Industry organisation the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (Seifsa) has partnered with manufacturing industry veteran Leon Viljoen to provide support, guidance and advice to small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to help them run successful and sustainable businesses.
Viljoen has more than 20 years’ experience in project and business management and, as a C-suite-level executive at large businesses, such as ABB South Africa and Powertech Transformers, has led efforts to optimise business operations and improve performance.
The partnership comes at a time when many SMEs are facing closure, following the Covid-19 pandemic and the resulting lockdown that saw many companies unable to trade amid restrictions on movement to fight the spread of the virus, notes Seifsa.
Moreover, this is coupled with challenges they had already been facing in a country where about 70% of SMEs fail within the first two years, according to the Small Business Institute.
Seifsa operations director Lucio Trentini says the partnership with Viljoen was important because small businesses are widely recognised as the lifeblood of economies.
He cites research by McKinsey, which found that SMEs in South Africa make up 98% of businesses. However, many of these businesses struggle under the strain of several challenges, including bureaucratic red tape and lack of access to finance.
“Sixty-six per cent of the companies that are affiliated to our member associations are small businesses. We, through the Seifsa Small Business Hub, strive to assist these companies to navigate a very tough operating environment,” Trentini says.
He adds that Viljoen’s demonstrated expertise within the manufacturing industry will ensure SMEs in the sector receive relevant support and advice at a time when they need to rework their strategies and operations to adjust to a Covid-19 environment.
Viljoen says he is pleased to be able to work with Seifsa on a matter that is close to his heart – the success of businesses – by innovating and improving operations from within before looking externally for support.
“My support is not about making good businesses great. It’s about helping businesses go back to the basics and creating a strong foundation in order to become sustainable, and then move on incrementally to greatness,” he comments.
As part of the partnership, Seifsa and Viljoen will be hosting a series of webinars on what SMEs need to focus on to become sustainable businesses, starting on September 17.