February is Funding & Enterprise Supplier Development Month on SME South Africa.
Ebrahim is a Strategy, Innovation and SMME development specialist.
Now that you know what your business has to gain from an ESD programme, Ebrahim explains how to build a business corporates actually want to work with.
Q: How do you put your business in the best position to get accepted into a programme?
The first step is to gain an understanding of the programme that you’d like to enter. Remember, depending on the corporate, you will often find that there are vastly different programme requirements that pertain to each SMME to comply with. Depending on your ability to compete in the market, and the stage of your development. An SME may choose to enter either an Enterprise Development Programme, or a Supplier Development Programme.
“If a business owner is simply not ready, the best thing to do is to strengthen yourself”
Once you’re confident that you meet the specified criteria, you should then proceed to contact the corporate ESD team to confirm your eligibility. At the end of the day this typically means you would be receiving support in the form of funding, mentorships, specialist support, access to market etc.
Most organizations will have a large number of applicant SMEs for their respective programmes, therefore I would recommend the following basic achievements be met. For example, your SME should be a registered South African entity, actively in business. Your SME would be required to meet a B-BBEE standard of 51% black ownership. Please bear in mind, larger SMEs could have different requirements, such as having their previous performance evaluated further.
Remember, developing the skills of entrepreneurs are one of the key levers for most ESD Programmes.
Q: How can a business owner prepare?
Typically, if your business does not meet the prescribed minimum requirements for a particular ESD programme it’s generally a compliance related issue.
Tick the boxes, and be sure you’ve got the basic building blocks of your B-BBEE certificate, tax clearance, company registration, CVs of owners, business plan, and any other relevant documentation.
If a business owner is simply not ready, the best thing to do is to strengthen yourself. For example, capacity building through training is always helpful, and should really be viewed as a type of investment in your organization’s human capital. There are plenty of online resources, free courses, seminars and talks that will help you gain skills useful to your business – this is especially true when it comes to selling yourself and your business. Finally, you have to be able to sell your business and your vision to any prospective partner, so brush up on your presentation and selling skills.
Success is contagious. Go out there and focus on bolstering sales, making strategic partnerships, get press attention, build your social media, or otherwise occupy yourself with these fruitful tasks. Before you know it, you will be ready to enter into that prestigious ESD programme soon enough.
Also, try to always put yourself in the shoes of the corporate. If it was your money, what would you expect from it? So where, for example, a startup idea exists, it is always more beneficial if the idea is transformed into something tangible and concrete before seeking to participate in a programme. Investment in yourself, your ideas, your business, demonstrates your commitment and your belief in yourself. If you are not willing to believe and invest your own resources (time or money), it becomes more difficult to convince someone else.
“Understand your personal requirements: What do you need from the programme? What would you like to realise through participation? Where are your gaps?”
Q: What are 5 things business owners can start doing today to get their businesses ready for a programme?
1. Understand your personal requirements: What do you need from the programme? What would you like to realise through participation? Where are your gaps?
2. Research Programmes: Who offers what? Where is the best fit? What can I bring to the table? What are the requirements?
3. Reach out to ESD Programme Owners/Managers: Get in touch with the programme owners you would like to partner with, understand what they are looking for and what you would require to participate.
4. Tailor your Business Plan: Get it all down onto paper. Where you are, where you want to be, what you need to get there and why is your product or service worth investment from the Corporate you are looking at. Tailor it to the programme you would have chosen in (2) and (3) above.
5. Get Compliant: Make sure you gather all the necessary compliance documents the Programme requires. This may differ from one to the other, but generally it includes: Company Registration Documents, B-BBEE Certificate / affidavit, Financial Statements, Business Plan and so on.