Caring for our front line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic is essential, but caring for business mentors, coaches and SMEs is just as vital. Without a SMME sector, our economy will struggle long after the COVID-19 pandemic is over.

In a perfect world, there would be no poverty, unemployment or wealth gap. Our reality is far different.

South Africa has one of the most unequal societies in the world. More than 50% of our population live on less than R1000 a month and 27% are unemployed.  It has been touted that by 2030, small businesses will be responsible for creating 90% of jobs in South Africa, but even with a R32 billion annual spend on enterprise development, three out of four businesses fail within the first few years and just 10% will be around for more than a decade.

We are at a crisis level, and unless we stimulate the economy and create real opportunities for small, black-owned businesses to enter the market, we are in real trouble. Couple that with the country’s shrinking customer base and you will realise that we need to do more to have a lasting impact.  

More businesses need to move beyond the legal imperative and realise they have a corporate and social responsibility to transform their supply chain. More businesses need to diversify procurement and actively engage in real Enterprise and Supplier Development initiatives.

More businesses need to realise that not every business is ready for the aggressive demands of a supply chain and that Supplier Development must be a hand-in-hand journey where big business and SMEs work together towards a common goal.

One woman who understands the ‘together is better’ approach is Catherine Wijnberg, the CEO and founder of Fetola, a business development company and an advocate of economic transformation through small businesses and supplier development. “Supplier Development is a way to build future strategic advantage and, when coupled with stronger industry networks and a long-term view on supporting the successful growth of small suppliers, this results in future competitive advantage and a better future for all,” says Wijnberg.

Supplier Development is not easy, it has become a tedious tick-box exercise, with a lot of money spent on programmes that have not been effective. Wijnberg championed the Absa Business Day Supplier Development Awards Programme last year, to recognise and celebrate the extraordinary steps companies have taken to build diverse and thriving supply chains. The Awards aimed to recognise those companies that are doing it right, showcased winners having a profound impact in this area, moving beyond the scorecard and showing return on investment far exceeding the cost of seeing BEE as yet another tax.  

Winners, Massmart, Hatch Africa, Reapso and Sappi, won awards for their innovative and bold solutions. These companies stood out from the pack because they made Supplier Development part of their company culture and long-term strategy. In this way both suppliers and corporate have a vested interest in the success of their long-term relationship.  They realised that suppliers are integral to their success. With clear, focused and well-delivered programmes they take a long-term view of these commercially valuable relationships that generate genuine opportunity both for the corporate and for the small supplier.

Catherine Wijnberg believes that to transform and build a resilient economy and futureproof our country collaboration is an essential ingredient in any Supplier Development strategy, and that by building a strong ecosystem we will see the results of true economic transformation, felt by generations to come.

“For this reason, the awards offered more value than just the winner’s podium but also gave delegates the opportunity to learn from one another, build partnerships and network with those leading the way in this field,” she adds.

Indeed, many South African businesses recognise that Supplier Development especially is a rapidly evolving space and mechanism for advancement of inclusive growth. They realise that skills transfer, mentoring and market access are essential elements to building capacity and that relationships and collaboration are key, after all successful businesses thrive on successful partnerships – because regardless of the size, you do business with individuals, with people.

Oh, yeah baby, bring it on!

December is halfway done, and the year a few days from over.  It’s time to breathe in some deep holiday breaths and recharge for 2019. Time to swop the stuffy suits for a swimming cozi and elbow out team talks for cricket, walks on the beach, and braais with family & friends.

I love the South African tradition of ‘total shutdown’ over this season (with apologies to my friends for whom this is the busiest period; your time at the beach will come later).  Research says that holidays of three weeks have a greater impact than little ones, so thumbs up to that!

Personally, my favourite holiday activity is a New Year hike – walking out of one year into the next, shedding the skin of the past as I go. Traditionally one reaches a point around day three when the roles of mother, daughter, employer, partner, etc, fall away, and one is left with the beautiful, liberating question: “Who am I really?”.

This year in my quiet moments I shall be pondering the question: “What if I reached my full potential?” and working on ways to shed the blanket of fear that keeps the mind dodging away from the answers. I look forward to an ongoing diet of uplifting books such as the Power of the Subconscious Mind (Joseph Murphy PhD), Becoming (Michelle Obama), 21 Lessons for the 21st Century (Yuval Noah Harari), and definitely Start with Why (Simon Sinek)

My hope is that this edition of Catalyst will bring some new thinking and unlock expansive thought for you too, for 2019 promises to be an amazing year – filled with possibility.

In this edition of Catalyst, we tour the country and visit some different attractions and how you can do so while reducing your carbon footprint, and we help you prepare for seasonal dips and spikes. The SAB Foundation released an impact report which highlights the Tholoana Programme and the great things the entrepreneurs on the programme have achieved. It’s a great read!

Click here to read more about this issue of The Catalyst.

Catherine Wijnberg

Fetola CEO

We’re looking at mental health awareness, how it affects people, and how they have coped with it. We review Brenè Brown’s book Rising Strong, how we can lessen our impact on the environment, and what food insecurity really looks like in South Africa.

By Catherine Wijnberg, Fetola CEO

South Africa’s alarming statistics on absenteeism have a direct bearing on businesses, large and small, which are plagued by unplanned absenteeism. A proactive management approach, however, affords business owners a best possible outcome in dealing with this increasing challenge. Read more

By Catherine Wijnberg, Fetola CEO

Human Resource management is both a science and an art. The ‘science’ side includes adherence to legal compliance, systems, and methods. The ‘art’ requires understanding and managing human nature. Read more

It’s women’s month and time to revisit why women are great!

Read more

On 24 May of this year, the inaugural ABSA Supplier Development Awards took place and the event was an absolute success. If you don’t know what the awards are about or why they are so important then this short video will get you up to speed.

Read more

Soccer can change your life – or at least it can change your thinking.

Read more

Recently I was facilitating a finance workshop with 40 young entrepreneurs in the SAB Foundation Tholoana Programme when the question of jealousy came up.

Read more