Upward trajectory

The bourse provides selected SMEs with support to take the next step in development

Upward trajectory

The JSE Enterprise Acceleration programme is under way for the second time, aiming to help small businesses scale up by growing market share, accessing funding and improving their competitiveness. Each one of the 14 SMEs is a founder-led, entrepreneurial small SA business with high-growth prospects, a proven two-year track record and turnover of at least R20 million. And, according to Cleola Kunene, Head of SME Development and Customer Experience at the JSE, this latest cohort is also 100% black- and majority female-owned.

The programme provides an interactive environment of one-on-one mentoring for high-impact, high-growth companies, with specialised local and international mentors offering expert advice and coaching to the participants. ‘Mentorship is just one aspect of the solution, but it’s an important part of its success,’ says Kunene. She adds that ‘our mentors include some of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and CEOs, together with some of the big international tech gurus. In each case, mentorship is aligned to the business’ needs’.

The JSE Enterprise Acceleration programme aims to enable its participating entrepreneurs to focus on two or three key performance indicators within the programme time frame and to address those with the assistance of those carefully selected experts.

‘We do a lot of analysis in terms of understanding the business needs before we match them with the right mentor,’ says Kunene. ‘We tap into the JSE’s resources as well as mentors from Endeavor South Africa. That gives us a global network of CEOs, entrepreneurs and even previous programme participants. We have a mix of mentors, with each one chosen to fit the particular business, where it’s at and what it requires.’ That mix of mentors gives the programme participants access to a wide range of advice and expertise, rather than being limited to having just one go-to guide.

‘Business is complex,’ says Kunene. ‘You may have one or two mentors with whom you resonate more than the others, or whom you go to more frequently to bounce ideas off of. But you need that variety of advice and input. The small businesses in our programme have three KPIs, so you might have one that’s trying to raise capital, and restructuring the business, and also setting up a board. They would need tailored advice for each of those KPIs – hence the multiple mentors and coaches.’

Coaches come into the picture with the programme’s masterclasses, which provide guidance around specific areas of business growth. ‘It could be something as simple as pitching,’ says Kunene. ‘If during the masterclass we identify that that’s something the company needs to work on, the expert who runs that masterclass will then provide additional coaching on that topic. Because the programme is so customised, the mentorship and coaching model enables us to focus on the areas that really drive enterprise development.’

The mentoring and coaching provided through the JSE Enterprise Acceleration programme are designed to take SMEs with high growth potential, and guide them to the next step in their development.

‘Mentoring isn’t about meeting with one person,’ says Kunene. ‘For us, it’s a multifaceted approach that looks at the best way to get your business to a point of sustainability and accelerated growth.’

And – crucially – the businesses involved in the programme must be ready to take that step. ‘Imagine you’re a small business and you suddenly get the big contract you’ve been dreaming of,’ she says. ‘Can you service it, or are you setting yourself up for failure? Every entrepreneur says they want growth, but are they ready for it?’

That question, Kunene concludes, lies at the heart of the programme’s approach to small-business development. ‘It’s knowing what accelerated growth really means, and understanding what it takes for leaders to grow and sustain that growth.’

By Mark van Dijk
Image: Gallo/Getty Images