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CAPE TOWN - In acknowledging the risks and sacrifices small businesses make to South Africa and the economy, Vice President for New Customer Acquisition (Start up and Small Business) at Sage Africa & Middle East, Viresh Harduth, gave his four hacks to overcome the struggles faced when running a small business.

Harduth stated that entrepreneurship is a difficult but yet rewarding path to follow. He said that some challenges faced by a small business owner include difficulty in attracting top talent, cash flow problems, and finding time to innovate.

"The good news is that digital tools - and the impact they're having on the workplaces - gives you access to audience, information and resources you need to overcome common challenges and tip the scale in your favour," Harduth said. 

Here is a list of the top struggles start-up businesses face and also ideas on how to overcome them. 

1. Attracting customers.

Challenge: Small business owners compete for customers with businesses that have more money to spend on sales and marketing than you as a small business owner do. According to Harduth, print and radio advertising can be very expensive and it is always difficult to ensure that they are attracting new customers to your business.

Hack: According to Harduth, social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter as well as search engines like Google, offer you an affordable cost of entry for advertising. 

He also added that small business owners can set strict budgets to prevent overspending and also target people by factors such as their location, demographics, and interests.

"You can also easily track how people share and interact with your content so that you can optimise for better results. Keep in mind that while social media can be useful, don’t forget about your connections offline. Networking is still a great tool to gain the trust of others and gather some referrals," said Harduth.

2. Mastering the art of paperwork.

Challenge: According to Harduth, small business owners are not ready to invest in a proper accounting package. 

He said that this might be because they are not familiar with accounting solutions or because they are not very keen to spend the money.

"Yet you also realise that doing your invoicing and quoting on Excel spreadsheets is time-consuming – and it can be a nuisance to track unpaid amounts," he added.

Hack: Harduth suggested simple and affordable online software like Sage One Invoicing, which enables businesses to quote and invoice on-the-go form a PC or mobile device, all needed for this is access to an internet connection.

He said: "It takes seconds to generate a quote while you’re sitting with a client, or to send an invoice once the job is finished. It’s also easy to track unpaid invoices and to see how business is doing. Plus, it will also generate the quote and invoice on your company’s branding, for a professional look."

3. Hiring the right people.

Challenge: He said when small business owners are ready to grow their one-person or two-person company, they need to be able to find the right people to take their business to the right level.

"You probably will not be able to pay them as much as a bigger company; what’s more, you need to hire carefully to ensure that they fit with your company culture and your management style," according to Harduth.

Hack: When speaking of a hack to solve this, Harduth said small business owners must let their business network know that they are hiring, however, they also have to look very carefully at the people their contacts refer to them.

"This is a great way of tapping into talent that will be a fit for your business without publishing an ad or turning to an external recruiter," he said

"Don’t look at qualifications alone – hire people for their attitude and their willingness to grow with your company."

4. Mastering multiple roles.

Challenge: Harduth said every small business owner needs to be a "jack-of-all-trades" this means they are managing everything form the printer and the coffee machine to finance, sales and operations.

"As your company grows, you’ll need access to more specialised skills to run an effective business. At the same time, you might not have budget to pay for a full-time accountant, IT manager, HR manager and marketing director."

Hack: Small businesses need to selectively outsource their business needs to perhaps freelancers and agencies that knows the owner's industry and who also works with other small businesses.

"This will free your time up for innovation, product development, sales and other aspects of your business you consider to be your real strengths. It will also give you access to fresh perspectives and helpful advice," Harduth concluded.