Siphethuxolo Didiza grew up in the same Eastern Cape village of Fort Beaufort where Nelson Mandela attended secondary school, and at a young age he knew he was going to be a successful businessman. He just hadn’t figured out exactly in which direction his success would take him.
Had things turned out differently, he might have become a South African Olympic sprinter – with a best time of 10.6 seconds for the 100 metre dash, he was knocking on the door of athletic greatness.
He might just as easily have ended up as a professional rugby player. With speed like that, you sooner or later come to the attention of elite-level clubs. Consider that former Springbok wing Bryan Habana, with a sub-11 second speed over 100 metres, achieved more tries than any other Bok in history, and was the second highest international try scorer in history.
When Siphethuxolo (or just Siphe) suffered a serious shoulder injury while playing for University of Johannesburg (UJ), his sports ambitions were put on hold. “I had a passion for accounting, for figuring out how business functioned, and decided to put all my energy into that,” he says.
He completed a BCTA or Bridging Certificate in the Theory of Accounting from UJ and decided he wanted to stay on and tutor the next generation of accountants. “I love teaching. And I still do it to this day, even though I have my own business.”
There is nothing like seeing the eyes of students as they unravel a complex puzzle – the kind of puzzles accountants revel in.
In addition to this teaching, Saiba member Siphe decided if he was going to open his own accounting practice, it was going to be innovative, employing the very latest technology and going far beyond the bookkeeping services that so many others are offering.
“Of course, you have to offer bookkeeping, tax, and basic accounting services, but I see the future of accounting being so much more,” he says.
The company is called Didiserv and the website lays out the philosophy: “We can sit in the background of your business as an adviser, thinker, and strategist. We are here to help you make decisions to holistically benefit your business. It’s not just about the cloud, it’s about reaching for the stars.”
The routine accounting functions are automated using Cloud-based accounting software such as Xero, with add-ons such as Receipt Bank to capture expenses such as entertainment and office supplies. Automating these functions is quickly becoming the norm, says Siphe, but what clients really want is business intelligence that will boost profitability, reduce costs, and streamline efficiencies.
“We help clients to turn Cloud accounting into a productivity engine for their business. We help our clients set realistic and achievable goals for their business and we walk with them every step of the way. We do not want failing businesses among our clients. We want all our clients to be successful, and we show them how they can do that.”
Didiserv makes extensive use of social media to scout for new clients, and has been signing up at a furious rate during the Covid lockdown – evidence, says Siphe, that businesses are looking for accounting practitioners that can steer them out of the mess created by the lockdown.
“You cannot present clients with a set of financial statements and do their tax filings and expect that your job is done. You need to show them how they can do better.”
During this time of Covid and the recovery now underway, clients are looking for “business doctors” that can diagnose problems and identify the fastest route back to health. That requires a deep dive into data analytics to pull out trends and opportunities that management often miss. For example, many companies are shocked to find out why certain product lines fail to make money, while other more profitable lines go neglected.
Why do so many smaller businesses fail? “Business failure always comes down to cash flow, but underneath that there are a multitude of causes, from operational inefficiencies to wastage,” he says. “As an accountant, you have to draw a very clear picture for the client but, just as importantly, show them a way to navigate their way out of a tough situation.”
In other words, diagnosing the disease and then prescribing the cure.
Being a Saiba member has been of incalculable help, says Siphe. “What I like about Saiba is that it is geared towards entrepreneurial accountants like myself. It gives me professional recognition and training, as well as membership of an organisation at the leading edge of accounting, and gives my clients comfort that I am part of a group that stands by unshakeable values of ethics, integrity and professionalism.”