Sibusiso Mhlongo (aged 27) is an accountant in practice, a Saiba member and an entrepreneur who, like everyone else when the Covid-19 lockdown was imposed in March, thought his business was going to be starved of oxygen as clients struggle to pay their monthly invoices.
In fact, the reverse has occurred. “It is true that many of my clients have asked for discounts or delayed payments, but what has offset that is the number of new clients I am signing up during lockdown,” says Mhlongo. “What made a huge difference to my practice was the fact that I figured out how to assist clients in obtaining UIF funds and small business loans from the different sources that are now available.
“We got so good at it that I started getting new clients at a rapid rate, most of it through word of mouth, but I am also promoting aggressively on social media through platforms such as Facebook.”
Mhlongo says he plans to convert these to long-term clients and assist them with their recovery plans when the lockdown starts easing.
His traditional client base is drawn from small businesses mainly in entertainment, construction and mining, but since the lockdown, the range of clients has exploded to cover a wide spread of sectors and industries.
Mhlongo grew up and went to school in Klerksdorp in North West Province, and then moved on to North West University to study for a B Comm in management accounting, followed by a B Comm Honours in financial accounting.
As a graduate accountant, he then started looking for a professional organisation that suited his unique career aspirations. As an entrepreneurial accountant who thinks big, it was a no-brainer that he would settle on the SA Institute of Business Accountants (Saiba) where he was awarded the BAP (SA) designation. His practice is just a few years old, but has grown to two offices, one in Pretoria and another in Klerksdorp. The company is called SABAA, with Mhlongo holding the CEO position since its inception.
His advice to other accountants stressing about the impact of the coronavirus on their practices: “Now is the time to make yourself known. This is a hectic time for all of us, and our clients need us most now. We have to step up and assist them through this period. They are counting on us, as we have the answers to their business problems.
“Many of our clients need a shoulder to cry on and we are that shoulder. But I would advise, first get to know how to access UIF and loan funds that are available and let your clients know that you can do this for them. They will need assistance in preparing financial statements and management accounts, so get these done without delay. Use this opportunity to build up your client base by becoming a trusted advisor and guiding your clients through this crisis. There are huge opportunities for us if we just reach out and grab them”
The bottom line: “How we operated as accountants 10 years ago is not how we will need to operate going forward,” says Mhlongo. “We are required to become survival specialists. It’s an entirely new game.”
Contact: You can reach Sibusiso Mhlongo at firstname.lastname@example.org or cell: 0725938463.