By 14 April 2022 | Categories: feature articles



By Viresh Harduth, Vice President, Small Business, Sage Africa & Middle East

It would be an understatement to say that South Africa’s small and medium businesses (SMBs) have had a difficult time over the past two years. They have survived the hard lockdowns of 2020 and the unrest of July 2021. Now, they have to contend with rising inflation and interest rates and the ever-present spectre of loadshedding.

It is, therefore, a testament to SMB resilience that recent Sage research shows their business confidence has increased over the past year. After 12 months, 36% of South African respondents felt very confident about business success. Currently, 40% feel very confident, while 75% feel somewhat or very confident.

Given that SMBs are the backbone of the local economy, this bodes well for economic growth in the months to come. While confidence isn’t enough on its own to ensure business success, entrepreneurs and SMB owners who are optimistic about their businesses tend to outperform those who are pessimistic about the future.

It’s not hard to understand why. An SMB owner who is confident in their product or business will be more resilient and determined in the face of setbacks. Moreover, their confidence and self-belief are infectious. It will inspire employees, customers, suppliers and banks to line up behind their purpose and vision. Confident entrepreneurs are also more likely to drive growth rather than retreat into defensive strategies, even if that means stepping outside their comfort zone. 

Still, it is tough out there, and SMB owners who ask how they can maintain their positivity during times of constant bad news have a point. The good news is that there are many tools and techniques SMB owners can adopt to strengthen their confidence and build their teams’ confidence in themselves and their companies.

We are the stories we tell ourselves

Perhaps one of the most important ways to build business confidence is to create a positive narrative around your business, its achievements and where it is going. If you haven’t written a vision and purpose statement for your business, that’s a good starting point. Dare to dream big about the future and your potential impact on your customers.

Celebrate your achievements – making it through the past two years counts – and set ambitious goals. Rather than obsessing over the past, focus your energy on the future you want to create. Don’t get hung up on the many things you can’t control, like the petrol price or the exchange rate. Instead, think about how you can manage the risk and even turn it into an opportunity.

Most successful entrepreneurs have a long list of failures and setbacks to talk about, such as the customer that got away, the time they lost a fortune because of an exchange rate fluctuation, or when they made a really bad hire. It is the very fact that they got up after these difficulties, learned from their mistakes, and recognised them as part of a growth journey that makes them successful.

Always be learning

Personal and professional stagnation over a prolonged period can damage your business confidence. Investing in growth for yourself and your business, by contrast, is a great way to build confidence. Some of the most successful founders and business owners are always stretching themselves at a personal and business level. 

They’re attending courses and seminars, speaking to mentors, getting feedback from their teams, and finding ways to move beyond their comfort zone. For instance, if you hate giving sales presentations and prefer to pitch via e-mail, set up meetings with customers and confront your fear. As you master new skills, your business confidence will grow. 

Final thoughts

Business confidence isn’t a magic spell that can instantly banish the external challenges and internal weaknesses your business is grappling with. However, confidence equips business owners with a more positive frame of mind, making it easier for SMBs to face their challenges and take constructive steps to address them. 


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