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Task force to tackle late payments for SMEs in SA

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A task force put together by key players in the accounting world plans to address the biggest cash-flow issue facing small and medium enterprises (SMSs)

For small companies, cash flow is everything. Even small gaps can hurt supplier relationships, incur additional fees and can be the difference between staying in business and going under. It’s no surprise, then, that recent Xero research found that cash flow and late payments were the number one concerns for SMEs.

The report, titled “The State of Late Payments in South Africa,”  also found that an astonishing 91% of SMEs experienced late payments on their invoices over the past year. SMEs are currently owed, on average, R99,801 at any given time.

Late payments are one of the major causes of cash flow problems. When combined with other irregularities like holidays and tax deadlines, late payments can put businesses precariously close to the red. Beyond that, companies that are waiting on payments will have a harder time processing and making decisions and risk passing on the problem of late payments if they are unable to pay their suppliers on time too.

According to the report, one in five South African businesses struggled to pay for critical services, suppliers, and staff because of late payments. Almost 20% struggled to invest in growth and innovation, while 17% had to declare bankruptcy.

The South African economy needs small businesses to succeed. That’s why several prominent role players established a late payments task force, to get insights about what small businesses in South Africa can do to stay on top of cash flow. The experts on the task force are Louw Barnardt, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Outsourced; Colin Timmis, Country Manager at Xero; Jeanne Viljoen, Project Director, Practices at SAICA; and Damian Baker, Manager of Business Process Solutions at SNG Grant Thornton. 

Baker warns that “Delayed payments have a direct impact on working capital and can severely constrain growth capacity”.

“That’s why it’s crucial to set out your payment terms, invoicing dates, and due dates in contracts from day one to eliminate ambiguity. Once you’ve established the ground rules, it also helps to send your invoices promptly, as the sooner you invoice, the sooner settlement could be received.  If you’re having persistent problems, consider implementing interest charges or setting up a monthly debit order.”

Timmis strongly recommends relationship building with those responsible for making the payments.

“Working closely with the accounts departments of the companies you’re invoicing can ensure prompt payment,” he says. “Make sure that they are familiar with your payment terms and know how to reach you with any questions. If you build a strong enough relationship, they might even work towards speeding up turnaround. 

“Differentiating between primary and secondary contacts is also crucial, as is learning your customers’ payment cycles. Ask them whether they want to be invoiced 100% upfront since this can make their life easier if they’re working through an allocated budget. It’s also important to conduct a credit check on prospective clients. Companies and suppliers with bad credit histories might be liable to pay late in the future.”

Barnardt recommends developing a comprehensive cash flow strategy.

“Cash flow is often misunderstood as a simple matter of being ‘in the red’ or ‘in the black’,” he says. “In reality, it is far more complicated, and that’s why businesses need a comprehensive cash flow strategy. In short, this is about managing ebbs and flows: making sure you have enough staff to make the most of spike periods, and knowing how to upsell customers, bring them back, and get by during downtimes. A reorganisation of staff schedules at the right moment, or a strategic promotional sale can make all the difference.”

Jeanne Viljoen points to the power of smart accounting technology: “Modern accounting software offers greater visibility of your numbers and makes it simple to manage your finances, all while being more affordable – and beautiful – than previous solutions. What many don’t know is that it can also be a powerful tool in helping you to avoid late payments by sending out invoices in bulk and automatically tracking payments. Embracing technology means that businesses will be able to spend less time on troublesome administrative tasks and more time on growth.”

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Alexa can now read all messages

For the first time, an Alexa skill is available that makes it possible to listen to any kind of message while driving

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For the first time, Alexa users can now hear all their messages and email read aloud.

Amazon’s Alexa has become a household name. The world’s most popular virtual assistant is getting smarter every day and now, with Amazon Echo Auto, it’s in cars too. 

“In today’s highly connected world, messaging in the form of emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and work channels like Slack, are integral to our daily routine,” says Barrie Arnold, chief revenue officer at ping. “However, distracted driving is responsible for more than 25% of car crashes and thousands of preventable fatalities every year.” 

ping, a specialist in voice technology founded by Arnold and South African Garin Toren, has developed a new Alexa skill as a companion to its patented smartphone app, that enables any message type to be read aloud. Designed for safety, productivity and convenience, “pingloud” is the first skill of its kind for keeping users connected when they need a hand or an extra pair of eyes.

“The ping Alexa skill is specifically designed to help drivers stay off their phones while giving them exactly what they want – access to their messages.” says Toren, ping CEO. 

Opening up Alexa to developers has resulted in an explosion of new skills available either for free or for a fee that unlocks premium services or features. These tools magnify the usefulness of Alexa devices beyond common tasks like asking for the weather, playing music or requesting help on a homework assignment. According to App Annie, the most downloaded apps in 2019 were Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s main app and WhatsApp, highlighting the importance of messaging. 

“The ping Android app is available worldwide from the Google Pay Store, reading all messages out loud in 30 languages,” says Toren. “The iOS version is in global beta testing with the US launch coming very soon.” 

Once you’ve signed up for ping, it takes a few seconds to link with Alexa, enabling all messages and emails to be read aloud by a smart speaker or Echo Auto device. Simply say, “Hey Alexa, open pingloud.” ping links an account to a voice profile so unauthorised users with access to the same Alexa cannot ask for the authorised user’s messages.

All major message types are supported, including Texts/SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Snapchat, Slack, Telegram, Twitter DM’s, Instagram, and all email types. Promotional and social emails are not read by default.

*For more information, visit www.pingloud.com

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Coronavirus to hit 5G

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Global 5G smartphone shipments are expected to reach 199 million units in 2020, after disruption caused by the coronavirus scare put a cap on sales forecasts, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “Global 5G smartphone shipments will grow more than tenfold from 19 million units in 2019 to 199 million in 2020. The 5G segment will be the fastest-growing part of the worldwide smartphone industry this year. Consumers want faster 5G smartphones to surf richer content, such as video or games. We forecast 5G penetration to rise from 1 percent of all smartphones shipped globally in 2019 to 15 percent of total in 2020.”

Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “China, United States, South Korea, Japan and Germany are by far the largest 5G smartphone markets this year. The big-five countries together will make up 9 in 10 of all 5G smartphones sold worldwide in 2020. However, other important regions, like India and Indonesia, are lagging way behind and will not be offering mass-market 5G for at least another year or two.”

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The global 5G smartphone industry is growing quickly, but the ongoing coronavirus scare and subsequent economic slowdown will put a cap on overall 5G demand this year. The COVID-19 outbreak is currently restricting smartphone production in Asia, disrupting supply chains, and deterring consumers from visiting retail stores to buy new 5G devices in some parts of China. The first half of 2020 will be much weaker than expected for the 5G industry, but we expect a strong bounce-back in the second half of the year if the coronavirus spread is brought under control.”

Exhibit 1: Global 5G Smartphone Shipments Forecast in 2020 1

Global Smartphone Shipments (Millions of Units)20192020
5G19199
Rest of Market13941165
Total14131364
 
Global Smartphone Shipments (% of Total)20192020
5G1%15%
Rest of Market99%85%
Total100%100%

Source: Strategy Analytics

The full report, Global Handset Sales for 88 Countries & 19 Technologies, is published by the Strategy Analytics Emerging Device Technologies (EDT) service, details of which can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/wep83gc.

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