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Digital transformation: Separating the average from the exceptional in 2021 [Opinion] –

The optimists among us realised early on that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns should be viewed as the ultimate opportunity to accelerate the transformation to digital.

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After a year like 2020, “predicting” anything about the future should probably come with a large disclaimer.

In business though, this past year certainly separated the leaders from those merely paying lip service to trendy terms like agile, flexible, pivot, and – the now cringe-worthy “new normal”.

Yes, 2020 was tough. But the optimists among us realised early on that the COVID-19 pandemic and associated lockdowns should be viewed as the ultimate opportunity to accelerate the transformation to digital. Increasingly, a digital strategy is becoming the only strategy

The impact of the coronavirus has also influenced just about every single one of our expectations around what is digitally possible, with our recent learnings prompting us to think very differently about our strategic planning for 2021 and beyond. And it’s very exciting.

Data is (still) all the rage

Data remains a top priority in nearly every type of organisation. Importantly, it’s not a trend as much as an element that is fundamental to a future-focused approach to doing business, no matter the industry. The efficient application of relevant data forms the bedrock of efficiency.

Applying the right kind of data, as with technology in general, has the potential to streamline operational efficiencies, and strengthen the quality of decision-making.

When it comes to creativity in marketing, and advertising in particular, data takes the guesswork out of the equation. Rather than speculating about what a client needs or wants, or relying on the creative director’s “intuition”, data provide measurable insights into actual customer behaviour and preferences.

As such, data allows for connection and personalisation. Brands must understand that data lies at the heart of online immersion. Despite all the buzz, data is simply information – about your clients, your products, your services … down to the smallest details. But that information, or data, is super powerful. It is also the resource that will set the average apart from the exceptional in years to come.

Simply, data is information about people. And with people spending more time online than ever before, brands and businesses can leverage this unique opportunity to gather valuable information that will help them connect with their customers in new, relevant, and very exciting ways.

High five

The impact of 5G is set to dramatically change the way we have experienced internet speed to date. Expected to be at least 100 times faster than 4G, the shift can be likened to the difference between a dial-up modem and fibre.

Entertainment and communication will evolve to a point where engagement happens in real-time. As the roll-out of 5G continues, the boundaries of what’s possible with online experiences – from entertainment to shopping, working, learning, and more – will be pushed beyond what we can currently imagine.

Video still victorious

Video killed the radio star a long time ago, but in 2021 it will likely continue obliterating everything in its wake. Online video consumption shows no sign of slowing down as “people become accustomed to having endless high-quality videos on tap”, according to this report.

We’re likely to see even more brands moving to spend on video production and advertising.

We’re in the golden age of video and the best is yet to come. Businesses will do well in 2021 to make video a key part of their advertising and marketing strategy.

Into the future… and beyond

Business survival in the 2020s and beyond is contingent on truly embracing and adopting a digital-first approach. This starts with elevating the strategic importance of the digital function within an organisation to much more than a nice-to-have. It should, rather, be an integral part of a systemic approach to business growth and performance enhancement.

Business leaders need to stay current with technology, data, creativity, and its endless possibilities. Too many are operating in silos when what is needed is seamless, integrated solutions across not only marketing and advertising channels, but the entire business.

We don’t know what we don’t know, which is why business leaders must commit to staying relevant by prioritising digital transformation. Remember too that digital transformation is not limited to the tools and the technology, but references a holistic approach to business leadership that values innovation, solutions, and a future-forward ethos.

Businesses of the future will have to be fully prepared for the digitally-savvy customer, who expects brand communication to be personal, relevant, interesting, and available – where, when, and how they want it.

If there’s one thing that needs to be a strategic priority in 2021, it’s planning to remain relevant in the context of rapidly-changing local and global demands.

This article was written by Shaune Jordaan, CEO of Hoorah Digital.

Featured image: Christin Hume via Unsplash

Source: https://ventureburn.com/2020/12/digital-transformation-separating-the-average-from-the-exceptional-in-2021-opinion/

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Ventureburn

Driving entrepreneurial growth through mentoring [Opinion]

The rise in the amount of knowledge sharing and mentoring by businesspeople through partnerships with SMEs and entrepreneurs in order to help them survive and succeed has been, and continues to be, a silver lining in the overwhelming Covid-19 cloud.

