The theme ‘Start 2022 with that winning feeling’ was the perfect way to wrap-up the 2021 Absa Business Day Supplier Development Dialogues. The online panel discussion unpacked winning strategies that small businesses and corporates can use in their own practice to be part of the winning team.

Winners, runner ups and judges from the 2021 awards shared stories of triumph and innovation. Here is a roundup of their advice.

Government is prioritizing small business development

President Cyril Ramaphosa’s State of the Nation Address highlighted the importance of creating favourable conditions for small to medium enterprises (SMEs) to access new markets and create employment. “There is a strong focus on doing what needs to be done to create an enabling environment for small suppliers, and I believe this will lead to rapid growth,” said Catherine Wijnberg the CEO of Fetola.

Be part of the network

Being part of this network of likeminded businesses that are passionate about inclusive transformation forces corporates to level up. The Empact Group was awarded the 2021 Runner up overall award. “The awards helped us keep up with the times and improve our systems because we got connected to a network that is forcing us to grow,” said Ryan Neill the Group Head of Procurement at the Empact Group.

Don’t be afraid of healthy competition

Taking part in competitions provides corporates with a chance to check if they are aligned with industry standards. Anglo American Zimele made their mark as the winner of the coveted Impact Award. “By taking part in the awards, we had to reflect on our sustainable mining plan in relation to our peers and industry standards,” said Larisha Naidoo the Head of Anglo American Zimele.

Broaden horizons with inter-continental trading

Supplier development is still in its infancy on the continent and the African Continental Free Trade agreement aims to deepen the economic integration of trade within the continent. “It’s important for corporates in other countries to see what South Africa is doing and to share success stories and lessons learnt,” said David Mparutsa the Head of Enterprise and Supplier Development ex SA at Absa, who has sponsored this awards programme for four consecutive years. Corporates across the continent were also winners at the awards and this will strengthen trade agreements within Africa.

Give back

Big companies have the resources and infrastructure to help emerging suppliers and they have a moral obligation to give back. “We are 100 years old, and we need to show our appreciation by giving back and providing opportunities,” said Litha Kutta the ESD Director at Tiger Brands. Corporates are urged to not get tired of supporting small businesses because it’s what the country needs.

Diversify income streams

Entrepreneurs often focus on one supplier and when that supplier ends their contract, they are out of business. “Not everyone will become a supplier to big supply chains and not everyone should, there are other ways for them to become successful,” said Wijnberg.

Take advantage of ESD programmes

There are loads of small business growth programmes run by Fetola and other corporates that provide holistic support to entrepreneurs. “Our ESD initiatives offer a soft landing to our emerging suppliers, and we help them with their procurement process for the first year,” said Kutta. The onus is on entrepreneurs to find an ESD programme that suits them.

Success does not happen overnight

Most entrepreneurs have a desire to become suppliers to big corporates, not understanding that they first have to grow their business. “Entrepreneurs need to fill holes in their buckets, before approaching big companies,” said Wijnberg. It’s takes time to build capacity, resources, finances, and infrastructure to be able to work with big companies.

Financial literacy is important

Most entrepreneurs can’t explain their finances when requesting loans because all their finances are handled by their accountant. Upskilling on financial literacy should be prioritized by small suppliers that want access to finance. “We offer financial literacy, and we partner with other corporates to provide affordable funding to SMEs,” said Mparutsa

The awards proved that corporates are creating opportunities. The consensus was that entrepreneurs need to look for appropriate opportunities to develop their businesses, because they are available.