Reading Time: 4 minutes
South Africa is a melting pot of different cultures with a diverse range of things to offer tourists. We have the breathtaking Table Mountain, the Kruger National Park that is home to the Big 5, and the warm waters and popular beaches of Durban. All these attractions make South Africa the perfect place to holiday, as a local or a foreigner.
So, with the constant flow of holiday makers and tourists, how do you make sure your BnB is on their radar and you’re getting business through the door? Here are a few tips on what you can do to be noticed by those searching for the perfect place to stay while on holiday.
1. Showcase what clients can expect to get
According to a study conducted by MDG Advertising, 60% of consumers are more inclined to select a business with images in its online listing. In an industry where people are making choices that are based strongly on liking what they see, showcasing your BnB with attractive pictures is a competitive advantage.
Make sure that any flyers, pamphlets or your website itself show off the beauty, functionality and practicality of your facilities. This way your customers can get a better sense of what type of experience they are in for.
Include a gallery on your website that depicts the type of experience they can expect. This can help to communicate whether it has a warm, cozy, homely type of feel to it, or is more of a cosmopolitan, boutique type BnB. If it’s a tranquil cottage by the sea or a cabin in the Drakensburg ,where customers can snuggle up next to a fireplace, make sure you highlight those strengths. People know what type of holiday experience they want, so images can help them decide if your BnB will offer them what they are looking for.
Also, make mention of the amenities and added extras that your BnB has to offer. For example, do you have a pool, are you situated close to restaurants and other night life, do you offer Wi-Fi connectivity or a shuttle services to get around? Of course, price is a big deciding factor but these extra offerings can also help persuade people to book in at your BnB instead of another one down the road
2. Consider advertising on other platforms
Travel websites and online platforms can be a great place for people to find your BnB. Consider using directories like Expedia, Booking.com and Airbnb. These serve as a marketplace for hospitality services and allow holiday makers to find accommodation easily.
These websites act as brokers that receive a percentage of the service fees from guests and hosts for every booking made. Their rates vary depending on the website, so do some research and decide whether you’re willing to pay a percentage of your earnings to market your business there. If it brings in more business it might be worth it, but you need to weigh up your options.
3. Collect reviews and get ratings
Customer reviews and testimonials are incredibly powerful, particularly in today’s online world. First time customers have no idea what to expect, so they rely heavily on first-hand experience and recommendations from others.
There are various ways to go about collecting reviews. If you’re using online booking websites there are often review sections that customers can complete. But you can also keep a visitor’s book that customers can fill in after their stay or share their thoughts on your website.
Be sure to also leverage social media for reviews. Encourage customers to like your pages, check-in online, leave comments and share pictures of their stay.
4. Keep the lines of communication open
Just because guests have checked out, doesn’t mean that your relationship with them should end. You’ve done your best to make their stay unforgettable, now make sure you follow up so that they remember you for next time.
Send personalised emails to thank them for their visit and use the opportunity to communicate special deals or discounts in the future. This is also another great way to get reviews. When you send them a courtesy email thanking them for their stay, why not ask for some feedback on what they enjoyed and if there is anything you can improve on to make their next visit even better.
5. Invite influencers to stay for free
Another way to get your BnB in front of people is to invite online influencers to come and stay and share their experience with their followers. An influencer is someone online who has established credibility in a specific industry and has access to a large audience online. Perhaps you can reach out to a travel writer and offer them a free stay at your BnB in exchange for a short feature or some social sharing.
We mention some great ways for you to start drawing in more customers and getting your BnB noticed, but this doesn’t always come for free. Marketing can cost money. Lulalend can prevent that from being an obstacle by lending a helping hand. With our short-term funding of up to R500 000 you can invest in marketing your BnB. Or, if you’ve already got that covered and are doing all the right things but cash flow is your biggest challenge, we can help you with that too. Whatever the case, Lulalend offers quick, easy access to short term business funding to help your business get more business.
Reading Time: 4 minutes
If you’re a business owner how often do you stop to think about much of your business is sustained by the equipment you use to manufacture, produce or run your business operations? Essentially this equipment helps your business operate efficiently and effectively. The type of equipment depends on the type of business.
