Sunday, July 22, 2012

SMEs - South Africa marking time?

SMEs are once again in the background. Very little new is going on which is new. There is a SME conference in Bloemfontein 26 and 27 July. Contact the Bloemfontein Chamber of Commerce for details.

The conference appears to be different to the run of the mill, so here's hoping it is.

Another finance related conference will take place in November with the KZN Treasury the possible sponsor. This too should be an unusual conference. I will provide more info as time progresses.

New info will be advised as it becomes available.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

SMEs - what SMEs need to do

SMEs are desperately in need of help and protection - from themselves. While it is easy to sit back and criticise government, especially when they make it so easy to do so, but surely we have responsibilities as well.

How many SMEs take advantage of government efforts to assist business?  How many SMEs complain in writing to government about what is wrong? How many SMEs have identified their weaknesses? Do you know what your weaknesses are?

The fact is that every business has these components:
1. Administration
2. Finance
3. Marketing (excluding sales)
4. Sales
5. Technical skills

The first three can all be outsourced to an external party such as an accountant or a consultant. However, the process of selling and technical skills are the two components you cannot outsource. These the owner of the business has to do themselves or employ people to do it. However, especially in a smaller business, this increases the risk of failure if staff resign. Furthermore early stage businesses can sometimes not afford these employees, so the owner has to do them.

But the admin, finance and marketing are also critically important, and outsourcing should be seen as a temporary status. It is imperative that business owners gain at least an understanding of these areas of expertise, such that they can interpret and make decisions upon the information provided by the accountant or consultant. Would you like to drive a car at speed with a blindfold on, and some one telling you when to turn and when to brake. Unlikely that you will enjoy the experience!

So the contribution SMEs can make is to improve their skills, as well as those of their staff. I am always reminded of the story and the CEO who was big on staff training. At a meeting with fellow CEOs in his industry, one of his peers mentioned the fact that they loved the fact that he trained people so well as they helped the industry to find good people. They then asked him why trained when he knew they might leave. His response was that if he did not train them, they might stay. Think about it!!

So in conclusion, the best thing SME owners can do is to realise their limitations and then ensure they reduce these by gaining sufficient knowledge to at least understand things, even if they are unable to do them.