Flexible Workspace says there’s no reason why today’s big dreams shouldn’t become tomorrow’s great businesses.

Entrepreneurs, small business development and the sustainable growth of the Small Medium Enterprises (SME) market are the lifeblood of South Africa’s economy. However – despite no lack of creativity, product or industry knowledge, or even enthusiasm – as much as 50% of all start-up businesses will fail within their first few years.

This is according to Bradley Porter, Founder and CEO of Flexible Workspace who says that there are two vital factors that contribute towards this trend. “Firstly, many first time business starters have no previous experience and mentorship. This lack of business acumen can be a significant potential pitfall,” says Porter. “Secondly, the costs and capital required to start a new business with the necessary infrastructure for operation, may sometimes be overwhelming for a potentially brilliant new business.”

Porter believes that with SME sector contributing significantly to our country’s GDP, we need to take small businesses seriously. “As much as 50% is not an acceptable failure rate in a country where these companies play a critical role in South Africa’s economic growth and development,” he adds.

“In terms of mentorship and training, while there are a number of programmes in place that do make provision for small business funding, do these really assist the entrepreneur with essential business skills,” asks Porter.

He says that since government introduced the Enterprise and Supplier Development Element to the BBBEE Scorecard, many big business organisations have enthusiastically climbed on board to support SMEs with business and funding.

“What is often overlooked in the process is the element of mentorship and coaching that facilitates the long-term transfer of skills,” says Porter. “More often than not, government and big business offer financial aid and other types of assistance, but don’t factor in the hand-holding required for start-ups through those very early stages,” he says.

Porter believes that another challenge for big business in South Africa is to adopt a long-term strategy for supporting SMEs, rather than quick-wins that score points, but leave the SME and entrepreneur with no business currency or skills to continue sustainable growth.

“To ensure the continued development of our SME businesses, we must also ensure that we are cultivating an entrepreneurial spirit at a grass roots level,” he says. “I think that entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial skills and training should be encouraged, nurtured and taught within our own schools,” he says.

According to Porter, entrepreneurs also need a better understanding of the cost-effective resources available today, that can assist a small business with limited resources get off the ground and operational as soon as possible.

“A concept such as the virtual office can literally revolutionise the way in which small business owners can bring their products and services to market,” he says. “The virtual office is broadly defined as: an ‘office in cyber space’, which allows the small business owner and employees, to work remotely from any location, simply using technology provided by laptop computers, cell phones and internet access,” says Porter.

An investment in a virtual office from a reputable service provider includes all the perks of a full physical office, such as a prestigious business address, meeting rooms when required, and an outsourced receptionist to answer calls.

“While some of the obvious advantages associated with a virtual office take account of significant cost-savings and high levels of flexibility,” says Porter. “The virtual office provides an extensive range of additional benefits that the business owner may even have overlooked,” he adds.

“The personality traits associated with great entrepreneurs include passion, initiative, determination, confidence, honesty, integrity and originality,“ says Porter. “My challenge to us as South Africans is to make sure we channel these characteristics, so that today’s brilliant dreamers and schemers can become tomorrow’s great business leaders.