The business community in South Africa has had close to a decade to take on board the requirements of Black Economic Empowerment (BEE) since its principles were first defined by the Black Economic Empowerment Commission in 2001.
The terminology around BEE compliance is now part of the language of business and we talk about broad-based black economic empowerment or ‘triple BEE’ as comfortably as we do about the ‘triple bottom line’.
Nevertheless, we still have a very long way to go in opening up the economy to all those who were previously marginalised. Deon Oberholzer, CEO of Veri-Com, says that he still encounters businesses that are reluctant to engage with B-BBEE, largely as a result of fear and misinformation. “There is fear that the commitments may be too onerous and the perception that the cost may impact on sustainability,” he says.
Usually all it takes is a fresh perspective to shift this mindset. Here are Oberholzer’s five out-of-the-box suggestions that may be all we need to get us thinking more creatively and positively about how we can participate. The emphasis here is not on how to get BEE scorecard points (although these are all point-scoring suggestions), but how to engage in meaningful and genuinely broad-based BEE, while improving your competitiveness in the long term.
The design of the B-BBEE Codes is intended to enable companies to make strategic investments in their own sustainability and growth, while at the same time transferring benefits to the wider community. Thus you could select your beneficiaries from within your own staff community or the community within which your business operates.
For instance, by all means offer bursaries to children of your own employees, but ensure that those bursaries are for training in the skills that you will be able to use in your own company. Then offer the recipients holiday jobs in your company, and take them on as interns after they have qualified. In this way you build up your skills pool and build retention and loyalty within your existing employee base.
Create an opportunity
Identify a beneficiary who needs a break and create an opportunity for that person, or group, to gain skills and earn an income within your supply chain. For instance, you’d like to procure from a women-owned company, but you can’t find a suitable one.
So invest in enterprise development and help some women to start their own company and supply you with the products or services you need. Get involved with mentorship and skills transfer to help your beneficiaries. The result will be a tailor-made supplier who can meet your exact needs and who will also have the capacity to enter the wider market and be sustainable. There is a growing pool of black entrepreneurs that want to get into real business opportunities, and finding them is quite possible.
Solve a particular problem
It is highly likely that you have a problem that could be addressed via a B-BBEE solution. Perhaps you can’t find people with the right skills to meet your employment equity targets? You can start to grow that resource pool from the bottom up. You source people, you train, you employ and you continue the development.
If it means starting with supporting a maths and science programme at a local secondary school, then that is where you should start. If you can’t find black people with the capacity to be middle managers, you should recruit and groom your lower-level employees for that career path. You will score points for your efforts now and score more points down the line when you have up-skilled the right people. The many government programmes on learnerships can help carry the cost.
Make an ongoing contribution
Set up a programme of B-BBEE engagement that has long-term potential. Accept that the individuals who are trained, interned or empowered within your organisation may then be snapped up in jobs elsewhere; don’t let that discourage you. If you have a pipeline of candidates going through your programme, for which you will score points every year, you will have an ongoing pool of human capital to draw from and at the same time you will be helping to grow the skills base within your sector. Also, once your programme gets a reputation for being a great training base, you will soon start attracting higher calibre candidates. Everybody wins in the long run.
Look beyond the obvious
B-BBEE is not only about black ownership and being obliged to spend some of your hard-earned profit. It is good business practice to reinvest a portion of your nett profit after tax into your company. B-BBEE just asks that some of that reinvestment should benefit both your company and the wider community.
It also makes room for all racial groups. In the case of enterprise development, for instance, the company you choose to support needs to be only 51% black-owned. Or in the case of socio economic development, only 75% of the benefits need to go to black people. So if you want to give a bursary to a gifted maths student who happens to be white, you can do so; just make sure that you also give bursaries to three black students and you can still score your points.
“Organisations of any size can get involved in B-BBEE,” concludes Oberholzer. There is scope for the smallest exempt micro enterprise to make a contribution. Certified verification agencies and B-BBEE consultants can assist in planning a strategy that will get you excited and inspired to proceed.
It’s Do Or Die In BEE Compliance
What this means when doing business in South Africa.
