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When running a business is like running

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Starting your own business can be scary at times. Sometimes we find ourselves questioning whether or not we can do it, but DARLENE MENZIES, CEO of SMEasy, says you can and shares some motivation tips.

Starting and growing a business is a long road, with many uphill climbs along the way. While you may enjoy many aspects of being your own boss and building your own business it can also be lonely, tiring and at times even a terrifying experience. The question is: what is going to keep you putting one foot in front of the other when things get tough?

Building a business is like running the Comrades Marathon: it’s a long distance race, not a short sprint and there are steep hills and lonely stretches along the way. To make it, you need to ensure you have a positive attitude and a deep-seated belief in yourself from the get-go. You also need to learn to maintain this enthusiastic, optimistic mindset for the long haul, regardless of the challenges you encounter.

One of the secrets to ensuring that you keep moving forward, irrespective of setbacks, is to acknowledge up front that setbacks are going to occur: it’s not all going to be roses. In business, as in life, it is as important to be realistic as it is to be optimistic. Mental preparation is powerful. Have a strategy for how to deal with the disappointments, fear and the loneliness that comes with building a business.

When you start on the entrepreneurship road, you need to know what you’re in for, as well as ensure that you have the motivation to keep going day after day. Veteran entrepreneur Menzies shares her top marathon motivation tips:

> It’s not a sprint: If you come flying out of the starting blocks, the chances are that you are going to lose steam and fall out of the race. You need to learn to pace yourself and to mentally prepare yourself for the long road ahead. Hard work and long hours are inevitable and also necessary to succeed, but so is sleep. An all-nighter here and there is fine, but doing months of them on end will be detrimental to your business. Remember that slow and steady wins the race.

> You’re got to do the dreaded training: No runner wants to get up 4am to do a training run, but there are some things that have to be done to ensure your dreams come true and you reach that finish line. Likewise, you have to face the things that you don’t enjoy doing in your business and just do them. Admin is a good example – you may not feel like doing it, but it’s vital to your business’s survival. Poor admin and record keeping is one of the primary causes of business failure.

> Get kitted out: While some people are complete enigmas and can win a marathon literally wearing no shoes, the rest of us need all of the gear, including compression socks and high quality shoes. The same applies when you’re building a business; you need to invest in the right equipment, appropriate office space and technology and, most importantly, a quality team to ensure a successful result.

> Put the hours in: Comrades runners have to clock up hundreds of the hours on the road if they hope to finish the race. Building a business also requires long hours and hard work, especially in the initial years. The reality is that the only place where success comes before work is in the dictionary. You’ve got to put the hours in.

> The importance of refueling: Runners need energy drinks and nutritious food during a marathon to refuel if they are going to make it to the finish line. Likewise, entrepreneurs need to refuel after periods of hard work and stress. For some people, refueling may be a night on the town with good friends, for others a spa treatment or maybe just taking a day out to watch a new series in your PJs. Whatever it is for you, make sure you do it. Refueling is a necessity, not an indulgence.

> Let go of the bad days: Every single marathon runner has moments when they feel defeated. For an entrepreneur, it’s inevitable. You need to remind yourself during times of disappointment or discouragement that it’s not permanent; a bad day is not a bad business. Tomorrow is a new day that holds new solutions and new opportunities.

> You need a support system: Marathon runners need someone to second them during the race, and having a group of supporters cheering them on makes the world of difference. The same goes for business: it is vital that you have support. Find trusted, experienced, credible people you can go to for advice and encouragement when it’s needed, whether this is a mentor or fellow entrepreneur or a small business networking group. Support is vital for success – for more on this see http://bit.ly/28UopSw .

> Have clear goals: Just like a runner may aim for a sub-four hour marathon, you need to have some clear goals when it comes to your business. If you aim at nothing, that’s exactly what you’ll achieve. Write down your objectives for your business and define what achieving them will accomplish for you – whether that be money, freedom, status, creativity or independence. Once you have done this, you’ll know exactly where you are going and will be motivated to get there.

While building your business can be a tough and lonely marathon, it is also incredibly fulfilling and rewarding. Nothing will beat that feeling of crossing the finish line. The same goes for achieving your goals in your business. Give it all you’ve got, enjoy the good times, hang in during the tough times. It’s worth it.

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IoT at starting gate

South Africa is already past the Internet of Things (IoT) hype cycle and well into the mainstream, writes MARK WALKER, associate vice president of Sub-Saharan Africa at International Data Corporation (IDC).

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Projects and pilots are already becoming a commercial reality, tying neatly into the 2017 IDC prediction that 2018 would be the year when the local market took IoT mainstream. Over the next 12-18 months, it is anticipated that IoT implementations will continue to rise in both scope and popularity. Already 23% are in full deployment with 39% in the pilot phase. The value of IoT has been systematically proven and yet its reputation remains tenuous – more than 5% of companies are reluctant to put their money where the trend is – thanks to the shifting sands of IoT perception and success rate.

There are several reasons behind why IoT implementations are failing. The biggest is that organisations don’t know where to start. They know that IoT is something they can harness today and that it can be used to shift outdated modalities and operations. They are aware of the benefits and the case studies. What they don’t know is how to apply this knowledge to their own journey so their IoT story isn’t one of overbearing complexity and rising costs.

