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Five steps to being a better entrepreneur

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Keeping a close eye on the day-to-day happenings of a business is key to becoming a good entrepreneur. But just what to you need to monitor?Entrepreneur DARLENE MENZIES, CEO of SMEasy  gives five steps to help owners keep their company going.

Abraham Lincoln said, “Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the axe.”  Lincoln’s productivity secret was good preparation and using an effective tool for the task.  It’s the same for entrepreneurs, adequate preparation and effective tools are key to business success.

Here are a few tips to help you become a more efficient and productive entrepreneur.

Be well prepared at the start of the week: A very helpful tip for entrepreneurs is to set aside your Sunday afternoon to prepare for the coming week. Attend to the emails you haven’t answered, write checklists and prioritise them – including setting time aside to communicate with clients or staff who need your attention or instructions. Doing your Sunday prep will clear your mind for the coming work week and will ensure that nothing slips through the cracks if the week becomes chaotic. “The only way to be proactive is to prepare. Positive ordinary preparation precedes extraordinary accomplishment.

Check your bank statements every morning: Cash flow is the life of any business and without sound money management things will unravel quickly. Keep an eye on what payments have been paid, what payments are outstanding and determine how much cash you still need to bring in for the month to meet your commitments. Staying on top of the business’ financial status will ensure that you can easily detect anomalies and take the necessary steps to correct them immediately and also give you the necessary time to arrange finance to bridge any cash shortfalls you may have.

Your mobile phone is key: Mobile phones are important business tools for every entrepreneur, ensuring you can get hold of clients and they can get hold of you is paramount. Your mobile phone is crucial to maintaining good relationships and eliminating delays in communication when it comes to urgent issues. A flat battery during your business day can be very costly. A helpful tip is to buy a spare battery for your phone and to carry it with you at all times, that way you are never unreachable when your clients need you. Sending your email to your mobile phone is another helpful way to make sure you are kept updated at all times and can be in constant contact with your staff and clients.

Raising finance: When trying to raise finance for your business, potential lenders want to look at both your business finances and your personal finance to gauge your eligibility for the loan. As such, it is important to ensure that your salary payments from the business are paid consistently each month into your personal bank account. If your salary is not reflected each month then it is likely that your business loan will be rejected. A tip if you have a month when the business can’t afford to meet all it’s month end expenses is if it pays you your salary is to make sure your salary payment is done first before all the other business expenses are paid. Then once it is reflecting in your personal bank account you can then loan it back to the business so it can cover the other expenses. By doing this you are providing proof that your monthly salary is guaranteed which will assure lenders that you are low risk. In so doing, securing finance will become much easier.

Offer early payment discounts to clients: Most clients make payments 30 to 90 days after receiving your invoice. That’s not a problem if your company has a large cash reserve to cover expenses, however, if you don’t have a cash reserve, you could run out of money. This is a common situation for many businesses and affects small and large companies alike. There is a simple solution to this problem: offer your clients an incentive to pay quickly. Offering a discount to clients for making immediate payments can improve your cash flow, often in a short period of time. It’s simple to implement and very effective. While you may receive less money, you will have the available cash needed to cover month end commitments. It can prove cheaper than paying interest on bridging finance.

If you are running a small business, then becoming a better entrepreneur should be your goal. Make sure you prepare well for each new week, keep on top of your finances and your email admin and look out for effective tools and smarter ways to grow your business.

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IoT sensors are anything from doctor to canary in mines

Industrial IoT is changing the shape of the mining industry and the intelligence of the devices that drive it

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The Internet of Things (IoT) has become many things in the mining industry. A canary that uses sensors to monitor underground air quality, a medic that monitors healthcare, a security guard that’s constantly on guard, and underground mobile vehicle control. It has evolved from the simple connectivity of essential sensors to devices into an ecosystem of indispensable tools and solutions that redefine how mining manages people, productivity and compliance. According to Karien Bornheim, CEO of Footprint Africa Business Solutions (FABS), IoT offers an integrated business solution that can deliver long-term, strategic benefits to the mining industry.

“To fully harness the business potential of IoT, the mining sector has to understand precisely how it can add value,” she adds. “IoT needs to be implemented across the entire value chain in order to deliver fully optimised, relevant and turnkey operational solutions. It doesn’t matter how large the project is, or how complex, what matters is that it is done in line with business strategy and with a clear focus.”

