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Why SME growth is strategically important to the country – now more than ever

Through a number of webinars, meeting and other engagements, Pavlo spoke to roughly 5 000 business owners in a week, in South Africa, a few in the USA and a number in the UK. He also spoke to a number of corporates and through these discussions learnt why SMEs are so important – strategically and technically – to the economy.

He discussed why SME growth is not only possible but essential right now with Bruce Whitfield on The Money Show on 702 and CapeTalk. Listen to the podcast:


Why is SME growth so important right now, when survival seems more appropriate?

People don’t believe business can grow in an economy as depressed as ours. Pavlo agrees that big companies can’t as they require the whole economy to grow for them to grow.

But there are approximately 150 000 real businesses operating in the SME sector in South Africa, compared to between 1 500 – 2000 corporates.

It is clear where the tougher competition is – in the pool of 150 000. In the SME environment, you have to be one of those to get ahead, to get into a growth mindset, in order to take marketshare from their competitors who are sitting waiting. You have got no choice but to grow.

Your attitude: what you think, guides the way you act. And how you act builds up your lived environment. The mere fact that you have a growing mindset means that you’re looking out for ways to make things work, trying things that might work, and applying those that do.

It’s a great time to grow. We’re operating in an environment where everything you did to achieve success pre-Covid will have to be fundamentally different post-Covid.
For this reason if you can act very fast (and SMES are small enough to do this, while corporates are too big to respond this fast) and test and test and test to see what lands with your customers who are in a totally changed reality, you’re in a position to win.

How do you grow in the 5 stages of lockdown?

The 5 stages take us from hard lockdown to an open but fundamentally changed economy. The approaches in the different stages are very different.

In lockdown, growth might mean consolidation and shedding costs. It should mean engaging differently with customers, suppliers and staff to understand how client’s lives are changing and what problems they have, that your business can solve.

From there as it opens a bit, it becomes a great time to build. You can see what is working, and rebuild it to create scale – this basically means you can do more business without undermining your ability to deliver on your promise.

Then – if you’re growing towards the opening of the economy, you’ll be among the minority with any cash and you will be able to pick up stock and equipment at fractions of the cost, to source great talent who have been laid off elsewhere, and to pick up the customers from your struggling competitors.

The big opportunity is for corporates:

Other than getting their own business stabilised, a big company’s only chance for growth is to get their SME suppliers and SME customer businesses right. Each SME in the value chain is part of part of your network and everyone has to thrive to keep the ecosystem vibrant.

How does a country grow through it?

The biggest economies in the world have some sectors that are more competitive internally, others compete globally. If South Africa could pick 4 or 5 sectors in which we could compete globally and then invest resources on skilling up people, then creatinhg micro-enterprises, developing and supporting SMEs, and then businesses in these sectors, we will develop the capacity to become world-class players in these fields.

If you’re looking for your business’s growth plan through the Covid Economy, contact us. visit

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