Category Archives: Business

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.


Tips for presenting your business

The saying that you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover has never been an easy one to apply in real life. We make snap judgements based on first impressions of people, places and products. This is especially true when we walk into a business or shop.

Having the right first impression can make all the difference when converting visitors to your business into paying customers. Here are a few ideas to consider when designing your shop and presenting your business:

Think logically about signage and windows

Your signage should be appropriate to your product and convey an image your target market can relate to. In the same sense, make sure your window displays are inviting, and a good representation of the newest products in store. Be mindful not to clutter up your windows, and change them often to keep things fresh.

Your brand image should be clear and consistent throughout your shop, so keep your identity in mind every time you change promotional displays.

Provide enough “white” space

Finding a middle ground between too much and too little stock in your shop is tricky. You don’t want cluttered shelves and display cases that make it difficult for your client to find what they are looking for. If your shop is too empty and minimalistic, you run the risk of your client assuming that you won’t have what they want.

The best layout for your shop is one where clients can move freely and see your selection clearly. It is important to showcase your whole range of options, but you can always store access stock in a back room to avoid cluttering up your shopfront.

Keep your shop presentable

A low standard of cleanliness creates an assumption that you apply the same low standards to product quality. Visiting your shop has to be a pleasant experience for your client, so keep all the floors and counters as clean as possible. Most importantly, your product should always be in a presentable state, and fully functional when demonstrated to a client.

Your shop’s outside is as important as its inside, so make your on street appearance a priority. Wash the windows often, and tend to any plants or ground cover you have at the entrance regularly.

There is nothing worse than peeling paint when it comes to portraying a sleek image, so invest in proper maintenance for your building. You can make this easier on yourself by installing windows and doorframes that are weather resistant and easy to clean. The environment around your shop has to be taken into account. Consider aluminum cladding in South Africa; since the climate can be quite harsh, protective barriers over doors and walls prolongs the lifespan of finishes and is easy to keep clean.

The personal touch

Every time a person walks into your shop, they will either feel welcomed or unwanted. The attitude with which you greet potential customers can mean all the difference when closing or losing a sale. Be friendly and helpful, but not overbearing. Dress appropriately to your brand so your client can relate, and be mindful of personal grooming.

You are an ambassador for your brand and your shop is the vessel, so make sure your business is not hindered by creating the wrong impression.

When is it Time to Fire Your Client?

When you’re first starting out in a business, your tendency may be to hold on to every client that you can. However, after a while there might come a time when you think that some clients just aren’t worth your time. You would be correct. In such a case, you may have to give the “It’s not you, it’s me” speech. This is going to be a difficult decision to make, especially if it’s a new concept for you. Here are some signs to tell that the time has come to fire your client.

When you’re being underpaid

Always remember that your resources are limited. Even if a certain client is bringing in money, you need to evaluate whether the relationship is profitable enough for you to spend the time and effort doing the work, or whether it would be better served elsewhere. Explain the situation to your client. They should understand that you’re running a business. If they are unable or unwilling to renegotiate the rates, it may be time to cut your losses and seek more cost-effective clients.

When a boundary has been crossed

It’s perfectly normal to experience some hiccups with the people you work with and have a disagreement. It’s a part of business and life in general. However, there can come a time when a professional boundary has been crossed, and you need to make a serious decision.

It’s difficult to say where that line is, but you’ll know it when it’s breached. If things get so ugly that you’d gladly lose out on that client’s business, then you know it’s time.

When your terms of agreement are breached

There are going to be certain terms that both sides agree to when engaging in a partnership together. Generally, you agree to deliver certain objectives, for which your client agrees to pay you a fee.

When you don’t get your money, you need to drop that client. It could be that your client forgot to pay you. It happens. However, if it’s a consistent problem, stop taking excuses and run in the opposite direction.

When your client makes your life a nightmare

Sometimes clients can be difficult. Actually, it would be more accurate to say that your clients are often going to be difficult. However, if a client is always a pain, unreasonable and demanding to the point that they make you dread waking up in the morning, then do yourself a favour. Fire that person.

Knowing which clients are worth your time and effort is important to help your business grow. Practice quality customer service to keep the good ones, but know when it’s time to break up with your clients. It can be a difficult decision to make, and an even more difficult one to implement, but unfortunately it has to be done.

3 must-haves for a small business

The business of being in business is no easy feat. There are so many factors to take into consideration to ensure the profitability of an offering. From attracting customers, retaining them, converting them to purchase goods, to having them return for additional purchases are all the functions a business owner needs to tend to. Not forgetting the all-important after sales service.

When businesses are run alone, business owners often find themselves struggling to tend to these essential business functions optimally. The introduction of business convenience mechanisms is thus vital to the survival of small businesses. These mechanisms, largely electronic based, help business owners to effectively manage and grow their businesses.

Business software

Back in the day, businesses manually recorded all sales and other important business related information. Today, this is no longer necessary and in fact, it is deemed very burdensome to do so. With the introduction of software packages to see to these tasks, business owners are provided with convenient accounting software to record transactions and manage the finances of their businesses easily. In addition, businesses can easily pull reports to gauge the growth of the business.

The core of a business is its customers, and managing customer information is thus vital to the success of a business. Customer relationship software is a must-have for businesses to retain their customer base as it can track customer purchase behavior, the profiling of clientele and also assists in regular engagements with them. There are a number of different software packages available for businesses, but the use of these packages is essential for businesses to run efficiently.


Theft is rife within businesses and proper precautions need to be taken to ensure that no financial losses are sustained as a result. One surefire way to curb theft is the presence of closed circuit cameras. As much as it can help identify perpetrators in the event of theft, it can also act as a deterrent for burglars who are looking to pocket merchandise or equipment. Other deterrents such as alarm systems, security gates and window protection also add to the overall security of a business.

