Have you thought what would happen if your business came to an abrupt halt?


Factories have burnt down to the ground in recent months. A small-scale food business was out of action for almost three months when gas exploded inside their premises. Societal unrest disrupts business operations. Cyber attacks bring businesses to their knees for extended periods. But what about rising risks in the supply chain? Depleting global natural resources are making some critical materials scarce.

How long can you afford to be out of business?

Days? Weeks? Months?

Yes, you can buy insurance for physical assets but for revenue loss if you want insurance it’s going to cost you a bomb.

We’re not talking here about a planned business outage such as when you have to move out of a shopping centre or industrial premises during refurbishment. What we are talking about is a sudden disruptive incident – a fire, a protracted strike, loss of a critical supplier or major damage because of an extreme climate event (such as the storm that hit businesses and a plant nursery on the West Rand of Johannesburg).

If you have read this far, you might wonder about things that could put your business out for an extended period. Where are you vulnerable? Where are your risks? Is there anything that keeps you awake at night? Or, are there things that worry you, but you soon forget about them and carry on thinking it will never happen to us?

It’s easy to get caught in the thick of thin things…

… which means you don’t pay attention to what could happen.

You’re focused on the here and now. “Please, don’t distract me I’ve got a business to run,” is what you tell those who come to you with advice about things like business continuity.

This one’s going to pass through your mind so let’s address it here and now. You’re probably thinking, “It’ll never happen to me.” Well, you could be right. The probability of business disruption in your type of business could be small.

But you won’t really know until you have done a risk assessment of your operations. And, if you do identify risks, you would need to carry out a business impact analysis.

Planning for business disruption puts your operations in a stronger position. If something goes wrong, you can minimise the damage of your revenue and profits being choked for a long period. Other benefits would include having a more resilient business operation better able to cope with unforeseen circumstances.

In this uncertain, disruptive environment, it pays to know what your risks are and having a plan to mitigate them in the event of serious and protracted business disruption.

About the author: Chesney Bradshaw

Chesney Bradshaw, (BA), MBA, is a business continuity specialist. Based in Johannesburg, South Africa, Bradshaw has held senior positions in industry, including for large manufacturers, and senior roles in sustainability. He has written more than 800 articles on a variety of topics such as innovation, business formation, operations management, sustainability, energy efficiency, finance and risk management. He is a lead auditor and implementer for the ISO business continuity and societal security management system.

Do you value your independence as a small business owner enough?

As the years of recession role on, it’s so clear how important growth and having cash reserves are in your small business. How can you have a sustainable business if you don’t have growth and if you don’t have cash when you need it to perhaps invest or fix things up? How can you have sustainability without economic growth? Okay, some environmental economists have looked at what prosperity could look like in a finite world with limited resources and a population expected to exceed 9 billion people within decades. It’s not an easy question to answer, especially when you are working in an old paradigm and you have to make decisions in the here and now.

But you see companies that have a mandate to pursue the growth agenda taking risks in markets far away from their home markets as shareholders put pressure on them to grow. When the cellphone and service provider market saturates in a home markets what can you do to increase revenue? Jack up airtime rates and because data demand is increasing spike that cost up too. But how far can you go? Next thing you start to look outside in so-called underdeveloped markets where the risk is higher, including regulatory risk.

Now, a small business owner does not have the same shareholder pressures unless he or she has investors in his or her business. A case in point: a small business owner in this economy has expanded no less than three times, making those three decisions himself. His business continues to grow, because he has discovered a growth niche and is providing value that the major national chains can’t match.

The other area is cash reserves. For the listed company the problem is that because of financial rules and regulations only so much cash is permitted to be kept in reserve. Without cash reserves the larger mining or industrial companies find it difficult to maintain operations. In a resources commodity down cycle, you might think that it’s a good idea not to invest in your plant and equipment. But if you don’t, it’s going to be far more expensive down the line when demand for resource commodities increase. Yes, you can find different ways to raise finance later on, but it will come with an added cost.

For the small business owner who has built up reserves, a cash kitty, he or she has flexibility to invest, replace outdated or worn equipment and, when necessary, bring in new technology. Another case in point: a small printing business has bought a new flat-bed, A3 scanner to improve reproduction quality for customers. Without a cash reserve, the scanner would cost double if it was bank financed.

