Another showcase of entrepreneurial excellence

2011 EOY competition entries open

South Africa’s most prestigious entrepreneurial awards are once again open for entries.

The 2011 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® awards recognise and celebrate the innovation, drive and commitment of small and medium enterprise (SME) decision makers – the men and women that feed, clothe and grow our country.

Now in its 22nd year, the awards will also introduce a number of new initiatives to further the SME cause.

This includes an SME Conference in May where industry representatives, civil society and senior government decision makers debate the future of the sector.

In addition, the hugely successful workshop series has been expanded and 11 regional centres will play host to SME experts in the coming months.

The cream of South Africa’s entrepreneurs will be celebrated in September during the Gala awards ceremony.

In addition to the current categories – overall Entrepreneur of the Year, Emerging Entrepreneur (business younger than three years old), Small Business Entrepreneur (turnover up to R20 million) and Medium Business Entrepreneur (turnover greater than R20 million) – the 2011 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year® awards will also honour the essence of entrepreneurship through the Innovation Award.

“There were a number of very apt categories to add to this prestigious award but we feel that the concept and talent to innovate is a vital component for entrepreneurs to stay ahead of the pack,” says Entrepreneur of the Year® Manager, Vicky Nish.

Innovators will forever be the leaders as they will always be one step ahead. True innovators apply this characteristic in every part of their business and not just in product development.

Each winner will receive R20 000 in cash and the overall winner walks away with R100 000 and the opportunity to visit a tradeshow anywhere in the world.

Martin Beyers, the 2010 winner and co-owner of CERadvance Engineering Ceramics, says the competition’s value should not be underestimated:

“Entrepreneurs need this kind of recognition much more often than one tends to think… To have such a competent and well-versed adjudicating team look over your shoulders, probe your business plan, look at your balance sheet, question your sustainability and future strategies and to then give you the nod of approval is a source of great satisfaction.

“It was also a great inspiration to continue with renewed effort, since after nearly 20 years in any industry, one can be forgiven for becoming a bit lethargic at times.

“I am a great believer in benchmarking exercises and personal improvement exercises.”

Business Partners Limited Executive Director Christo Botes says the workshops will also add value to the greater SME sector through practical, easy to understand entrepreneurial advice.

“Through the annual international conference, we will furthermore be able to become the Voice of SMEs. This is all exciting stuff and we can indeed say that these initiatives can collectively enhance an inspirational culture of entrepreneurship.”

Jan Steenkamp, the Executive Head, Cobalt Solutions, Sanlam, believes that at least 400 entrepreneurs will step forward to be judged.

He adds that the objective for the competition remains unchanged, namely to celebrate the successful entrepreneur.

At the same time the SME sector will receive more exposure, helping new entrepreneurs to realise their business dreams.

“The SME sector has been one the most important segments for Sanlam over the years and by supporting this initiative, we believe we are giving something back to our business owner clients. In the process we are also demonstrating Sanlam’s commitment to a tailor made, segment based approach to serving our clients.”

2010 EOY winner the embodiment of real entrepreneurship

Martin Beyers is no Richard Branson; he does not instantly draw you into his world with a wealth of charisma.

Neither is he a Steve Jobs; intent on taking over the world one iPod at a time.

He also does not remind you of Lakshmi Mittal; the creator of a global empire.

Yet, Beyers beat hundreds of South African business owners to win the 2010 Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® competition.

The reason for his success in the competition – and in business – is that Beyers is the embodiment of real entrepreneurship.

Vision, creativity, innovation, careful planning, passion and hard work are the best adjectives to use.

The competition saw entrepreneurs from across the country vie for the title of Entrepreneur of the Year ®. They were subjected to strict judging criteria to ensure that the business was not only sustainable, but also exceptional.

Out of the 331 entries, 12 finalists emerged. Out of these, three category winners were crowned alongside the overall Entrepreneur of the Year ®:

  • Emerging Entrepreneur: Lovely Letsoalo – Wespark Itumeleng Pharmacy
  • Small Business Entrepreneur: Martin Brown – Radical Holdings
  • Medium Business Entrepreneur: Theo Bakkum – Awesome Snacks

Entrepreneur of the Year ®

This year’s competition saw a dramatic change to the prestigious Entrepreneur of the Year ® awards as the competition was opened up to all entrepreneurs in South Africa.

