Looking forward, looking back!

Even I, an Englishman, managed to get a few notes out of the vuvuzela

Undoubtedly the highlight of 2010 for the majority of us lucky enough to be living in South Africa was the (soccer) World Cup. Although the match against France showed that, on their day, Bafana Bafana could compete with more famous opponents, they unfortunately failed to make it through the group stages. Having been in England during the Euro ’96 tournament (i.e. the 1996 European Championships), I know that South Africans tragically missed out on the euphoria reaching a totally different level, as the hosts progressed steadily through the tournament.

It was fun to see flags flying from cars, normally the owners showing their allegiance to two teams, one of course being South Africa. I saw one car in Pietermaritzburg with the following flags hanging out of it: South Africa, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal, Brazil and Argentina. Amusingly, although the driver thought that they had their bases covered by ‘supporting’ 25% of the runners, they weren’t supporting the winner of this particular race! I only hope that my business foresight becomes as good as my World Cup foresight – in 2008 I said that Spain would win the World Cup! I guess that on 26th December, we’ll turn on the TV to be presented with re-runs of some of the 2010 World Cup matches, for us to watch whilst eating Christmas Day’s left over food! Maybe the owner of the car with 8 flags should be a ninth, a Spanish flag, in time for the re-runs!

Do I have the winner?

2010 marked 150 years since the arrival of the first settlers from India in South Africa. The uMgungundlovu district unveiled a time capsule at Project Gateway in Pietermaritzburg (a former prison whose famous inmates included Gandhi).  The time capsule will be left open for a year, enabling members of the Indian community to deposit certified copies of documents tracing their origins and history. The capsule will then be sealed next year and reopened on 16th November 2060, the 200th anniversary of the arrival of Indians in the country.

Economically, 2010 has been a tough year for South Africa but perhaps not as bad as we may have expected, probably due to the preparations for the World Cup and the tournament itself. Certainly 2010 has been nowhere near as tough in South Africa as other countries, in particular Spain, Portugal and Ireland, as well as the USA and the UK. I am certain though that those business owners who are able to sail their companies through this particularly violent storm will be in a fantastic position to benefit from the eventual up-turn in the economy. Their businesses will be ‘leaner and meaner’ and, crucially, the business owners’ commercial experience and ability to adapt to both economic and market conditions will have increased exponentially. Another benefit will be fewer established competitors to go up against.

Has your business avoided having to downsize this year?

In our industry, 2010 saw SARS introduce bi-annual PAYE reconciliations and CIPRO starting to de-register CCs that had not submitted their financials. Whilst many businesses in our sector have downsized, Assured Bookkeeping Solutions has been very fortunate. We have experienced a year of substantial growth which I put down to mainly to two people – Bronwyn Blackburn, the business owner (and my wife!) who has worked ridiculous hours in order to drive the business forward, and our business coach. ActionCOACH’s wealth of knowledge, experience and its numerous proven business strategies have been a huge investment and have helped see us substantially grow both our client base and our team.

One of the major challenges for all South African businesses in 2011 will be ensuring that the forthcoming Consumer Protection Act is adhered to. The Act will affect all businesses, even those that do not deal directly with consumers. The way in which we market and sell products & services will change significantly – even our bookkeeping and payroll services! Thankfully Parliament keeps delaying final implementation of the Act – the next expected date being 1st April (having seen the content of the Act and how discriminatory it is against businesses, there is more than a sense of irony in the date!).

One question that I am hoping will be answered with a ‘yes’ is: “Will 2011 be the year that Social Networking truly becomes a major tool in business to business marketing?”. Our business has the initial steps in place, with presences on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, as well as this blog being created. I have inter-linked all of these social media outlets so that, for example, the updating our Facebook account will automatically update our web site, as well as my LinkedIn and Twitter pages. Having learned the technical elements of these social media sites during 2010, finding and maintaining ‘followers’ will be the big challenge for 2011.

Finally, I would like to wish Melanie Veness best wishes as she takes up her new role as CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business (PCB). Melanie replaces outgoing CEO Andrew Layman. As a small business, we have found the PCB invaluable. Long may that continue!

Thanks for reading this article. Everyone at Assured Bookkeeping Solutions wishes you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

I hope that 2011 will be a successful year for you and your business.

Ian Blackburn

About Assured Bookkeeping (Pty) Ltd

Providers of bookkeeping & payroll services, accounting and tax services
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