Category Archives: Business

Get Along with Everyone

South Africans live in the Rainbow nation. As one of our national television stations used to declare, “We are one”. And that we are, but keep in mind that we’re still 11 different cultures sharing one country. In an average day, you can interview a person with Xhosa heritage, be greeted by an Afrikaans receptionist and sit next to a Sotho person during a business flight.

Most of us navigate these situation without so much as a second thought as to the culture of the person we’re facing. But this could lead to miscommunication and misunderstandings. It’s then easy to brush these off to the other person having a bad day or not being a people’s person, for instance, but it just be a cultural difference.

Say the latter is the case, won’t your day be much more pleasant, and perhaps even efficient, if you made yourself aware of the differences between all of the cultures in our country?

Educate yourself on South Africa’s cultures

The first step to understanding someone from another culture, is to learn more about their culture. This does not mean an extensive knowledge of every last tradition is required; just familiarise yourself with the basics.

You could build this body of knowledge by doing a search on the internet, but it would be much more interesting to sit down and chat with someone from particular culture. They’ll have more to share than any website could ever have.

But don’t generalise

South Africa, and the world as a whole, is becoming more Westernised by the day. This means you should never generalise about a culture – the person you’re exchanging pleasantries with could be of a new generation, with newer ways of thinking and doing.

Personality of course also plays a role in communication. The person’s culture might dictate one thing, but their personality, shaped by life experiences and innate qualities, could make them behave in exactly the opposite way. Keep this mind!

Interact with different cultures

So know you’re armed with all of this information on all the cultures. Now what? Now it’s time to integrate. Don’t just sit at your normal table during lunch time, speaking only to the people (and possibly) cultures you’re comfortable with. Interact and communicate with colleagues from other cultures too. Practice does in fact make perfect, so you’ll be interacting faultless in no time.

Learn the language

Being able to speak someone’s language will earn you instant respect. The fact that it will make communication easier goes without saying. Start small, with basic words. Pick them up from the new friends you’ve made at work or enrol in an evening class.

Eventually start reading news articles and other short snippets so that you can recognise the written words as well. Don’t understand anything? Then it’s as easy as consulting a language book or website for the correct Sesotho translation, or Xhosa translation, or Zulu translation… you’ll be able to find them all easily!

Let us not forget to be open minded too. Different cultures comes with different views. So be open to being challenged. You might be introduced to a whole new way of thinking and who knows – you might end up a far more cultured and enriched person.

 

 

 

 

Getting the most out of business expos

With the current economy looking dubious at best, 2014 is set to be a year of innovative business thinking and creative challenge management. For small businesses to survive in this climate they have to be a part of the buzz, and at the forefront of industry innovation.

Staying ahead of the pack means any opportunity for networking should be grasped with both hands. This is where trade shows and business expos can make all the difference. These occasions offer opportunities to collaborate with other members of the industry, and connect with your market. With all the exciting trade shows coming up, Johannesburg and Cape Town conference centres will be the place to go if you want to be part of the buzz.

Making the best of your presence

Being part of an expo or trade show is only the beginning, and since it can cost a pretty penny to get there, you want to get the most out of your investment. The most important things to consider are the nature of a trade show, and what you want to get out of it. Is a particular expo targeting consumers, or is it an opportunity to make business connections? Know your strategy beforehand, and set yourself a goal. If high stall rental puts you off, speak to the organisers. Perhaps you can negotiate a lower fee by working at the event, or by helping out with promotions.

Once your goals are set, you need to prepare accordingly. Draw visitors to your stall by creating a good first impression, and having the goods to back it up. Your product or service should be evident at a glance and handy if possible. Make sure all your displays, banners and props are neat, and of the highest standard. Remember, you are part of your stall, so dress sharp, smile, and make potential clients believe in your brand.

You’ll have to step away from your stall at times to rejuvenate or meet other traders. Make sure there is someone covering your post at all times, but not just anyone. The person who stands in for you is a brand ambassador, so they have to know the product inside out. Also coach them in being hospitable, and representing your business in the same light as you would.