The award was initiated in 1989 by private small and medium enterprise (SME) financier, Business Partners to give recognition to the vision, innovation, perseverance, drive and commitment of the individuals who run successful small and medium enterprises.

In partnership with Sanlam, the competition was able to spread its net wider this year and introduced the three new award categories.

Business younger than three years old could compete for the Emerging Entrepreneur award and businesses with turnovers of up to R20 million could compete for the Small Business Entrepreneur award. The last category, the Medium Business Entrepreneur award, was reserved for businesses with turnovers greater than R20 million.

Each winner received R10 000 but the Entrepreneur of the Year ® 2010 walks away with R100 000 in cash and the opportunity to attend an international conference or trade show, as well as extensive exposure in the public domain.

Martin Beyers

CERadvance manufactures specialised ceramic solutions which are used in industrial processes. The Jet Park based business is a niche player in a market filled with large conglomerates.

It has been able to differentiate itself through pure innovation and this caught the judges’ eyes.

Judging convener, PwC Partner Stefan Beyers, explains that CERadvance’s ability to look far into the future and to develop products on a continual basis is exemplary.

This is because Martin Beyers has been able to turn his ideas into profits and build a sustainable operation.

“We looked at many different types of businesses. It is always difficult to choose a winner because each case is so unique,” Stefan Beyers says.

Jan Steenkamp, Executive Head, Cobalt Solutions, Sanlam echoes this, saying that the quality of entries in this year’s competition was extremely high.

But, Steenkamp also says that Beyers stood out because he is able to use his creativity to come up with solutions that add value to a client.

Beyers explains that he entered the competition as he has learnt to constantly revaluate himself and the business.

Through the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® judging process, people outside of his daily reality – the judges – could enter the operation, identify shortcomings and successes and help him to improve.

“Winning acknowledges that there is a legitimacy to the business, that it adds value and that it is worthwhile. Entrepreneurs want to know that they are on the right path.

“You constantly have to revaluate yourself to ensure that you are on the right path because the small business reality constantly changes.”

Celebrating entrepreneurs

Business Partners Managing Director, Nazeem Martin, says that the competition is first and foremost an attempt to celebrate entrepreneurship.

“If this country is going to go anywhere we need to ensure that entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial development is celebrated.

“Entrepreneurs need to take their rightful place as role models in South Africa so that when young people leave school or university, they consider it as a viable career option.

“The diversity of entries is an indication of the burning desire on the part of entrepreneurs to receive some form of recognition for the effort put into building these businesses and for creating jobs,” Martin says.

“Opportunity driven entrepreneurs, the ones that take advantage of a gap in the market, are the ones who usually create sustainable businesses. We have to celebrate entrepreneurs and honour them if we want to unleash the potential South Africa has in its youth.”

Steenkamp echoes this, saying celebrating entrepreneurs and the entrepreneurial spirit will act as an inspiration to others who have not yet made the leap into the small business environment.

The voice of SMEs

“We also want to ensure that the competition remains a national platform that brings real value to small business owners in their own businesses and the larger operating environment,” he adds.

“Through the competition and its workshops and seminars, we have created a platform for entrepreneurs to interact with their counterparts and be heard nationally. The SME space is often very lonely and the lessons learnt by these business owners over the years need to be shared.”

The Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® awards will further build on this platform next year, starting with an SME conference in March. Here, SME decision makers will be able to voice their opinion of the operating environment presented in South Africa and the challenges faced.

The seminars, workshops and conference will focus on areas such as financial planning, financial fitness assessment, business opportunities and advice and access to finance. Information on legal developments and changes to the regulatory environment will also be shared with delegates.

Furthermore, the Sanlam / Business Partners Entrepreneur of the Year ® project will interact directly with public sector officials to ensure that the SME voice is heard in the highest offices.

“Our vision is that it becomes the prime conference on entrepreneurship in the country,” Martin explains.

“We believe that entrepreneurs are the true heroes of the South African, and indeed world’s, economic society.”

Contain the clash

How to close deals and deal with conflict

In any business, partnership or joint venture, there will be conflict.

Mostly, SME decision makers will enter the fray thinking of the outcome in terms of winners and losers.

Similarly, when these decision makers enter into negotiations with a potential partner, client or supplier, the battle lines are often drawn around who will win and who will lose.

