Minimising risks with your suppliers

Your relationship with your suppliers can make or break your business. While there are many benefits to outsourcing parts of your business processes, a lot can also go wrong.

There’s no need to worry, however. You can take steps to minimise the risks, and ensure a long and mutually beneficial relationship with your suppliers.

Foster proper communication

Nothing ruins a perfectly decent business process like bad communication between parties involved. Poor communication is one of the biggest pitfalls any business can have, but it’s often overlooked. When something goes wrong, it’s easy to point fingers, but it might really have been avoided by proper communication.

Mask sure that your supplier has one point of contact in your business, and that you have one point of contact on the supplier’s side. If you’re outsourcing cladding in Cape Town, for instance, but you’re in Johannesburg, then it’s especially important your communication lines are clear and open at all times.

While you don’t want to inundate your supplier with constant emails, it is important that you maintain regular communication that is concise, courteous, and frank.

Establish a process

When outsourcing, it’s best that you define and establish an official process from the beginning. But you can implement one at any point.

If the process is informal, you lose track of things, people get confused, and quality drops. Work out the best system for going forward, clear it with the supplier, and then make sure it is always followed. You may need to follow up later to make sure all parties are adhering to the system, or see if it needs adjusting.

Take responsibility

If something goes wrong, like a missed deadline, don’t make it your knee-jerk reaction to blame the supplier. Even if there is fault on their side, there might still be something you can improve upon on your side. Perhaps you need to manage your expectations or put together clearer briefs.

Just don’t play the blame game, because that’s of use to no one.

Monitor and review the performance

Even the most reliable supplier can slip up now and then. Conduct regular performance reviews to help you keep tabs on their work and make sure they’re fulfilling their end of the agreement. This will also alert you to potential problems that may be lurking down the line, or help you know where refinements need to be made. These reviews will also let you know where you stand when it comes time to talk about contract renewal.

Cape Town – SA’s innovation hub

As the endless Cape Town vs. Johannesburg debate rages on, supporters on both sides of the fence have made convincing cases for the superiority of their homes. At the risk of sounding bias, one has to admit there is a clear difference between the two economies and subsequently, earning potential.

Johannesburg, with its ample career opportunities and abundant financial rewards, lacks Cape Town’s majestic scenery. Capetonians enjoy the spoils when it comes to natural beauty, clean streets and award-winning wines, but pay their dues in “mountain tax”.

Don’t jump on the Gautrain just yet though. Although Johannesburg might be the “It” place for corporate ladder climbers, Cape Town has built its own, distinctively Capetonian economy. In short, the Mother City dishes out ideas the way Joburg dishes out credit cards.

South Africa’s creativity capitol

Yes, this attribute to the Mother City was made official when Cape Town was crowned as 2014’s World Design Capital. With an abundance of developing companies specialising in arts and design, Cape Town has become Sun-Saharan Arica’s hub of creative thinking.

Why are South Africa’s inventive minds congregating in Cape Town? According to Creative Cape Town, designers are drawn to the city’s intrinsic splendour and the opportunity to learn from the best. The more designers make a name for themselves in Cape Town, the higher the standards new talent must uphold.

With this constant advancement happening in fashion, jewellery, advertising and film (to name just a few), Cape Town is becoming a career destination for the creative mind. Just think of opportunities like Design Indaba, the Loerie Awards and Cape Town Fashion Week, a benchmark to its Johannesburg based sister-event. Even technological innovation has found a breeding ground in the Mother City, dubbing it the “Silicon Cape”.

An oasis for every designer

Thanks to this constant creative growth, talented youngsters from all over the nation are looking for jobs in Cape Town  in order to slice their piece of the design pie. Besides the already bustling resourcefulness of the city centre, subsequent “outer-hubs” like Woodstock and Khayelitsha are joining the movement with their own, unique artistic development. With this distinctive drive to be original, Cape Town is the ideal launchpad for true innovation. 

In all fairness, Cape Town may never replace Johannesburg as the financial capital of South Africa. Yet, thanks the undeniable creative buzz surrounding Table Mountain, the Mother City can be proud of her unique business potential.

How safe is your staff?

As a business owner, you’re responsible for your staff’s safety during working hours. That’s whether it’s 9am to 5pm, 6pm to 6am, or over weekends. You have to ensure to the best of your abilities that employees are not exposed to dangerous situations or hazardous environments during these hours.

Bear in mind that a safe working environment is not only to the advantage of workers – you benefit as well. An injured worker costs money and if the incident is serious, you could be liable for damages.

Keep yourself in the clear and your staff safe by following these guidelines:

Basic safety measurements

The first step towards acceptable working conditions is ensuring that safety measures matches the type of business you’re running. As an example, a bakery will have different safety needs to a clothing boutique. To conduct proper research, consult safety studies and white papers published by companies in the same industry. This will highlight typical dangers as well successful preventative methods.

Next up is the physical safety measures in and around the property. Here you want to assess the business’s needs for CCTV camera systems, boom gates, access control systems and the like. Once again the type of business will dictate how much security is needed to ensure your staff is safe no matter the hour of day.