If you’re a restaurant owner you’re making use of equipment like fridges and other cold storage equipment, restaurant furniture, utensils, coffee machines, stoves, and ovens. Private medical practices will require things like office equipment and furniture, practice management systems, computers, printers and medical materials like syringes and needles. Beauty salons, on the other hand, might not need to invest in heavy machinery and equipment. It may look more like shampoo bowls, sanitizers, perm rods, hair capes, towels, cleaning supplies, washers, and dryers as well as scissors, blow dryers, brushes, razors and combs. However, these can still add up to a sizable amount.
The reality is that all businesses will need to purchase, lease or service and repair equipment they have on hand at some point or another. Whether it’s medical equipment, commercial vehicles, industrial equipment, specialised machinery and tools, computer hardware/software or office furniture.
When that time comes, you might find yourself strapped for cash. The problem is you need that equipment to keep operating, without this your business can suffer. This is where an equipment loan can be helpful. An evaluation of what you need is necessary on a business by business basis – what works for some won’t work for others. Here are a few things to consider when trying to decide whether to purchase or lease business equipment.
Purchasing new equipment
If you’re a Samsung or Apple brand advocate you’ll understand the emotional rollercoaster they can take you on when you are buying the latest mobile device only to have the newer version come out a few months later. Phones, like business equipment, become outdated. Often an investment in new, more updated equipment can boost productivity and provide a faster business output.
However, purchasing equipment isn’t cheap and requires working capital. Planning for these sorts of business needs can help you to put aside money on an annual basis for new equipment. If you know the estimated lifespan of the required equipment you can make sure that your financial plan takes this into consideration so that when the time comes to purchase new equipment you have the finances on hand.
- If you purchase and own your own equipment you have the advantage of maintenance being in your own hands. This means you can plan for services and upgrades – ensuring that you have enough stock and supplies on hand to keep the business running while maintenance and repairs are done.
- You’re also not limited by what leasing equipment is in stock, so you can ensure that you get the equipment you want and need for the best business performance.
- You can always sell your equipment if you get to a stage where it is no longer an operational need and recover some of the initial expense.
- You can leverage a depreciation deduction for purchased equipment. So when tax season rolls around be sure to speak to a tax consultant to determine whether you qualify for this.
Leasing business equipment
Leasing equipment may be a viable option for your business and shouldn’t be seen as a runner-up to purchasing your own equipment.
- Leasing equipment forms a monthly line item on your books which means you are always budgeting for it and can save your working capital for other expenses.
- Equipment leasing is also an easy way to keep up to date with the latest equipment available for your business. Because of the flexibility of a lease agreement you can take advantage of a short-term agreement to allow you constant access to the latest equipment or technology on the market. (While you can always sell equipment that you own and do the same, business equipment will always depreciate over time. In this way purchased equipment doesn’t allow you to make back what you spent to help with the cost of upgrades).
- Leasing equipment can also bring certain tax benefits and deductions. As mentioned, it’s always a good idea to make use of a registered tax consultant to help you determine whether your leased equipment provides your business with a complete deduction of the lease payments against your current business earnings.
There are pros and cons to both purchasing or leasing equipment. What is important is that you think through your business requirements and financial capacity to see what would best serve your business. You can land up saving money in the long run by purchasing your own equipment, but if it’s going to cost you a substantial amount and you’re going to end up selling it in a few short years then leasing may be the better option. Assess your business needs, your business’s financial situation, and the long-term pros and cons. If you’re still unsure, speak to an advisor or consult your financial team to get a clear idea of what is viable for your business right now and further down the line.
Short term business equipment loans can assist in any of these circumstances
Short term business funding can be a saving grace in all of these circumstances. It can help cover the costs of basic services and repairs, give you quick access to a lump sum when you need to make a once off equipment purchase, or help you inject some working capital into your business so that you can take out a lease.
