Gauteng Business News

Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  26 Feb 2010

BUSINESS: Getting All the Entrepreneurial Wheels Turning Together


Recent Gauteng Business News

The rate at which South Africa produces successful entrepreneurs can be substantially improved through a better integrated approach that deals coherently with the full range of closely connected challenges confronting the would-be small business owner.

Further, we need to ensure that the personal qualities of the entrepreneurs enjoy the same prominence as training and financing. The thinking behind this reassessment is driven by an appreciation that, relative to many endeavours, South Africa’s entrepreneurs and SMMEs are virtually smothered with attention by public and private sectors, yet our record in developing these areas at the rate we need remains mixed.

Seed capital, finance on favourable terms, subsidies, education and training, coaching, mentoring, consulting, rewards and competitions can be found across the landscape of this sector. Tangible and sustainable results, however, are yet to reflect the level of support available. While we can always use more resources in entrepreneur development, we also have an opportunity to do more with what we already have.

This is largely because each pillar of support for entrepreneur development is “owned” and run by separate entities that do cooperate but don’t fully integrate. The result is that the different pillars are sometimes of varying lengths and sizes, failing to provide robust enough support for the edifice of entrepreneurship.

We can strengthen this structure by adapting entrepreneur development programmes to work in a more integrated manner that addresses the entrepreneur as a single individual with a range of challenges, rather than by aggregating each different area of need into a pre-packaged solution.

For the business sector to get this right, we need to raise our eyes towards the horizon, beyond narrow short-term concerns, and consider how we remove constraints on the long-term growth of the very markets we serve. That is where our business sustainability lies well into the future.

In banking, for example, it is well-established that we need to grow the ability of our markets to overcome constraints to gaining finance, which will in turn enable us to grow as organisations. This is a long-term process involving all aspects of the person from education to health to community stability.

In the Standard Bank Entrepreneur Development Programme, development of these insights and perspectives has been greatly accelerated by our partnership with TechnoServe over the past two years. (TechnoServe is a non-profit economic development organization that helps entrepreneurial men and women in poor rural areas build profitable businesses that create income, opportunity and economic growth for their families, communities and countries.)

The Believe Begin Become programme is developing a robust cadre of entrepreneurs thoroughly schooled in all the skills needed for small businesses to grow rapidly. Central to this success has been simultaneous focus on identification of promising entrepreneurs, deep skills building and technical assistance, development of business support networks and brokering access to finance.

This formal learning is infused with continuing deep personal engagement between entrepreneur and a mentor who provides feedback and a sounding board.

In addition, the year-long involvement and constant engagement required of participants has helped to ensure that those prepared to make a serious commitment stay in the programme. Indeed, we are not unduly disappointed when some initial participants who find the commitment too extensive or who believe they need only finance or only training decide to leave the programme.

The value in this process is that we obtain a practical insight into an entrepreneur’s character, that most difficult of things even for a banker to assess!

Indeed, perhaps one of the most critical learning’s for the Standard Bank Entrepreneur Development Programme in recent years has been that it is actually character, and resilience that are the essential qualities of successful entrepreneurs.

The good news is that these qualities are found in people across the socio-economic spectrum and require no formal training. There is thus much to hope for from South Africa’s burgeoning entrepreneur class. Business and its partner organisations must now do more than just try to spot winners and give them funding. We must also seek out potential, nurture talent, grow ideas and ultimately harvest a national benefit.


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