Free Answers to Your Business Questions

Peter Carruthers freely shares 32 years of small business experience, including 13 years of living online in SA, England and Norway, to answer readers business questions.

Business Questions about Going Online

  • I’m interested in making a living online?
  • Looking for ideas to sell on the Internet
  • Do I know anyone who has succeeded with Bitcoin or Online trading?
  • Does Affiliate marketing work?
  • If I run a successful online website selling a product, (in South Africa), and find that I start receiving overseas requests for the same product, is it a good idea to open a duplicate of the domain in the USA as a .net or other domain extension? Will this affect the SEO of the site?
  • How does one run an online business without a physical warehouse?

Business Questions about Online marketing

  • Must I sign up with someone to do Google Adwords?
  • Won’t my website automatically display?
  • How do I get onto the first page of Google’s search engine
  • How do you go about affiliate marketing in South Africa if none of the major online retailers have existing programs, or have such poor terms and conditions that it would not be profitable.
  • How important is social media such as twitter, Instagram, facebook, etc for your business. How prevalent is it for the South African space. Please specify order of importance.
  • What effective ways are there for an insurance and medical aid broker in the SA legislated environment to broaden your client base, using your current clientele?
  • How can I find new clients via the Internet inexpensively?

Business Questions about Online Payment Processing

  • We receive payments into our PayPal account from customers in the US. We want to pay our US suppliers from that account as well. Ever since FNB got into bed with PayPal we must transfer those funds into Rands. Can I keep ignoring those messages?
  • Which payment gateways do I recommend? Thinking about Payfast. What percentage should we be paying them?
  • I plan to offer courses, training and consulting from South America into the USA. How does this work from a third world country? How can I offer 1st world services online. Is there enough Internet? And how do I route the funds back to me?

Business Questions about moving from South Africa

  • LSD Working trial in Mauritius. Local Government demanding excessive paperwork
  • Planning a move to Mauritius end 2017. Business Consulting Service. How can we get traction from here. How best can we move there. How best can we duplicate the model there.


About Saying “No”…

We South Africans struggle to say “No”. Most English-speaking people face this. Norwegians do not.

As we grow older our stream of “No” defines our legacy better than our stream of “Yes”. After 58 years I cannot remember one instance of a “No” costing me spiritually or financially. I recall many “Yes” replies that derailed me, some massive train wrecks.

Our South African style demands that we follow our “No” with some valid reason.

At the very least we’re expected to follow the “No” with a “Thank you,” as in “Thank you for asking me to help you fix your car.” In Norway a “No” is unadorned with niceties. When asking for something here even a “please” is absent most of the time.

Anyone may ask. It’s in the Bible. But answering ”No” is as valid as “Yes”. A “No” is not a rejection of your personhood. It means that, right now, the person you’re asking faces their own issues. Respect those.

When I first started consulting with business owners facing closure many people asked for help. I always said “Yes”.

Some were utterly broke. They’d delayed for so long that few options remained to improve their lot. I noticed extreme procrastination, a bad tactic in the face of closure.

These same people listened intently for an hour while I bought the coffee. They wanted someone to listen to the wrongs dealt to them, not resolution. I called this counselling.

Other folk would pay for my time. They bought coffee, and sometimes a smoked-salmon bagel. They dived into action after each meeting. I called this consulting.

The pattern became painfully clear. Over a decade just a fingerful of the non-payers took action. I stopped meeting with them. Not a rejection of these folk, but an acceptance that time invested with paying clients helped all of us.

Paying clients meant I fed my kids, and the commitment ensured they attacked their issues. Contrast this with non-paying folk where my kids went hungry and the advice-recipient got no better.

Defaulting to “No” is a better way to stay on track than the alternative.

How a Deadline Affects Us…

A deadline means a Treasure chest of memories beats a box of cash

Someone who faced a terminal deadline said this to me…

I met a young Dutch man with a deadline a few years ago. He lived in an apartment next door to Gran. Gran lives in a block on a beach on the Costa Blanca in Spain.

Jan lived with his wife and nine-year-old daughter. He’d transferred most of his business online and could operate from anywhere.

We met a few times whenever I visited Gran. Back then “online” people were as rare as kryptonite. He shared his story in dribs and drabs.

He told me that he was heading towards a deadline. In his case a literal deadline. He’d welcomed the gift of a double lung transplant a few years before. His deadline, the point after taxes would no longer bother him, arrived about 6 years after the transplant. He felt blessed with this replacement set, even though they would not last long. And even though he would not get a second set.

Before this transplant he’d envisaged retiring a few decades hence. This deadline focused him. His wife and daughter, always important, suddenly became urgent. Money, always urgent, suddenly lost importance. A treasure chest of memories beats a box of cash as a legacy, he said.

We waste time on trivia while immortal. When we hold a boarding pass for the ferry across the River Styx we make decisions fast. We focus on important stuff, not urgent stuff. Important stuff becomes urgent only when we make it so.

He no longer feared life. He no longer fretted over embarrassing himself. He cared not a whit what others felt about the road he chose to follow. He sucked the life out of each day, giving the important people in his life the best gift he could. His time.

I was humbled. I fretted about trivia while procrastinating on the important stuff. And I complained a whole lot more about my piddly challenges.

Today reminded me about him. I woke up to glorious sunshine, unusual enough in Norway to provoke the natives into faking illness and basking unclothed outside.

It’s easy to “invest” these days at “the office”, too guilty to steal a few fun hours. As if another hour researching websites could should compete with drawing pictures on the floor with my nine-year-old daughter.