Short term business funding is quicker and easier than turning to a bank for your equipment loan. At Lulalend, applications for small business funding takes a few minutes and access to that funding is provided in 24 hours. While short-term loans often have higher rates, the advantages are immediate access when you need to make quick business decisions and are faced with the possibility of losing significant business.
Reading Time: 6 minutes
As the owner of any small business, you can often find yourself running into cash flow problems, it’s a common experience. There could be many reasons for this. The cost of supplies, inventory or business operations can outweigh the money coming into the business. Without proper management of cash, your business could land up in hot water. So what can you do to get back to the cash flow positive and stay there? There are many ways that you can remedy the situation. A careful look at your budget and some financial planning will help pinpoint where you can implement change or curb expenditure to improve cash flow.
Here are a few examples to think about:
Find ways of bringing in new business and retain existing customers
The first step is to make sure you’re marketing your business to the right people in the right way. You might need to rethink your marketing plan or start marketing if that hasn’t been on your agenda. Maybe it’s worthwhile to run some specials or promotions to draw in more customers. There are various ways you can market your business. You can take the traditional route and market through radio and television, but it is generally more cost effective to market digitally. Whichever platform you choose, be sure that your message is targeted towards your customer base.
Secondly, don’t forget about existing customers. Take advantage of those relationships, turn them into brand advocates who keep coming back. Their experience at every touch point will influence whether they turn into repeat customers. One great tip is to engage with customers on social media – respond to comments timeously and share content with them that is engaging and valuable. Go the extra mile to answer their questions and address their concerns – especially when it relates to your business or industry, this can help build trust and encourage customer loyalty. Warm service will show customers that you have their best interests at heart and they will be more likely to support your business in the future.
Compare quotes and build relationships with trustworthy suppliers
One thing that you should be doing is forming valuable relationships with your suppliers. Building a solid relationship with suppliers will put you in a better position to negotiate with them – this means they are more likely to offer you discounts and special deals. Over time, and as your relationships with your suppliers grow, you could find more benefits like this opening up because of your longstanding relationship and the fact that you are bringing in business for them. For example, because you’ve built a good relationship and the supplier knows you are a trustworthy client there may be opportunities for discounts, or more flexibility in extending your credit. Instead of having just two weeks to pay a supplier you could push for four weeks. And because the supplier knows you’re good for it, they might be willing to accommodate.
It’s also a good idea to compare quotes from different suppliers, especially if you’re looking to launch a new range of items to add to your product line. This might require extra time and effort, but in the long run, it may save you some money. Just be sure not to compromise when it comes to quality. This, along with customer satisfaction is the lifeblood of your business.
Assess where you can save in the day-to-day running of the business
We spend a big chunk of our lives at the office, so it’s understandable that we want to make it a comfortable environment for ourselves and our employees. But are you spending more on luxuries then you need to? Do you really need that fancy espresso machine or trendy office furniture? Consider what are needs and what are wants. If you find there is extra money for the luxuries then go ahead, but if you’re looking for ways to save and you know things are tight, rather spend money on what the business needs to operate efficiently.
This can even apply to the software that you need for business operations. Determine whether a subscription-based offering is reasonable and includes the features you need. For example, SAGE offers their basic One Accounting software for R2214 per year which includes invoicing, calculating VAT returns, and connects your bank. While SAGE is a well-known accounting software used by many businesses don’t be afraid to consider free software that is on offer and determine whether this would work just as well for your business. GNUCash is a free software tool that handles invoicing and credit notes, accounts payable and receivable, employee expenses and some payroll features too. While GNUCash will save you some money, the question you need to always ask yourself is if this suitable for your business? It could be worthwhile to make a list of potential software options for your business and jot down the pros and cons of each one before deciding. By doing so you can factor in the cost and weigh this up against the features and benefits of how this can service your business.
