Businesses share secrets on thriving in a recession

In strained economic times, those businesses that innovate while focusing on the basics are best positioned to raise their heads above the pack. This will be the focus of the Business Opportunities & Franchise Expo, which brings entrepreneurs and investors together from 13 to 16 September 2012 at Johannesburg’s Coca-Cola dome.

The expo, which is owned and managed by Thebe Exhibitions and Projects, promises to be a lively hub of networking and exchanging enterprising ideas.

Together with partner and platinum sponsor, Eskom and silver sponsor Standard Bank, it introduces entrepreneurs and investors who are looking to grow, diversify or enter into business ownership, to the many business and franchise opportunities available in the market. It is also the country’s most credible platform for corporate procurement executives to meet suppliers with first-class BEE credentials.

Exhibitors at the expo will present opportunities from a broad and diverse spectrum of countries, from South Africa and Namibia to France, Italy, the USA, Spain, Australia and even Latvia and Mauritius.

Several of the established and emerging businesses exhibiting at the event have provided valuable tips to share on how to survive – and even thrive – during a recession.

Marius le Roux, head of segment: Small Enterprise at Standard Bank South Africa, has the following advice to share with up-and-coming entrepreneurs: “Past experience has shown that small businesses that best survived the previous recessionary period were those that went back to basics.

“In tough times, businesses need to focus on the principles of managing expenses, not incurring unnecessary costs, and investing where possible in driving sales. Cash flow also needs to be tightly managed, and a business should ensure there are processes in place so that debtors are paying them as early as possible. Any investments must be carefully considered to ensure that they will add real value to the business.

“Finally, where possible, businesses need to build up capital or cash reserves when things are going well, which will help in absorbing some pressure in tough times.

Tshego Chanda of Sebilo Creations, which will be showcasing its interior decoration capability and bespoke furniture, has the following solid words of advice for start-ups: “Continue to dream that dream that scares you. It does not matter if the odds are against you – remain faithful to your course and vision. Taking risks is part of the game, but business owners should have financial backing that will last them a year or at least six months should recessionary times strike.”

Softline Pastel, South Africa’s leading developer of accounting and business management software, will be showcasing its online accounting and BEE solutions at the expo. Their advice is to keep your eyes on the cash flow, as your business will fail if you can’t pay the bills – no matter how much collateral you have; and to target your sales, as business owners who focus on this key aspect have a better chance of survival.

Furthermore, they recommend preparing a finance strategy and ensure you make forward-thinking financial arrangements during the good times in preparation for the bad; and also to be serious about your business skills – do not only focus on your craft, but build your business acumen too.

Galito’s, which offers franchise opportunities with its signature 100% flame-grilled chicken fast-food outlets, says it is important to maintain a company’s core values, culture and differentiation in the marketplace. In addition, in tough economic times they suggest shifting one’s focus from the bottom line to investing in growing market share in preparation for the future economic upturn.

For Celebrity Skincare, an injection-free Botox® clinic, it is important for aspiring entrepreneurs to simply believe in their dreams and pursue them wholeheartedly, without spending too much time mulling over their pros and cons.

GoldZA and Plated™ will be showcasing gold-plated jewellery and gifts at the expo, as well as mobile gold-plating machinery. They maintain: “In an ever-changing world, entrepreneurs need to adapt, adjust and improvise on business models, constantly evolving in order to provide value as well as foster loyalty. With value for money being one of the key purchase decisions in recessionary times, feeding into needs and creating desire allows the market to be susceptible towards certain products, services and offerings.”

During a recession, the time is right to “intelligently invest in areas that are not so badly affected by the crisis”, is the view of Jumping Clay – and they should know: as an educational franchise that offers a window into the magical world of 3D learning, the business is mindful of the fact that children’s education and wellbeing are paramount for every parent, come what may.

Another exhibitor in the education field, Kumon Education South Africa, is an international franchisor facilitating successful supplementary Maths and English Programmes. Their sage advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to do their homework, ask questions, do something that they love and to compile a comprehensive business plan.

To succeed in business, Data Deal Security recommends distinguishing oneself from the competition, which they have accomplished admirably with their digital menu boards for restaurants, which are dynamic instead of static and can be easily changed or updated.

As for Red Ruby Beauty and Slimming, which has developed a platform that enables individuals and small salons to cost-effectively carry out therapies with the latest beauty aesthetic systems, ongoing customer service is paramount. “We are committed to seeing our customers succeed and therefore provide comprehensive technical, clinical and service support and training. Therefore we motivate, assist and guide our investors to the best of knowledge and assist with vital information on how to attract more customers.”

Jaa Marketing is a new opportunity that gives budding entrepreneurs a low-cost kickstart, and will be launching its Eye Print-branded bundled “business in a box” concept at the expo. This is the perfect example of spotting a fresh opportunity and seizing it with both hands. As founder Leslie Hart explains: “Being in the photographic industry, I was privileged to travel throughout the African continent, working with street photographers, where I developed a deeper understanding and appreciation for their work. Success was achieved with little or no resources at their disposal, and so one day I decided to develop a concept whereby this sector of the economy could be more fully supported and grown in the future.”

Solar Charge, which initiated the world-first idea of bringing solar-powered internet connection centres to rural and disadvantaged areas, will have a solar-charged business centre at the expo. The company’s Guy Robertson believes it is critical for aspiring entrepreneurs to identify a niche, ensure the company is well capitalised, identify the competition, compile a sound business plan and have conservative forecasts.

SMAB Business Consulting, which helps customers streamline their businesses with cutting-edge strategies and technological solutions, says it anchors its business on four pillars: transparency, integrity, a competent team and a firm commitment to excellent customer service.

Haylene Liberty, CEO of the Eskom Foundation, which is responsible for the execution of Eskom’s corporate social investment, and sponsor of the Business & Franchise Opportunities Expo since 2002, comments: “ In our focus on enterprise development through inter alia the Eskom Contractor Academy, which builds capacity for SME owners, our support of business incubators, presenting the annual Business Investment Competition for Black-owned SMEs, it is evident that the Expo is the one platform ideally suited for SMEs, who have limited marketing resources, to showcase their products or services with a view to form business linkages. The participating SMEs always comment on how enriching and fruitful their participation in the Expo is; and that they have optimal networking opportunities and business exposure.”

The Business Opportunities & Franchise Expo is certainly set to brim with dynamic ideas and interesting prospects. Says Sarah Howarth, General Manager of Thebe Exhibitions and Projects, the organisers of the expo: “We are pleased to be presenting such a diverse range of business opportunities and concepts at the expo, covering multiple sectors and industries.

“We would like to encourage those who either have an entrepreneurial idea that could turn into an empire – or simply want to create a new revenue stream or diversify their existing operation and business portfolio – to come and explore the options on offer at the Business Opportunities & Franchise Expo”.

For more information on attending or exhibiting, visit the website or contact Claire Taylor at Thebe Exhibitions and Projects on 011 549 8300 or via email at [email protected].

The Business Opportunities & Franchise Expo 2012 takes place from Thursday, 13 September to Sunday, 16 September 2012, from 09:00 to 17:00 at the Coca-Cola dome in Northriding, Johannesburg.

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