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Small businesses pack a big punch in South Africa. For many years, they’ve served as the backbone of the South African economy, creating jobs, contributing to their local communities and stimulating socio-economic growth.

Yet, despite this, they experience a myriad of challenges that hold them back, but are determined to face them with grit and optimism. I’m constantly inspired by how they have not only fought to survive, but also thrive and innovate in the face of substantial difficulties.

Xero’s State of South African Small Business report shows small businesses are determined to face a challenging economic environment with optimism and resilience, with more than 95 percent expecting to survive the coming year and nearly 90 percent the next five years.

Running a business is hard, often due to these external factors. But there are steps business owners can take to ease the burden and have more control over their numbers. 

The report showed nearly three-quarters (74%) of small business owners say the importance of technology has increased in their business over the past year. They’re seeing the benefits, with 43 percent reporting that technology has enabled them to reach new customers and 39 percent say it has helped to boost profits.

Here’s how self-made business owners can reap the benefits of technology: 

On-the-go accounting to level up your business

Running a business means being constantly on the move, and traditional accounting systems can’t keep up with the dynamic lifestyle of an entrepreneur. This is where the beauty of cloud accounting comes in. 

Cloud accounting software takes the heavy lifting out by automating manual processes and storing all financial data in one easily accessible, secure system. Using cloud-based software instead of desktop or paper-based systems can help business owners become more efficient and increase productivity.

At Xero we want to help entrepreneurs leverage their business data to gain valuable insights into what’s going well, and what needs attention in their business. We do this by providing them with the most accurate and up-to-date information in Xero.

Whether it’s serving customers, meeting suppliers, or travelling to a job, business owners can access their financial data on the go through the Xero mobile app. Likewise, they can also input information, such as capturing photos of receipts and bills that flow straight into Xero without manual data entry. And send or chase invoices on the go.

Many small businesses haven’t fully realised the benefits of leveraging data and analytics. Many entrepreneurs won’t spend time looking at their business data or numbers until it’s time for tax returns. There’s a lot of rich insights that can be used to inform and inspire entrepreneurs on where to take their business next 

Making sense of the numbers

Working with an accountant or bookkeeper can help business owners gain a much better understanding of this information and how to apply it to their business. These financial insights are invaluable to small businesses, as they help them focus on what matters most – whether that’s growing their business, diversifying their products and services, exploring new markets, improving processes, or going completely digital.

It also helps small businesses with key challenges they face, such as cash flow and getting paid on time. Cloud accounting enables them to add online payments which make it easy for their customers to pay them, and has the ability to gain deeper insights into how the business is performing through smart dashboards and reports.

Creating a more connected environment

Technology also has the power to connect the most important stakeholders in the small business economy. It can help join the dots between small businesses, their accountants, banks, government, tech companies and funders.

At Xero we’re working with other organisations to create more connected tools for small businesses. For example, we launched the very first digital bank feed in South Africa by leveraging open banking. This helps small businesses save time and get into good habits with things like bank reconciliation, which makes tax time a lot easier. 

Processing VAT is one of the biggest pain points for businesses and a significant drain on resources, so we were the first platform to build an integration to allow businesses to prepare, store and submit VAT returns to SARS from the Xero platform. This means greater efficiency, less errors, reduced admin and helps businesses have better control over their finances. 

Using apps to solve business problems

The beauty of cloud technology is that it’s able to integrate with other apps that solve issues for other areas of running a business beyond core accounting. The Xero App Store has over 1,000 apps that connect to Xero to solve a plethora of unique business needs – supporting everything from cash flow to reporting, to inventory management, and HR. We all know how many jobs a small business owner has to juggle, and these apps can help them outsource some of these tasks, freeing them up to focus on the business. 

Small businesses that embrace technology perform better than those that don’t. Investing in digital tools can help self-made businesses reduce the time spent on admin, and free them up to focus on the passion and purpose behind their business. 

To find out more about how Xero is supporting self-made businesses, visit the Xero website here. DM

Author: Colin Timmis


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