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How to ensure your business is sustainable

By Phil Chichoni

Phil Chichoni

Many SMEs are in survival mode. They worry over their ability to survive another month. What then after the next month? Because of focusing on the short-term, many entrepreneurs never manage to get out of the self-employed entrepreneur trap. To thrive and grow, your business needs to be focused on its long-term sustainability.
Here are four things you need to focus on to ensure your business is sustainable:
Profitability: profit is the main reason why most entrepreneurs in the free economy start businesses. Without profits, there is no motivation for hard work and innovation. Apart from satisfying the business owner, profits play a major role in ensuring a business’ survival and sustainability. Profit is where funds for research, assets replacement and upgrading, expansion and business growth come from. A business that generates little or no profits will not survive for long. Make sure you know how much profit the business is making and take action to improve if profit levels are too low.
Solvency / Cash flow: cash is the lifeblood of business. Without cash, even a profitable business may collapse due to failure to pay urgent bills and for essential expenses and supplies. Cash flow problems may arise from too much credit sales, overstocking or excessive expenditure. Have a cash budget or cash flow management system to help you stay on top of your cash situation.
Business systems: most businesses start small, with the owner performing all or most of the functions. However, as a business grows, it becomes necessary to employ other people to handle some responsibilities so as not to overwhelm the owner. The business has to start running without you. For this delegation to work there must be written business systems for all the essential functions in the enterprise, including operations, finance, marketing, human resources, sales and administration. A good business system tells everyone their role in the company and how to do their job; anyone who follows it gets the same results every time.
Growth: the moment a business stops growing, it starts to decline until eventually it dies. If your business is not growing, it is dying. A sustainable business is a growing business. Growth comes from a number of strategies, such as increasing the number of customers for existing products, increasing expenditure by existing customers, or getting into new markets with either existing products or with new products.
If you analyze your business and find that it is lacking in any of the four fundamental areas for sustainability, take action. Rethink your business model; gear your business towards delivering your required results. You might need to get tougher on yourself and on your team in order to build a sustainable business.
You will find more resources on how to build a sustainable business at our website http://smebusinesslink.com. Please email your feedback to chichonip@gmail.com.

   BusinessLink Promotion

Get on top of your financials and improve your competitiveness

Despite the fact that SMEs make up more than half the GDP of the country and have a higher productivity efficiency than large companies, greater capacity to innovate and are playing a greater role in the country’s economic recovery, many of them have a high rate of failure. Around 70-80% of SMEs fail within 5 years.
Studies show that these high failure rates are due to a poor quality of management and decision making, and inadequate planning. SME owners simply don’t run their enterprises like businesses, as they would if it were a large corporate.
The major weakness of SMEs is the unavailability of accurate and timely financial accounts. Like many things you know are good for you- such as regular exercise, getting a good night’s sleep and avoiding a fatty diet- keeping track of your business’ financials is one of those must do tasks that are necessary to keep your business healthy and growing. This fundamental business practice is essential if you want to stay on top of your performance and enabling you to make good decisions when you need to.
If you are not strong in finance and accounting, outsourcing this function may be the best decision you could ever make. If your business is registered as a private limited company, the Company’s Act states that one of your fiduciary duties as a director is to ensure the maintenance of proper and accurate books of accounts, and that you understand your financials and make good decisions with accurate information.
BusinessLink SME Accounting Package provides a solution
Since we launched the SME Accounting Package in 2011, the majority of our clients agree that they now have greater understanding of their business performance financially, with greater appreciate of the importance of accurate and timely management accounts as a tool for planning, performance measurement, budgeting and resource allocation. The package not only provides your management accounts but also give cash flow analysis, tax and other statutory deductions computation, as well as payroll and pay slips preparation. In other words, you get all the accounting functions needed by a growing business and which would require employment of a qualified and experienced accountant, but at a monthly cost much lower than the salary of your average employee.
One business owner, who runs a fast growing property development concern, said she used to be happy as long as there was money in the bank, but then get very worried when she ran out of cash. Now she can plan ahead as she knows how much her expenses are each month and can therefore budget and plan ahead, which gives her peace of mind.
Another client, who is in the cross-border transport business, expressed gratitude because monthly the package enabled his company to be tax compliant a few weeks before Zimra auditors raided his depot.
For full information on the SME Accounting Package, please contact me on email chichonip@smebusinesslink.com, or download the brochure at our website http://smebusinesslink.com.


New Series of Audio Books Launched

Now you can listen to best selling audio books while you drive, riding a bus, flying, exercising or simply resting.