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The rise in the amount of knowledge sharing and mentoring by businesspeople through partnerships with SMEs and entrepreneurs in order to help them survive and succeed has been, and continues to be, a silver lining in the overwhelming Covid-19 cloud.

It’s a new reality that needs to be encouraged to grow across all sectors of business

The significant number of job losses in South Africa in 2020 now means more people need to find some way to bring in income – many will become entrepreneurs and will start small or even medium enterprises.

A significant proportion of business survivors in this pandemic are themselves, entrepreneurs. From the outset, they had reduced operational costs, understand their markets, and were able to streamline and adapt to the rapidly changing economic environment.

For instance, in a local street in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg, out of five eateries that existed before the pandemic, one has survived – the one that was the most popular before the crisis. There are valuable learnings to be shared there that could make a difference to struggling SMEs or start-ups.

If a few thousand successful businesspeople take it upon themselves to advise, mentor and support just 10 entrepreneurs or potential small businesses each – according to their own time availability – and those mentored entrepreneurs then each partner with 10 more, ad infinitum, the number of successful and growing businesses would escalate exponentially.

Personal experience with the international Endeavor organisation, a high-impact entrepreneurship movement of ‘entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs’, created to multiply the impact of its invited membership of entrepreneurs, has proven the value of knowledge sharing many times over.

The Endeavor model is designed to search for, select and scale-up entrepreneurs with the greatest potential for large-scale success, then spread their stories and resources to sustain lasting economic and social transformation in their home markets and beyond. In 2018 & 2019 the 26 SA Endeavor Entrepreneurs created over 4,500 new jobs and an incremental R2bn in annual revenue.

2Engage was privileged to be selected for the Endeavor International panel in 2017, following our reaching the finalist stages of the FNB Innovation Awards. Since then, I have been in a position to share knowledge and experience with aspiring entrepreneurs both through Endeavor and on other SME-building platforms in South Africa, on a partnership, rather than on a ‘teaching’ basis.

From the start of the pandemic, it has been inspiring to see a definite and strong growth in the willingness of businesspeople – corporates and entrepreneurs – to work with smaller companies, building new partnerships, networking, encouraging innovation, and driving growth in those businesses.

This form of ‘paying it forward’ makes sound business sense – every business is part of the local community and economic environment where it survives and thrives. If that environment is struggling, the business in turn will struggle. Getting involved in contributing to the growth of small businesses and entrepreneurs, will serve the business well into the future.

Just a glance at South Africa’s economic status now is enough to remind every businessperson with something of value to share, the value of sharing. Growth is imperative – and businesspeople are at the heart of that potential.

This article was written by By Andrew Weinberg, CEO of 2Engage.

Featured image: Andrew Weinberg, CEO of 2Engage (Supplied)

Source: https://ventureburn.com/2020/12/driving-entrepreneurial-growth-through-mentoring-opinion/

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How SA Can Help Grow Artisan-Based Businesses [Opinion]

Supporting small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) is key to economic growth and recovery but SMME’s in South Africa lag far behind their international counterparts when it comes to job creation.

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Supporting small, micro and medium enterprises (SMMEs) is key to economic growth and recovery but SMME’s in South Africa lag far behind their international counterparts when it comes to job creation.

Incubate dark horses – not the unicorns

According to the Small Business Institute, 98% of all formal businesses in the country are SMMEs, but they create only 28% of all jobs. Many more businesses operate informally, offering limited security for their owners and less so for their employees if there are any.

South Africa has over 150 incubators and business development service providers. A promising sector that is underserved by these organisations are artisan-based businesses: skilled trades such as building, plumbing or carpentry, dominated by SMMEs, characterised by stable market demand and with significant job creation potential.

Why it matters

This topic was recently discussed as part of the Artisan 4.0 insight Series by BluLever Education, a company focused on vocational and skills-based training for artisans.

“Fewer than 5% of incubators or business development organisations focus on artisan-based businesses,” said Jess Roussos, Co-founder of BluLever Education. “As much as two-thirds of these businesses are informal. There is a big opportunity for South Africa in supporting the formalisation, stability, and growth of these businesses – job creation, economic growth, and an increased tax base.”

