A message to Start-ups and SMEs

February 25, 2019

By Vimbai Faith Mahlanze

Managing Director: Made To Clean Pvt Ltd

Associate Consultant; TEAM Consulting

Southern Africa YALI RLC Fellow


To an Entrepreneur by an Entrepreneur

There is never a more difficult scenario than starting a business in an environment that is not conducive even for the large organizations.  Imagine starting a business at a time when most corporates are downsizing and retrenching employees in a bid to becoming sustainable;  it is a gloomy picture right?

Well, I actually think there can never be a better opportunity to start your entrepreneurial venture. The smaller the business provided by the large corporates, the more room there is for the survival of SMEs.  It is actually a chance to penetrate the market taking advantage of the scale of the company.

I know many people might not agree with me, however, I would like to give my point of view. There are minimal overheads needed in starting up a business than involved in running a corporate.  My discussion will be on ways to reduce operational costs. This topic is essential in making a business viable and profitable in a time when everything looks bad.


If your business does not involve daily walk in of clients, why not work from home?  Create a space to operate at your home and set it up to meet your needs, or just use your laptop on your dining table.  For those who require walk-in clients, avoid expensive operating places. Try by all means to share office space with others in order to reduce rental costs.


If you are just starting up and hardly generating a constant income, avoid employing people that you cannot pay.  Do the work yourself; when there is need to, get contract workers that are paid as per job.


Purchase necessities in business operations.  Do not burden yourself and lock value in assets by buying all the equipment at once. Operate from a lean and mean position, increasing your assets as per profits into the organization which leaves you with an increased amount of working capital from your invested startup capital.


These are costs not get defined in any particular book.   They are actually my own costs invention and YES, they are real costs if not the biggest of them all.  It is your responsibility as the owner to conduct extensive research on how best to get into the market, what the government obligations are in relation to your industry and so forth.  Running a small business should never be an excuse for illegal and unprofessional operations. Have all your company documents in order and submit all tax returns so that you always have a tax clearance, even if it is a zero return!  Waiting for your company to start making money before you can be tax compliant will cost you in the long run.  The penalties for operating a business without submitting any returns are exorbitant hence when you are ready to put your documents in order, the required penalty charges might pull you down. Worse still, you risk losing out on big contracts which always require one to provide tax clearance documents on tender. Do not miss out on opportunities due to issues you can easily avoid.

‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step; Rome was never built in a day,’ be ready to take the next leap when opportunity arises.

A common mistake among entrepreneurs is pricing your products to match those of big corporates which are already reputable and possess significant market share. If you want to compete, reduce your overheads. This will lead to decreased product/service prices, thereby enabling you to use the market penetration strategy.

So my fellow entrepreneurs, if life gives you lemons, make lemonade.  Plato says “Reality is created by the mind; we can change our reality by changing our minds.”  Best wishes in your entrepreneurial journey.

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