Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) play a major role in most economies. Globally, they represent about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment, while in South Africa, SMEs make up 98% of businesses, and employ between 50 and 60% of the country’s workforce across all sectors. These statistics reinforce just how critical it is for owners and operators of SMEs to prioritise risk mitigation not only to protect themselves but also as a means of protecting the economy.
One of Santam’s 2021 Social Entrepreneur winner, Zandile Mkwanazi, founder and CEO of GirlCodeZA, a non-profit organisation that empowers women and girls in the technology sector, is well versed in the difficulties that female entrepreneurs can face getting their organisations off the ground. She shares advice about how to run your own business successfully:
Mkwanazi says, “Making sure all your business’s assets are insured from day one is a top priority. It is easy to think this is something you can do later when you are more established but the unrest and floods in Durban taught us that anything can happen to disrupt your operations. The last thing you want is to be sitting with unexpected expenditures which could bankrupt your business.”
Prepare for the unexpected:
SMEs by their very nature tend to be very agile but they are also incredibly vulnerable to the impact of business interruption. Anything from theft and fire to cybercrime or unrest can be fatal to an enterprise that is not prepared. Cover is key.
Mkwanazi says, “One of our biggest challenges early on was getting funding. It is a problem we have addressed over time as our work has come to speak for itself, but it presented a major challenge. We receive a lot of laptops as donation and in turn, we donate these to our beneficiaries. But while still at our offices, we do need to ensure the laptops are insured for any eventuality. This also applies to all assets owned by the organisation. Without this protection, we would be incredibly vulnerable.”
Cutting costs vs adequate protection:
Balancing cost efficiencies with risk mitigation is one of the tightest ropes that anyone who runs an SME can face. On the one hand, shaving costs where you can is vital to keeping your business afloat. On the other, ensuring you have adequate protection is an important part of ensuring your business survives in the long term.
Mkwanazi says, “You are always going to have to calculate costs versus cover and when doing so it is important to consider your unique circumstances. As much as we try to save costs, I’ve realised it is better to be covered than try to save insurance costs and then later find ourselves in even bigger financial trouble.”
Remember your purpose:
Every business has a purpose and for many, that purpose is not to be caught up in endless worry about unplanned eventualities. The beauty of risk mitigation is it allows you to get on with the business of making your business thrive.
Ultimately seeing your business prosper is why you got into it in the first place. Getting adequate cover will ensure you can focus on fulfilling your business’s purpose.
Mkwanazi concludes, “Seeing our GirlCoders gain self-confidence from our programmes and going out into the world to create an impact in the technology space is the most fulfilling thing about what we do. We are changing people’s lives, and with such a high unemployment rate, this is the perfect time to hone tech skills because globally there is a shortage. I believe women can close that gap and create meaningful and innovative tech solutions. All we need are GirlCoders.”