Charity starts at home

I’ve always believed that family and friends should support each other’s businesses because “charity starts at home” right? But, it never dawned on me how my small contribution (whether it’s actually buying the product, utilizing the service, referring the business or a mere pat on the entrepreneur’s back) can actually change lives and eventually our country.

It’s no secret that our country faces an unemployment crisis. In fact, the latest StatsSA report reveals that the unemployment rate has reached a record high-over seven million are currently without work. While most will search anxiously for another job (of which seem to be in very low supply), a mere 14% will start a business. This figure is well below the average of 27% for efficiency-driven countries, according to the 2012 Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) South Africa report. Statistics show that, for every seven small businesses established each year, only two will be operational one year down the line.


So why aren’t we producing more entrepreneurs (and successful ones at that)? Surely entrepreneurship will help alleviate our dismal unemployment figures? It certainly would but a number of obstacles have to be removed before the entrepreneur can sail to success. Obstacles include a complex regulatory environment (which is costing entrepreneurs a great deal of time and money), limited access to finance, increasing costs such as electricity, fuel, rates, taxes, unionized labor forces, and limited appropriate entrepreneurial training and development programs.

Fear of failure is another very real obstacle for most entrepreneurs. This is where family and friends should step in and show their support by simply offering words of encouragement. It sounds ridiculous but when you are flying solo, motivation can boost confidence tenfold and could even save a business from closure in the long run.

Like any other business…possibly better!

There are so many ways in which family and friends can show their support. The obvious one is to actually utilize the service or purchase the product on offer. Others include practical help like web design, marketing, client referrals, financial planning, designing a business plan, and so the list goes on. Just by sharing your expertise or time free of charge, you can help your friend or family member grow a business.

However, many people prefer not to mix close relationships with business. Quite frankly, I think this is ridiculous especially if you know the business-owner runs an above-board business, is competitive and takes the business seriously. The trust issue would apply to any business you deal with. Before you enter a business transaction with anyone, it’s important to know that the right qualifications are in place, for instance. Of course you want to feel comfortable before you part with your hard-earned cash or even refer a business. There is no crime in asking a few pertinent questions before going ahead with the transaction. In fact, this should give the entrepreneur the perfect opportunity to explain the advantages of utilizing his or her business. You may be pleasantly surprised by the competitive rates and service!

Often prices are really competitive due to low overheads. A lot of entrepreneurs work from home, for instance, which eliminates the need for high transport costs, property rentals and a large work force. All of these expenses are paid for by the customer at the end of the day. Just because someone works from home, doesn’t mean to say that the business is unprofessional. In fact, many large corporations prefer that their staff members work from home as it saves the company a great deal of money on escalating expenses such electricity, office space and phone bills. Today’s digital technology makes this completely possible. The only difference is that the entrepreneur will generally be available to his client 24/7 to ensure that they are getting the best possible service. As he doesn’t have a million-dollar budget for advertising and marketing, maintaining existing clients and referrals is a priority without question. You can therefore be rest-assured that the product or service you receive will be superior. The entrepreneur wants you to use the business regularly and refer others so there is not much chance of him or her upsetting you intentionally! I love this quote from US entrepreneur, Lori Greiner: “Entrepreneurs are willing to work 80 hours a week to avoid working 40 hours a week.”

Knock-on effect

In an environment where jobs are scarce, we have a responsibility to encourage our entrepreneurs-especially family and friends. Running a business requires huge doses of commitment and effort. Involvement from those you love and spend time with is essential to survival. This support also has long-term implications because as the business grows, the entrepreneur will need to start hiring help. This is good news for someone who has been out of work for months and is unable to support his family, often turning to crime as an easy solution.  Just remember that your one small act of support, when multiplied by many, will eventually transform an entire country! How exciting is that?


Daily Maverick-SA’s unemployment rates rise to near-record levels

EOY-Too many obstacles still hindering SA’s entrepreneurial growth

Statistics South Africa-Statistical Release P0211 [pdf]

The Skills Portal-Too scared to fail: barriers to small business growth

By Denise Philip

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