If your product or business has won awards, make sure they are on display at your stall. Print more than enough business cards and fliers to hand out, and give visitors incentive to keep them. Offer a discount to tradeshow goers for a week after the show. If they have to produce a particular card or flyer to prove they were there, you can ensure your contact details make it all the way to their homes.

Lay some groundwork

Send out a newsletter or bulk email to let existing customers know about your stall. Offering special tradeshow prices gives them incentive to stop by. Small business guru, Denise O’Berry recommends setting up a raffle two months in advance. It creates excitement around your brand, and you can pull a crowd by drawing the winner at the show. Get a local radio station to cover the draw and you’ll receive some free advertising.

Visiting a trade show can be exhausting, especially for the elderly, so having comfortable seating at your stall is another way to make visitors linger. Tell them about your product while they have a rest, and offer them a drink. Handing out cups of water, paper fans, or gift packs with your name on it ensures your logo will be visible throughout the venue. Have plenty printed in advance, and use it as bait for visitors.

Follow up

Have a plan in place for getting back to clients and industry members you met at the show. They might have lost your details, but make sure you have all of theirs. Ask visitors for their email addresses and collect business cards from other stalls. Get back to them right after the show; the sooner the better, so you’re still fresh in their minds. You might experience a rush in demand after the expo, so be ready with stock, or get someone to help handle quotes and phone calls. This is where you reap the benefits of investing in expos and tradeshows, so be ready to make it worth your while.

6 Top Tips for Planning a Business Event

Planning and hosting a business event can really reap you benefits if done right, from making connections to gaining publicity. The process that lies before you may seem daunting, especially if it’s your first time, but with a few tips you can end up enjoying yourself while pulling off a successful event that makes an impression.

Give yourself enough time

The single biggest stress inducer when planning an event is the worry that you’re running out of time to get everything organised. Give yourself enough time to get everything done that you want to. Remember that everything will take longer than you think. Six months, even a year, is not too much time to give yourself.

Choose a venue first

People often make the mistake of thinking that the first step is to select a date for their event. But after publicising the date, they might realise that an appropriate venue isn’t available. It’s far easier to first choose what venue you want, and then see what dates are available in the general timeframe you want the event to happen.

Know your purpose

There are many goals you can have for a business event or conference. From offering a platform for top tier energy industry executives to network at oil events, to gaining publicity for your new software product. Settle on what you really want to accomplish, and don’t lose sight of that by trying to make your event cater for everything.

Know why people are attending

On the other hand, it’s not all about you. Bear in mind what your target audience’s reasons for attending might be and try to accommodate that where you can. For instance, you might want to facilitate networking opportunities for them, as that is a popular reason to sign up for conferences and events.

It’s not all work and no play

Yes it’s a business event, but that doesn’t mean it needs to be dull. You still want your attendees to have a good time, because that generates more positive feedback and reflects well on your business. Consider providing some entertainment in the form of music, an MC who knows how to inject some humour into the occasion, or a meet-and-greet dinner.

Be true to your theme

Having a theme can be very useful. A theme will make branding your entire event much easier, giving you ideas for everything from the invitations to food. Having the right theme can also help you draw in attendees and target a niche market.

Use social media

To get word out about your event and boost attendance, it’s vital that you make use of social media channels. Don’t make all your posts or tweets about your brand or event details – the majority of what you put out there should be meaningful and engaging. Also, take note that the different social media platforms – Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook etc. – each have their own culture.

Even if you don’t think of yourself as a natural event planner, with these few tips, you can put together an event that will reflect well on you and your business. One final piece of advice, try not to stress too much about it. Enjoy yourself on the big day – you deserve to.

The Benefits of an Internship Programme

At times when your business is short on staff, you have two options available – you could incur the costs of advertising and recruiting for employees, or you could team up with a tertiary educational institution and take interns on board. The latter makes sense financially and operationally, and could benefit your business greatly.

You get more for less

An internship holds significant financial benefits.