BusinessLink launched a new Audio series of best selling business book at the BusinessLink Networking Breakfast meeting last week. Participants at the event were given a complimentary copy. I f you missed this event, you can get your copy of the CD at Crayseal Trading, 5th Floor Hungwe House, Jason Moyo Street, between 1st and 2nd Street in Harare. The price is only $5.00 for the set of four books until 30 April or while stocks last, after that the price will go up to $10.

If you are out of Harare, we can send your CD by Zimpost at no extra charge or by overnight courier for an extra $1.00. Payment is easier, just use Ecocash if you are a member, or simply SMS airtime codes to the following number: 0777 774 007 together with your address for delivery.
The CD contains the following best selling business and self help books in Audio (mp3) version:
Gerard Nierenberg- How to Read a Person like a Book
• Stephen Covey- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
• Dr. Anthony Robbins- Total Self Confidence
• Napoleon Hill-Think and Grow Rich

Also available from BusinessLink:

1) Business Planning Simplified Book $18 , CD version (PDF) $9.00
2) The Entrepreneurs Guide to Starting a Business in Zimbabwe $6
3) Low Cost High Impact Marketing Strategies for SMEs $7
4) Developing a Three Step Strategic Plan to Grow Your Business $12
5) Business Starter Pack CD (containing the books 2 to 4 in PDF) $8
6) Accelerate Your Growth in 2012 Business Seminar on DVD (2 discs)$12


Subscribe to BusinessLink Gold Club and get free 6 months subscription to The Standard newspaper

Subscribe to BusinessLink Gold Club before 30 April and get a free 6 months subscription to the leading Sunday newspaper, The Standard, in addition to the following usual benefits:

1 .  12 Breakfast seminars, one for free and 11 at 50% discount
(Held on the last Friday of each month) (Cost of each: $20. Save $130 in a year)
2 Free copy of the monthly BusinessLink magazine packed with insights, resources and opportunities for Zimbabwean SMEs and entrepreneurs

3 Up to 50% discounts on all publications, books, DVDs
4 Up to 50% discounts at BusinessLink seminars, training workshops and networking events
5 Listing of your business or products profile on the SME BusinessLink Community website and giving you access to the fastest growing network of high-performance entrepreneurs and business owners in Zimbabwe

6 50% discount on advertising price in the BusinessLink monthly magazine print edition

Subscription fee is $100 per year. Half year subscription is $60 (and you get free 3 months Standard newspaper subscription) and 3 months $35- but no free Standard subscription.

Please complete the subscription form attached to the email that came with this newsletter, or download the form at http://smebusinesslink.com or request one by email to marketing@smebusinesslink.com.
Subscription Money back guarantee.
If you are not totally satisfied, you may cancel your subscription at any time and we will refund in full the unused portion of your subscription

From $20- An Artrepreneur’s Success Story

Mufaro Chakabuda

“We would like you to perform at President Obama’s African Inaugural Ball.” Those are the words I remember being said to me when I picked up the phone on January 12 2009.
It was 2009, the year that the first African American President, President Obama was elected in the United States. In my wildest dreams, I never thought that I would share in this joyous occasion, or be there to experience it! I had just come from Vancouver doing some camps out in the West Coast, and had received a notice that there was a call out for an African Performance group to perform at the African Inaugural Ball held by the African Foundation of the United States.
“$20 – that’s what I started MCAD with in 2005. $20.00 was what it cost to rent a studio from an established dance company in Halifax. I was working full time at a call centre, trying to make ends meet, and generally deciding what I wanted to do with my life, before beginning to establish MCAD. I always knew that I wanted to build a successful enterprise, and come from a family of entrepreneurs. Working for myself inspires me, disciplines me and challenges me. It has been 7 wonderful years all of which have come with many sacrifices, tears, joy and memories. Of course, there have been, and still are, a lot of uncomfortable growing pains that will always occur with a developing business, and with each new day these uncertainties are exciting to face, and develop myself, and MCAD becomes more established.
My goal has been to be successful in business not just in Canada but worldwide. My mission is to show that if I can make it here in the Maritimes, then YOU can make it anywhere in Canada. I have made it big with my street sense, my education and my inner conviction. I have an unrelenting desire to always supersede myself in achievement and to show my friends, many who have gone off to the big cities of the world, the foreign lands of opportunity, and “those lands that are made of milk and honey, that in the Maritimes, there are boundless opportunities.
Originally the idea of starting The Maritime Centre for African Dance garnered a lot of negativity from investors and some in the community. However, after the success of the first day workshop, which hosted 40 participants, I moved past the negativity and began to focus on avenues of funding for the business. I knew that I had to write a business plan, and present financials, but what I didn’t anticipate was the scepticism that came with the idea. Now this is the point where you the reader should remember that everyone is different, some more motivated than others, and I was definitely more motivated than most, trust me. With my debt on overload and my family looking for me for help, I had no choice. I knew it wasn’t going to be an easy road, but the surprises along the way are always little blessings in disguise.
Looking back now, I can certainly say that negativity towards my idea for the traditional dance studio was because it had never been done in the Maritimes, even in Canada. So there was no proof of success in this field.
Needless to say my idea was eventually rejected by various committees. Was I disappointed? Yes, I think I even cried about it, for half an hour, (it shames me to admit that, after all I always pride myself on independence). As you know, the way you react to a situation is what counts the most. I realized very quickly that I could either discard this or continue with my passion. But I was determined to get rid of it by myself, work at my business and succeed. Those were my 3 main driving factors”

