Thoughtful ways to improve your business’ security

Security is an essential feature of any business. It shouldn’t be considered as secondary to profit – or rather, what today, we call “survival” – but as concurrent. By not considering what should go into security, you run the risk of losing everything that allows you to even have a business in the first place. But, even upon installing some function of security, that’s no guarantee the security is any good or appropriate.

Good security versus mere security

There’s a difference between closing a door and locking it. A closed door is, in some places, sufficient, such as within family homes and among friends and family. Knocking is regarded as respectful. Yet, for potential intruders, this is of course insufficient. Similarly, merely having security is not the same as having sufficient or proper security: by this we mean, security that actually responds to possible dangers that your business might face.

It’s the difference between locking your car or house and having an alarm system. In the one case, people can overcome it, but even the mere illusion of an alarm is sometimes sufficient to dissuade burglars.

You must be aware of your situation: Do you live in a particularly hostile area? Is it quiet and residential? How quick are the response times? How valuable are the items in the business complex? Do you have a safe onsite or elsewhere?

By consulting security experts, we can work on a case-by-case basis to determine the best solution for a business’ security – whether it’s a matter of installing proper window security, proper CCTV control room equipment, or even protections for laptops.

The point is: Security isn’t one thing because the things we are securing aren’t just one thing.

The key form of security

The best and most effective form of security is prevention via vigilance.

As many businesses know, even with security staff can get lazy and are not particularly vigilant – because they assume that security installed means less people will take chances. Thieves will take chances – they know that onsite staff are lacking in responses and vigilance. It’s not enough to have staff, they also need to be trained properly.

Similarly it’s not enough to have, say, mirrors. You also need to have a good lay out of the store, such that the mirrors are visible to your (trained) staff to spot potential thieves. Installing cameras is good, but what point do they serve if they can only see the top of someone’s head and not the rest of them, to indicate any identifying markers?

So, even with security, we need to assess whether the security being implemented is working and is functioning appropriately. And, majority, we need to ensure that we are practicing constant vigilance and awareness since preventing crime is better than combatting it – or rather is the best way to combat it.

How to Choose the Perfect Location for Your Second Business

When a business is running smoothly, it’s usually time to start thinking about expansion. This is of course provided you have the cash flow to support a second venture. But if everything is in order, it’s time to start scouting for a location.

It’s imperative to choose wisely before signing on the dotted line for a premises. As a business owner with one successful business already, it should be common knowledge that the location of a business can make it r sink it.

The first clue as to where you should open shop next would be the area from which most of your business queries are coming from. Should you, for instance, be in Cape Town’s CBD but people from Somerset West and Strand are purchasing your products, it could be an indicator of a gap in the market in those areas. So then you’d want to start looking into property for sale in Somerset West or Strand.

Still, do not neglect to research the demographics of the people living in close proximity of the location you’re considering. You don’t want to put up shop anywhere in town – you want to be close to the people who are buying your products or services. Collect all available data, even if takes doing a survey, then evaluate said data to help you decide whether a location is right for your business.

It might sound counterproductive, but consider setting up shop close to a competitor. People are already travelling to the area for the type of product or service you provide, so why not cash in on the existing traffic? Part of this strategy would be in-depth research into your competitors to see what they’re offering and at what prices. You’d want to at least match, but preferably beat their product or service offering.

Other factors that you should consider when looking at properties or location are the flow of traffic, accessibility and visibility:

The flow of traffic: Imagine you run a breakfast spot. Would you want your business to be on the side of the road most people drive along in the morning, or on the opposite side? Naturally you’d want to be on the side people use most on their way to work. This consideration might not be applicable to all businesses, but if you run any sort of establishment that people like to ‘pop in to’, do keep this one in mind.

Accessibility: It should be easy for people to access your business, whether they do it by car or on foot. Look at the building’s location in relation to main roads, where the front door is located (it should face the road or parking lot), and whether there is enough parking on the grounds.

Visibility: Would your shop be visible to the people who need to see it? Think about that breakfast spot again. If it’s located two streets up from the main road, how will drivers know about it? It would be much better to be next to the main road, in plain sight of drivers.

These are some of the most important factors to consider when choosing a location for your second business, but by asking yourself a number of other important questions, you can ensure that you pick the perfect location.

 

 

 

 

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.

Is Your Elevator Pitch Ready?

If you need to prepare a proposal for a meeting, you have the time to sit down and really think about what you want to say. You can do your research, choose your words carefully, and you know you have a certain allotment of time to get your point across coherently and persuasively.

However, what if you happen to run into someone in the elevator who has the power to make or break your dream? Or perhaps it’s at a conference or cocktail party that you’re introduced to someone who is in the position to make things happen. You have less than a minute to pitch on the spot and make an impression.

Go.

Will you know what to say? Will you know how to say it?

Having your elevator pitch ready to go at a moment’s notice is underappreciated. Some people have the gift of the gab to say the right thing at the right time – whether it’s to land a job, bag a sponsorship or outline an idea. But for the rest of us, it takes a little preparation to not let the opportune moment slip through our fingers.

Elevator pitches aren’t just for the elevator, however

While the idea being described here is that you should be able to pitch an idea in chance encounters or casual meetings, elevator pitches work well even for appointments. It’s a good strategy to always be able to sum up your proposal in less than a minute. Remember that companies hear any number of proposals, and the ones that stick out are often the simplest. You make a far bigger impact by distilling your pitch into its essential points because your core message can so easily be diluted with the nonessentials. So it’s always a good idea to be able to summarise your idea into an elevator pitch.

How to write your elevator pitch

Grab your pen and paper and write out your ideal proposal. Make sure that you really capture what the core points of your pitch are. Remember that this isn’t the time to elaborate. What you want to do is pique someone’s interest so that when you hand over a business card, it will be remembered.

Read it out loud and time how long it takes to say. Chances are that it’s more than 30 seconds. Well, that’s pretty much how long you will have. So you have some editing to do.

Distil the most essential points. The more summarised the better. What is the hook of your idea? Concentrate on the most essential point, maybe two, and build around that.

To help you along, ask yourself what your unique selling point is.

Very importantly, keep it conversational. Don’t try to impress your listener with jargon. Even if you are at industry functions, like oil conferences or corporate dinners, your point will be diminished if your listener needs to decode what you’re trying to say. Simple and direct is best.

Dreams can be made in chance encounters, as you’re both making your way to the ground floor. With a little forethought and practice you can pique someone’s interest in only a couple minutes, and in your metaphorical elevator you’ll get to where you what to be.