Your business on autopilot: Processes to automate

With the advance in technology we are seeing, the future of business is automation. Newspapers have even created algorithms that, based on a template, can produce copy without human interface.

For your business to remain on top it’s important that it be as efficient as can be. This includes automating these processes of your business.

Automate Your Inventory

Stocktaking need not be a laborious chore. There are several tools available that will automate your inventory, which helps you keep track of where your business stands at all times. For retailers, there are inventory system managers like Wasp Barcode, which not only manages your inventory, but syncs your online business.

Data entry

No one likes unnecessary admin. It takes up a lot of your business’ resources in the form of man hours. To free up time and effort, automate your data entry. Shoeboxed will scan and organise your receipts, invoices and documents securely online. And it’s very easy. Just send your paperwork to Shoeboxed, which analyses and extracts the required data and then human-verifies the key fields accounting and taxing purposes.

Receive payments

Automating the collection of payments isn’t only easier for you, but for your customers as well.  A simple debit order facility, for example, enables the collection of the correct amount owed to you from your customer via EFT payments. It’s perfect for businesses that would otherwise have to invoice the same clients for the same amount every month, such as gyms that collect memberships and insurance companies that collect premiums.

File Storage, File Sharing, and Backing Up

Automatically store files, back up data and share files in the cloud. No worries about the risk of a hard drive failure. You can try Dropbox and Box, both of which are available for free as a standard version, or as a premium version if you have premium needs.


We all know the value of a well-planned budget. But you might not realise it can be automated. You Need A Budget, or YNAB, helps you budget the money you currently have, letting you know exactly where and how much of your money is going out. Therefore, less chance of overspending. This is great for your cash flow.

To stay on top, your business needs to be as efficient as can be. The 21st century way to do this is to automate components of your business.

You might feel uncomfortable with the idea of automating your business, because to some that feels like taking control. And how far can you really trust machines to do a human’s job. You can trust them pretty far, but until you’re comfortable with the idea, simply start off by automating the simpler processes, and then look at the more complicated processes.

Is an MBA still worth your while?

For years prospective corporate ladder climbers have pursued the golden key that is the MBA. In all fairness, these three letters are usually marketed as the ultimate gateway to success – a complete validation of the qualification’s high cost and time demands.

The truth is, a lot of hopefuls sign up to do an MBA under the misconception that the degree will automatically allow them immediate advancement to a senior position with a higher salary. When it boils down to a choice, however, companies find sound workplace experience far more appealing.

The difference between knowledge and experience

Just to be fair, the knowledge gained by completing an MBA is valuable. However, the successful application of this knowledge is, firstly, industry and even company specific, and secondly, dependant a student’s function within the company. Newcomers to the world of business often aspire to ticking the MBA box before honestly assessing whether the qualification would supply them with a relevant skillset.

One could argue that the knowledge is never wasted, and the MBA is still a valuable feather to don the corporate cap, but more and more companies are basing their hiring on interpersonal or “soft” skills rather than an impressive CV. After all, when it comes to leadership abilities, communication and problem solving, no amount of education beats learning from real life.

This being said, an already experienced worker can definitely enhance their existing skills with an MBA , permitting the knowledge gained improves their value within the workplace. Be mindful of where you enrol though. Due to the degree’s popularity and hefty price tag, a number of substandard business schools cash in by offering MBA courses of a dubious quality.

The MBA’s place in Africa

South Africa boasts a number of business schools and tertiary education facilities that offer an MBA qualification based on the European model.  According to Johann Redelinghuys of The Daily Maverick, the real question, concerning the value of this qualification, lies in whether or not the South African MBA is tailored to our needs.

“Does the MBA, as taught in the leading South African business schools, sufficiently acknowledge the realities of African leadership or does it simply do a cut-and-paste of what is taught at Harvard, or Insead, or any of the other major international business schools?” Redelinghuys asks in his article.

Although globalisation is breaking down the barriers between individual economies and their methods, he is right in saying South African MBA students are learning a “Eurocentric format” unsuited to our local business climate. But why is this a problem, are we not better off employing international standards?

