JOHANNESBURG – Motivational speaker and businessperson Vusi Thembekwayo is quoted as saying that “success where you only benefit yourself is not success”. He’s right. Success is dependent on helping others. A fact emphasised by Robert Ingersoll in his ageless statement “lift as you rise”.
It’s also a concept that’s starting to influence how organisations, specifically small to medium enterprises (SMEs) approach business globally. There is a shift from the company that can do it all towards more niche organisations that collaborate within defined ecosystems to achieve more, with less.
In a recent report by Accenture, the consulting firm boldly stated that ecosystems were the “Cornerstone of Future Growth” with 76 percent of business leaders agreeing that current business models would be unrecognisable by 2025. It’s less a trend and more an imperative driven by economic need and ongoing disruption across industry and technology.
The harsh reality is that the stagnant market, the hits of politics and power utility Eskom, and the increasingly poor investment outlook for South Africa need innovative thinking, not negative thinking. There is a need to shift focus from how the organisation can thrive as a single entity towards how it can leverage collaborative partnerships to drive sustainable growth.
For SMEs to thrive in this market, they need to think critically about how they can support other SMEs, both those in business and those trying to get off the ground.
This is not only beneficial in terms of sharing success stories and expanding market share, but it allows for SMEs to reach for larger slices of the pie traditionally only available to the larger enterprises.
United we stand, alone we scramble for the scraps left behind. Working collaboratively, particularly with the support of a more experienced or established SME as lead, smaller companies can pitch ideas and solutions to larger corporations.
They can explore opportunities that would previously have been out of their league due to staffing, costs and reach. Even if these fail, the opportunity for learning is there – SMEs can leverage off these failures to increase their understanding of market, client and need.
To drive this collaborative ecosystem concept, SMEs need to find ways of connecting, of using their skills and networks to share insights and ideas. From mentorship to investment and training, sharing networks will allow for SMEs to expand and speak to the right people at the right time.
There is, of course, the issue of trust. Many South African companies are hesitant to fling open the doors of hard-won networks to other companies that may yet just take and run, but the alternative is worse.
Certainly for some. Stagnant business approaches and the refusal to adopt to technology, the influence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) – no matter how hyped – and disruption will only leave the SME behind, disrupted by those who could adapt.
This is not just a business decision, there’s also the growing need for organisations to meet a more social need. To collaborate in bringing about effective change within the South African sphere.
It’s everybody’s future and not everyone is packing their bags and running to new lands. Regardless of where a business may be swimming, in a sea or a small pond, there is always value to be added and opportunities to be forged.
If South African companies want to survive, want to grow, then they need to look at new ways of collaborating and connecting. The boost that the economy so sorely needs is not someone else’s responsibility, its that of every organisation in the country regardless of size. It’s time to lift and rise.
Chris Ogden is the chief executive of RubiBlue.
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