by Tania Reid, Chief Experience Officer of Ithemba Office Solutions
A big thank you to all those corporates who had the courage to give SMMEs a chance this year. It has made a difference in profits, in creating more jobs and sustainability. Now, don’t get me wrong, it is a mutually beneficial relationship for all concerned when the SMME has all the right credentials and also provides high quality services and products. I’ve been in workshops where we are taught on how to do business with corporates, and I think it is equally important to teach the corporates on how to do business with entrepreneurs.
Most corporates perceive empowerment as affording the entrepreneurs with big orders, when in fact, that is really only the beginning. We would still need assistance to deliver against the big orders, where more often than not, our suppliers want cash up-front, but our terms with multinationals are 30 and sometimes 60 days from date of invoice. We need assistance and guidance on how to develop national footprints, and not simply be disqualified from RFQ’s based on that criteria only!
Lose the ‘first mistake, you are the weakest link, goodbye’ mentality. And my absolute favourite, when management knows the importance of BEE spend, but it still hasn’t filtered down to the staff who actually place the orders. Then the entrepreneur has to deal with the resistance to change, been given ridiculous deadlines that cannot be met, so that a false perception of non-delivery is created, and the company walks away having given the SMME a ‘fair chance’
True empowerment is about enabling us to deliver on the orders by giving us a 50% deposit upfront and shorter payment terms.
Assisting and guiding the SMME on how to have a national footprint, even if that means using the corporates internal mail infrastructure to start off with.
Guiding and advising the entrepreneur, who may not have the necessary systems or resources in place, to handle the increase of revenue and even sometimes, not having credit terms with suppliers.
Lifting us up to become better, rather than at the first mistake, moving to another supplier without a meeting, an explanation or having given the SMME an opportunity to improve.
Having workshops with staff explaining why the company is changing suppliers, how that benefits the organization as well as the country’s economy.
Imagine what a world this would be for an SMME, if clients were practicing true empowerment from order, right through to delivery and payment. And we were exempt or paid a reduced rate for VAT and Income Tax for the first 3 years of the business, when it is most likely to fail.
Tania Reid is the founder and chief experience officer of ithemba office solutions based in South Africa, and has over 17 years of sales experience in office automation, stationery and consumables. She is known for her honesty, excellent customer care skills and that she runs her life and business with integrity. Tania is a big believer in “When you are Blessed, you Bless others”. She won the opportunity to go to Australia to represent the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship by joining serial entrepreneur, Creel Price on the Ultimate Growth Adventure Bootcamp and pitched her business to James Caan of Dragons Den fame. So every second month, she facilitates “Knowing Your Worth” classes with young girls between the ages of 14-18 at the Khaya Centre Mount Olive, Lehae south of Johannesburg, where the unemployment rate is 80%; and also contributes monthly to events held for the aged at the Kensington Old Age Home, Cape Town which is also her hometown. Read Tania's startup story here.
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