Conference celebrates resilience of entrepreneurs who survived COVID-19 lockdowns

The 6th annual Absa Smart Supplier Conference was a shot in the arm for hundreds of South African entrepreneurs who have survived the COVID-19 crisis and are ready to steer their businesses to prosperity and contribute to the country’s economic recovery.

Delegates gathered online to learn, network and share knowledge. Renowned local and international experts delivered powerful presentations on topics ranging from financial resilience, cash flow management and fundraising, to contract planning and management, procurement principles, digital marketing and technology.

Debbie Tagg Smart Procurement
Smart Procurement chief operating officer Debbie Tagg

Key lessons for SMMEs

Kgalaletso Tlhoaele, Enterprise Development head at Absa, outlined the key lessons that the event delivered to the owners of small, medium and micro enterprises (SMMEs) who attended: “The importance of building financial resilience in the current environment through financial partnerships was stressed. Experts noted that there are basic procurement principles that small businesses must grasp in order to be contract ready and become supplier ready. Pre-contract planning was emphasised as one of the keys to success for SMMEs, since many small businesses are getting into unsustainable contracts because they fail to plan. Planning must include market research and understanding competitive pricing. Small businesses must be ethical, since this is the first pillar to access markets. When all is lost, your integrity should remain. Market research and business intelligence are also important. In terms of marketing, SMMEs should recognise that not all digital marketing platforms are valuable. They should only consider those that effectively engage with their target audience, and they should capitalise on free technologies that can increase sales.”

Resilience and creativity

In his own keynote presentation, Tlhoaele commended all entrepreneurs who have weathered the COVID-19 storm through resilience and creativity. “Entrepreneurs, being the most resilient people in business, are now picking up the pieces and starting to chart a way back to prosperity,” he says. To adapt to the new reality, he advised small businesses to reassess how they do business and their business model; how they source; their inputs and supply chain; and how they engage with their employees. “What do you need to do better? Who will your new allies be? How will you do things differently? At this time, businesses must be able to cut expenses to the bone and prioritise capabilities and production methods that will give them a competitive edge. The pandemic taught us the perils of depending on suppliers from outside the country and global supply chains. Business needs to localise now,” he states.

Tlhoaele also stresses the importance of communication. “The best way to deal with a crisis, and when the business is in resetting mode, is to communicate, communicate, communicate. Do not close yourself off in a corner. Don’t be an introvert. Do more engaging than ever. Face donors, suppliers, bankers. Show your intent to bounce back as the economy is opening up,” he urges attendees.

He says that there must be a focus on getting women entrepreneurs back onto their feet. “As employment opportunities become increasingly scarce, we must reinvest in this very important component of our society. Financiers are increasingly recognising that women entrepreneurs are a safe bet, with good returns.”

High praise

Organised by Smart Procurement World, the 2021 Absa Smart Supplier Conference, received high praise from delegates. “Definitely one of the best conferences I have attended this year. The speakers were amazing. Relevant and informative content was shared. Thank you,” enthuses Londiwe Msimang, EduTech consultant and training facilitator.

“Thanks to Smart Procurement World and partners for a very informative session. I would like to thank all the speakers for sharing their knowledge, experience and advising us on most small businesses’ downfalls,” says Thapeli Sibanda, managing director of Tlhopego Thapelo Business Holdings.

Belukazi Nkala, managing director of Khanyile Solutions, said that the event was “very informative”, and that he had learnt many things that he would implement in his business.

Smart Procurement chief operating officer Debbie Tagg contends that COVID-19 and our fragile economy spotlighted the real gaps and needs for small businesses and made this year’s Absa Smart Supplier Conference more important than ever. “We need Enterprise and Supplier Development programmes tasked to ensure impact and meet the unique needs of each business; not just tick boxes,” she stresses. “Funding remains a challenge but compliance to meet funding and market opportunities is essential for SMMEs. We are pleased to have been a part of the magic at the 6th annual Smart Supplier Conference with Absa’s support,” Tagg concludes.

Visit the official COVID-19 government website to stay informed: sacoronavirus.co.za