There are a couple of ways you can save money by being an environmentally conscious business. Why not go electronic, whether this is for emails, invoices or bookkeeping, instead of using reams of paper? If your business is paper heavy consider recycling. This doesn’t just save you money but can also bring in money by having items recycled by organisations like Sappi’s recycling agents. Use energy saving bulbs and unplug devices when not in use. Or, with the current water shortage in South Africa, encourage your employees to use water conservatively and fix any leaking taps as soon as you become aware of them. You may think these small changes do not make a big difference in your bottom line, but consider this: Brian Wilkinson, CEO of Green Building Council of South Africa (GBCSA), says a green building on average saves 25% in electricity. These energy efficient solutions may also help you qualify for tax incentives too. The incentive works on the basis of quantifiable energy that you save expressed as kilowatt-hours (kWh). For each kWh that you save, you will get a 45 cent tax relief.
Use your office space wisely
Office space can be very pricey – especially if you want a prime spot that’s accessible to a large customer base. If you’re renting a big office space but you only have a few employees, consider sharing your office space with another business. Make sure that the space you rent is suitable for a small business and that subleasing doesn’t go against your own lease agreement. Alternatively, a shared workspace will save you a substantial amount on utilities as well. For example, The Bureaux Flexible Work Habitats offer a desk space for R1,850 per month and it includes necessities like electricity, water, and Wi-Fi connection. This is a great option if you run a business that’s flexible like a digital marketing agency. More and more people are working remotely these days and because most businesses have gone digital this is becoming more widely practiced as it lowers overheads. Of course, this isn’t ideal for all businesses. If you’re in the restaurant or offline retail industry you need a store front. Renting or buying property can be expensive so it is important to understand what your business needs so that you aren’t wasting money on a few extra square meters that you aren’t actually taking advantage of.
Invoice customers as quickly as possible
As a business, you want your clients to pay you as soon as possible. In order to get paid quickly, be sure to invoice them immediately after the service/product has been provided. When it comes to services offered by electricians, plumbers and other similar trades a good strategy would be to offer discounts as an incentive for paying early – if you can afford to do so. While giving a discount may tighten margins slightly, it will also manage to free up cash flow in your business. In the past, businesses generally used to give 30 days for a client to pay, but this is starting to change. Xero conducted a study which found that 70 -80% percent of businesses give 2 weeks or less to pay, and more than half of those request payment within 7 days. Be sure to mention the payment deadlines in your service agreement to avoid unnecessary misunderstandings.
Don’t wait until your business is experiencing a cash flow slump. Make sure that you have documented a plan and have a cost-reduction strategy in place so that when the leaner months come you know exactly what to do to help your business. Every business is bound to experience a bump in the road, but the true mark of a successful business is having a strategy and managing cash flow to help overcome this. Every hour a business owner spends worrying about cost-reduction is an hour they could be spending focusing on the business. Don’t shy away from spending money where needed, but don’t be afraid to eliminate costs in areas where it is not.
Short term business funding is also a viable option to help your business if you are experiencing a dip in cash flow. Sometimes access to funding can help you purchase more stock or inventory to increase sales and bring in more business. Short term business funding also ensures that you are paying the loan off quickly and not getting yourself into a debt cycle. At Lulalend we help SMEs get quick, easy access to business funding so that they can see success and not digress. With business funding of up to R500 000 and flexible repayment plans, you can turn things around for your business and remain in the cash flow positive.
Reading Time: 5 minutes
As a business owner in the food industry, you have a lot on your plate. You have to deal with managing staff, financial planning, ensuring that your restaurant meets industry standards according to the Health Act of 1977; not to mention coming up with a killer menu to impress customers and meet their expectations. But there is one aspect of your business that can put your head in a serious spin: inventory management. You have to track inventory and be constantly switched on with what stock you have on hand, what’s running low and how to keep all of it fresh so that you’re not wasting food and money in all the wrong places. Food products tend to expire quickly, adding to the difficulty of stock control.
As the disgruntled customer suggests above, when a restaurant runs out of food it is terribly disappointing and negatively impacts your brand. Can you blame this person for not wanting to go back? This is why it’s important to maintain a steady supply of inventory – letting down your customers will only result in a damaged reputation. Because of the havoc this can cause we’ve put together a list of the top 5 things that you can do to make the process of managing stock a lot easier.
