Empowerment in an era of transformation in a South African context was when we first encountered the term Black Economic Empowerment, which although was intended to redress imbalances made by the previous government in exclusion of a large representation of the country’s population from economic activities. The unintended consequences were that only a handful of people were empowered and the majority remained side-lined.
The topic speaks of empowerment beyond transformation; my understanding of it is the sustainable empowerment of South Africans where we look to creating more than just transactional relationships with our customers or clients (which for the purpose of this topic I will use interchangeably). A typical example of this is the issue of responding to tenders as a business.
The concept of tendering of course is not wrong; however there are other ways of developing business such as prospecting. I believe it is very important that small businesses understand the different levels of the relationship continuum so they can manage these relationships better. For instance you need to nurture your relationships with clients and manage them closely where annually you would look to progressively grow an existing account from transactional to collaborative and eventually to an alliance. This will require a lot of time from you as the entrepreneur who by assumption is the sole employee in the business. You’d need to consider training someone else to take on some of your less urgent responsibilities as your business grows.
No company arrives at the top alone. I support this statement; each company relies on a network of business relationships in order to succeed. According to the South African Supplier Diversity Council, where small businesses have an advantage over their larger counterparts is on their ability to make their operations flexible. They also state that a healthy supply chain needs to include and develop small businesses; entities that help it react to changing market conditions.
The theme then speaks to the concept of wealth creation. By extension it implies that one is keen on making their business built to last.
Let’s look at B-BBEE and transformation. I am not a practitioner on the subject however; my reasonable working knowledge on the subject is what I will share.
In a recent B-BBEE booklet by Werksmans Attorneys, it is noted that important amendments have been proposed to the B-BBEE Act and Codes. These amendments are a powerful expression of the Government’s intention to promote and implement B-BBEE. In my understanding this is more so particularly where small enterprises are concerned. The government is looking to give companies considered EMEs (exempt micro enterprises) and QSE (qualifying small enterprises) opportunities to get into the supply chains of bigger businesses therefore growing them into big business via skills development and of course supplier development initiatives under the preferential procurement act. SME is a label that denotes a phase that your company is in and by extension implies that it will move to the next phase of development. I would urge you to get a copy of this booklet by Werksmans, because I know that corporates don’t always have SMEs in their databases so they are looking especially now with the development of SMEs as one of their priority areas where B-BBEE is concerned. It makes it even better when you are prospecting, now you can call Mr Procter and Gamble for instance and ask to find out what opportunities exist for your company as far as their supplier and enterprise development is concerned.
The next part of my topic is on wealth creation. In a book called Built To Last by Jim Collins and Jerry Porras, the authors investigate what it is that has made “visionary” companies such as Ford, Johnson & Johnson and Procter and Gamble outlast their competitors? All of these companies were established before the 1950s. All of them outlived the Second World War and the depression and have seen several stock market crashes. These companies have lived to see the fall of the Soviet Union and the other side of the dot.com bug not to mention the abolishment of Apartheid and many an African nation’s independence.
Robert Kiyosaki put it aptly in his book Rich Dad, Poor Dad when he said “the rich have lots of money but the wealthy don’t worry about money.” He went on to explain the difference between wealth and riches. He stated that the definition of wealth is the number of days you can survive without physically working (or anyone in your household physically working) and still maintain your standard of living.
“Wealth”, he said,” is measured in time.”
In order for you to begin turning your small business into these wealthy giants that I mentioned earlier here are a few lessons that you need to consider;
- It doesn’t always take a great idea to start a great company. When you’re starting out, it takes a while for your business to start, you may change your vision of it several times and that’s okay. Remember it’s meant to evolve. The more time you spend fine tuning it the better in the long run and even then it will continue to grow.
- The leaders of the business are pace setters. The leaders should fit into the company and not the company fitting into the leader particularly where values are concerned. Consider that you’re building a company that will outlive its leaders. And on the subject of leaders, it’s important to note that the culture and values are determined by the leader, in spite of whatever you may say your values are on paper. Those who work with you are not blind after all and they will do what you as their leaders do not necessarily what you say.
- Build the relationships first then the profits will come. It’s not an easy thing to hear when you’re struggling to make this work. However invest in your relationships. Many small businesses are out there doing half-hearted jobs and chasing the next big pay cheque at the expense of their reputations and at the risk of losing out on repeat business.
- Innovate; the book Built to last says the only constant is change. The authors state that a visionary company almost religiously preserves its core ideology – changing it seldom if ever. Yet while keeping their core ideologies tightly fixed, visionary companies display a powerful drive for progress that enables them to change and adapt without compromising their cherished core ideals.
- The focus on beating the competition: competitors don’t sit at our boardrooms with us or in our strategic planning meetings yet we put so much focus on them. Beating the competitor should be as result of continuous improvement. Always ask yourself “How can we improve ourselves to do better tomorrow than we did today?” I call it showing up differently.
- Become a clock builder instead of a time teller. An organisation with a strong cult – like culture that transcends dependence on the original visionary founders. Employees will need a motive, in the book reference is made to the conflict in Israel stating that “Unlike most nations, Israelis actually have an enduring purpose that is known by every Israeli and that is to provide a secure place on Earth for the Jewish people.”