Are you as a small business owner taking advantage of the freedom and independence you have to make decisions about growth for your business and are you building up a cash reserve or cash kitty to make improvements in your business?

The one idea mistake you can’t afford to make in your planning

A couple started a hand and body lotion manufacturing business, which is still going well after a number of years. They started selling at Saturday morning markets, found there was a demand for the product and started developing their business. Now, they still sell to Saturday morning markets but also have stockists at retail stores and sell online.

This is a success story. But it doesn’t always happen this way. We know that the majority of new business ideas fail. Why is this so and what can you do about it? What can you do to ensure that your promising business idea will produce results?

The short answer is to do your homework. But what does this really entail? Unless you know what to do, you could follow the route of so many other one-be start-up ventures and land up with egg on your face. It’s no laughing matter. You would have wasted your time, energy, resources and perhaps feel embarrassed and disillusioned.

Before you even produce a sample or prototype, you need to check if there is a market for your idea. This may involve formal or informal research. You need to check in the existing marketplace to see what products are available and also do searches online to find out if such products or services are available. Depending on the nature of your product or service, you would probably also want to look for advertisements for similar products in general or specialised magazines.

Next up, would be to evaluate your idea to determine if it is attractive. What is your unique selling proposition? What benefits are potential customers looking for? How will your product or service offering reduce perceived risk, especially if you are a small business. Unknown, untried and untested? There are just too many products on the market to leave this step to chance.

An important stage is to test your idea to see if there is demand. This may involve producing a sample or prototype that you may want to take out into your defined niche market and test for buying intention. It’s no use receiving opinions and comments about how good your product is – the only thing that really counts is if people are willing to buy. The best form of testing involves actual purchases.

A stage that is often overlooked is feasibility planning to determine if you could establish a business based on your idea. Here you would look at a source of local suppliers, whether you have to manufacture the product yourself or not, how and where you are going to distribute it and whether you can do it on your own or need others to help you. I think this is an important step before producing a business plan because it gives you a rough guide of critical areas.

You would then prepare a business case for introducing your product or service, which would include a marketing and sales plan. Whether you are introducing a new craft beer, body or hand lotion or a specialised pet care service, it makes sense to come up with a brief business plan to help minimise your personal risk. Some may scoff at written down business plans, but how can you keep all the details in your head without forgetting important elements?

Next time you come up with an exciting new business opportunity. Don’t make the number one idea mistake which is not to do your homework beforehand. Get ready for your biggest step towards generating and implementing your own ideas for success. Why not use proven sources to build and target a product or side income asset of your own? Click on the books page to order your copy of “Breakthrough Ideas” now.

Can you really grow a “super brain” that helps you discover new ideas?

You’ve had a busy day. Your mind seems to be in overdrive, buzzing at the level where it almost feels numb. In this “beta” wave state you’re in a mental busyness where you can’t really think. Messages come in from everywhere, your radio, smart phone, television and people such as colleagues, family and friends. Everything seems to be coming at you, demanding your attention. Fragments of conversation during the day, conflict that has been unresolved, remarks people made are all still hanging out in your head. You find it difficult to relax to calm down and slow your brain to a pace where ideas start to flow.

Continue reading “Can you really grow a “super brain” that helps you discover new ideas?”

How to avoid start-up ideas that fail

Coming up with new business ideas is the exciting part. You are charged with energy. You see possibility in your new idea. But before you run out to build a prototype or sample and test your brilliant new idea it may be useful to look at why some start-up ideas frequently fail.

On the Quora site a start-up founder, consultant and adviser mentioned that almost anything selling technology into restaurants will likely fail particularly if it solves a problem for diners rather than the owners. As he says, ideas that failed include cheque-splitting, menu systems and order-from-your-table systems. It makes sense because will these new concepts bring in new business for the restaurant owner. If your product can reduce costs or increase sales for a restaurant, then it’s a different matter.

Continue reading “How to avoid start-up ideas that fail”

How “milking” a product led to its demise

Photo by Tadeu Jnr on Unsplash

Many years ago an entrepreneur in a town near Johannesburg came up with a new product to treat psoriasis. In its day the product was a breakthrough because it was about the only one on the market that gave long-lasting relief from the symptoms of this skin ailment. It was a relatively benign product because it did not do damage to your skin such as the cortisone-based products.