Andy Andrews, former dean of the Wits University Business School and an authoritative figure in SA’s business education sector rejects the notion of an Africa specific MBA. According to Andrews our major concern should be whether or not the MBA closes the gap between what business schools provide and what the market needs. This being said, he believes any business education should provide a “global perspective”, including more global content supported by international exchange programs.

The contemporary alternative to the MBA

While the MBA itself may be under scrutiny, the business skills it teaches are none the less crucial to achieving success. However, the lack of gold at the end of the rainbow is leaving MBA students wondering why they are making all the personal and financial sacrifices synonymous with achieving this demanding qualification. Do business hopefuls a have much of a choice though? Where else can they acquire the knowhow offered by the traditional MBA?

The modern corporate climber is spoilt for choice when it comes to enriching themselves (or their staff) at a manageable rate and with reasonable costs. Management, strategic planning and business administration courses offered by various business and training schools across the country allow skills to be acquired one at a time as an individual advances in the workplace. The intensity of these training options can also go from a two day crash course to a part time diploma qualification, depending on the needs of the student or company.

Although this route offers trainees unsurpassed freedom to customise their skillset, some sceptics still prefer investing in a recognised degree.

Luckily there are cheaper and less time consuming alternatives to the traditional MBA degree. A Masters in business finance or commerce, for instance, is much more affordable and, in certain cases, more applicable to a particular student’s career path. Some business schools also offer entrepreneurship development programs that teach a more practical approach to business development.

Outside of a formal qualification, a mentorship within the business world can also be an invaluable source of knowledge with the added benefit of leaning form personal experience. By combining mentorship with self-study, attending seminars and conferences and partaking in as much on-the-job training as possible, any hopeful success seeker has a shot at reaching their career goals without sacrificing life and limb for the sake of an MBA.


Basic savings tips for businesses

We’re all familiar with the saying “Time is money” and this adage is particularly true to the business owner. It’s not just a concept, it’s an everyday reality. And to prevent wasting time or money is an essential part of the business plan.

While it may be too late to make a noticeable difference to the books in 2014, it’s certainly that time of year where all companies start looking towards 2015. For that reason, consider the following strategies should you be looking to save your business a bit:

Team up with other companies

There are a few core expenses every company incur on a monthly basis. These range from stationery to coffee and milk. To save on these purchases, ask a company you have a relationship with if they’d like to team up and buy these types of supplies in bulk. Buying in bulk generally costs less, so you could save quite a bit in the long run.

Shop around

Don’t accept the first quote you get for a service or equipment just because it’s the easiest thing to do. Always shop around and compare at least three cost estimates. Not doing so could mean you end up paying a lot more than you should. If you don’t have time available to request the quotes yourself, task a junior staff member with the responsibility.

Automate payments

Not making payments on time incur interest. Receiving late payments from customers, on the other hand, make it very difficult for a business to operate efficiently. Not to mention the bank costs associated with making manual payments. So take a new route in the new year and set up EFT payments for both you and your clients. This will save money as well as time.

Understand ‘need’ vs ‘want’

As in one’s personal life, not everything you want for your business is something it needs. Think about those high-tech computers for instance. To decide whether that item is a need or a want, ask yourself whether it will increase efficiency, simplify processes or generate money. If the answer continues to be ‘no’, you’re more than likely dealing with a want rather than a need.

Make use of interns

There are countless young graduates looking for employment opportunities every day, so find them and offer them internships. Interns come much cheaper than full-time employees! You also have the advantage of running someone through a bit of a trial period and who knows – you might find a gem of an employee in the process.

Offline marketing tactics for small businesses

While everyone looks to digital signage and online branding, some smaller businesses cannot compete in this high-cost environment. These companies still have to turn to offline marketing methods to promote their business. There is no reason for these tactics to be dull, though. Offline marketing can be just as memorable and effective as online marketing.

