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Learning the Write Stuff

Andrew Miller and Mandy de WaalAspirant business leaders often lose sight of the fact that writing and communicating are integral to conducting business well. Writing is a skill that can be honed, but it’s a lot like going to gym. It requires discipline and routine exercise. Writers MANDY DE WAAL and ANDREW MILLER show you how.

Writing well is all in the ability to love words and commit to a regular workout. This is no less true in business than it is in creative writing.

The first thing we tell people who want to write well is to read, read and read some more, because reading offers an understanding of language and the different uses and style of language. If you want to be a good writer then you need to read multiple styles. If Cosmopolitan or Loaded is a permanent fixture on your bedside stand and you’re deeply involved in the guts of business, you will need to develop a more engaging business style. Next time reach for a Business Day, Mail & Guardian, Sunday Independent or Maverick to help you hone your business writing style.

There are four golden rules of writing for business:



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Posted in the category: Insight, Strategy

Study reveals multinational's broad economic footprint

Every one person employed by multinational giant Unilever is responsible for the support of a further 22 individuals, according to a critical study of the company’s economic footprint in South Africa. The findings are expected to create the impetus for other multinationals and large businesses to re-look how they create and share wealth.

The “Footprint” study, a critical research project carried out by Professor Ethan Kapstein of INSEAD, a leading European business school, has found that every person employed by Unilever South Africa supported another 22 up and down the supply chain. This impact on jobs is regarded as significant in South Africa, with its extremely high unemployment.Gail Klintworth and Ethan Kapstein

Unilever SA’s Gail Klintworth with Professor Ethan Kapstein

The study also found that, for every R100 of sales by the company, a further R145 of value-added is created in the wider South African economy. The associated economic activity also generated nearly one percent of South Africa’s tax revenue.

The role of multinationals, especially in developing countries, has been the subject of debate for many years. Some governments and campaigning organisations have questioned whether multinationals do more good than harm in emerging markets.



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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Strategy

The beleaguered brand in 2008

Brand strategists and marketers face major challenges in 2008: from the painful death of traditional advertising and the stratospheric rise of social networking to environmental consciousness and, in South Africa, a divided ANC. Idea Engineers’ Managing Partner, JANICE SPARK, looks at what we can expect on the brand front this year.

Janice SparkGlobally, 2008 will mark a decisive shift into the dynamic world of Web 2.0. For brand strategists and marketers, the painful death of traditional advertising will be accompanied by the stratospheric rise of social networking. Add a global boom in environmental consciousness and you have a complex matrix of competing variables to negotiate. Locally, a divided ANC offers a telling sign of the social challenges that will continue to underpin all commercial activity.

These are some of the key movements South Africans can expect on the brand front in the year ahead:



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Posted in the category: Insight, Strategy, Trends

From Medici to Saatchi: The changing business of art

Ahead of the Joburg Art Fair running from 14 to 16 March in Sandton, independent curator CAROL BROWN looks at the changing face of corporate art collections, what it means for African and South African artists, and the why and how of supporting art.

el Anatsui’s sensational curtainUntil about ten years ago, corporate art collections were hidden behind doors and only shared with employees of the leading banks, law firms and financial institutions. They were mainly purchased for financial investment and to decorate the walls of the offices. Now, walls are disappearing from offices and the art is changing and having to fulfil new roles.

Artworks have become widely publicised assets which are used to brand a company and build internal corporate identity and as part of a wide ranging package of community and social responsibility activities.

There are many reasons for this but one which has recently surfaced is that national art museums are now longer adequately funded. It’s pretty much an international trend and not only applicable to South Africa.

This means that our heritage cannot be preserved by museums and our cultural capital becomes lost as artists seek other occupations or, in South Africa’s case, leave the country to go to places where there is more interest in purchasing contemporary art. So the big corporate collectors now have a great opportunity to fill the role previously played by museums and to become keepers of heritage and patrons of living artists.



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Posted in the category: Insight, Trends

The message from Barcelona:anywhere, anytime, anything

With the concept of ubiquitous services being at the heart of this month’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, a keynote session focused on the topic of ubiquitous networks rang a loud bell.

The CEOs of Bharti Airtel, Ericsson, Qualcomm and Telstra examined the way in which networks are developing to support mobile as the access method of choice and deliver anywhere, anytime connectivity to anyone or anything.

Mobile everywhereCarl-Henric Svanberg, President and CEO of Ericsson, said that for him the idea of a ubiquitous network was ‘broadband everywhere,’ and that this was being achieved through the rapid growth of the HSPA ecosystem. He pointed to some 250 vendors producing around 400 devices as proof, stating that the ever-shrinking size of HSPA data cards means they will soon be installed in multiple devices and ‘everything will communicate’. Within a year, he claimed, HSPA will be delivering 40Mb/s in the downlink.

Of course, that is a rich claim, bearing in mind the big deal South Africa’s networks have made of moving to 3.6Mb/s download speeds on HSDPA cards.



