Major R50m boost for local SMEs

The loan to support small businesses is interest free
The loan to support small businesses is interest free
Image: SIMON MATHEBULA

The majority of business failures can be attributed to financial, management and reporting factors that can ordinarily be addressed through mentorship and technical assistance support throughout a business's life cycle.

This is supported by the 2014 Turnaround Management Survey which estimates that as much as 36% of business failures were caused by inadequate financial management.

As such, the launch of a R50-million technical assistance programme for SMEs in SA by Business Partners with 50% support of the Swiss State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (Seco), aimed at improving the business, labour and environmental performance of SMEs, is sure to be a welcome relief to local SMEs who want to increase the profitability of their businesses.

Business Partners MD Ben Bierman said: "In the 36 years of our existence, we have learnt that providing SMEs with finance alone is not enough; the sustainability and prosperity of businesses increases significantly when the finance they receive is coupled with well-planned, well-executed and accurate technical assistance."

Bierman said an independent study on their technical assistance programme showed their unique methodology of coupling finance with technical assistance generated significant socioeconomic returns.

All companies that were beneficiaries reported a 26% increase in jobs created, a 32% increase in turnover and a 79% increase in profit.

As South Africa's unemployment figures rose to its highest level in 14 years, reaching 27.7% in the first quarter of 2017, and considering that SMEs are one of the key contributors to employment creation, the technical assistance programme (TA programme) will also support SA in attaining its corresponding objectives in the National Development Plan, notably to reduce the official unemployment rate to 6% by 2030.

Bierman said often SMEs are praised for their ability to create jobs, yet aren't always supported to do so.

"Running a business requires multiple skills, ranging from people management to finance and sales, in addition to the technical expertise, and business owners cannot be expected to possess all these skills.

"This is the gap that our TA programme aims to close."

The TA programme responds to these challenges by supporting business owners.

The programme involves SMEs approaching Business Partners for finance and mentorship and/or technical assistance support services ranging from legal and accounting assistance, distinct training skills for employees to the creation of information and communication technology (ICT) capacity in the company.

For the first phase, this TA programme targets to support over 1500 SMEs - all of them existing or future Business Partners clients.

The technical assistance loan is interest-free and the repayment thereof is aligned to the business's free cash flow improvements that are expected as a result of projected operational improvements brought on by the introduction of technical assistance in the business.

Bierman said they believe that when SMEs are required to repay these funds, they apply themselves better to the benefits of the technical assistance.

"Once repaid, the funds can be recycled to other deserving SMEs, thus increasing the overall socioeconomic return," he said.
Business Partners Limited is a premier risk finance company for SMEs

Ben Bierman said: "In the 36 years of our existence, we have learnt that providing SMEs with finance alone is not enough; the sustainability and prosperity of businesses increases significantly when the finance they receive is coupled with well-planned, well-executed and accurate technical assistance."

Bierman said an independent study on their technical assistance programme showed their unique methodology of coupling finance with technical assistance generated significant socioeconomic returns.

All companies that were beneficiaries reported a 26% increase in jobs created, a 32% increase in turnover and a 79% increase in profit.

As South Africa's unemployment figures rose to its highest level in 14 years, reaching 27.7% in the first quarter of 2017, and considering that SMEs are one of the key contributors to employment creation, the technical assistance programme (TA programme) will also support SA in attaining its corresponding objectives in the National Development Plan, notably to reduce the official unemployment rate to 6% by 2030.

Bierman said often SMEs are praised for their ability to create jobs, yet aren't always supported to do so.

"Running a business requires multiple skills, ranging from people management to finance and sales, in addition to the technical expertise, and business owners cannot be expected to possess all these skills.

"This is the gap that our TA programme aims to close."

The TA programme responds to these challenges by supporting business owners.

The programme involves SMEs approaching Business Partners for finance and mentorship and/or technical assistance support services ranging from legal and accounting assistance, distinct training skills for employees to the creation of information and communication technology (ICT) capacity in the company.

For the first phase, this TA programme targets to support over 1500 SMEs - all of them existing or future Business Partners clients.

The technical assistance loan is interest-free and the repayment thereof is aligned to the business's free cash flow improvements that are expected as a result of projected operational improvements brought on by the introduction of technical assistance in the business.

Bierman said they believe that when SMEs are required to repay these funds, they apply themselves better to the benefits of the technical assistance.

"Once repaid, the funds can be recycled to other deserving SMEs, thus increasing the overall socioeconomic return," he said.
Business Partners Limited is a premier risk finance company for SMEs

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