South Africa’s hard-pressed SMEs need help to steady themselves on a growth path in the current economic climate. The good news: Help is at hand.
By Jason Mellow, Head of MiWay Business Insurance
South Africans are famous for their ability to “make a plan”, overcoming obstacles by coming up with ingenious solutions that make use of things in unexpected ways. That agility is essential for the country’s SMEs, which have been battling severe headwinds for many years, and are now coping with disruptive Stage 4 loadshedding just as the COVID-19 pandemic and its restrictions seem to be receding.
Other headwinds include low economic growth for the past decades and, of course, recent hikes in the price of petrol. Another challenge is proliferating red tape – despite government promises, SMEs still have a lot to negotiate and navigate.
The danger is that SMEs are so busy working in their business that all too often, they don’t have time to work on their business. Time spent on developing websites, creating marketing campaigns or managing the company’s books detract from the business owner’s main focus which is to grow the business, and increase market share. As the pressure on micro and small enterprises has mounted, more and more organisations are making resources available to these business owners, to alleviate the many demands on their time.
In the first instance, there are specialized governmental and non-governmental organisations which offer advice and networking platforms. Added to which, private-sector financial services companies have developed services designed to help clients and potential clients become more successful. For example, certain banks offer not only products tailored for SMEs but also valuable financial advice. In similar vein, some insurers offer services to ease the burden on SMEs.
Take the case of Multi Dimension Shuttle Service, a scholar transport business. The company chose MiBusiness Assist, a business support service developed by MiWay to help clients reduce unnecessary operational costs, and is offered as a value-add as part of its business insurance offering. The Shuttle Service utilized the resources to develop its company logo, set up a website and Facebook page.
“We were clueless about what to do, she [the MiBusiness Assist service provider] took over and did everything for us,” says owner Esmerelda Maphike. “Once everything was up and running, we started getting calls; everything has gone digital so people noticed our website and Facebook page. We have definitely seen an increase in business leads and we may well need to expand our fleet in the near future. The fact that I didn’t have to pay for these services, or spend time doing it, helped me a lot.”
Among the MiBusiness Assist services on offer, SMEs can find help with tax and financial advice. Other services include legal; marketing; labour and financial advice; office and medical assistance; an IT helpdesk; and even support for license disc renewals and paying traffic fines.
The proof of the pudding
We understand that SMEs are often stretched thin in terms of start-up, marketing or operational, so, the MiBusiness Assist offering makes perfect sense for us. We want to contribute to a thriving entrepreneurship economy in South Africa, where more and more young people aspire to becoming employers, rather than employees. What this means is that big companies such as ours need to innovate solutions which alleviate barriers to entry for aspirant business owners.
In our view , SMEs are the engines of growth and job creation which our economy needs. Sometimes, all it takes is doing a bit of research to find the resources you need and to identify the right partners for your business – it might just be the jet fuel you need to take off, even in today’s challenging economy.