“This is quite a cycle-resilient market, especially for those artisan-based businesses that serve homeowners or other small businesses. Fixes always need to be fixed, and it is even better to repair than to replace items during a downturn,” added Arjun Khoosal, Co-founder of Kandua.com, South Africa’s largest online home services marketplace. “Trades are one of the easiest entry points to self-employment and can provide a stable income and decent livelihood with the right support.”

“Supporting these kinds of businesses has broad societal benefits,” said Simphiwe Mntambo, Ventures Manager at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment. “Who benefits when homes are safe and well looked after? When we have an ecosystem of small businesses that are doing well? Or when we have reliable service delivery and maintenance? The answer is that we all do.”

How to Incubate Artisan-Based Businesses

1. Access to market

“Artisan-based businesses have different development needs, one important one being access to market,” says Khoosal of Kandua. “The plumbers, electricians, and builders on our platform tell us all the time that the biggest barrier to their success is simple: finding new customers, which is what we facilitate through Kandua.com.”

This sentiment was echoed by Mark Mfikoe, National Director for the Electrical Contractors Association: “The oxygen in contracting is not cash, it is profitable jobs.”

2. Mentorship

Mentorship is widely acknowledged as an important aspect of entrepreneurship development but is something that is limited for artisans. “Matching the right mentors with the right mentees is critical: you want someone who understands the kind of business you are in, and who has also made a success of it,” added Mfikoe.

3. Business and soft skills

“Tradespeople cannot rely on their artisanal skills alone if they want to build a stable business,” echoed Khoosal. “Soft skills, business skills, tools, and resources for compliance and formalisation are the other side of the equation.

“Skills development programmes need to be short, flexible enough to accommodate artisans’ work schedules, and cannot require costly long-distance travel. Someone should not have to choose between earning a living and attending training,” added Roussos.

4. The right backers

Many people end up in trades out of necessity and many artisan-based businesses are survivalist entrepreneurs, which does not make them attractive to traditional investors and has often left the incubation of these businesses in the hands of the government. “It is unlikely that you’ll find the next tech unicorn or a disruptive innovation amongst these businesses, but that doesn’t make them any less impor

Mntambo at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment emphasised the need for alternative incubation and investment models, and backers with a broader vision: “We need to measure more than the amount invested and the financial return. We need to look at jobs created, or community investment models, and we need supporters with an appetite for impact-creation.”

Carien Engelbrecht, Co-founder of the Aurik Group echoed the need to measure impact beyond financials and added that the ultimate goal needs to be to get these businesses to a state of fundability: “It is not about massive upfront investments, but rather access to bridging finance at critical times.

Many trade businesses aspire to serve the business to business market where deals are bigger, but payment terms tend to be much longer. When a business is operating in a stable way, has sufficiently increased its turnover and profits, and has the right spread of clients, then they can access a cash injection when they need it and take things to the next level.”

This article was written with collective contribution from Jess Roussos, Co-founder of BluLever Education, Arjun Khoosal, Co-founder of Kandua.com, Simphiwe Mntambo, Ventures Manager at the Allan Gray Orbis Foundation Endowment, Mark Mfikoe, National Director for the Electrical Contractors Association and Carien Engelbrecht, Co-founder of the Aurik Group.

Featured image: Arjun Khoosal, co-founder of BluLever Education (Supplied)

South Africa has over 150 incubators and business development service providers. A promising sector that is underserved by these organisations are artisan-based businesses: skilled trades such as building, plumbing or carpentry, dominated by SMMEs, characterised by stable market demand and with significant job creation potential.

Source: https://ventureburn.com/2020/12/how-sa-can-help-grow-artisan-based-businesses-opinion/

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Top tech tools for entrepreneurs [Opinion]

Here are seven essential tech tools for entrepreneurs to improve their business management, enhance productivity and encourage innovation.

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When the world shut down due to the pandemic, everything changed, especially for small businesses. Suddenly, the ability to connect to customers became even more critical, and the safe way to do so is through technology.

While companies have long relied on email or text messaging to communicate, many entrepreneurs found they needed to expand their technology toolkit, becoming more creative and resourceful with how they conduct business and compete effectively.

As a technology expert who advises more than 3.4-million entrepreneurs around the world on technology solutions that can help them serve their customers and manage their business, Rhonda Vetere, Chief Information Officer, Herbalife Nutrition and serial entrepreneur provides seven essential tech tools every entrepreneur must use.