More and more, we see businesses and BEE verification firms coming under the spotlight for fraud and non-compliance. BEE ratings are viewed as a ‘hot commodity’ and many BEE services firms have popped up over the past few years to accommodate the demand.
Pressure mounts on businesses to reassess their skills development spend, youth contributions, ownership and management structures in-line with the BEE scorecard, and the Government has been particularly verbal in highlighting the need for BEE compliance.
AJ Jordaan, Sales Manager for leading BEE-aligned Skills Development training company, LFP Training says that its more than compliance – it’s a way of life for businesses today. “Over time, businesses have realised that while they are doing almost everything right, what would make or break a deal could very well be their BEE rating,”
“Businesses receive additional points for doing business with BEE-compliant companies. Enterprise & Supplier Development is key to a firm’s business strategy. With legislation changing on a regular basis, we always advise that clients do it right from the get-go,”
Related: How Do I Become B-BBEE Compliant?
A scorecard is not a target – it should be incorporated into a business’s vision and growth strategy; it is just as important as any other top-line business matter these days. “With the need for more and more guidance in the realm of BEE, more suppliers have popped up to provide strategic counsel and it’s easy to get caught up in the ‘hype’. Terminology, weightings, paperwork and implementation are daunting tasks, but with so many businesses still failing their BEE audits – even under advisory – how do we know who to trust?
“Referrals by word of mouth are always great. I also believe that businesses must ask for a company’s success rate and previous customer testimonials. More than anything, the consultant/ BEE supplier that a company chooses must understand how to truly implement BEE strategies to achieve exactly what it’s there for – to empower the previously disadvantaged and help bridge gaps in society” says AJ.
With all the hype, we forget about what its there for. “Trading in points is not the intention; the end goal is economic transformation and fair opportunities for all,” he continues. “If a company fails its BEE audit, it’s essentially failed to promote exactly what BEE is all about. Money has been wasted and no transformation has really occurred. Partnering with a credible and knowledgeable partner is therefore key.”
BBBEE Share Schemes – A Ticking Time Bomb?
At the forefront of these mechanisms are employee share schemes.
Since the promulgation of the amended codes of good practice under the Broad Based Black Economic Empowerment Act 53 of 2003, as amended (“BBBEE” or “the Act”), compliance with the ownership element has become a compulsory compliance element for both Qualifying Small Enterprises (“QSE” having between R10 and 50 million annual turnover) and generic enterprises (over R50 million annual turnover). As a result, businesses have found themselves considering mechanisms which aim to address this element. At the forefront of these mechanisms are employee share schemes.
The first of these structures were constructed in the early 2000’s by JSE listed companies. The aim of these structures were essentially two-fold:
- An employee retention strategy similarly constructed as executive share schemes in many ways, and
- Compliance with BBBEE.
These structures have recently been under the spotlight again . Mainly because of the questions it raises in terms of whether it is true empowerment or not.
For businesses wanting to utilise these structures, a number of aspects are to be considered:
- Employers and employees stand in a vertical relationship with one another. This is because the employer directs the expectations and the standards of the services exchanged between them. Shareholders, on the other hand, are in a horizontal relationship as they are equally entitled to regulate and direct matters which may affect their shareholding or investment. So, to shift from a vertical to a horizontal relationship requires the necessary professional inputs, management and attention.
- These share schemes are separate entities that require the necessary attention and inputs. As such, it is not just a case of setting it up and it simply running itself.
- These structures need to have a shelf life in my view. In this regard, I mean that a clear commercially feasible strategy needs to be devised and implemented in regards to the trust. This would include a structured plan whereby employees would not only be entitled to dividends but would also have the opportunity to up-skill and to improve themselves in various ways. The financial benefits should aim to facilitate direct ownership.
It is important to remember that inviting partners to sit at the table, needs to fully embrace the concept. If it does not, it not only negatively impacts the relationship, but disempowers the people involved. The human aspect thereof is as devastating as the legal non-compliance which may even go as far as constituting fronting.
