Mike Miller - Launching A Business In The UK And SA?
Mike Miller - Launching A Business In The UK And SA?



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Mike Miller - Launching A Business In The UK And SA?

2019-03-01

Mike Miller has worked and lived in both South Africa and England for more than five decades. Mike is one of the founders of the South African Chamber of Commerce (SACC) in the UK and has just taken on the role of Director of the SACC's Business Hub with a team of consultants to assist members in successfully launching their businesses into the SA or UK markets. We caught up with Mike to discuss the new BusinessFit International initiative which offers an opportunity for successful South African businesses to launch into the UK market or to UK based businesses wanting to enter the South African market.

YOUR OFFICE IS ON THE FIRST FLOOR OF SAPRO HOUSE ABOVE THE SOUTH AFRICAN SHOP. WHY IS THAT AND HOW DID YOU END UP HERE?

Miller: I was keen on owning my own business using the skills that I had learnt in the corporate world to train and help people. In 1997 I was approached by retailers in the UK who wanted to import South African consumer goods. They gave me a combined order for a wide range of South African consumer products and on 30 May 1997 we packed our first container at Makro in Woodmead. I then set up South African Products International (Pty) Ltd in South Africa and registered a similar company in England which subsequently became SAJE International Ltd t/a Sapro. We opened The South African Shop in Maidenhead in August 1999 and then successfully expanded online as southafricanshop.co.uk. In 2011 we sold the stores to Jumbo Importers who own several more stores around London.

WHEN DID YOU GET INVOLVED WITH THE SOUTH AFRICAN CHAMBER OF COMMERCE IN THE UK?

Miller: As owner of The South African Shop I was invited to become a member of the Maidenhead & Windsor Chamber of Commerce and to sit on their executive committee. In 2004 a group of South Africans in the Thames Valley were looking to launch a South African Business Club similar to the very London centric SA Business Club. I did some research and found that there wasn't a South African Chamber of Commerce in the UK so suggested that we launch a Chamber instead of a business club. We launched the new Chamber at the SA High Commission on Trafalgar Square in February 2009 with the High Commissioner agreeing to be the first Honorary President. Two years later the SA Business Club disbanded and merged with the SACC. The Chamber has grown steadily since then and now boasts Anglo American, Investec, Standard Bank, Nedbank, Servest and Sasol amongst its Platinum members with representatives from PwC and Deloitte too. It is now a force to be reckoned with in the South African diaspora in the UK and beyond.

YOU ARE THE DIRECTOR OF A NEW CHAMBER INITIATIVE CALLED THE SACC BUSINESS HUB. WHAT IS THAT DESIGNED TO DO?

Miller: In board discussions we agreed that we needed the Chamber to provide more services for the members and the idea of the Business Hub was born. In November 2017 I was contacted by an old school friend of mine from Durban, Charles Henzi, who wanted to introduce me to his business partners from DRG Outsourcing and BusinessFit. They visited London and that started a friendship and business relationship with David White and his wife Daisy, Akhona Mahlati, Charles himself and the rest of the DRG and BusinessFit team in South Africa. This led to registering BusinessFit International Ltd (BFI) in the UK
to represent BusinessFit and DRG interests in England with the BFI initiative being the first service offered by the new SACC Business Hub. We are now able to offer help to UK businesses wanting to enter the South African market and South African businesses wanting to enter the UK market.

THAT SOUNDS VERY INTERESTING, SO HOW WILL IT WORK?

Miller: BFI have developed a five stage Business Assessment Questionnaire (BAQ) to assess the entrance criteria. The first stage requires the applicant to provide information about their existing business and why they think that it will successfully transfer to the target market. During my retail South African Shop days I was constantly being approached by people who thought that their South African product would be successful in the UK and wanted my help. Simple questioning in most cases showed that they had limited success in South Africa and had little or no chance in the UK. Every so often though a real gem emerged that we were able to support and help to make successful but sadly many more just didn't pass the test. The first stage of the BAQ is designed to find those gems by potential clients completing an online questionnaire about their business.
http://www.baq.co.za/

ONCE YOU'VE FOUND THE GEMS AS YOU CALL THEM WHAT HAPPENS THEN?

Miller: We have a team of experienced professional consultants in both the UK and SA who will assess the BAQ stage one responses and if they find a gem will sign them up for BAQ stage two. This is the point at which a charge is levied - the stage one assessment is provided free. Stage two involves a discussion between the client and the assigned consultant about all aspects of the client business. BAQ stage three involves more advanced delving into the more significant parts of their business. Stage four involves the consultant team reviewing the data obtained, researching the best way forward, and finalising the recommended plan to ensure success. Stage five is where the consultant team will present the findings to the client and agree on the way forward.

ONCE YOU'VE MADE THE RECOMMENDATIONS TO THE CLIENT IS THAT THE END OF THE PROCESS?

Miller: No. The recommendations will include a list of action points in the target market needed to ensure the success of the project. BFI will continue to support the client by working alongside them, introducing them to the key contacts, and helping with the presentation until contracts are signed - and beyond, if required by our client.

WHAT DO YOU MEAN BY "KEY CONTACTS"?

Miller: The relevant contacts depend upon the market concerned. For example, one of our clients is involved in agriculture producing a wide range of high quality crops produced by farmers in SA that potentially have a big market in the UK. We have introduced the client to a multinational restaurant chain who are interested in purchasing a variety of their agricultural products. From a retail perspective there is a clear path to market in the UK that we are advising them on. The same is true for British products entering South Africa. We have the contacts and experience to ensure that they make a successful cost effective entry into the SA market.

SURELY BRITISH COMPANIES ENTERING SOUTH AFRICA WILL TAKE TIME TO NEGOTIATE THE REGULATORY FRAMEWORK IN SA, PARTICULARLY IN RELATION TO BBBEE?

Miller: We have a readymade solution for that too. One of our sister companies, DRG Outsourcing, provide
a PEO service that enables businesses to concentrate on their business rather than the regulatory framework. A PEO or Professional Employers Organisation provides a complete Human Resources or HR service to the client, employing the people needed on the client's behalf, handling payroll, tax, national insurance, employee benefits, pensions, training and assessment - in fact all of the HR functions that a major company would have in house. DRG Outsourcing are BBBEE accredited at level 4 and above which means that the client company can take immediate advantage of this status.

IT ALL LOOKS VERY PROMISING. THE QUESTION IS, WHAT IS NEEDED TO MAKE SURE THAT THE PROJECT SUCCEEDS?

Miller: Can we guarantee success? No. At the same time we have no doubt that if prospective clients accept our recommendations and heed our advice, combined with their own passion for their business, success is sure to follow.

HOW DO INTERESTED BUSINESSES ACCESS THE PROGRAMME?

Miller: In South Africa email lindiwe@businessfit.co.za

In the UK via the Chamber via e-mail mike.miller@sapro.co.uk

or visit the website at southafricanchamber.co.uk

http://www.baq.co.za/




Mike Miller - Launching A Business In The UK And SA?

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