To cope with the dangers presented by an incident like a fire, there should also be proper emergency exits and procedures. If your company is in a business park or other shared space, enquire with the proprietors about the location of exits and procedures. It’s essential as well to conduct regular drills so that employees know where to go in an emergency situation.

Some positions will also ask for special uniforms and safety gear. Think of security guards in a security firm, a beautician’s uniform or construction worker’s hardhat. Where a position requires this type of special gear, ensure that it’s provided to staff.

Special precautions to consider

If members of your staff spend most of their day at a desk, ensure that their workspace is ergonomically designed. This include the desk and chair, and seeing to it that their computer’s screen is at the right height. To further help prevent postural problems, consider offering yoga or stretching classes to employees.

Something else to consider that is exceptionally important is special working conditions required by disabled staff. Employees in wheelchairs, for instance, would need special entrances, exits and bathrooms. Read up on the legal requirements of these to be certain that you’ve covered all your bases.

Involve staff too

Staff have to be involved in the process in two ways. First and foremost they have to be educated on proper safety measures. This will help see to it that everyone enjoys a safer work environment. You should also speak to employees to get a better idea of their safety needs. They perform their job every day, so who better to ask about areas in which the business lack safety?

Finally, make a note to conduct regular safety audits during which you check for hazards like faulty wires and broken handrails. Ask employees to report problems too whenever one is spotted. This continuous effort will assure that your business is a safe working space at all times.

Different ways to grow your business

When your business does well, there comes a time when you have to ask yourself whether it’s time to expand. There is always an element of risk that accompanies growth, and so it should never be entered into without the proper due diligence.

If you’re ready to expand – great. But in what way do you want your business to grow? There are many different ways to so this, and which you choose depends on a number of factors.

Open a new store

When people think of business expansion, opening a new store is often the first thing that comes to mind. You can expand your service area and increase your market share. But first ask yourselves some questions: Is this right for your business? Do you have the resources to get another store going? Does your market support it? Make sure you do your research thoroughly, because otherwise it could end up losing you a lot of money.

Offer a new service or product

Providing a new service or product is another obvious avenue for growth. If you’re going to expand your offering, do your homework beforehand. It’s best to play to your strengths, so try to offer something that even if new for your company, isn’t completely unrelated to what you’re doing so that you’re not out of your depth. A good starting point is to decide whether your new product or service will be offered to your pre-existing customer base, to a completely new market, or to a bit of both.

Offer your business as a franchise opportunity

Offering your business as a franchise opportunity is the dream for many. First, you put in the hard work of making your business a success locally. Then you launch it to the next level, by getting others on board to extend its horizons on your behalf.

You need to make sure that your business has appeal beyond your local market, however. For instance, there is Chesanyama, the chain of South African fast food outlets specialising in ‘braai food’. Its creator, Stelio Nathanael, saw that there was a market for a typical South African favourite, and now stores are opening up in malls and retail outlets all around the country.

Go digital

Take to the digital seas by entering the brave new world of e-commerce. If you open another store location, you extend your reach, but you have to remember that your overheads are also increasing. By expanding digitally, however, you might only spend a fraction of the cost of setting up a new store. This can be a great return on your investment.

Target new markets

If you are serving your current market well, it might be time to go in search of new demographics. This can entail a new marketing strategy or altering your product offering. What it definitely entails is doing your homework. Just because you’re doing well with one market doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to succeed with another one by following the same formula.

3 Modern business challenges

Business has always had its challenges. But in 2014 and beyond, new challenges will be cropping up. Mostly, due to innovations in technology. In future, for instance, companies would need to learn how to harness screenless displays better than anyone else. Understandably, what’s happening right now is more of a concern, so let’s look at the three major challenges that businesses face today:

Mobile

Mobile use among consumers are growing. It’s how an increasing number of people are browsing the web and doing their shopping. This means websites have to be optimised for mobile screens. Websites that are too big and complicated for the platform they’re appearing on, will be ignored by customers in favour of websites that offer a seamless user experience.

Instead of viewing mobile as a challenge, embrace it as an opportunity to move your business into the 21st Century. You’ll keep up with the competition and put your company in a much better position in the marketplace.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is a concern for individuals and businesses alike. This is due to much publicised cases, like that of the now infamous Edward Snowden, as well as world-wide security threats like the Heartbleed bug. In fact, Symantec Security Response found that there was a 91% increase in targeted attack campaigns in 2013.

Businesses have to protect their information and data like never before. This can be done in a range of manners, from regularly changing passwords to encrypting data. It’s also important to have a plan in action of place should data be severely compromised.

Competition

It’s considerably easier to get a business off the ground these days. All you need is an idea and money to buy a domain. This is how many creatives, clothing brands and homeware suppliers operate nowadays. This means there is more competition than ever before. To make it in this aggressive environment, whether your business is online or not, it’s vital to have a unique offering that’s backed up by superior service. You can’t afford to be relaxed about business anymore.

This all does not mean that the usual business challenges have disappeared. Businesses still need to focus on money management, find ways to secure business and asset finance, and deal with talent shortages. The upside of innovations in technology is that it actually makes dealing with these challenges easier. Think debit orders, online applications that happen in seconds and virtual freelancers. It’s not all hard work after all.