The book is now available for order, “From $20 – An Artrepreneur’s success story” by Mufaro Chakabuda.
Book orders can be sent to pr@mcafricancamps.com

Mufaro Chakabuda (right) teaches students at Amherst Regional High School some African dance moves. Chakabuda spent the day in the school teaching about the dance, as well as Africa itself. Raissa Tetanish - Amherst Daily News

About the book and its author:
This book highlights how Mufaro, from Zimbabwe, began her business with just $20 six and a half years ago, and has turned it into hundreds and thousands of dollars. She knew no one in the community, had just finished her degree at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia Canada. Her business is making profits, without ever borrowing.
Mufaro has won numerous awards including the Atlantic Canada Women of Excellence Awards, the RBC Business Start up Award across Canada, nominated for the ZImExpo Business Leader of the Year Award, the Black Business Initiative Business of the Year Award and also nominated for RBC Excellence in entrepreneurship and Business Development Canada Business Person of the Year.

Why you should apply to the African Women in Business Challenge

To female entrepreneurs of Africa the deadline for your complete business plan is April 15, 2012. Apply at http://www.bidnetwork.org/en/competition/women

The Generosity Economy

By Max Soutter

“Give and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” Jesus. Luke 6:38, the Bible.
There are two places your business can operate from, the Fair trade economy or the Generosity economy. Most people are aware only of the first choice.
Fair trade is simple, predictable and easy to understand and plan around. I give you something of value, if and when you are willing to give me something of equivalent or greater value in return. If you are unable or unwilling to give me something of value, then there’s no way I’m going to give you anything of value either – even if I can. It’s fair trade, it’s an exchange and both parties, business and customer, understand it.
The problem with this fair trade economy is that it limits the power and depth of the relationship your brand can form with the market. People most trust, and are most loyal to friends and fair trade is just not how the best friendships are formed.
Friends don’t say to each other, “look I know you’re going through a hard time, but I’ll only help you out if you help me out”. Friends (good ones) don’t say “I’ll only lend this book/ invite you to the party/ hook you up with a date – IF you first do something of equal or greater value for me”.
No, friends regularly share tips and tricks, secrets, time and money and all kinds of things with each other…often without thought to personal benefit.
Businesses don’t -thus, we have much stronger and longer lasting relationships with our friends than we do with most businesses.
The ultimate strategic position (USP) for your brand is to be perceived as a trusted friend who happens to be an expert advisor. To get there, you’ll need to leave the world of fair trade, and enter into the generosity economy.
Here’s how it works.
When you give, without requiring something in return, you open the doors to developing meaningful relationships with people. A free tip that could make me money, a resource that will save me time, advise that erases my confusion and helps me make a smarter buying decision – when you provide me with stuff like this, I start to understand two things about you.
You care about me, not just my money – you’re a friend. You know what you’re talking about, you’re an expert
No one is going to have more influence on how I form my buying criteria than you are. Trust will fast forward the sales cycle, the likelihood of referrals and the loyalty I show toward your brand (even if I find a cheaper option). You’re going to leagues ahead of the guy who simply says ‘trust me’
Living this way, allows you, even on a smaller budget than your competitors, to build a super brand. The more people you can reach, to be generous to, the more powerful your brand is going to be and the greater the impact will be on your bottom line.
Be careful though…this is not a gimmick. It pays to actually care, not just pretend to. If you’re just doing it to manipulate me into liking and trusting you, you’ll soon be found out. Having a genuine concern and real expertise is a must.
In Zimbabwean business, we’re entering a new age. Now, much of how marketing used to work doesn’t work nearly as well anymore…and it’s going to get worse.
Social media platforms like Facebook have made the relationship dynamic much more important to business than ever before. In a world dominated by relationships, the battle for trust, loyalty and purchases, goes to the most generous expert.
You’re not going to build a successful business by copying what others did 10 or even 5 years ago. The world’s, and Zimbabwe’s next lot of successful brands and businesses will be built with the understanding that selfishness or even fair trade just isn’t enough anymore. The Generosity Economy is becoming the most profitable economy in the world.
You’re going to have to acquaint yourself with fluffy words and concepts like love, and caring, and friendship, stuff that many big brands previously did not really have to pay real attention to.