First is that the set-up costs are nominal. You won’t spend much more than the money it takes to make a few phone calls to set up meetings. After this, there might be some expenditures involved, but it’s also very likely that the college or university will instead be interested in other mutually beneficial arrangements.

Then, second, is the fact that it’s not compulsory to spend money on salaries. It’s understood with students that pay is the exception and not the rule during internships. Do take note that offering remuneration, however small, will mean that your interns will be much happier and thus be more willing to put in extra effort.

Business will run better

Extra hands on deck at a time when you need them most will free up full-time employees, giving them more time to concentrate on important or creative tasks, or to simply take a breather now and again. This will not go unnoticed and you’ll reap the benefits for long after, because your staff will see that you care about them.

Consider as well that interns, fresh out of a business college, come to your business with up-to-date knowledge and skills. They’ll infuse your business with all of their cutting-edge know-how and will most likely have innovative ideas. This will give you a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Pay-offs now and in the future

Taking in interns is a great way of accessing the best talent the industry has to offer. What’s more, you can then shape those individuals and make them perfect fits for your company. Even if you’re not convinced that a candidate is right for your company at that moment in time, you still have a made a connection and you can use that connection in future to network.

Your internship programme will also polish your company’s image in the eyes of the public, because you’ll establish yourself as a business that cares about people and their futures. Even more so if your interns are from the community you operate in.

Keep in mind that your interns also have to benefit from the arrangement, so don’t do them the injustice of only tasking them with menial job functions. They want to learn and they want to make the most of the time they spend with you. So offer them valuable experience and they’re likely to not only return, but to also recommend you to others in the industry.

 

The strangest businesses

We’re so used to businesses because we all tend to have large assumptions about what people want and do. Businesses cater to needs and wants that people have: whether you need a computer fixed, papers researched, or a Mandarin translation of books, there are many businesses and individuals to cater to those needs. Yet, we would be naïve to think we know what every person wants or needs, just basing it on what we know or on things that are popular. Sometimes, strange businesses give us insight into the desires of other people – and therefore broadens our knowledge of other people – in important ways.

Virtual Dating Assistants

In recent years, the online dating world has taken off enormously. Initially, online dating was regarded as the domain of the desperate and the lonely, but increasingly the stigma is being erased. As online and “real” life are now recognised as the same thing, online dating is being used more frequently, by busy people and those who realise that the internet isn’t some magical, distant place. However, sometimes we are too busy or shy to try online dating despite wanting the results. That’s why there are such things as virtual dating assistants: These people are trained to learn about you, what kind of people you’d like to meet and make the connection without you going through frustrations. This service has proven successful to many clients and it’s a smart person who saw the gap in the market for this.

Ultra Cleaning Companies

What happens after a particularly messy event, say a scene after a film shoot that involves lots of liquids and stains; or perhaps a particularly expensive party involving lots of guests and food and wine. There exist professional cleaners who come in not just to tidy, but do a thorough job of removing and disposing everything in a hygienic way that can make any environment liveable again.

Celebrity Photo Broker

Celebrity culture is a strange beast that exists in cultures; famous musicians, performers, and so on, are regarded as god-like beings walking among mortals. Fans cry and lose their minds in their presence. Thus it should be of no surprise that there are magazines that are solely devoted to tracking the movements. However, they can’t be everywhere. Non-reporters also see celebrities and snap photos. Recognising that magazine and sites would want such photos, there exist services that can broker a deal between the non-reporters and the celebrity inquirer.

Cardboard box resellers

Almost everyone has cardboard boxes lying around, but no longer use them; companies are always needing cardboard boxes but don’t want to keep spending enormous sums on them. Thus, seeing the gap, BoxCycle allows for selling and buying of cardboard boxes. By listing the area you’re selling, it makes it easier for suppliers to pick up the boxes – after assessing a range of options for pick up. Everyone benefits and it also is a nice bump to the environment since less boxes are being requested to be made.

All these are slightly unusual but once you acknowledge what they’re catering, you can see why they make sense – and are actually rather smart.