Negotiation and conflict resolution are arts of the business world and one needs to know how to play the game.

How to haggle

When SME decision makers enter into negotiations on a deal, they accept that it is a give and take situation. Usually, everyone wants to be the taker but this is simply not the reality.

Big business will always try to negotiate from a position of strength and Business Partners Executive Director, Christo Botes, says you cannot negotiate as an SME if your back is against the wall.

“If you back off continually and constantly cut your margins, you will lose the other party’s respect. Your reputation in the industry can also be adversely affected,” he explains.

“You need to stand your ground on matters of principle and never allow your integrity to be questioned.”

Jan Steenkamp, the Executive Head of Sanlam Cobalt, echoes this: “Before you enter into a deal you have to be sure of its purpose… It is natural for people to try win at all costs and get all the benefits stemming from a deal. When you try to get too much, it almost always leads to conflict.”

It is also important to be transparent and honest and you need to balance your needs and the other party’s expectations.

“Never bluff – if you create a perception that is not accurate, you will be caught out and you will lose your credibility.

“When you go into a deal you need to ensure that the deliverables are well defined for both parties… you need to define the end goal upfront and take the emotion out of the deal,” Steenkamp says.

It is called batna

Gibs’ Associate Professor Albert Wöcke, says whenever you enter into negotiations, you need to set a BATNA: the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.

“People think they need to compromise, compromise and compromise until everyone is happy. Or, they try to win at all cost,” he says.

Wöcke explains that once you have set your limits – your BATNA – you enter a negotiation with a sense of power. In addition, if you have set and defined limits, you will know when it is time to walk away.

He adds that not all negotiations are about possessions and that you need to identify quickly what the other party’s motives are.

In a win-win scenario, the conversation revolves around different, and congruent interests.

In a win-lose scenario, one of the players has a positional bargaining ace-card.

“Typically, you need to look at their sources of influence and your own. If it is a large company you need to look at what makes you attractive,” he explains

The deal goes south

Deals with customers, suppliers or joint venture partners will come undone from time to time and it is important to handle the situation professionally.

To Wöcke, conflict is not always a negative word and he says that it is essential to promote innovation and change – it can be a driving force in a business.

When it does move into a negative space, he says that conflict management comes down to the way you want to see the situation play out.

Wöcke explains these intentions are either competing, avoiding, compromising, accommodating, or collaborating.

In other words, you need to decide what outcome you seek through managing the conflict. You also need to decide how important the issue is versus continuing the relationship: “If you have this in the back of your mind, you can generally manage the outcome because the other party will probably respond to your approach.”

Steenkamp adds to this, saying that if the conflict is between business partners, or joint venture partners, one needs to quickly identify the true cause of the disagreement. This is because conflict often manifests itself in issues different from the true cause.

“Most business owners want to be in control and when someone starts stepping on their toes it leads to conflict. The different roles need to be defined clearly and for the benefit of the greater good of the company…

“In some cases the best answer may be to walk away but you need to be mature enough to do this in a way that ensures both parties are not negatively affected,” Steenkamp says.

When the conflict is internal, the rules do not change: “Quite often, conflict stems from emotion and personal management styles or backgrounds. If this happens, you need to improve your communication lines and try to understand the other person’s way of thinking – here an outside person can help you to remove the emotion and facilitate an open an honest conversation…

“You need top be able to listen and understand the other person’s perspective. It does not help communication if you defend your position all the time,” Steenkamp says.

Glass houses

Botes says that when shareholders and directors start to work against each other, it usually signals the beginning of the end.

Shares and voting rights are almost always a source of contention, as SME decision makers want as much control as possible.

Rather, he believes that a business needs a clear leader who has the casting vote in a partnership. Capital, he adds, does not automatically define knowledge or ability.

“If conflict starts to snowball, it can often be too late to save the business. You need to work at your relationship with your business partners every day.”

He adds that silent partners also often become involved in a business when things go wrong. While they did front capital, silent partners are usually not operationally involved in a business for a reason.

“It is always best to set out the relationship from the start… A good way to deal with potential conflict is to have regular meetings to update silent partners. But, do not let these meetings adversely affect the business.”

Botes adds that reverting to a shareholders agreement is only a last resort. Rather, the spirit of the agreement should guide the relationship.