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Small suppliers that want access to finance should up-skill on financial literacy. This is one of the winning formulas to running a successful small businesses. Picture: PEXELS/ANDREA PIACQUADIO
Small suppliers that want access to finance should up-skill on financial literacy. This is one of the winning formulas to running a successful small businesses. Picture: PEXELS/ANDREA PIACQUADIO

The theme “Start 2022 with that winning feeling” was the perfect way to wrap up the 2021 Absa Business Day Supplier Development Dialogues, as the online panel discussion aired the winning strategies that small businesses and corporates can use in their own practice to be part of a successful team.  

Winners, runners-up and judges from the 2021 awards shared stories of triumph and innovation. Here is a roundup of their advice: 

1. Government is prioritising small business development

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s state of the nation address highlighted the importance of creating favourable conditions for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to access new markets and create employment. “There is a strong focus on doing what needs to be done to create an enabling environment for small suppliers, and I believe this will lead to rapid growth,” said Fetola CEO Catherine Wijnberg.

2. Be part of the network

Being part of this network of like-minded businesses that are passionate about inclusive transformation forces corporates to level up. The Empact Group was awarded the overall 2021 Runner-up Award. “The awards helped us keep up with the times and improve our systems because we got connected to a network that is forcing us to grow,” said Ryan Neill, Empact Group's procurement head. 

3. Don’t be afraid of healthy competition 

Taking part in competitions provides corporates with a chance to check if they are aligned with industry standards. Anglo American Zimele made their mark as the winner of the coveted Impact Award. “By taking part in the awards, we had to reflect on our sustainable mining plan in relation to our peers and industry standards,” said Anglo American Zimele head Larisha Naidoo.

4. Broaden horizons with intercontinental trading 

Supplier development is still in its infancy on the continent and the African Continental Free Trade agreement aims to deepen the economic integration of trade within the continent. “It’s important for corporates in other countries to see what SA is doing and to share success stories and lessons learnt,” said Absa enterprise and supplier development head David Mparutsa, head of enterprise and supplier development at Absa, which has sponsored this awards programme for four consecutive years. Corporates across the continent were also winners at the awards and this will strengthen trade agreements within Africa.

Corporates are urged to not get tired of supporting small businesses because it’s what the country needs

5. Give back

Big companies have the resources and infrastructure to help emerging suppliers and they have a moral obligation to give back. “We are 100 years old, and we need to show our appreciation by giving back and providing opportunities,” said Tiger Brands' enterprise and supplier development (ESD) director Litha Kutta. Corporates are urged to not get tired of supporting small businesses because it’s what the country needs.  

6. Diversify income streams

Entrepreneurs often focus on one supplier and when that supplier ends their contract, they are out of business. “Not everyone will become a supplier to big supply chains and not everyone should; there are other ways for them to become successful,” said Wijnberg. 

7. Take advantage of ESD programmes 

There are loads of small business growth programmes run by Fetola and other corporates that provide holistic support to entrepreneurs. “Our ESD initiatives offer a soft landing to our emerging suppliers, and we help them with their procurement process for the first year,” said Kutta. The onus is on entrepreneurs to find an ESD programme that suits them.

8. Success does not happen overnight 

Most entrepreneurs have a desire to become suppliers to big corporates, not understanding that they first have to grow their business. “Entrepreneurs need to fill holes in their buckets, before approaching big companies,” said Wijnberg. It’s takes time to build the capacity, resources, finances and infrastructure to be able to work with big companies. 

9. Financial literacy is important

Most entrepreneurs can’t explain their finances when requesting  loans because all their finances are handled by their accountant. Upskilling on financial literacy should be prioritised by small suppliers that want access to finance. “We offer financial literacy, and we partner with other corporates to provide affordable funding to SMEs,” said Mparutsa. 

The awards proved that corporates are creating opportunities. The consensus was that entrepreneurs need to look for appropriate opportunities to develop their businesses, because they are available.

To join the Absa Business Day Supplier Development Awards network or to complete the expression of interest form for the 2022 awards, visit www.sdawards.co.za.

This article was paid for by Absa.

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