Related: The 5 Elements Of BBBEE
In order to avoid this, these structures need to be setup correctly and managed correctly, which means:
- The trust deed must clearly define the beneficiaries and the proportion of their right to receive distributions;
- The trustees must actively take part in managing the trust at a level similar to the management role of shareholders in a company having a shareholding;
- Based on the aforesaid, in my view, the trustees should be appointed by the beneficiaries;
- A written record must be kept identifying the beneficiaries as well as prove that they fall within the designated groups as defined in the Act. The trustees must have no discretion in this regard;
- A written record must be kept of fixed percentages of claims or outlining formulas for calculating claims. The trustees must have no discretion in this regard;
- The trustees must present the financial reports of the trust to the beneficiaries yearly at an annual general meeting of the Trust;
- The trust deed or other relevant statutory documents of the trust must be made available, or on request, to any beneficiary in an official language in which that person is familiar;
- On winding up or termination of the trust, all accumulated interest must be transferred to the beneficiaries or to an entity representing the interests of the participants or class of beneficiaries.
Expert professional guidance is therefore crucial in order to avoid these structures becoming your own ticking time bomb.
How Incubator Project National Gives Your Enterprise a One-Stop-B-BBEE Shop
Turn your B-BBEE compliance spend into investment spend in 2017.
- Contact: +27 (0)12 259 0057
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Visit: www.theinvestmenthouse.co.za.
B-BBEE does not have to be a one-sided redistribution of wealth and power. “There certainly is a way to turn your compliance spend into investment spend. This year we are giving corporates the one-time opportunity to be part of our unparalleled Project National,” says Jack Janse van Rensburg, director of The Investment House.
“Project National is a complex incubation model that provides a one-stop-solution to empower, develop and skill South African entrepreneurs.”
Related: How To Get Your B-BBEE Money Back
The Investment House’s incubator concept, Business Mastery Program, is designed for “strategic accelerated business serendipity,” according to Janse van Rensburg.
Project National is realised nationwide in multi-industrial hubs, which create a strategic accelerated business serendipity through establishing a complete supply chain, or ‘one-stop shop’ for the public, for large scale tenders and corporates.
The unique benefits for participating enterprises include:
- Increased opportunities to be part of complex tenders and contracts
- Immediate market access through internal hub usage of each other’s services and products
- Increased marketing and sales opportunities through beneficial location strategy (at convenient, easily accessible and visible shopping malls/office parks)
- The greater chance of interactions that give birth to new ideas and collaborations
- Increased learning and development opportunities through small, medium and corporate business partnership (business skills transfer, mentoring, industry-specific training).
Project National is an unparalleled incubator concept in South Africa that brings a wide array of business advantages and B-BBEE-ROI opportunities to corporates, who can choose to make either monetary or non-monetary contributions within their B-BBEE spend.
Related: To B-BBEE Or Not To B-BBEE
How your B-BBEE compliance spend turns into investment spend with Project National:
1Create a consistent supply chain
Through your involvement in Project National, your struggle with inconsistent and unreliable supply chains can be over. Project National provides you with suppliers who can supply on demand, in the right quantity, to the right quality and the right price. More control and insight into your supply chain creates better competitiveness for your business.
2Extend your sales arm into new markets
Project National entrepreneurs provide you with an extended and widened sales arm into various different markets and distribution chains through the development of entrepreneurs acting as resellers of your product.
3Diversify your product range
Buying and financing assets can be a difficult task, therefore it’s often not possible for companies to diversify their range. Project National’s black owned start-up enterprises are more likely to obtain funding for assets and equipment and can therefore be a great asset to you when becoming a supplier to your company, allowing you to diversify your product range by outsourcing production of new components.
4Allow for lower imports
It can be hard to compete with Chinese imports on a price and now even a quantity level. While the demand for low quantities and tailor-made products is high, it’s hardly profitable for many big corporates. Project National’s entrepreneurs leave the doors open for you as they are smaller and organisational overheads are lower; making it profitable to manufacture lower quantities.
Be part of The Investment House’s unique incubator concept and see your ROI on your B-BBEE spend flowing.
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