Over the past few years, mining organisations have deployed emerging technologies to help bolster flagging profits, manage increasingly weighty compliance requirements, and reduce overheads. These technologies are finding a foothold in an industry that faces far more complexities around employee wellbeing and safety than many others, and that juggles numerous moving parts to achieve output and performance on a par with competitive standards. Already, these technologies have allowed mines to fundamentally change worker safety protocols and improve working conditions. They have also provided mining companies with the ability to embed solutions into legacy platforms, allowing for sensors and IoT to pull them into a connected net that delivers results.

“The key to achieving results with any IoT or technology project is to partner with service providers, not just shove solutions into identified gaps,” says Bornheim. “You need to start in the conceptual stage and move through the pre-feasibility and bankable feasibility stages before you start the implementation. Work with trained and qualified chemical, metallurgical, mechanical, electrical, instrumentation and structural engineers that form a team led by a qualified engineering lead with experience in project management. This is the only way to ensure that every aspect of the project is aligned with the industry and its highly demanding specifications.”

Mining not only has complexities in compliance and health and safety, but the market has become saturated, difficult and mercurial. For organisations to thrive, they must find new revenue streams and innovate the ways in which they do business. This is where the data delivered by IoT sensors and devices can really transform the bottom line. If translated, analysed and used correctly, the data can provide insights that allow for the executive to make informed decisions about sites, investment and potential.


“The cross-pollination of different data sets from across different sites can help shift dynamics in plant operation and maintenance, in the execution of specific tasks, and so much more,” says Bornheim. “In addition, with sensors and connected devices and systems, mining operations can be managed intelligently to ensure the best results from equipment and people.”

The connection of the physical world to the digital is not new. Many of the applications currently being used or presented to the mining industry are not new either. What’s new is how these solutions are being implemented and the ways in which they are defined. It’s more than sticking on sensors. It’s using these sensors to streamline business across buildings, roads, vehicles, equipment, and sites. These sensors and the ways in which they are used or where they are installed can be customised to suit specific business requirements.

“With qualified electronic engineers and software experts, you can design a vast array of solutions to meet the real needs of your business,” says Bornheim. “Our engineers can programme, create, migrate and integrate embedded IoT solutions for microcontrollers, sensors, and processors. They can also develop intuitive dashboards and human-machine interfaces for IoT and machine-to-machine (M2M) devices to manage the input and output of a wide range of functionalities.”

The benefits of IoT lie in its ubiquity. It can be used in tandem with artificial intelligence or machine learning systems to enhance analytics, improve the automation of basic processes and monitor systems and equipment for faults. It can be used alongside M2M applications to enhance the results and the outcomes of the systems and their roles. And it can be used to improve collaboration and communication between man, machine and mine.

“You can use IoT platforms to visualise mission-critical data for device monitoring, remote control, alerts, security management, health and safety and healthcare,” concludes Bornheim. “The sky is genuinely the limit, especially now that the cost of sensors has come down and the intelligence of solutions and applications has gone up. From real-time insights to hands-on security and safety alerts to data that changes business direction and focus, IoT brings a myriad of benefits to the table.”

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Oracle leads in clash of
e-commerce titans

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Three e-commerce platforms have been awarded “gold medals” for leading the way in customer experience. SoftwareReviews, a division of Info-Tech Research Group, named Oracle Commerce Cloud the leader in its 2020 eCommerce Data Quadrant Awards, followed by Shopify Plus and IBM Digital Commerce. The awards are based on user reviews. 
The three vendors received the following citations:

  • Oracle Commerce Cloud ranked highest among software users, earning the number-one spot in many of the product feature section areas, shining brightest in reporting and analytics, predictive recommendations, order management, and integrated search. 
  • Shopify Plus performed consistently well according to users, taking the number-one spot for catalogue management, shopping cart management and ease of customisation.
  • IBM Digital Commerce did exceptionally well in business value created, quality of features, and vendor support.

The SoftwareReviews Data Quadrant differentiates itself with insightful survey questions, backed by 22 years of research in IT. The study involves gathering intelligence on user satisfaction with both product features and experience with the vendor. When distilled, the customer’s experience is shaped by both the software interface and relationship with the vendor. Evaluating enterprise software along these two dimensions provides a comprehensive understanding of the product in its entirety and helps identify vendors that can deliver on both for the complete software experience.

“Our recent Data Quadrant in e-commerce solutions provides a compelling snapshot of the most popular enterprise-ready players, and can help you make an informed, data-driven selection of an e-commerce platform that will exceed your expectations,” says Ben Dickie, research director at Info-Tech Research Group. 

“Having a dedicated e-commerce platform is where the rubber hits the road in transacting with your customers through digital channels. These platforms provide an indispensable array of features, from product catalog and cart management to payment processing to detailed transaction analytics.”

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