Over time, the original owner handed over the product to a pharmaceutical marketer who started selling it on a wider scale and nationally. But some time later this pharmaceutical distribution and marketing company began to harvest the product. In fact, there was no new product development. This was a great pity because money was not kept decide to reinvest into the product and to make it more effective. There wasn’t even any innovation in packaging, which would have been an advantage because the packaging was all right but it could have been far better.

Onward to the next pharmaceutical distributor and marketer. The second distributor and market was only too keen to get their name on the product but also used a harvesting pricing strategy. In simple language, this means that they jacked up the price each year until the product was overpriced and then sales naturally declined. Towards the end, the product was priced so high that unless you were a long-standing user, you would probably have given it a miss.

Then the product was taken off the market for good. When I called to ask what was going to happen to the product, all I was told was that it had been discontinued. No one, it seems, was prepared to even manufacturer and market it on a smaller scale. Now, there is nothing like it on the market any more.

But wait, there’s more … the product came back onto the market at an astronomical price. No one seems to know it anymore in store. It’s hard to find in pharmaceutical stores. One of these days it will be gone for good.

Those who have studied MBA marketing courses will know about a harvesting pricing strategy. It makes sense on paper, in a MBA marketing textbook, but the ethical approach to maintaining and building an effective pharmaceutical product doesn’t seem to come into the equation. No one thinks of the issues about denying access to such a product for sufferers of psoriasis. There is no tolerance these days for slow-moving product lines and if they don’t earn their weight in revenue and profit, they are bled to death and unceremoniously “discontinued”.

For the small business owner who has an effective product right now, things may be going well but what about the future? How will you ensure the longevity of your product without product innovation and even packaging innovation? Will you hand over your product to an external distribution and marketing company that can pick and choose from many other product lines? One way of avoiding handing over your product to strangers is to keep it in the family. But unless the family share your passion and know how to keep developing a product, it’s going to be a hard to ensure its life into the future.

Launch a good enough product, and then spend time perfecting it. How true is this?

Well, it depends. If, for example, you have a low-risk business proposition – say a small kitchen-table service business – then you can start up and refine it as you go along.

You hear this advice all the time. Start something, anything, and get it out to market. But how realistic is this? Continue reading “Launch a good enough product, and then spend time perfecting it. How true is this?”

What kind of entrepreneur are you?

“Give a man a fire and he’s warm for the day. But set fire to him and he’s warm for the rest of his life.” Long – Terry Pratchett

Photo by Robert Zunikoff on Unsplash

A couple who ran out of options in the formal job market started a hand and body lotion small business to bring in income for themselves. Slowly, surely they began to make sales at morning markets and spread the word about their new hand and body lotion. Some time now down the track they are doing well with sales still at morning markets but now including retail outlets and online. This business is serving them well and it suits their stage in life. Continue reading “What kind of entrepreneur are you?”

Red Monkey Tales – look for problems

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Red Monkey was perched high in a tree observing his surroundings. He scanned downwards through the trees and from time to time looked far off into the distance over the treetops.

“Hey, Red Monkey what are you doing?” John, the small business owner asked.

“I’m just looking around to see what’s going on, “Red Monkey said. “Wait there John, I’ll be down in a minute.”

“So what were you looking for?” John asked.

Red Monkey Jamie came towards John, ambling along, showing no urgency at all. “You don’t know how it is. We red monkeys are dependent on the forests for our survival. It’s you humans through your habitat destruction that destroy our forests and leave us with no fruit-bearing trees.”

“Well, you know I’m not one of those. If I had my way they would be no cutting down of rainforest or any other forests for that matter.”

“Maybe. So what’s on your mind John?”

“I had a terrible dream last night. I dreamt that I was tired and weary. It was night. I climbed into a small bed-like ledge high up in the mountain and was about to go to sleep when I looked up and saw the rocks above were crawling with snakes.”

“So what did you do… in your dream, I mean?”

“I jumped out of the rock bed on the side of the mountain and woke up scared out of my wits.”

“How did you know those snakes were dangerous? They could have been harmless snakes and would have just kept you company for the night.”

