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Enabling growth for SMEs

LORNELLE JONAS | MANAGING DIRECTOR E’LIQUE

by Tia

E’lique Advisory is a South African accounting and advisory firm, passionate about providing clients with the best accounting, tax, and advisory services. Lornelle Jonas, Founder and Managing Director at E’lique Advisory shares some insights about how real time accounting is critical to help enable sustainable growth for SMEs.

A large number of SMEs fail within five years. In your experience, what is the most prevalent reason for this?
There are a number of factors that influence the success of an SME. Some of these are related to if they have the right product, the right customer, and the right service. It also depends on if the SME has the knowledge and skills to be able to run a startup.

Most businesses need to have a founder that is competent with the right experience to be able to run a business.

It is important they understand their numbers and use the right tools to do this. For example, having either an accountant or accounting software to record this information, and to be able to decipher what the numbers mean so that they can manage issues like cash flow.

The startups or the SMEs that do succeed are the ones that have gone the extra mile to broaden their skills and knowledge using different tools to be able to grow their business.

What are some aspects that negatively impact SMEs from a financial management aspect?
Not all SMEs prioritise the finance function of their business. I’ve held multiple master classes and whenever I ask the entrepreneurs in the room whether they have financial records that show their business performance, most of them indicate that they don’t.

Most indicate that they record, if at all, things manually. They record things on paper and most of their financial information is scattered. This demonstrates that they do not steward the company finances well. They do not have a clear picture of how their business has performed in the past and are unable to take appropriate action to move their business forward.

Most business owners think that they can do their own accounting by simply recording transactions from a bank statement, and assume that this is a true reflection of their business performance.

How does E’lique Advisory’s service offerings assist SMEs in driving sustainable growth?
We offer accounting, tax and advisory services. Our accounting and tax services are very popular with SMEs. Our accounting service offering is that of an outsourced accountant. We provide these services at a cost -effective rate for SMEs due to our use of cloud accounting software.

SMEs should use an outsourced accountant, as it provides them with the necessary skills and experience at a reduced cost. It also provides the SME with a cost-effective way to keep their costs down in the initial years of them growing the business. A professional accountant can assist SMEs to manage their finances, drive growth and execute strategy.

SMEs play a significant role in the economy and in reducing the high unemployment rate in our country. However, they are in my opinion one of the most unseen communities. These are your everyday businesses that we see in our own communities.

The impact that SMEs make is tangible in our economy and can be seen. As an example, if we can enable 600 SMEs to each employ between 10 -15 people, the impact on the job market as well as their families will leave a lasting impact. We’ve chosen to partner with SMEs to really make a positive impact in the economy, even though the odds are often against them.

As an entrepreneur yourself, how does this give you an edge when assisting SMEs on their business journey?
I can definitely see the difference between how I used to advise my clients when I was running E’lique as a side hustle, compared to now. Being an entrepreneur, and being in the trenches myself, has allowed me to put myself in my client’s shoes. It has also changed the way I solve their problems and how I advise them.

Being an entrepreneur requires you to have a deep sense of belief in yourself. I act as a sounding board for my clients and support them wherever needed along their journey, fostering a sense of community.

What are some of the key interventions undertaken by E’lique for clients that have enabled progressive growth?
We identified a significant gap in most entrepreneurs knowledge when it comes to all the aspects of running a sustainable business. This includes a lack of understanding of their financial performance.

The solution I had was to host master classes for entrepreneurs to educate them on the gaps in their knowledge that I was encountering daily while dealing with SMEs. We also partnered with other brands in the industry, which share our vision for bridging the gap in entrepreneurs knowledge to enable them to run sustainable businesses.

Other positive interventions include digitising some of our clients’ operations, and using the tools we have to advise them on how to predict cash flow balances in the future. We also help them manage relationships with their suppliers, customers, and sometimes even negotiate with some of our corporate clients to get them to use more favourable terms when settling invoices for SMEs.

Do you think there’s sufficient support to enable SMEs to have sustainable growth?
I don’t believe there’s sufficient support. From a legislative perspective, I dont think that SARS has fully explored all the possible solutions available through our tax laws that could support SME growth.

Most SMEs do not have sufficient knowledge about their responsibility to be compliant with SARS. As an example,

The most impactful project we’ve been involved in has been the AFAWA #FundHer programme, an initiative of the African Development Bank led by PAWA Africa. The programme involved onboarding 200 women owned SMEs onto an accounting software and curating a financial literacy module for entrepreneurs.

Additionally, we recently concluded a financial literacy module that we curated internally and delivered to women entrepreneurs.

What are some of your key projects in 2024?
Some of our key initiatives in the new year will be digitising our internal processes. This will make it easier for clients to engage with us, and decrease the time from lead generation and conversion to a client.

We will also be hosting more master classes and expanding them to other provinces. Furthermore, we aim to get our internally curated content for entrepreneurs accredited.

Tell us a bit about your personal journey as an entrepreneur?
My journey as an entrepreneur has been very interesting.

I have the ability to see a problem and create solutions. A successful businesswoman once told me that an entrepreneur can pick up a newspaper and see solutions where others see problems and make money from it. That is how I see myself.

My time in the corporate world prepared me for my entrepreneurial journey.

Partnerships play a pivotal role in us achieving the success that we have, but I would add that having an overwhelming belief in myself is what drove me forward in the face of opposition.

As an entrepreneur, you will not always have people backing you or believing in you. You will also be tempted in the early years of your business to give up when things get tough.

That’s when you really have to ask yourself what your purpose is and be very clear about it. I really know what it is that I want to do with E’Lique. I really understand the impact that I’m having on the businesses I work with, and ultimately, the greater impact that we will have on our economy.

These are the things that wake me up and drive me every single day. Additionally, my grit, my ability to overcome and to persevere in the most challenging situations is something I’ve learnt to do with ease.

You also need to prioritise yourself. Entrepreneurship has really taught me about self-care more than my corporate job did. It’s because as an entrepreneur, you’re a vision carrier. It’s really important that you take care of the vision carrier to ensure that the vision carrier is still able to carry out the vision for many years to come.

Having the right people around you to help you stay on course is also essential, as is having the right relationships from a business perspective and establishing those relationships.

What are the greatest lessons you have learned?

  • I always have an open mind. Never think that you know everything. Always have the mindset of a learner. Always ask for feedback from your team. Surround yourself with the right talent.
  • Don’t sit and wallow when you make the wrong decision; understand that it’s a lesson.
  • Not everything about entrepreneurship can be taught from books. Some of the things can only be taught through lessons.
  • The gift that entrepreneurship has given me is the gift of knowing myself and not doubting myself as I did before. It’s about being relentless in understanding my passion and purpose and the impact that I make; and being able to stand firm in what I’m doing.
  • But most importantly, unlocking the potential in each and every single entrepreneur and business owner to help them to achieve their greatest potential.

About Lornelle Jonas
Lornelle Jonas is registered as an AGA (SA) with SAICA, a registered General Tax Practitioner with SARS, and a member of Xero’s Partner Advisory Council (XPAC). She has over 10 years of experience in internal auditing, external auditing, financial reporting, risk management, compliance, and governance in various industries.

Some of her awards include the First Black Female owned Xero Platinum Partner, the Dazzling Auditor Award: 2nd Runner Up – FirstRand Group Internal Audit (GIA), GIA Innovation Awards: 1st Runner up – Liberty Group Innovation Committee and the PwC Experience Award: Putting yourself in the client’s shoes.

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