2014 brings with it new challenges and opportunities for South African business owners, all of which need to be incorporated into a business’s plans going forward. This is according to Gerrie van Biljon, Executive Director of Business Partners Limited, who says that business owners should make use of the first few weeks of the New Year to reflect on what worked well in 2013 and what needs to be improved or changed for the year ahead.


He says that proactive planning, with clear timelines, will positively benefit the long-term development of a business. “Business owners who avoid planning ahead may increase their exposure to risks during the upcoming year.


“Implementing changes early in the year will ensure that the business is prepared for the period ahead and will assist in evaluating whether it is effectively prepared for upcoming opportunities or possible challenges within the landscape that it operates in.”


Van Biljon shares five New Year’s resolutions that SME owners should consider when planning for 2014:


Managing cash flow as effectively as possible: Cash flow is the life blood of any business and effectively managing this aspect of the business will allow more flexibility when there is a need to address emerging dilemmas, such as late payment, or when critical decisions need to be made, such as having the capital available to purchase additional stock in order to satisfy client demand. Regularly updating a budget and a statement of cash flow will enable business owners to keep an eye on where money is spent, and allow them to cut back where applicable.


Create and maintain valuable partnerships: A new year provides businesses with the opportunity to establish new and beneficial partnerships, as well as cement any present valued partnerships. Building relationships with the right individuals and businesses is key to the success of any business, due to the long-lasting and powerful effect a favourable relationship can bring about. In order to make a successful partnership thrive, establish a win – win solution that is fair to both parties.


Attending networking events: Building a successful business takes a lot of time and drive, so it’s advisable for business owners to surround themselves with individuals who share a similar ambition. As an entrepreneur, networking is crucial as it provides the opportunity to build those much needed business contacts and relationships.


Continuously seek mentorship: Seeking regular advice and guidance from a mentor can prove invaluable for business growth, as well as personal development. It is simply impossible to know everything about running a business as everyone has their individual strengths, and a fresh pair of eyes can identify possible gaps in business practices and assist with strategies which the business has not yet considered. Not only will a mentor enable a business to focus on its objectives more effectively, but it can also boost morale. When selecting an appropriately experienced business mentor, seek a mentor who has experience in the skills you may lack and ensure the terms of the mentorship – time, costs and outcomes – are as clear as possible in order to ensure that the match works effectively.


Establish a successful online presence: Having a successful online presence and strategy is becoming increasingly important for SMEs due to the growing number of consumers making use of online tools to find suppliers and solutions for their needs. The increasing number of online users and growing popularity of online mediums such as a company’s website, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn, have created many opportunities for SMEs to directly interact with both their current and potential customers. These tools have also dramatically changed the way brands interact with their target audience. It is therefore key that SMEs utilise these platforms effectively in order to maximise the exposure and awareness for their business. Having a constant stream of engaging content will ensure that the business maintains a favourable online presence.


Van Biljon says that the New Year creates an opportunity for businesses to better itself and its offerings. “Like many New Year’s resolutions, the list may seem daunting, however all business owners require is a shift in mindset and most likely a change in habit. Allocating time for each goal and a realistic date of conclusion will assist you in achieving your New Year’s resolutions.” concludes van Biljon.