“Yes, I know. Maybe you’re right. I’ve had so much on my mind lately”

“Is your business still troubling you?”

“Yes, it seems like I can’t come up with any new ideas. You know our these in this economy.”

“Why don’t you look for problems? Think of that farmer who recently heard about whose lambs were being killed by jackals and caracals. He had a big problem on his farm in the Eastern Cape.”

“But that solution he came up with to put solar-powered cats eyes on some of these ewes so the light would chase away the jackals and caracals when the ewes got up or turned their heads at night chased away the predators but he’s not made any money out of it.”

“But that’s not the point, John. The farmer had a problem and he came up with a solution that has cut down losses of these lambs. At least he didn’t go for traps, poisoning or hunting to chase away the jackals and caracals. He’s not going to make any money out of his idea but he’s going to save a lot of money on his farm.”

“Yes, it’s not an idea that he may want to sell to other farmers but it does show how important it is to start with problems when looking for new business ideas.”

“Now that you’ve got your creative juices flowing, perhaps you will come up with something that may help you in your life and could perhaps help others with similar problems. All this talk is making me hungry. John, I’ve got to go unless there is something else you wish to talk about.”

“It’s good seeing you again Jamie. You always get me thinking in a new direction. I wish you would come down more often. ”

“Stay down here with you humans. Not a chance. I’d rather be high in the rooftops of the Rain Forest eating berries and fruits and fooling around. See you sometime.”

The Red Monkey Tales is a series on a small business ideas and the spirit of enterprise where monkeying around is tolerated, encouraged and prized, all in pursuit of right-brained thinking and fun.

Why you probably mustn’t start a business with a new idea

Photo by Ines Álvarez Fdez on Unsplash

Studies show that up to 90% of new products fail. Even that big companies get it wrong. These are the companies with giant research and development budgets and the brightest minds. Their failure rate for new small businesses is about 90% in the first year. Entrepreneurs and start-up founders get it wrong too.

Developing a new idea requires you to start a new venture or small business. Many people who come up with a promising new business idea have never run their own business. This means that they have to learn how to firstly, develop a product or service which means commercialising it and secondly run a small business successfully.

Do you have what it takes to start and develop a new product or service from scratch and then run a successful venture?

To help you answer this question, let’s look at some basic requirements to successfully start and develop a new product or service:

1 Personal characteristics. You will need all the drive, ambition entrepreneurial skills, perseverance and patience to get a new product or service off the ground. Do yourself a favour and take a personal entrepreneurial test to see if you make the cut.
2 Business skills and experience. As I mentioned, commercialising a product or service idea eventually requires running a business. Do you know the difference between an income statement, balance sheet and cash flow statement? You will need to. Any business is hungry for cash and you need above everything else to know how to manage cash.
3 Marketing. Products or services don’t magically sell themselves. Someone needs the marketing and communications flay to get people interested in whatever you are selling and to convince them to buy. Even mediocre products can sell well through effective marketing. Just take a look around on the supermarket shelves and you’ll see that the “me-two” products are doing pretty well. Marketing requires knowledge of positioning, messaging, consumer or buyer psychology and behaviour as well as traditional and new media.

In taking your new business idea from mere concept, notion or thought to an actual prototype and then to commercialise it you will need to have experience in all find assistance with the following areas:

1 Developing new business ideas
2 The process for commercialising ideas
3 Financing the business idea
4 Implementing the business idea
5 Marketing your product/service/business
6 Running your business

Not many people have made developing the new business idea the speciality so it will be difficult to find adviser in this area, especially one that will lead you to successfully developing your product or service idea from concept to prototype and eventual product that will be distributed to different retail platforms. The other five areas I mentioned have many advisers but they will come with the large price ticket. Perhaps the most valuable will be in the marketing of your product or service or business because as I have mentioned products or services don’t sell themselves. With the correct marketing and selling of the benefits of a product or service, it can sell beyond expectations. Fans of the iPhone’s you early in the morning to buy the new iPhone when it is released each year.

If you are serious about taking your new business idea and developing it into a product or service and want to find out what’s required and how to go about doing it, then you need to get yourself a copy of “Breakthrough Ideas”. It will cost you far less than a consultation with a business adviser but will be priceless in helping you decide how to go about commercialising your promising new business idea. Get your copy here.