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Posted in the category: Insight, Technology, Trends

Mobile users reveal their fears

McAfee Inc used the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona to announce findings from new research in developed countries that reveals that almost three out of four mobile consumers are concerned about the security of today’s and tomorrow’s mobile services.

Mobile Security reportNo less than 72% of mobile consumers in the USA, United Kingdom and Japan are concerned about the security of today’s and tomorrow’s mobile services, such as mobile multimedia downloads, mobile payments and mobile ticketing.

This was the central finding of the McAfee Mobile Security Report 2008, released at the recent Mobile World Congress in Barcelona.

The report discusses in detail users’ experiences of traditional and emerging mobile services and their awareness and perceptions of mobile security issues.

The following statistics must be viewed in the context of highly developed markets – 2000 respondents were interviewed across three of the world’s leading industrial nations. The relevance therefore declines when applied to developing markets.


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Posted in the category: Insight, Technology, Trends

Budget speech good for entrepreneurs and SMEs

PKF, the chartered accounting and business advisory firm that specialises in servicing growing and entrepreneurial companies, is positive about this year’s budget speech. Tax specialist DR ROBIN BEALE explains why.

Dr Robin BealeThe new simplified, turnover-based tax system for small businesses, announced by Trevor Manual in his budget speech today, is to be welcomed, even though some caution is in order.

The simpler tax matters are for the small business, the better. The new turnover-based tax proposed for these businesses will be a combination of VAT and income tax, with business owners paying tax on their total turnover without making any deductions for expenses. However, there is a danger that small, unsophisticated businesses could unwittingly miscalculate their taxes. Therefore a simpler turnover system is preferable.



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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Trends

No easy road to harmony between strategy and regulation

With an increasing focus on regulation, companies must be able to both shape and respond to the regulatory agenda in traditional as well as emerging markets. But this is not easy to put into practice, particularly in the communications sector, as KPMG reports.

Yunus SulemanThe 2007 KPMG Bringing Regulation into the Boardroom survey, based on interviews with over 60 senior managers in telecommunication operators around the globe, reveals that senior management and the regulatory function, whilenot poles apart, may have different priorities.

Convergence of telecommunications and media, along with deregulation, is blurring traditional regulatory boundaries and putting increasing pressure to improve communications, learn from other industries and build a strong regulatory team.

“This situation is even more complex and pressing for those companies operating in multiple regulatory environments,” says Yunus Suleman, chairman of KPMG SA. “Subsequently, companies will increasingly need to develop proactive regulatory functions that recognise commercial issues and can communicate with the board.” Keep reading →

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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Strategy

The Great Disconnect

The South African Government’s intransigence in dealing with the energy crisis has a spectacular precedent: it’s failure of leadership in telecommunications. Ten years from now, however, no one should have to say “we told you so”. But there are 10 essential demands that have to be met, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK

You don’t have to spend a decade analysing internet connectivity in South Africa to understand that the Government is the one organisation that does not have the strategic ability to connect South Africans.

Yet, the policy of the Government has been to have a stake in all entities that supply connectivity. The Minister of Communications has insisted that Government also have a share of any new undersea cables designed to deliver additional telecommunications capacity to South Africa. And, despite all the evidence that points to it being a bad move, other Government departments, too, are joining the rush for control of such capacity.

Laying the undersea cablesThe result? Instead of having three or four global suppliers at the beginning of 2008, as had been the prospect as recently as a year ago, we will still have only the SAT3/SAFE cable, which is still controlled by Telkom.

However, the undersea cables represent only one aspect of the great disconnect in South Africa.

The following is a priority list of 10 essential demands for the health of telecommunications and internet connectivity in South Africa. In collaboration with colleagues and associates, helped along by participants in public debates at numerous conferences, the list has evolved over time, and will keep evolving. Keep reading →

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Posted in the category: Insight, Strategy, Technology

African banking market beckons

The bankingsector’s real opportunity for organic growth is to look for the vast unserved African banking market, says international banking guru Joe DiVanna, who is to head a bill of over 60 experts at a banking technology conference in Nairobi next month.

Joe DiVanna, a world-renowned consultant, researcher, speaker and trainer in innovative banking, will headline the African Banking Technology Conference, to be held in Nairobi from 28 March to 4 April 2008.

Joe DiVannaDescribed as a “polymath” by The Economist, for his cutting edge approach to strategy development, DiVanna directs Maris Strategies, a Cambridge think-tank for business and financial services. He is author of numerous management books, including Redefining Financial Services and The Future of Retail Banking,

He will hold a full-day “Banking Mini-MBA”, entitled “The African Banking Agenda: Innovation, Performance, Service”.

“The dynamics of the unfolding landscape of today’s world financial markets demands that financial institutions learn to excel at innovation in order to compete,” he argues. “In Africa, competition is being redefined as regulatory structures open up to foreign banks. Within each nation, competition for existing customers is also becoming more intense, as banks are often targeting the same customers.
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Posted in the category: Economy, Insight, Strategy

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The Big Change is a business strategy blog and newsletter published by Arthur Goldstuck, managing director of World Wide Worx, a leading technology research organisation based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

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