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SMEs want big miners to give them a chance

Jul 16 2017 12:51
Lameez Omarjee

Johannesburg – Entrepreneurs are seeking a chance to prove their worth to major mining companies.

During a panel discussion at the WorleyParsons Supplier Grow Conference, industry players shared views that greater collaboration between smaller and large enterprises is needed.

The engineering consultancy held the conference on Friday in an effort to connect small and medium enterprises (SME) with key industry decision makers.

WorleyParsons has assisted 25 to 30 SMEs with over R300m worth of funding through its Enterprise Development programme. Beneficiaries have reported turnover growth of 204% and created over 100 temporary and permanent jobs.

Lebo Leshabane chief executive of IX Engineers, an SME which has benefitted from the programme, explained that collaboration works. “Innovation is birthed from collaboration,” she said.

She appealed to major players to share their plans with SMEs so that they can better prepare themselves to contribute and offer support at supply chain level. “Map a way forward for them to prepare themselves to participate in plans,” she said.

Initially, Leshabane said she experienced a lack of trust from big miners when she pitched her company because of her limited experience. She said that for the thousands of reasons companies can find not to work with SMEs, there are thousands of reasons why they should.

Farai Chabata, managing director of Gridbow Engineering, shared the plight of small businesses. “Entrepreneurs are bringing their A-game … But the only thing standing between us and the thing we can do, is the chance.”

He said that if companies do not trust small businesses to deliver, they should offer them “small jobs” to do and then allow them to grow within the business. “If you don’t give an entrepreneur the chance and market access, all these wonderful ideas we have mean nothing if we don’t have market access.”

He added that if entrepreneurs are not making use of the single opportunity given to them, then it is fair for companies to “chuck” them out.

Chabata said that he found that doing business with the WorleyParsons brand to back his enterprise helped instill credibility needed to secure deals.

Gladwin Mfolo, head of transformation at WorleyParsons, explained that transformation is implemented for the sake of complying. “Most companies go through this as tick box activity… We need to comply for the good of the country, the business and communities we operate in.”

These procurement programmes must be implemented with the mindset they are making a difference and will bring change in the country. This will make it easier for small business get into the programme.

Large businesses need to see enterprise development as relevant. It does not cost companies much to “open doors” for small enterprises. Supporting business beyond being a tick box exercise actually makes an impact.

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