SME's account for more than half the jobs in SA, says Liberty Corporate

23 August 2017Liberty

At the recent SME Business Day Dialogue in association with Liberty Corporate, the focus was on entrepreneurship and the role of small and medium sized enterprises in job creation and the economy.

After two consecutive quarters of contraction, unemployment numbers are looking increasingly bleak with the youth as the most vulnerable to unemployment. Business Day editor Tim Cohen pointed out in his welcome address, that in a rapidly moving political landscape, it is entrepreneurs who are amongst the few with the ability to spot opportunities in times of crisis and uncertainty. He said he was confident that South Africa could be pulled out of this slump.

Liberty Corporate, official sponsors of the event, provides significant support to both entrepreneurs and the SME sector through its Liberty Blue Skies Enterprise and Supplier Development Programme. The programme is an initiative which develops and supports small businesses to form part of the company’s procurement chain. “SMEs already account for more than half of the jobs in South Africa and as such are making a societal impact. They are the answer to curbing South Africa’s unemployment”, said Thesin Vandeyar, Liberty Corporate Divisional Director: Sales & Relationship Management. However, he insisted that they needed to be enabled to a greater extent.

In his keynote address, Steven Cohen, former head of Sage One International, pointed out that most entrepreneurs do not consider themselves entrepreneurs. Despite the fact that under his leadership Sage One International grew from eight employees to 3000, Cohen said he considered himself more of an ‘intrapreneur’ rather than an entrepreneur. His passion, he said, was creating employment rather than making money. “I don’t see the point of starting a business unless you’re creating employment,” he shared. Cohen said the connections between people are what’s important in a business and revealed that he practiced servant based leadership long before the term became popular.

He encouraged potential entrepreneurs, as well as SME business owners to read avidly – and to read content not related to their businesses. “The more informed you are, the better,” he insisted. New businesses, he added, need appropriate accounting and customer communication tools and a decent website. In addition, he advised business owners to keep abreast of industry trends, what competitors are doing, and communicating transparently with competitors.

Cohen said that if he were to establish a new business, health care technology, fin-tech and renewable energy, would be the best picks as these three areas are where South Africa should be investing its resources.

The big issue facing all businesses in the current competitive landscape is how to differentiate your company. Cohen advised that niche businesses have an advantage and that getting the right people on board is vital. “You don’t save money by paying bad staff less.” He further advised that understanding the difference between leadership and management is important. Make decisions – even if they’re the wrong ones – rather than sitting on the fence. He advised that “Ethics, honesty and keeping to your word are vital in any business.”

Entrepreneur, Turnaround Strategist and Founder and Executive Chairman of the Gem Group, Lebo Gunguluza, supposed that the problem in South Africa is that most people keen to become entrepreneurs don’t realise that they need to hustle and market themselves in order to make a success of a business venture. He indicated that the key to the success of establishing a new business to find a niche and a specific target market and then to understand the needs of that market. “Never forget that the customer is king; that cash is king; and that you need to remain compliant.”

Phuti Mahanyele, former CEO of Shanduka Group and Executive Chairperson of Sigma Capital stated that those who succeed as entrepreneurs are tenacious and have staying power. Establishing a new business tough and it’s usually very difficult to find capital. Therefore, critical to success was the ability to forge networks and build relationships.

To find out more about Liberty Corporate visit:

Quick Polls


Technology has made a major impact on the industry. Disruption apart, can technology provide an answer to the cost containment conundrum that the industry faces?


Yes. Technology is a proven way to drive down costs.
No. Technology is still driven by humans, if a human cannot drive down costs, how can a machine?
AE fanews magazine
FAnews August 2017 EditionGet the latest issue of FAnews

This month's headlines

The art of storytelling
Bespoke cover: a new visit to the tailor
Distribution of assets on the death of a member
Climate change demands revised thinking
Paint risk based masterpieces
The uptown funk of smart payslips
Subscribe now