The Sun’s Shining For Brave SA Entrepreneurs

Finding opportunities where “sensible” money fears to tread

Never mind the New Dawn – the sun’s shining for brave SA entrepreneurs

We’re planning to open two new apartment hotels each year, which is a pretty aggressive growth strategy in an environment where land expropriation without compensation is the hot topic of the moment, and investors are looking beyond our borders for growth opportunities.

However, I believe that smart entrepreneurs find opportunity in every financial climate, no matter how dire it may seem on the surface. For example, current investor caution means that those who are willing to take calculated risks face less competition – now and in the long term.

In our sector, international hotel groups are slowing or even halting any investment in improving existing properties or developing new ones. For us, that means our competition is thinning, and that there are more opportunities for us to build on prime sites for which we would have had stiff, if not insurmountable, competition in the past.

How do you manage risks and where do you find opportunities where the ‘sensible’ money fears to tread?

If an issue seems to be an obstacle, do your research to understand all the implications. In the property business, we’re finding out how to structure our new builds and acquisitions so that they’re unlikely targets for any potential expropriation, including focusing on transformation, job creation, and promoting tourism – all elements of the National Development Plan.

Find ways to make your investment opportunities appealing. For example, Section 12J of the Income Tax Act offers scope to create investment options that reduce tax liability and offer alternative sources of return.

One of South Africa’s biggest challenges is a shortage of skills. We’re changing that by investing in our people, giving them access to training and career growth opportunities, and teaching them how to be entrepreneurs. We believe that these skills will either help our business grow, or they’ll give the individuals the courage they need to launch their own businesses – yet another great outcome for the country.

While South Africa is developed in many ways, it still has many characteristics of an emerging market. This means that there are still many opportunities for brave entrepreneurs here, equipped with the ‘can-do’ attitude for which we are famous, that wouldn’t likely be available in more developed markets.

Even though countries like Nigeria and Kenya are gateways to their regions, South Africa remains a gateway to SADEC countries and markets beyond. Adapting your products or services to appeal to those travelling through South Africa is a way of growing your client base too. For example, we have found that our apartment hotels in the Sandton district are particularly popular with visitors from the continent who come to the city to shop – but who don’t like local food. They choose our hotels because they can prepare their own favourites in our apartments’ fully equipped kitchens – clear example of how adapting to meet the needs of a potentially ‘lost’ opportunity can carve a niche for your business.

Work harder than your competitors to convince bankers and shareholders that you’ve done everything possible – and then some – to manage risk. If you can tell a compelling story supported by solid facts, investors are likely to make decisions more quickly, giving you the edge over your competitors.

Ours is truly a homegrown business, with long term plans to continue our growth throughout South Africa. Current risks have certainly made us sharpen our proverbial pencils but using these risks to identify opportunities and research them into reality has seen us stand out from our competitors.

Any business that takes the time to interrogate challenges properly will find opportunities where others flee in uninformed fear. Do your homework and you’ll agree with me: South Africa really is one of the best places in the world to build a new business.

By Marc Wachsberger, managing director of The Capital Hotels and Apartments, one of the largest providers of fully serviced luxury apartments and hotel rooms in South Africa.

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