Customer service

We are living during a time of tremendous technological transformation. Gone are the days when people waited for what seemed an eternity to send or receive a message. Time has sped up, and with it is the demand from customers for immediate attention. According to recent research, 82% of consumers expect a quick response from brands. Keeping up or ahead of customers requires staying on top of technology trends and ensuring that you have the tools to compete in the digital age.

For website support, many entrepreneurs use a live chat tool that can help customers with basic questions. Many of these tools can be used on social media as well. If paid chat options are price prohibitive, there are also useful and free tools, including Zoho Desk.

Communication and collaboration

Video conferencing and video chat applications grew exponentially during the pandemic. In March, video conferencing apps saw 62 million downloads. Entrepreneurs are using video apps for connecting with customers, partners, and vendors. While these tools are excellent for meetings, they are also useful for maintaining connections with industry organizations and networking groups. Many of the tools allow break-out rooms for a small meeting within a session, creating an intimate and collaborative space.

As you continue to build your reputation as an expert in your industry, video conferencing can also be used to host a webinar for existing and potential customers.

Many entrepreneurs are hosting panel discussions, bringing in other partners and collaborators. These sessions can be taped and repurposed as content for your social media channels, website, and email marketing. There are many video conferencing options, including, Joinme, which has a free plan that lets you invite up to 10 video participants

Social media

Social media is not just for sharing videos and memes – it is a top business tool. Your customers are on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin, YouTube, and Instagram. Once you identify which channels you want to use, you need to post engaging content.

These can range from news about products, sales, and impactful information. Posting across several channels every week can be daunting. Thankfully, many social media tools help you schedule and publish content that can be calendared and posted automatically. These tools range from Hootsuite (which has a free option) to Zoho Social to Buffer.

Slack

More and more brands, companies, and entrepreneurs use Slack to communicate with their customers. It’s a great place to provide relevant updates, tips and advisement, and new product announcements. It also gives your customers a place away from social media to share stories and entrepreneurs a place to connect with their team more visibly easily.

Storage

There is a lot of discussion about the term “the cloud.” Think of the cloud as an off-site storage locker, where all your critical information is safe and secure – and easily sharable. Google Drive, Dropbox, or Microsoft Sharepoint safeguard your backups and allow users access from any location. Moving your work to the cloud, not only benefits you to work from anywhere and any device, but it also makes it easy to share content with your customers.

Email Marketing

Your marketing toolkit may contain a variety of options – one of which is email marketing. Sending professionally designed, informative newsletters to your customers is a great way to keep in touch. One of the most popular companies in the business is Mailchimp. Even better, If your company sends fewer than 12,000 email messages per month to fewer than 2,000 subscribers, you can take advantage of Mailchimp’s Forever Free plan.

E-commerce

The pandemic has changed how we shop. Overnight, people began to purchase everything from groceries to furniture online and in record numbers. Customers now expect to buy their products online.

They expect the experience to be easy and fast. There are many great e-commerce platforms out there, such as Shopify, a one-stop-shop for setting up your e-commerce store, to Amazon’s beyond popular platform. Shopify offers a 14-day free trial, and you can use it to chat with customers online, track orders and send invoices.

One final note. As a technologist, I remind everyone that interaction with your customers is up to you. Nothing supplants human interaction and connection.

With limits on our in-person meetings, it is even more essential to find ways to build businesses. Mix up how you connect with others – pick up the phone, or schedule a Zoom, to call a handful of customers every day. Don’t forego a personal email that is not meant to sell a customer or colleague – but to check-in with them and see how they are doing.

Technology is a fantastic tool that helps small businesses act big. The challenge is to make the technology connections feel more three-dimensional vs two-dimensional. Technology can help us be more efficient and productive, and while it can enhance our communication, it will never replace the incredible power of the human relationship. That part is up to you.

This article was written by Rhonda Vetere, Chief Information Officer, Herbalife Nutrition.

Featured image: Humphrey Muleba via Unsplash

For website support, many entrepreneurs use a live chat tool that can help customers with basic questions. Many of these tools can be used on social media as well. If paid chat options are price prohibitive, there are also useful and free tools, including Zoho Desk.

Source: https://ventureburn.com/2020/12/top-tech-tools-for-entrepreneurs/

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