first, always: The decision to pivot needs to be a shared one. Ensure you ask for input from your team and make it a collaborative effort from the start. Open the floor to hear your stakeholder’s suggestions and solutions; ramp up continuous communications – it’s better to over-communicate than under-communicate. Make sure everyone feels comfortable, with clearly defined roles, emotional support and training throughout the transition.

  2. Look ahead: It’s easy to be paralysed by fear and indecision when surrounded by so much uncertainty. Now is the time to review your business operations and services; and seek stronger, cost-effective alternatives when possible. Identify any business gaps or opportunities for iterative innovation and pursue them. Be cautious with your expenditure and how you use your time. Keep thinking beyond the pandemic – how are you setting your business up for the long-term?

  3. Be purpose-led and client-centric: Right now, many South Africans are struggling. Businesses that can offer real value and make a tangible impact on people’s lives in some way earn loyalty. Now is the time to take client-centricity to new heights. Refine the customer journey at every touchpoint, eliminate pain points and streamline efficiencies. Look at ways to bring in consistent micro-innovations, and ask your customers for their ideas and feedback.

  4. Protect what you’ve built: Make sure your business and assets are properly insured. If you’re planning to change how you do things, consider how this will impact your personal and business cover needs. For instance, with remote working, are all your assets like PCs covered for home use? Have you considered your sums insured and whether your cover needs to be increased, for example, due to changes in the exchange rate? And have you adjusted your premiums to account for the fact you may not be driving as much?

While Wild gives some insight into what to consider for pivoting, Doris Viljoen, Senior Futurist at Stellenbosch University’s Institute for Futures Research, shares emerging trends that could inspire how to pivot. “Numerous global trends were already emerging before the COVID-19 pandemic, and now they provide opportunities for businesses that are considering a move to something new.” 

Viljoen highlights four trends that hold exciting possibilities:

  1. Platform organisations: People are increasingly willing to share assets, and platform technologies enable them to acquire and pay for or share access to an asset. This allows businesses to innovate and interact with one another in ways not previously possible.

  2. Order from the source/shorten the supply chain:  Growing numbers of customers are looking for products from their own community, items that are proudly home grown.  It is an eco-conscious trend where consumers are looking for products that did not have to be imported over long distances; they want a smaller carbon footprint.

  3. (Re)Emergence of the makers, artisans and fixers: Artisan-everything is increasing (think bread, alcoholic beverages, jams, clothing, cheese, cured meat, oils, vinegar, etc.). The fixers (plumbers, electricians, people that fix or repurpose existing products and make new ones through woodwork, metalwork, etc.) are also enjoying increasing market opportunities because people are becoming more responsible in terms of re-using assets to reduce potential waste.

  4. Increased connectivity and digital fluency fuelling digital disruption: Digital communication systems span the globe, bringing the possibility of increased connectivity and the potential to communicate with anyone or anything at any time and from anywhere. People’s levels of digital fluency are growing as well. Together, these two trends open opportunities for the digital disruption of existing systems. 

Wild concludes, “Changing your game plan takes gumption, courage and forward-thinking. It’s critical to scenario-plan to mitigate prospective risks and give yourself every chance of success. Make sure your business is properly covered, so you protect what you have built and are in the process of building. Speak to your financial adviser to come up with a plan to navigate your insurance needs as your business model changes.”

Santam. Insurance good and proper. To find out about our insurance solutions best suited for your business, speak to your broker or visit: https://www.santam.co.za/products/commercial/business/.

Could COVID-19 help curb the gender leak?

This time of business unusual could present an incredible opportunity for women, says Phillipa Geard, founder and CEO of RecruitMyMom. The award-winning South African entrepreneur believes the global move to remote working could play a pivotal role in combating the ‘gender leak’ – the loss of women from the workplace during child-rearing years.

“The ability to work more flexibly and remotely is a powerful combination. It could help to curb the gender leak, allowing for more equal progression into senior roles. Right now, many women leave the workforce just as their careers are taking off, while men continue to advance to leadership roles. This creates gender disparity at the top. The impact of COVID-19 could see businesses get better at retaining female talent, leading to more diversity at the leadership level. Research also shows this change benefits businesses’ bottom-lines.”

Geard is well-qualified to comment on this topic. This mom of two founded recruiting agency RecruitMyMom in 2012 to provide opportunities for skilled mothers driven out the workplace by inflexible work practices. She aimed to find a way to stop the gender and skills leak. She identified remote working as a solution early on, and now the pandemic has finally accelerated the adoption of an agenda she has been pushing for eight years.

The 2019 winner of the Santam Women of the Future competition has had a tough time during the lockdown. The year 2019 was RecruitMyMom’s best fiscal year to date, but the economic impact of the pandemic has inevitably seen a significant drop in businesses hiring new recruits. Geard went from a full job book to next to no job book in a week. Initially, she froze; and then she realised her clients would be in a similar position.

So, she refocused her business to educate and inspire clients to make the move towards remote working. “As a result of lockdown, this way of working had leapfrogged to the fore. We’ve focused on being an information facilitator, helping our clients to seamlessly adjust to having a team out of the office. We’ve always said it’s about productivity, not presence. It’s amazing how quickly the world is now adapting to this idea.”

She says business picked up in May 2020 with some global interest, as organisations around the world recognise the benefits of remote skills and an advantageous exchange rate. This is excellent news for the almost 100 000 skilled mothers (and other career-flex workers) on Geard’s books. Going forward, these talented individuals and other women around the world may find it easier than ever before to land permanent or contractual work on remote teams. “It would be incredible if this crisis ultimately translates into more jobs for women. Another thing we’ve seen is the need for empathetic leadership over this period. Women often excel in softer skills like communication, creativity, collaboration, high conscientiousness and organisational capabilities – many of the traits remote teams need.”