Check the stock when it’s delivered
Inspect the products, checking that the correct quantity has been delivered and that the items are not damaged. As far as food items are concerned, be sure to check that the best before dates are not coming up anytime soon. Imagine wasting your hard-earned money on produce that won’t yield any profit. A careful look at any new stock received will save your business money in the long run. You will be able to pick up any shortcomings in the items received and improve the overall efficiency in the day to day running of your business.
Track and analyse your inventory
Are you overspending when it comes to stock? With proper care, you will be able to evaluate how much you need to spend so that you have enough to meet your needs and avoid excess produce that will only go to waste. It’s a good idea to keep track of what menu items are most popular, this will give you a good indication of what you need to purchase more of and what you can cut down on. Estimate how much inventory you will need based on prior sales or seasonal demand and change these based on shifting customer preferences and new sales trends.
Tracking your inventory will give you a good indication of your most popular dishes and which products generate the most revenue. This will give you a clearer picture of the amount of inventory you need to order. If crunching the numbers isn’t your strong point the Wilson EOQ Model created by Ford W. Harrison provides a great formula for determining the optimal order size for a given unit of inventory. By looking at your inventory data you can get valuable insights into how your business works, what sells and how to make improvements as you go along. By analysing your inventory data, you might also discover that another supplier provides better value for money.
Store stock in a secure place
Produce like meat, vegetables and fruit should be purchased on a regular basis so that your meals are always fresh. Non-perishable items like tinned food can be purchased in bulk since this has a longer shelf life. Make sure you store all items in the right place under the right temperature so that they won’t go off before the expiry date. This will not only save you money, but it’s also kinder to the environment as discarded food ends up in landfills where it rots and releases harmful greenhouse gases. According to CSIR principal scientist for pollution and waste, Dr Linda Godfrey, a third of all the food produced in South Africa is wasted. At an alarming cost of roughly R60-billion a year that’s equal to 2.1% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Use software to manage your stock
In the digital age, we all welcome a little help from technology to lighten the load and improve productivity. There are many applications designed to help you effectively manage stock. When you have a hectic workload it makes little sense not to take advantage of some kind of software to help you better manage the inventory you have. Think about how much time you will save by using this type of technology, instead of relying on pen and paper or tedious excel spreadsheets. Some great online tools include the Goods Order Inventory System (GOIS Pro) – a web and mobile application designed specifically to address the inventory management needs of SMEs. This app can be used both online and offline, making it easier to help your business automate inventory processes. If you’re looking for a free version of software, then opt for Stockpile. This online inventory system for small businesses gives you valuable information about inventory turnover with great reporting functionality. With useful features like adding inventory, taking returns, recording sales and checks for damaged goods, this nifty application is sure to get you on the right track to controlling your stock. Because restaurant owners do a lot of running around, cloud-based or mobile friendly systems are always a plus and make it easy to access information from anywhere.
Find trustworthy people to manage stock
Even if you’re using software, you still need people that will help control your inventory. Generally, it’s best to hire two staff members to perform this function. Two sets of eyes make it less likely that anything will be missed during the inventory count. Alternatively, if you can’t afford to hire staff to count stock, ask existing staff to do it as part of their duties, or manage this area yourself if you have the time. Whether you hire staff or conduct the stock check yourself, make sure that this is done on a regular basis.
When it comes to inventory management it’s vital that you have a clear plan in place which will help you work out a budget that is in line with what you require. Inventory management may seem like a very stressful and lengthy process, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Sometimes as a business owner it’s okay to step back and admit that you don’t have all the answers. Challenges are bound to arise so there is wisdom in using your staff or making use of online resources to better manage your business. If you need extra help in this area, it may be worthwhile to get a mentor who understands your business needs. For advice on finding the right mentor check out our blog on the NSBC.
If you know that investing in staff or purchasing inventory software will help your business, don’t let a lack of capital stop you. This is where businesses like Lulalend come in. If you need quick, easy access to business funding you can apply online with us and see the money in your account within 24 hours. Don’t put off investing in the things you need to help you improve your inventory management and grow your business because you don’t have the cash flow on hand. Speak to us about small business funding between R20 000 – R500 000.