Connect, stand out and engage

The key to successful offline marketing is deciding what needs to be done or said, and then choosing the best tool for the job, so to speak. Let’s break this down by looking at three of the most important business objectives:

Making connections

When it comes to potential business partners or peers, business cards still rule in the offline world. You might even stand out simply for the fact that you still have a business card and do not rely on the exchange of email addresses.

The best business cards are the single-minded ones. Do not include as much information as possible – your name, the company’s name and contact details are enough. But if you think this equals boring, think again. These 30 business cards, as seen on Mashable, are testament to the fact that it’s not.

Creating brand awareness

You get the best bang for your buck at an expo. A well-attended and relevant expo, that is. You have to be sure that your stand will see a lot of traffic and that it comes from the type of people that falls within your target market.

You’d want to stay in the minds of those potential customers long after they attended the expo and handing out souvenirs is a good way to do just that. Don’t just pick a souvenir at random, make sure it works by choosing something that’s cost-effective, intriguing and branded.

A simple example of a souvenir is a sticker. Keep the message short and add a website address. If you have a Facebook page, the message could be ‘Like us on Facebook’. Stickers work well with younger crowds.

Luggage tags could work if it’s an expo that people have travelled to, or even an expo in the hospitality industry. It would be something this demographic uses often, so they’ll think of your brand whenever they travel. Don’t forget to brand the tags and add a short message!

Getting people in the door

There are many ways to get people into your store. If your business is located in an area that sees a lot of pedestrians, sidewalk signs will catch the attention of those passing by your shop’s front door. Be sure the message catch the attention and, as always with advertising, keep the message simple. People shouldn’t struggle to read or comprehend the message at a glance.

Banners will also make people stop and notice your shop. There is a multitude of shape, sizes and designs to choose from, but a banner on a sidewalk or at eye-level will work best. Messages overhead could easily be missed, especially if the person walking past your shop is in a hurry.

To get help with your offline marketing strategies, talk to Assignment 3, a leading signage and printing company. Our brand-new Johannesburg branch or our well-established Cape Town branch are sure to have exactly what you need to make a success of your business.





Factor in interest rates before taking out a loan

A trap people seeking a personal loan frequently fall into is that they fail to consider the interest that accrues.

They are so relieved to have their loan application approved that they overlook this key point in their haste to meet whatever pressing demand has been made of them.

In the past decade there has been a move away from principal and interest lending (some repayment of principal with each monthly payment) to interest-only loans.

Particularly in Africa, interest rates can fluctuate dramatically from one year to the next. Interest rates vary significantly around the world, with figures as low as 0.25% in the United States during the 1950s and as high as 800% in Zimbabwe during its recent financial crisis.

Although the South African repo rate seems to be holding relatively steady for the moment, the South African Reserve Bank has frequently reiterated that the domestic interest rate cycle will follow a gradual upward trajectory.

Consider all aspects

For this reason it is vitally important that borrowers understand why interest rates fluctuate – a country’s socio-political situation being one – and what changes in interest rates mean for the average consumer on the street.

One of the key considerations for anyone who takes out a loan is the rate of interest they will be charged. This is used to determine the amount that needs to be paid back. Simply put, the higher the interest rate, the more you will have to pay back over the duration of your loan.

Inflation can also directly affect rates, as the lender foresees that the value of the principal sum is likely to reduce in value in coming years so they raise interest rates to compensate.

Risk is also a factor in calculating interest rates – when a borrower is assessed to have a higher risk of defaulting, the interest rate is increased to offset the default potential.

Easy way to work out loan interest

Most credible financial services providers tend to offer a fixed interest to customers, which provides them more autonomy over how they wish to repay their loans.

What has made the process even easier is that these institutions offer an easy to use loan calculator on their websites.

It is incredibly handy to be able to use a loan calculator to work out the monthly repayments on the loan amount required, although it is still advisable that a borrower discusses the loan conditions with a loan company consultant, as there can be small changes to the projections detailed through the loan calculator.

That said, the benefits of being able to work out loan repayments on a number of financial products, from personal loans to consolidation loans and home loans, is a tremendous convenience for anyone with access to the internet.