If a business sees a large amount of foot traffic, the installation of turnstiles also adds an element of safety as it gives customers one way to enter and exit. This limits the chances of someone entering and exiting the store without paying as they will need to exit at a designated point. Moreover, intelligent turnstiles can assist the business owner with important customer information through tracking the amount of people who enter the business. For example, if a business sees a certain amount of traffic into the business, but this traffic doesn’t convert into sales, there is likely to be a problem with the price of goods or how appealing the merchandise is to customers. By knowing this information, a business owner can easily adapt his or her strategy to convert these mere feet into once-off or repeat customers.

A website

A website for a small business is essential. However, the development of a website alone is not enough – it needs to be found by those who are looking for it. For this reason, content on the website needs to be optimized for search engines and also be free from any vagueness.  By its very nature, a website exposes a business to prospective customers like no other channel or platform would. It gives visitors an indication of what the business offers and where to find the business. This mechanism, if used properly, can be a major driver for sales and can serve as a means for growth too.

The mistake most small business owners make is to create a website and leave it unchanged forever. A website needs to be updated regularly so that it can be more appealing to its viewers, but more importantly, so that it can rank better when searched for in Google. Lastly, a website should be seen as the windows to a business, if it is covered and the contents of the store is not visible, people are less likely to enter and make a purchase. Should it be clear, with the contents of the store visible, it is more appealing to passersby and would probably result in a sale of some kind.

There’s more to business than just profit

All businesses exist to make a profit by providing a certain product or service. However, there is more to a business than just profit generation. According to the King 3 report on good corporate governance, a business has three fundamental areas of focus.  These are; Profit, Planet and People.

The profit area of focus is self-explanatory and has to do with the business’s ability to remain liquid. The planet area of focus deals with the environment and the responsibility of a business to preserve it. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, is the focus area on people. This area of focus deals with a company’s responsibility to its immediate environment, particularly the people who reside in it. It has to do with uplifting the community through giving back in any way or form.

There has been a strong focus by big corporates over the past decade on social responsibility which may have left smaller businesses wondering whether they are required to give back too. There is no requirement, it is a voluntary service provided and is not limited to opt-in based on business size. Businesses of all sizes are able to give back to a charitable cause and thereby uplift their immediate community.

How does one go about it? Corporate social responsibility (CSR) is more than just throwing money at a charitable initiative randomly. It is a committed long-term relationship built around the mission of the business. The first step is to evaluate the business and identify its vision. Once established, align this vision to a suitable charitable organisation. This is followed by appointing a team or individual who will be responsible for fostering a good relationship. Most importantly, the business needs to identify its commitments and make sure that these are realistic and time-bound. Lastly, once implemented, businesses should constantly evaluate the progress of their CSR initiatives and seek to improve on the performance thereof.

To kickstart this seemingly daunting process, a few Cape-based initiatives have been identified below:

BEN (Bicycle Empowerment Network South Africa)

The Bicycling Empowerment Network (BEN) South Africa was established in Cape Town in 2002. In simple terms, the core mission of BEN is to address poverty and mobility through the promotion of the bicycle in all its forms. The initiative imports used bicycles and distributes it among previously disadvantaged areas along with proper training on bicycle safety and maintenance. Donations to the organisation goes towards the cost of purchasing a bicycle and the related items such as shipping, helmets, tool sets etc. Assistance does not only need to come in the form of monetary donations, it can also be the donation of relevant general cycle items such as used bicycles, helmets and other safety equipment, mountain bike wheelsets as well as bicycle trailers and attachments among others. Should your company have offices across the country, BEN has 17 Bicycling Empowerment Centres around South Africa. Since its inception, the organisation was able to distribute over 12 000 new and used bikes to those who needed it. Moreover, the organisation is able to help address job creation and the access to it.

Ikamva Labantu

Around 30 years ago, Helen Lieberman began a tiny program to help mothers and children after she was exposed to the effects of poverty in her surroundings. The program grew into an organisation and is known as Ikamva Labuntu. The organisation helps thousands of people in need in South Africa through support, information and resources. The main aim of the organisation is to make communities in South Africa self-reliant. To this end, it builds and supports crèches, schools, senior and youth centres, programs for the disabled, skills training and building initiatives. In addition, Ikamva Labantu makes use of the services provided by social workers, occupational therapists, community fieldworkers, nurses and teams of volunteers. In order to continue providing support and upliftment to those who need it, Ikamva Labantu relies on donations received from individuals and organisations. Should the broad and vital cause of this organisation align to yours, you can assist with donations as well as by spreading the word on its existence and initiatives.

Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust

The Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust was founded in 1994 after the Red Cross War Memorial, located in Rondebosch, was near to closing its doors due to a lack of funding. The Trust provides the hospital with funding in order to carry out its various projects ranging from capital, equipment, research and training to funding paediatric healthcare projects outside of the hospital. All of these projects have a major impact on the lives of children in need of care across Southern Africa. There are many ways in which businesses can help the Red Cross Children’s Hospital Trust. One of the most common, and possibly the most valuable, is the donation of funds – whether it be in their own capacity or through the hosting of a fundraising event. In addition, businesses can also volunteer their time with projects by becoming a Friend of the Children’s Hospital Association.

By actively undertaking CSR initiatives, businesses are not only able to easily build its brand by positively influencing its reputation and raise its public profile, but also attract and retain valuable staff members seeking to make a difference to society. Furthermore, customers and investors are naturally attracted to companies who have a degree of social responsibility and gives them a good reason to support you and your business.