A lot has happened on the Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) front since the programme first entered the corporate environment. The focus has shifted from BEE as a mere "tick box" exercise to improve a company's rating, to delivering sustainable projects that deliver long-term benefits.
Johnson Controls Global WorkPlace Solutions (GWS) is focusing on the "true spirit" of BEE, and has created an enterprise development programme that provides practical, sustainable help to black-owned small businesses so they can thrive.
One example of this is Busimpumelelo Trading. Andile Hlatshwayo previously worked for Johnson Controls and dreamt of becoming an entrepreneur with his own business to provide a cleaning service that focuses on upholstery, carpets and windows.
As with many micro businesses, he was faced with the challenge of "know how" and infrastructure that would require investment on his part. Johnson Controls GWS assisted Hlatshwayo in 2010 to create his own business and provided him with the necessary support to make the venture a sustainable one.
Supported by Derek Jack, regional sourcing manager for GWS, the enterprise development programme is helping individuals not only create employment for themselves but also to create employment for others.
"Unemployment is one of South Africa's biggest challenges and we aim to provide individuals with the tools to create their own businesses in an effort to combat unemployment," says Jack.
Phil Gregory, senior regional executive, Middle East and Africa, GWS, believes that corporate South Africa should include initiatives in the corporate social responsibility (CSR) programmes that "create independent and sustainable business" – not just employment.
"In contrast to many other corporates that focus on internship programmes, our focus is also to assist previously disadvantaged individuals to realise their dreams of creating their own business, and making it a sustainable enterprise that can grow and provide employment to others too.
"We want to equip people with knowledge and resources. It's an important part of our commitment towards the transformation of the country," says Gregory.
GWS provided Busimpumelelo Trading with assistance such as the registration of his company, coaching on how to source new business, and advice with engaging suppliers. In addition, GWS provided financial assistance, a new computer, office space and guidance on accounting.
"I had always aspired to run my own business and GWS provided me with the means to get the enterprise up and running. They helped me turn a dream into a reality that is sustaining not only me and my family but two employees too," says Hlatshwayo.
In this short time, his enterprise has grown to such an extent that Busimpumelelo Trading now services numerous clients such as schools and households. One of these is Urban Brew Studios Sowetan TV.
Apart from cleaning, the services Busimpumelelo offers Urban Brew Studios include that of a handyman and gardener. According to Hlatshwayo, the reason for this is to meet the customers' needs and requirements.
"Providing an extended service has allowed me to secure new business and also reach a broader client-base."
GWS' dedication to creating an economically dynamic South Africa however does not end there. The company is enrolling Hlatshwayo in the ABSA Small Business Enterprise Growth Programme. This comprehensive course boasts a 90% completion rate, and provides classroom-based mentoring in areas such as banking principles, human resources, financial intelligence and QuickBooks software.
According to Gregory, the problem with previous BEE attempts was that the individuals were offered employment, but it did not break the vicious cycle of a lack of sustainable skills and job creation. He further adds that these "skills transfers aid someone like Hlatshwayo to compete with medium-sized companies – his ticket to opportunity".
Hlatshwayo is especially excited about the opportunity he is now able to give others. "Uneducated individuals who are excellent at what they do, but cannot submit a CV to employers, such as painters, can now be employed by me," says Hlatshwayo.
This in turn enables them to provide their families with the skills they will learn from Hlatshwayo, thereby eating away at the vicious circle. One such an individual who stands out for Hlatshwayo is an ex prisoner "who has been truly rehabilitated, but unable to find employment in the broad sector. I can manage my risk while still providing this man with employment".