By Catherine Wijnberg
Love it or hate it, the BEE Code it is here to stay. As business leaders, we need strategies that make the Code work for our organisations, and just as importantly, work to make a real difference to our future, and that of the country.
Working toward a better future is no longer some ‘do-gooder’ concept but a business imperative, because – as business leaders worldwide are recognizing with growing concern – the challenges of poverty and unemployment ultimately create dire consequences for us all. Yes, it is tempting to sit back and point at others who have caused the problem – but isn’t it our responsibility to work the solutions that are in front of us? Especially when those solutions also make business sense.
So back to the BEE Code. For all its flaws and imperfections, the intention of the Code is to encourage the development of a more equitable, shared economic future. There are those who believe it is too onerous and drives an unfair redistribution of wealth and opportunity from white business owners to black individuals and businesses, and there are those who believe it is doing too little by far. Whatever your standpoint, it is a strategy that is in place, and one that can work if us if we understand how to work with it.
At this point, some readers will be thinking “no way am I giving away half my business to someone who doesn’t deserve it, hasn’t worked for it and doesn’t bring any value.” If that is your reaction, I hesitate to suggest that perhaps part of your frustration is a lack of understanding of how the Codes work, and most importantly how to work the Codes. With the right guidance, BBBEE provides an opportunity to grow the pie, rather than a demand to cut the pie, and with this knowledge we have the power in our hands to make it work, for our business.
There are many ways to benefit, if one thinks bigger and with an expansive viewpoint. New opportunities abound – for example in franchising workable business models, partnering with suppliers and customers to gain access to bigger opportunities, and creating new business models, products and services for new sections of consumers. Done correctly, partnering can bring with it access to expansion finance, to bigger deals and to a diversity of experiences and capabilities. For example, employee trusts can engender a sense of ownership and greater enthusiasm for success amongst the workforce, and satisfy the Scorecard at the same time. Supply chain development is an ideal opportunity to create partnerships for growth and expansion – and a portion of a growing opportunity is better than 100% ownership of stagnation, surely?
The world is changing – and fast. Any business that hopes to succeed by hanging onto the past – be it past products and services, past ways of working with staff or past technology, will fall behind and be eaten by competitors. Like it or not, we live in a world that is changing – and only those that embrace the changes and work with them will survive.
Sceptics out there may disagree, and many are still happy to simply toss some cash into any pot in exchange for their BEE points. However, other individuals with the vision to see the future as one in which all of our children and grandchildren can thrive, want their ED grants to offer a greater return than just ticking the boxes of the BEE Code.
Enterprise development that leads to diversity and growth in the economy, and supply chain development that strengthens the business value chain, will enhance your sustainable future. Our own experience with black-owned SMEs nationally has shown the incredible potential for genuine long-term successes when these strategies are embraced as a business tool for growth.
Statistics from the Legends ED programme (www.golegends.co.za), which has stringent application criteria and a comprehensive, integrated programme of training, mentoring and other support, show that stellar performance is possible in emerging, largely rural, black and women-owned businesses – the results speak for themselves:
• 94% business survival over 5 years (300% higher than the national average)
• 65% business growth year on year over 5 years (national average is 2%..)
• 5000 jobs created and/or sustained
• Business sustainability across all sectors
• Linkages to corporate supply chain
• Positive cross-marketing benefits for grant-making business
If you are a business leader determined to make the most of your future – both in terms of ROI to your organisation, and long-term tangible, positive effect to the economy of South Africa – be sure to interrogate your sustainable future by asking the following questions:
• Firstly, have I employed a professional to assist with my BEE strategy, and with my enterprise and supply chain development especially?
• Is our ED /SD programme making a visible, measurable impact on the businesses it supports?
• Are we creating sustainable enterprises that can survive in the long-term?
• Is our ED/SD programme delivering ROI to our business – through cross marketing, market intelligence, new market development, supply chain opportunities etc?
• And lastly, is our BEE programme building trust and reputation for our brand in the market, because it genuinely impacts our collective future?
As an active citizen of South Africa, and a business leader, anything less should be unacceptable.