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Practical support helps BEE businesses grow

Jul 22 2014 12:49
Cape Town – Every year, thousands of small businesses fail because entrepreneurs do not have the skills and systems in place to help their businesses prosper.

An innovative supplier development programme launched by Standard Bank has tried to overcome that by assisting some of its existing and potential smaller suppliers, said Simone Cooper, head of franchising and enterprise development at Standard Bank.

Conducted over 12 months, it focused on a group of 22 black-owned small businesses and saw a marked improvement in the fortunes of most of the businesses involved. “Drawn from a broad base, they operate in areas as diverse as printing, supply of IT services and technology, and include corporate service companies such as specialist cleaners,” said Cooper.

Providing skills

“Our objective was to assess their activities, provide skills development where required, and ensure that they are equipped to grow their businesses well into the future,” said Cooper.

“Achieving this required interventions covering education around traditional business skills, and even helping the companies broaden their customer bases to reduce their reliance on a single large corporate client for their continued existence.”

The process began with a review of the existing turnover of the businesses and an independent assessment of whether their offerings and structures were sustainable. Gaps in business practices were identified for attention, and the companies were then prepared for the intensive 12-month programme, which relied primarily on “practical workplace assistance” rather than “classroom” teaching.

The participants were assisted with setting up processes and systems, guided through accounting, record keeping and the establishment of effective HR practices and other skills.

Performance was continually monitored with all participants filing monthly reports.

Signs of growth

“Turnover growth is regarded as a key indicator for start-up and early-stage companies as it provides a measure of business momentum, which then has an impact on all other business systems,” said Cooper.

“During the reporting period it was found that turnover increased by 38% across the portfolio of participating businesses. One exceptional achiever saw turnover growing by 814%, albeit from a low base. What was most encouraging was that an additional 593 jobs were created.”

Other milestones included some companies increasing their representation across several geographical regions; companies using the learning opportunity to identify and implement new product pipelines to help grow their enterprises; and others restructuring their business focus to take advantage of new or diversified opportunities.

“Although some of the participants were not as prosperous as others, the overall results achieved were significant,” said Cooper. “What was underlined was that the entrepreneurs who participated fully in the process, worked with specialist staff, and took full advantage of the advice and support offered, were the most successful.”

“With the right support and attention to the processes and systems throughout the entire value chain, there is no reason why more entrepreneurs in South Africa shouldn’t be able to take their businesses to the next level,” said Cooper.

“The benefits will include broader-based involvement in the economy and less unemployment in South Africa.”


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standard bank  |  entrepreneurs  |  bee
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