The big corporate model is no longer sustainable. What the South African economy needs right now is successful startups that are adequately supported to develop into fully-fledged enterprises with the ability to create employment.

This is the sentiment of Shirley Pearson, owner of a local ActionCOACH business coaching franchise in Umhlanga, KwaZulu-Natal.

As an SMME herself, Pearson enjoys significant support through the Flexible Workspace business centre where her business is based, but says generally, the support entrepreneurs need is lacking.

“Enterprise development is the key to a viable economy in South Africa,” she says. “The problem is, startups aren’t taught how to become sustainable businesses that employ people. They see their businesses simply as a form of self-employment, and often when the funding fizzles, so does the startup. We need to create proper businesses that provide employment and an income for the business owner, and that are self-sustaining. The support, skills and experience needed to create successful businesses is completely under appreciated. The problem cannot be addressed simply by providing capital; startups need support in the form of hard and soft skills, and a process through which they are held accountable, to ensure that the capital investment provides the fruits intended. All startups have the potential to climb the entrepreneur ladder, they just lack the support and accountability – and because of that, the skills – to do so.”

Pearson is passionate about enterprise development, and helping businesses move up this entrepreneurial ladder from self-employed to manager to fully-fledged business owner.

She does this through offering one-on-one and group business coaching that empower entrepreneurs to grow their small and medium enterprises using proven methodologies and tools. This fast-tracks their growth, eliminating the need to go through experimental trial and error processes, which sometimes costs entrepreneurs their businesses.

But Pearson doesn’t just pay lip service to the theories behind sustainable enterprise development, she practices them herself, every day, in the successful running of her ActionCOACH franchise. And in doing so, invests in and supports other local SMMEs at the same time.

For example, Pearson believes one of the biggest hurdles start-ups have to overcome is high overheads. She says the days of traditional offices with exorbitant rentals are over, and that serviced offices represent the future of business.

“That’s why when I started my business, I looked for other enterprises that shared my ideals about entrepreneurship and that saw the value of growing local enterprises in new and innovative ways beyond the old outdated traditional model. I found Flexible Workspaces – a supplier of serviced and virtual offices and the new trend in workspaces, co-working spaces. I was drawn by its full-service offering at its Umhlanga business centre, which provides me with access to office space, boardrooms, meeting rooms, training rooms, all necessary office equipment and full operations support, all for one cost-effective monthly fee.

“Trying to find rental office space that I could afford in a good business area as well as outfit the space, get it cleaned regularly, and hire a receptionist and other support staff would have cost me capital and time I simply didn’t have. The Flexible Workspace offering meets my needs as a small enterprise perfectly, and management at the Umhlanga business centre has a wonderful, positive energy that makes tenants feel like they are part of a team, even though we all operate our own businesses,” Pearson explains.

With Pearson and Flexible Workspace founder, Brad Porter, sharing similar developmental objectives for South Africa’s SMMEs, the two are looking at offering a joint solution that pairs Pearson’s renowned soft skills with Porter’s cost-effective and highly sought after workspace infrastructure.

“This offering would be perfect for corporates who invest in enterprise development candidates as part of their BEE scorecard,” says Porter. “It would offer a one-stop-solution that ticks all the relevant BEE boxes, while at its heart offers these valuable SMMEs all the support and infrastructure they need to succeed.”