There are still relatively few business books and guides written for South African entrepreneurs that offer solutions to their specific challenges and needs.
Nokwazi Mzobe, founder of Matoyana African Business Innovation and part-time lecturer at the Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS), wrote a book to address this.
In her work with SA entrepreneurs, she found that there was a lack of understanding of fairly basic concepts among small business owners, including must-do’s like “properly segmenting the market for the business, carrying out thorough market research, proper cash flow management and budgeting practices, and considering the brand messaging of the company name,” she says.
Her book, The New Small Business Handbook, offers guidance on these issues and more. The handbook, launched earlier this year, covers 17 critical areas of running a business, including branding, finance, legal, human resources, leadership and customer service.
To find out what sets her handbook apart and what inspired it, SME South Africa speaks to Mzobe.
Q: Why did you decide to write The New Small Business Handbook?
There’s a saying that goes “You don’t know what you don’t know,” and looking back to when I started my business, I recall wishing for a single source I could refer to when I was looking for certain information. I spent a lot of time attending startup conferences, forums, reading up on the internet. Not that this was a waste of time, but I could have spent less time doing this.
I remember my older brother asking me why I had not registered for turnover tax, and I responded that I didn’t know about it. If I had known about it in the first year, I could have saved money which could have gone to good use elsewhere in my business. As I interacted with more business owners, I noted that many of us had similar issues. I’d get people asking me where I had sourced certain information from. This inspired me to write the book.
The New Small business Handbook, a written guide for starting a South African business.
Q: In 2005, Standard Bank made a small business guide available online. How is your handbook different from something like this guide?
The book and the guide are very similar, but what I would say differentiates it from this guide is:
- The Small Business Handbook goes one step further on some topics. We include practical “how-to-guides” in the market research, finance and business plan sections.
- We purposely chose to release a physical book first. This is because in my research I noted that many people don’t know where to look for this information, don’t have the time to search, don’t have 24/7 access to the internet and can’t afford to access the internet for prolonged periods. Hence a physical handbook is more inclusive from an accessibility point of view.
Q: What do you think is the biggest problem African entrepreneurs face when starting a small business?
I don’t think that there is one big problem but I have noted (and its not just me, I think) a worrying trend where many aspiring (mainly first time) business owners want to start businesses where there’s a high number of competitors.
These businesses tend to be catering, events, car washes, digital/public relations agencies, app development and construction. Many don’t take the time to do the necessary research to understand the customer, the market, size and opportunity, and whether they can differentiate themselves from existing competitors.
Q: Does your handbook address this problem and offer advice for helping to prevent this in the future?
I don’t address this directly, but the first two chapters in the book are on market research and business models. I chose these two chapters as starting points to encourage readers to conduct research upfront to get a good understanding of the industry, customers, environment and whether opportunity to scale exists.
The business model gets them to think through their value proposition (whether they are solving a problem or meeting a need) and how they will make money.
Q: What are you hoping the results from this handbook will be?
Running a business is not easy and I believe that some things shouldn’t be problems or rocket science i.e. creating a budget. Hence, I hope that this book will simplify certain processes, reduce the time entrepreneurs spend searching for certain information and reduce the number of mistakes business owners make because they don’t know – specifically for first time business owners.
Q: The book is a collaboration with Procter and Gamble, what role have they played in the creative process and publishing of this handbook?
I was working as a consultant on a project with the P&G team to establish the P&G Leadership College in South Africa and its supplier and enterprise development initiative, geared towards supporting and inspiring entrepreneurs in South Africa.
I had been planning to write a guidebook for entrepreneurs and it was for this project that I proposed and created the first edition of The Small Business Handbook with the agreement that the second edition is available to the public. The topics I had chosen to include in the book were consistent with P&G’s values, which are leadership, ownership, integrity, trust and a passion for winning.
P&G decided to support the publication of the handbook to broaden the empowerment impact for South African small businesses, and for women business owners in particular. P&G sponsored the creation of the first edition for the College and contributed to the first chapter on market research.
For the second edition, I re-wrote the market research chapter so that all the content came from Matoyana. P&G has co-sponsored the launch, gave us PR support to help spread the word and have since ordered copies to contribute to a young women empowerment initiative they are supporting.