She adds that many global businesses are positively progressive when it comes to supporting female talent. “Organisations like Procter & Gamble, for example, give women the option of a two-year career break, with the guarantee they can come back at the same level at which they left. Hopefully, we’ll begin to see more of this as employers realise the benefits of empowering their employees with choices that inspire loyalty and hard work.”

Alongside remote work and flexibility, Geard also supports looking at benefits – like medical aid, for example – along with fair maternity policies and clear KPIs. Much of her perspective comes down to “fixing” the antiquated notion that a person needs to sit at a desk for eight hours to receive traditional employee benefits. “Employers should ensure their requirements are based on outputs against deliverables rather than time spent at a desk. Again, productivity, not presence, counts.”

To find out about our insurance solutions best suited for your business, speak to your broker or visit: https://www.santam.co.za/products/commercial/business/.


4 Tips on how businesses can navigate today’s complex risks

1 May, South Africa: An entrepreneurial spirit is a mindset of constantly wanting to learn, share and disrupt the norm. This is even more vital when trying to keep your business afloat in the current economic environment the world finds itself in. Why? Because tough times often force focus and drive innovation, leading businesses to come out of the storm stronger and more accomplished than before.

Philippa Wild, Head of Commercial Lines at Santam, says, “This is unchartered territory for all individuals and businesses alike, with many facing loss of revenue, retrenchments or bankruptcy. According to the 2019 Santam Insurance Barometer, small to mid-sized companies had business confidence levels of 45% to 46% respectively, due to their ability to absorb the consequences of a subdued economy.  In the current climate, these have decreased.  However, now more than ever, South African businesses need to bolster their confidence, find opportunity in adversity and evolve in order to weather the storm.”

Below, Wild shares four key insights for businesses to keep continuity during this tough economic environment:

  1. Prioritise your people: Your employees are by far your most valuable asset, so put measures in place to protect them as far as possible. Ensure all your employees understand the hazards to their health and safety within the workplace should you be able to operate during the pandemic and implement all precautionary measures that you can to reduce exposure. In addition to this, offer as much financial and emotional support as your company can afford, if and when necessary, to encourage your employees to keep on producing at your normal standard.
  1. Prepare for post-lockdown: Now may be the time to review your business operations and services and upgrade to stronger, more efficient alternatives. If possible, consider updating outdated equipment or implementing key training for staff. Do a review of your business to see where there may be gaps that might have cost you revenue or gaps in the market that you can cater to. Use your time wisely and spend time reflecting.
  1. Refine your client journey: Client-centricity is key to long-term business success, especially in an age of unprecedented transparency. Map out your clients’ current journey at every touch-point – from awareness to post-purchase stage – then identify how you can streamline this to automate more of the admin and optimise the user experience (UX). Ask your clients and staff for input, conduct surveys, and test different solutions.  Right now, encourage iterative micro-innovations that’ll enable you to learn but won’t cost you too much if they don’t work.
  1. Get up close and personal with your insurance: Now is the time toensure that you’re adequately insured and prevent any further losses. Interrogate your policies and make a checklist of what is covered and what is not. This way, you can pick up on where you are left most vulnerable and take the steps to mitigate risk. Speak to a broker to fully understand your insurance policies without making assumptions.

Wild concludes, “It is important to note that having good risk management practices, updated safety training for employees and clients alike, as well as a solid plan for the new normal can influence whether or not a business makes it past this next hurdle. To further bolster our clients’ businesses during this time, Santam has made R400-million available as COVID-19 relief to help clients, suppliers, and contribute to the Government’s Solidarity Fund.”

Santam. Insurance Good and proper. For more information visit https://www.santam.co.za or speak to your broker.

SMART CASH FLOW HABITS TO KEEP YOUR BUSINESS GROWING

According to research, poor cash flow management is one of the biggest reasons small businesses fail after they’ve launched. As an entrepreneur, good cash flow management is important to keep your company growing financially. Here are some tips to successfully manage money generated by your growing company:

Set up a cash flow forecast: Do trajectories for the next year or quarter, and update the forecast weekly. Identify when you expect to break even and establish the economic benchmarks necessary to meet along the way.

Balance customer and supplier payments: Money coming in must match or surpass money going out to save you from extended overdraft. To collect receivables (payments owed to you) timelessly, ensure you have an effective debt collection system in place and incentivise early or upfront payments with manageable discounts. Invoice immediately – don’t wait until month-end – and don’t shy away from asking for partial payments upfront. In terms of payables (payments you owe), negotiate with suppliers and vendors to get good deals and extend payables when possible.

Be frugal: Only spend on essentials that will help achieve cash flow forecast milestones. Save in the good months – you need a cash reserve to carry you through the hard times. Keep fixed costs low – such as your rent. Lower fixed costs mean more potential profit.

Invest in local marketing: Get your business name out there to attract more clients. Then retain customers with quality goods, exceptional service and a focus on real relationship-building.

Partner with the right people: Spend a bit more if you can to hire the right staff. Be open with your team and make cash flow management a priority for everyone. Don’t handle the financial side of the business – utilise the services of professionals such as tax experts and accountants to promote positive financial health. Build a relationship with the financial institution you partner with and ensure they understand your business mission and financial goals.

Look out for more business tips and advice on this page.

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