The state of South Africa’s economy is a favourite topic of discussion around household dinner tables and parliament boardroom tables alike. This is even more so for entrepreneurs and business owners who are trying to create wealth and employment opportunities on their own steam. Optimistically, marginal growth is expected in the near future, with the South African economy showing signs of being “on the right track… with our turning point being near,” says Jeff Radebe, Planning Minister and government spokesman.
The signage industry faces challenges endemic to South African businesses that need to be overcome in order to survive the current growth slump our economy is facing.
Factors such as rising electricity bills, governmental red tape and the current drought are out of the scope of control of the average business owner. However, there are challenges that can, and absolutely must, be overcome in order to run businesses more profitably in this delayed economic season.
Are you struggling to survive the current growth slump our economy? Find out how to overcome these challenges.
Here are Three Absolute Musts for Signage Companies and Business Owners in South Africa to Work Efficiently:
1. Labour Management
For business owners and entrepreneurs, labour and staffing issues are arguably the biggest challenge you’ll face in your business’s lifetime.
On the one hand, the inability to hire and fire at will protects our labour force, but on the other hand it makes small businesses more hesitant to hire people. The knock-on effect of this is that our unemployment ratio is the highest in Africa, with no turning point in sight.
When it comes to accurately measuring productivity and performance, most employers leave it up to an impression they have of the employee – a ‘gut feel’ often based more on personality and communication than on measurable, verifiable data.
The best way to deal with potential labour disputes or disciplinary procedures is to be equipped with the facts.
- Have weekly one-on-one meetings with your team to discuss their performance against predefined, agreed-upon targets. This can be tracked on a spread sheet over time to see if there is improvement or not. You might need to call in the services of an HR expert if the labour situation unravels. Even then, having the one-on-one data will help tremendously.
- Use job-tracking and time-tracking software apps. There are many free tools available online, such as Trello, Asana and Toggl, that are great for managing projects and time. The only problem is that these can be manipulated by the employee and are not fool-proof if you are trying to track how productive an employee truly is.
- Invest in integrated business software that manages your business’s operational processes as a whole. You might have investigated some MIS and ERP packages and been put off by their hefty price tag. Some business owners feel they are not big enough to warrant investing in this kind of software. I agree; some of these enterprise management software packages are so pricey they could bring a business’s budget to its knees. Coupled with being inflexible and quite cumbersome, they are not always the best fit for small to medium-sized companies. Rather, look for affordable, integrated software that covers everything from quotes to stock management, staff productivity and shift optimisation to invoicing, and in-depth reporting to financial growth, all on one system. That way, the insight you gain into your staff situation is based on a more holistic reflection of their productivity, and you are provided with measurable data to make decisions with. We like QuickEasy BOS as a cost-effective answer to the urgent demand for flexible, integrated business software.
The irony is not lost on us – if businesses don’t spend money on marketing, they don’t get new business. However, they don’t have money to spend on marketing, because they don’t have new business. Marketing, for business owners, is often seen as a ‘nice to have’ instead of the vital necessity it is.
Thankfully, digital marketing – such as social media, blogs, websites, newsletters and so on – offers a relatively inexpensive medium for marketing. The only thing it will cost you – once you have invested in a good marketing strategy – is time.
- Social media: Use Facebook and LinkedIn to share your brand message and product offering in a non-hard-sell manner. Humour, entertainment, and ‘how to’s’ often do best on these channels.
- Website: I always say that a website is like one of your members of staff. This begs the question, “Do you know what your website’s job is?” Once you have a clear picture in your mind of the one thing your website was built to do – be it to generate sales, inform the public or relay brand values – you can determine if it is doing its job. Use Google Analytics for further insights. If it is not doing its job, bring it in for a ‘review’ or ‘fire’ it, and get a new, improved website.
- Email and Newsletters: Keeping your product offering and service uppermost in your customers’ mind is key when sales are slow. Using email marketing as a marketing tool is the most effective by far when it comes to conversion rate. This is largely because people on the mailing list have opted-in, and want to be kept in the know about sales, products and news. You can try Mailchimp if all you are looking for is an email solution. If you are looking for something with a little more kick, QuickEasy BOS has a built-in customisable bulk email tool that allows you to send unlimited mails to your customer base with ease, and keep your pipeline stocked to the hilt.
3. Estimating Accurately
Most businesses share common challenges, as above, but the signage industry stands apart in its desperate need for accurate estimating.
There are three challenges to estimating:
- Square meter pricing: Square meter pricing is easy but not accurate. Every job is different, so this method will ultimately cost you money if not done accurately: quote too high and you lose the job; quote too low and you lose profits.
- Cost-based pricing: Cost-based pricing is even more of a challenge, especially when the costing information needed is unavailable or difficult to access. Most companies use spread sheets to do cost-based pricing, but this isolated solution means information is not easily shared, human error and ‘finger trouble’ can capture incorrectly, and no customer history is built in the long run. This proves problematic when customers request a re-quote or if staff needs to assist a customer when you are not around, with all the customer history stored in your head.
Invest in estimating software that will take make your business run better, with minimal errors. Once again, we love how simple QuickEasy BOS’s estimating function is:
- Capture the job specification and the estimate is automatically generated for you – your guestimate becomes a bankable estimate.
- All the information is stored in your database for quick retrieval in the future.
- The estimate has all the information needed for production, purchases, deliveries and invoicing, removing the need for ‘double entry’ down the line.
- Quotes that look unprofessional: We all know you need to ‘dress for the job you want’ – the same goes for estimating. An estimate sent to a potential client that looks ‘home made’ might lose you that big job you’ve been hoping for. Spread sheet or word document templates used to generate estimates never quite looks as professional as hoped for and might keep you fishing in the small pond.
Invest in estimating software and produce quotes that reflect positively on your company, so that you always put your best foot forward.
If business owners can tighten up on these three things, they stand a chance of weathering the economic lull and of continuing the fight for financial freedom.
About Candace van Zyl
Candace is the Marketing Manager of QuickEasy Software, a software company in South Africa aimed at streamlining business operations through super simple, and incredibly robust integrated software. QuickEasy has just upgraded their print operating version of their Business Operating System. QuickEasy has a long-standing history with the printing industry in South Africa, and deeply understands the needs and challenges that are intrinsic to the sector.