Nedbank Lesotho on Thursday last week held a one-day workshop for Basotho businesspeople in the Small to Medium Enterprises (SME) sector. The event took place at Maseru Avani Hotel and was held in collaboration with internationally acclaimed business experts Raizcorp of South Africa and Basotho Enterprises Development Corporation (BEDCO). Raizcorp founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Mr Allon Raiz, facilitated the workshop.
In this wide-ranging interview, Nedbank Lesotho Marketing Manager ’Mampine Rabatho, speaks with Lesotho Times (LT) reporter Lekhetho Ntsukunyane about the workshop and other related developments the bank is engaged in.
LT: Could you please tell us more about last week’s workshop you organised for local entrepreneurs?
Rabatho: We were at Maseru Avani on 12 November where we had invited small to medium businesspeople to meet with profound business expert, Allon Raiz. Raiz is regarded both locally and globally as a pioneer and maverick in the business-incubation industry. He is the founder and CEO of Raizcorp, the only privately held, unfunded, profitable business incubator on the African continent, currently supporting in excess of 500 businesses. Raiz is author of the bestselling entrepreneurial books – Lose the Business Plan and What to Do When You Want to Give Up. He hosted the first national radio show on entrepreneurship, reality TV show, and also created and published an ongoing entrepreneurial cartoon strip. He is currently host of his fourth season of the popular The Big Small Business Show on Business Day TV.
LT: What prompted you to organise this event?
Rabatho: For a long time, we had worked on the idea to bring Raiz here. We made publications to inform, not only our clients, but the entire SME business community. These are the people who have already started their own businesses but we realised that they were stagnant and their businesses were not growing as they would expect. As Nedbank, we have realised the challenges facing the business sector in Lesotho. Our people have good ideas and plans of actions but they fail to implement them. Mostly you find that they lack skills such as human resource-management, marketing, financial-management or any other aspect required in the business industry. Often we realise this lack of skills as they come for services at the bank. Because of that, they often fail to meet the requirements for some of our services rendered to boost their businesses. So we thought it was best we invite them for this workshop so we could give them some basics on how to properly manage their businesses.
LT: So what exactly were the participants taught?
Rabatho: The crux of the workshop, as Raiz put it to the participants, was to address the general challenges the business sector faces in the country. Raiz was teaching the participants a new way of asking themselves questions. This is what he termed “shift questions” so they adopt a different approach when looking at their businesses. You find that we have a tendency of doing the same thing the same way over and over again, and that does not address the challenges our businesses encounter. What are you not doing properly to grow your business? He showed them how, as people, we develop certain understandings because of the way we grew up in a particular environment; you live and grow within that frame of lifestyle. This is to say you are only as broad as what you know.
LT: What were the solutions discussed from the workshop to address these challenges?
Rabatho: Raiz said ‘let us use a magnifying glass in a context different from what we already know and applied’. Suppose you want to grow your business, what exactly are the proper steps? He said people should first learn to identify key factors in their business, and try to concentrate on the key roles. They should learn to appoint and delegate people so that they are able to master one thing at a time. As a businessperson, you cannot be core to every aspect of the business you run, otherwise some aspects are going to fail. You can only be a good CEO if you concentrate on the key role for your business. Learn to appoint and delegate people. Raiz emphasised the significance of going back to the drawing board and applying new methods of approach in our businesses.
LT: As a bank, are you satisfied with the way the workshop was conducted? Do you believe it met its objectives and was beneficial to the participants?
Rabatho: The workshop was not just about providing feedback. It was very interactive. We had the 107-seat venue filled to capacity. These were committed people who sat there from 8am until 4:30pm when the workshop closed. And they were very excited. We confirmed with the participants that from this one-day workshop, they could only learn one or two material things. They are now exposed to Allon Raiz and his organisation. It is now in their hands to solicit information from him, which they can continuously learn from in forums such as TV shows, websites and books. Our entrepreneurs should start their businesses with the aim of growing. Start small and end up with a multi-franchise business. We should move away from stagnant businesses that do not have growth prospects. The biggest thing that Nedbank is trying to do is invest in our SME sector.
LT: Who were your other partners you invited to the workshop?
Rabatho: We worked with other organisations such as BEDCO, the Ministry of Small Business, Cooperatives and Marketing and NUL (National University of Lesotho). However, there were no specific roles played by the partners in this particular workshop on the actual day. The workshop was entirely driven by Raizcorp. However, we all facilitated in the planning of the event and in ensuring success in participation as well as the level of attendance.
LT: What skills could you say the participants have gained from the workshop?
Rabatho: Raiz indicated that it is not so much about academic qualifications to run a successful business. The general perception in our country is that without qualifications, one cannot succeed in business. We have to do different things. This says to us: what gaps do we see in the market? How do we take advantage of them? We should not allow ourselves to believe that because there is drought in Lesotho today, then that means it is the end of the country. Lesotho is situated next to one of the biggest economies in Africa, South Africa. On the other hand, we have mineral resources such as diamonds, water and others. How do we take advantage of this? Do we see Lesotho as the poorest country or a land of opportunities? Do we see South Africa as a barrier to our economic growth or a land of opportunity as well? Why do we see people from all over the world coming to Lesotho to start businesses and live here? Why can’t we also see what they see as an opportunity? I think the most important thing Mr Raiz said was if you look at people with small communities like the Chinese, Indians, Portuguese and others, living in Lesotho, once they start up their businesses here, they succeed. Do you know why? It is because they collaborate. He said to them that even from this forum, if you can organise yourselves and collaborate, your businesses can easily grow. We will not easily succeed working in isolation.
LT: As Nedbank Lesotho, how can you describe your relationship with the business community?
Rabatho: The relationship is in a development phase. We are at a point where we really do not want to be just providing and rejecting the financial assistance they require. But we need to become their partner in growth. They should know that they can call their banker for advice or any assistance. We should give them a total packaged solution to their business endeavours. When businesses grow, the economy of the country becomes active.
LT: Apart from the workshop that you mentioned you held for the businesspeople earlier this year, are there any other trainings you might have organised?
Rabatho: Focused on the SMEs, it was only those two workshops that we held. Bill Gibson, who is also from South Africa, facilitated the workshop in May this year. Gibson was not really focusing on the strategic approach like Raiz was. Gibson was more focused on day-to-day customer service appreciation and how to increase your client base; how to take them from your competitors. But like we said, we have started to establish a root of investment in this particular sector. So in 2016, there are definitely going to be some more advanced initiatives.
LT: We have a large number of people doing their micro-businesses in the streets. As Nedbank, do you have a specific role or relationship to assist them?
Rabatho: We do assist them where we can. But most of those businesses are not put as formal entities. The owners come to the bank as individuals and retail clients, not as an SME client. The services therefore differ.
LT: With the trainings that you have already organised for the SMEs, do you see yourself achieving what you really want to achieve as a bank?
Rabatho: Honestly, it is not something that we can measure at the moment. We are simply saying for now, we are investing. We are not expecting to see direct results now. But to us, this is a win because even from the workshop, some of the participants who are not our clients at the moment, indicated they were willing to open accounts with us very soon because they now understood what Nedbank wants to achieve. But the biggest win will be to see growth in Basotho’s business entities. If they have good records of their financial management, it is going to be easy for us to assist them.
LT: Other than the workshops, what are the other projects Nedbank engages in to assist Basotho generally?
Rabatho: Through the daily services that we offer, we are able to assist every citizen of this country. We have loyal clients because of the services we offer diligently. We have people in our branches who are trained and have vested interest in clients’ businesses. They actually guide the clients for better business prospects.