BusinessFIT - Moving and Shaking:  Interview David White, Entrepreneurism
BusinessFIT - Moving and Shaking: Interview David White, Entrepreneurism

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BusinessFIT - Moving and Shaking: Interview David White, Entrepreneurism


Interviewer: Gayle McLennan-Smith of Moving and Shaking

# Thank you David for taking this time to speak with Moving and Shaking about your thoughts and involvement in entrepreneurship development in South Africa.

• Thank you Gayle, it is my pleasure.  Entrepreneurship is now being regarded world over as the single greatest hope in creating employment for new entrants into the economy.  Government and big business can no longer absorb the mass of school leavers and graduates coming into the market each year. It is now an important time for entrepreneurs to help create employment, and bring new ideas and improved processes into the market.

# We know that worldwide statistics of successful entrepreneurs are low, showing as much as eight out of ten companies failing in their first two years.  Would you say that in South Africa we are in a better or worse situation with regard to entrepreneurs being successful?

• Better. Setting up and managing a business in SA is perhaps as complex as any other business environment in the world with regard to  compliance, meeting operating standards, customers choices and demands, and shareholders expectations. But we in SA have an underlying culture of ubuntu, pioneering, innovation, self-sufficiency, and most importantly our huge need to create sustainable small businesses. 

# In your view you believe we could become a nation of self-sufficient entrepreneurs.

• Yes indeed..!  I think we as a nation urgently need to create employment opportunities for our many unemployed citizens.  Consider that three quarters of the people in SA between the ages of 18 and 24 have never worked in a formal or semi-formal business environment.  Consider that we have 1 million new people leaving school each year.  Consider that of the 52 million citizens in SA, only 6 million are tax payers.  Such a large an unproductive population creates unrealistic demands on Government to provide services, housing and social welfare.  These are the early warning signs of a catastrophic situation.  Clem Sunter said recently that in order for Government’s target of 5 million jobs by 2020 to be reached, SA would need to create 1m entrepreneurs.  These factors create the energy and necessity for us to develop and encourage entrepreneurship. 

# So David.. What is it that will make more entrepreneurs more successful more often..?

• Some of the best minds in the world are working on incubator and entrepreneur development models, and some are having great success.  I think that we as a global community are learning more about what an entrepreneur is (or isn’t) each day, and at the level benchmarking “excelling entrepreneurism”, simplicity,  originality, and contribution to socienty stand out as key criteria.  No longer is the world trying to make entrepreneurs into business people, but is now celebrating their passion, innovation, and energy as a unique talent.

# Do you think that there is a formula for understanding the probability of a new business venture being successful..?

• Perhaps not a formula, but I think that we can follow a methodology to help us identify strengths and weaknesses in the entrepreneur’s idea, leadership attributes, and the business structure and environment.   So often we think that the entrepreneur’s vision or idea is the business.  It is not.  The vision or idea is the nucleus of the company (it helps to direct action and passion), but the business is the system that coordinates and integrates operational activities within the company.  So we have the entrepreneur perspective with its creative imaging and desire, and the business perspective with its systems, staffing, constraints, and operating responsibilities.  Following a methodology where we rate entrepreneurs on the attributes and influences needed to help ensure their company’s success will help to create a common business platform, and support a more productive functioning model and outcome.  But there will always be that X-Factor with entrepreneurs, where they are successful in creating a popular commodity, and providing advantageous returns to investors and staff - without needing a defined methodology.

# What would you say make up an entrepreneur’s X-Factor characteristics.

• Bearing in mind that 98% of people throughout the world work in companies with less than 20 staff, we already have many successful small owner managed businesses.  We know that there are many different industries and markets, and we know that entrepreneurs come in all shapes and sizes, with different personalities, heritages, and education levels.  There are also many different levels of entrepreneurial success, and each situation, product, and market is unique to itself.  I would say that an entrepreneur’s ability to adapt to the uniqueness of his/her environment is perhaps the single greatest example of what characterises the X-Factor.  Successful small businesses are common in that they are led by entrepreneurs with passion, tenacity, customer focus, and a love for what they are doing.  There are other aspects such as the benefit and attraction the product will have to clients in the market, the entrepreneur’s ability to reason wisely and guide the business along its path of progress, and the entrepreneur’s natural leadership style and ability to create an engaging staff culture.

# How would you group entrepreneurial focus areas in just a few points

• I would group into 5 measurable attributes: Idea and Vision, Core Competencies, Business Reasoning, Market Intelligence, and Tenacity. 

# Please talk about the business environmental side of being in business

• Every business is made up of activities, which include functions like marketing, financial management, human resources, operations, etc.  A sustainable business needs to be built on a solid foundation of best practice business activities, and be able to meet compliance, customer, and shareholder expectations.  Other important considerations include growth in the industry, competitors, exchange rates, legislation, resourcing (funding and staffing), and of course a plan/strategy to steer the business idea into a valued commodity. 

# Last question.. You are part of a team that have created a business mentoring service for entrepreneurs.  Can you tell us a bit about this company. 

• BusinessFit is an organisation that has been developed by 12 KZN business leaders.  Each person is the head of their own company, and together we have the experience and knowledge to consult on every activity in a company’s business environment.  Entrepreneurs can engage BusinessFit to draw in professional support partners to help them create the foundation they need to build their business idea upon.  Our aim is to help make more businesses more successful more often, by supporting the entrepreneur’s vision and idea with a solid business foundation.  BusinessFit has specialist mentors in each business activity, including strategy, marketing, financial management, cash flow management, human resources, systems, website design, BEE, etc.  We are essentially a one source solution for entrepreneurs, and our mentoring methodology consists of discovering the current situation in a business, developing the entrepreneur and his business foundation, and delivering a more robust and structured company.  We call it the 3D Approach, and it is definitely helping entrepreneurs to build confidence in their ability to run their businesses.  BusinessFit is also an Enterprise Development Beneficiary, and as such (and for BEE points) we are able to provide business mentoring services into supply chains of larger companies, and help them to improve their suppliers’ service quality and business longevity.  

# Thank you David for your time and comments..!
Thank you Gayle, it has been a pleasure speaking with you and Moving and Shaking..!  Thank you for a great publication.

BusinessFIT - Moving and Shaking: Interview David White, Entrepreneurism

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