Another stumbling block is perception. Yes, there is the futuristic potential with the talking fridge and intelligent desk, but this is not where the real value lies. Organisations are overlooking the challenges that can be solved by realistic IoT, the banal and the boring solutions that leverage systems to deliver on business priorities. IoT’s potential sits within its ability to get the best out of assets and production efficiencies, solving problems in automation, security, and environment.

In addition to this, there is a lack of clarity around return on investment, uncertainty around the benefits, a lack of executive leadership, and concerns around security and the complexities of regulation.  Because IoT is an emerging technology there remains a limited awareness of the true extent of its value proposition and yet 66% of organisations are confident that this value exists.

This percentage poses both a problem and opportunity. On one hand, it showcases the local shift in thinking towards IoT as a technology worth investing into. On the other hand, many companies are seeing the competition invest and leaping blindly in the wrong direction. Stop. IoT is not the same for every business.

It is essential that every company makes its own case for IoT based on its needs and outcomes. Does agriculture have the same challenges as mining? Does one mining company have the same challenges as another? The answer is no. Organisations that want their IoT investment to succeed must reject the idea that they can pick up where another has left off. IoT must be relevant to the business outcome that it needs to achieve. While some use cases may apply to most industries based on specific circumstances, there are different realities and priorities that will demand a different approach and starting point.

Ask – what is the business problem right now and how can technology be leveraged to resolve it?

In the agriculture space, there is a need to improve crop yields and livestock management, improve farm productivity and implement environmental monitoring. In the construction and mining industry, safety and emergency response are a priority alongside workforce and production management. Education shifts the lens towards improving delivery and quality of education, access to advanced learning methods and reducing the costs of learning.  Smart cities want to improve traffic and efficiently deliver public services and healthcare is focusing on wellness, reducing hospital admissions and the security of assets and inventory management.

The technology and solutions selected must speak to these specific challenges.

If there are no insights used to create an IoT solution, it’s the equivalent of having the fastest Ferrari on Rivonia Road in peak traffic. It makes a fantastic noise, but it isn’t going to move any faster than the broken-down sedan in the next lane. Everyone will be impressed with the Ferrari, but the amount of power and the size of the investment mean nothing. It’s in the wrong place.

What differentiates the IoT successes is how a company leverages data to deliver meaningful value-added predictions and actions for personalised efficiencies, convenience, and improved industry processes. To move forward the organisation needs to focus on the business outcomes and not just the technology. They need to localise and adapt by applying context to the problem that’s being solved and explore innovation through partnerships and experimentation.

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ERP underpins food tracking

The food traceability market is expected to reach almost $20 billion by 2022 as increased consumer awareness, strict governance requirements, and advances in technology are resulting in growing standardisation of the segment, says STUART SCANLON, managing director of epic ERP

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Just like any data-driven environment, one of the biggest enablers of this is integrated enterprise resource planning (ERP) solutions.

As the name suggests, traceability is the ability to track something through all stages of production, processing, and distribution. When it comes to the food industry, traceability must also enable stakeholders to identify the source of all food inputs that can include anything from raw materials, additives, ingredients, and packaging.

Considering the wealth of data that all these facets generate, it is hardly surprising that systems and processes need to be put in place to manage, analyse, and provide actionable insights. With traceability enabling corrective measures to be taken (think product recalls), having an efficient system is often the difference between life or death when it comes to public health risks.

Expansive solutions

Sceptics argue that traceability simply requires an extensive data warehouse to be done correctly, the reality is quite different. Yes, there are standard data records to be managed, but the real value lies in how all these components are tied together.

ERP provides the digital glue to enable this. With each stakeholder audience requiring different aspects of traceability (and compliance), it is essential for the producer, distributor, and every other organisation in the supply chain, to manage this effectively in a standardised manner.

With so many different companies involved in the food cycle, many using their own, proprietary systems, just consider the complexity of trying to manage traceability. Organisations must not only contend with local challenges, but global ones as well as the import and export of food are big business drivers.

So, even though traceability is vital to keep track of everything in this complex cycle, it is also imperative to monitor the ingredients and factories where items are produced. Having expansive solutions that must track the entire process from ‘cradle to grave’ is an imperative. Not only is this vital from a safety perspective, but from cost and reputational management aspects as well. Just think of the recent listeriosis issue in South Africa and the impact it has had on all parties in that supply chain.

Efficiency improvements

Thanks to the increasing digital transformation efforts by companies in the food industry, traceability becomes a more effective process. It is no longer a case of using on-premise solutions that can be compromised but having hosted ones that provide more effective fail-safes.

In a market segment that requires strict compliance and regulatory requirements to be met, cloud-based solutions can provide everyone in the supply chain with a more secure (and tamper-resistant) solution than many of the legacy approaches of old.

This is not to say ERP requires the one or the other. Instead, there needs to be a transition provided between the two scenarios that empowers those in the food supply chain to maximise the insights (and benefits) derived from traceability.

Now, more than ever, traceability is a business priority. Having the correct foundation through effective ERP is essential if a business can manage its growth and meet legislative requirements into the future.

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