Have a Mentor in Your Back Pocket

Have a Mentor in Your Back Pocket


Awethu Project

Works for the participants because… they get access to high-level strategists and area experts to help them solve specific, high-impact challenges that lead to growth within the organisation.

Works for SAP because… it’s a short-term assignment for high potential SAP employees who work in international, cross functional teams to solve business challenges for entrepreneurs and the SME sector in emerging markets, while strengthening their leadership competencies, cross industry sector know-how and intercultural sensitivity.

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The Elevator Pitch

The Awethu Project aims to become the world’s best incubator by investing in under-resourced entrepreneurs to develop economic leaders; ultimately replicating the model across South Africa and the continent.

The Challenge

Awethu’s goal is to produce 1 000 entrepreneurs from under-resourced communities with the talent, skills, and resources to lead South Africa (and Africa) to prosperity.

The challenge is growth. How do start-ups handle growth without their initial success doing more harm than good?

The Reality

Awethu went through a period of prodigious growth, with its team growing from seven people at the start of 2013, to just over 40 by July 2013. This sounds like any start-up’s dream come true, but with growth comes new challenges and issues.

“Our key strength lay in our ability to take on applicants without prior business experience or minimum education level, and through our model of hands-on coaching, opening access to formal networks and resources, we were able to create an environment primed for hard-working individuals to succeed in business,” explains Dale September, at the time marketing manager at Awethu.

“The problem is that while we achieved a lot in a short space of time, the pace we were moving at meant that we weren’t able to dedicate enough time to assessing our key influencers of success and opportunities for improvement.”

Awethu’s success makes additional funding a real possibility, but you need to be able to show funders your key success factors, and where their money should be spent. Run-away growth is great, but not if you don’t have the time to review the business.

“A key priority for us has been on investigating geographical expansion: Was there a need for it, at what cost or benefit to Awethu, and what would the impacts be on the operating model and culture?”

SAP’s Involvement

The SAP team helped Awethu to develop a decision-making framework for expansion. This included assessing (a) The expansion readiness of its operating model based on steady-state, (b) The ability to maintain performance in a decentralised environment, (c) The ability to ensure assimilation of company culture away from the centre and (d) The geographical potential based on area density and economic potential. Before any expansion was possible, these four areas needed to be reviewed and strategised.

The Rollout

“Our focus has remained on our current hub, while we’re piloting one of the recommendations for a satellite office. We’re big fans of the testing and pivoting model, where we’ll pilot ideas and platforms, measure, tweak and repeat the process if necessary until we arrive at the best solution.

“The expansion recommendation has led to a clear focus on consolidating positive learnings and bridging implementation gaps. As a result of this focus on the centre, we’ve managed to more effectively deploy our human resources to areas that present the greatest opportunities to make our model sustainable, both for the entrepreneurs in our incubator and our organisation.

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“Our means of operating has become leaner, more efficient, while our improved information flow has made us more responsive to opportunities.”

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