Max Soutter is a business building and marketing expert. He is the founder of Bizsetip Group and can be contact on email maxsoutter@gmail.com or visit http://bizsetup.wordpress.com


Strategic Planning Session for high performance companies set for May

BusinessLink and its partners are planning an intensive, off-site workshop retreat for entrepreneurs and executives who need to get away and map or refine their company’s strategies for the rest of the year.

The 3 day session will be facilitated by experienced business strategy coaches, who will provide guidelines, direction and advice, while you and your team work on your strategy. At the end of the session, each team will have a clear vision and a complete and workable business strategy. For more information, please send an email to chichonip@smebusinesslink.com.


The Essentials of Guerrilla Marketing

By Jay Levinson
Implement these building blocks to create a successful campaign.
As marketing continues to change, the secrets of guerrilla marketing continue to change. There are 18 guerrilla marketing secrets, and they guarantee you will exceed your most optimistic projections.
Memorize these words, and then live by them. I’m giving you a memory crutch so that you’ll never forget these major guerrilla marketing secrets. All these words end in “-ent.” Run your business by the guerrilla concepts they represent and reap the rewards.
You should know that a mediocre marketing program with commitment will always prove more profitable than a brilliant marketing program without commitment. Commitment makes it happen.
Marketing is not an expense, but an investment–the best investment available in business if you do it right. With the 18 secrets of guerrilla marketing to guide you, you’ll be doing it right.
It takes awhile for prospects to trust you. If you change your marketing, media and identity, you’re hard to trust. Restraint and repetition are two great allies of the guerrilla.
In a nationwide test to determine why people buy, price came in fifth, selection fourth, service third, quality second, and, in first place, people said they patronize businesses in which they have confidence.
Unless the person running your marketing is patient, it will be difficult to practice commitment, view marketing as an investment, be consistent, and make prospects confident. Patience is a guerrilla virtue.
Guerrillas know that individual marketing weapons rarely work on their own, but marketing combinations do work. A wide assortment of marketing tools is required to woo and win customers.
People know that time is not money–it’s far more valuable than money. Respect this by being easy to do business with and running your company for the convenience of your customers, not yourself.
The real profits come after you’ve made the sale, in the form of repeat and referral business. Non-guerrillas think marketing ends when they’ve made the sale. Guerrillas know that’s when marketing begins.
There are elements of your business that you take for granted, but prospects would be amazed if they knew the details. Be sure your marketing reflects that amazement.
You can potentially double your profits by measuring the results of your marketing. Some weapons hit bull’s-eyes. Others miss the target. Unless you measure, you won’t know which is which.
This describes the relationship between you and your customers–and it is a relationship. You prove your involvement by following up; they prove theirs by patronizing and recommending you.
The guerrilla’s job is not to compete but to cooperate with other businesses. Market them in return for them marketing you. Set up tie-ins with others. Become dependent to market more and invest less.
Armament is defined as “the equipment necessary to wage and win battles.” The armament of guerrillas is technology: computers, current software, cell phones, pagers, fax machines. If you’re technophobic, see a techno-shrink.
In an era of non-stop interruption marketing, the key to success is first to gain consent for your marketing materials and market only to those who have given you that consent.
To succeed online, augment your website with offline and online promotion along with constant maintenance of your site.
Don’t believe that old adage, “Sell the sizzle, not the steak.” Sophisticated consumers these days know the sizzle from the steak and prefer the steak every time. Your substance, not your style, will carry the day for you.
Be certain that all your marketing is saying the same thing and pulling in the same direction. Don’t undermine what you do with marketing that marches to the beat of a different strategist.
These concepts are the reason many startup guerrillas now run highly successful companies. They are the cornerstone of guerrilla marketing. They might look like just words, but each one is nuclear-powered and capable of propelling you into the land of your dreams.

Jay Conrad Levinson is the father of Guerrilla Marketing, the bestselling marketing series in history, selling more than 14 million copies worldwide. He is chairman of Guerrilla Marketing International.


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Your stories, words of advice or any other contribution are welcome. Please email them to chichonip@smebusinesslink.com

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