BusinessFit is an organisation that has been formed to help grow entrepreneurs and their businesses. Its purpose is to encourage a culture of continuous improvement in the delivery of core competencies, developing client relationships and the provision of job opportunities. Founder and Chairman, David White and CEO Akhona Mahlati, met in 2012 and discovered that they both shared a passion for helping entrepreneurs.
David had previously entered the Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2000 with his entrepreneur development idea. At the time, David called his company Rising Tide, and in his presentation explained that his primary purpose was to help create successful businesses, and, in so doing, to assist in employment creation. Akhona had also been working with young entrepreneurs and developing them through lecturing, mentoring and managing various development programmes.
Akhona explained,“There was some magic between the two of us and a spark that really ignited everything. From then onwards our joint endeavours just started flowing.” David’s concept was taken forward to create the BusinessFit model.
David explains, “We had the benefit of sitting together with 12 likeminded CEOs from KZN who ran diverse and successful service businesses. We sat together every second week for two hours for 18 months. We focused on helping ourselves to discover and understand a model through which we could help entrepreneurs.”
“Of note, was our realisation that entrepreneurs were not entirely business-minded and that their idea and vision were not sufficient as business drivers,” says Akhona. “Consequently, we needed to separate the entrepreneur from the business idea in order to focus them on the diverse functional areas required to provide a platform in supporting the realisation of their entrepreneurial idea.” Entrepreneurs needed to understand where they were on their particular developmental curve, where they needed to be and how to get there. They need to realise that they were not necessarily able to do everything required run a successful business. As such, BusinessFit would position itself to bring in expertise and add value, to allow the entrepreneur to focus on being a leader and remaining close to important stakeholders.
BusinessFit has developed a structured plan that focuses on helping to improve an entrepreneur’s current situation through the three-step process of discover, develop, deliver!
David and Akhona are strong leaders with different personalities, however they are like minded and collaborate together. “We are colleagues, directors and friends, share thoughts and have a mutual understanding based on absolute trust,” says Akhona. A key strength of the leadership team is in the continuous communication that they share, especially when giving feedback. Together they find conversations easy to as they want to make a difference to communities and the economy. “We have had to focus on different areas, there has just been too much ground for us to cover together,” explains David.
As the organisation’s vision is too big for only two people to share, BusinessFit may be characterised by a commitment to teamwork. Consequently, a network of competent and caring people has been pulled together, not all of whom are in South Africa, to do this work.
Akhona explains, “The one sentence which has given us the right to help entrepreneurs is: We are entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs. We have walked these paths and we continue to walk them day in and day out. We know the challenges and we also desperately know that these guys need a friend.”
BusinessFit’s job is to make entrepreneurs capable and their business sustainable, which is the crux of what the various team members do. A key component of the approach is in providing mentoring to their clients. Successful entrepreneurs often say that they have had mentors that have built their confidence in themselves to achieve great things. “The purpose is to create employment, which is in our hearts and in our blood. It is a privilege to help these entrepreneurs,” says Akhona.
BusinessFit’s clients range from corporates, to entrepreneurs and to anyone who wants to make a difference. The clients include large organisations who have mbraced transformation and have wanted to change their procurement practices. Developing entrepreneurs allows corporates to have a great pool of diverse service providers to choose from.
The BusinessFit team know that the entrepreneurial journey is a lonely one. Everything is about building confidence and if someone is in need, BusinessFit will assist. “We love working with entrepreneurs, there are lots and lots of amazing people. Entrepreneurs see the world differently they want to make a positive impact on society and want to create employment,” says David.
“BusinessFit’s success is inspirational,” says Grant Adlam, CEO KZN Top Business. “We get our dopamine from our entrepreneurs successes,” says David. BusinessFit has mentored approximately 250 entrepreneurs, many of whom have created very successful companies. BusinessFit works with them over a period of time and never loses touch. “We are often included on the invitation list when our clients celebrate something special.”
A visit to London in 2018 has culminated in the creation of BusinessFit International. In conjunction with Mike Miller, (South African Chamber of Commerce (SACC) UK Founder and current director) and the SACC Business Hub, the organisations have developed a trade conduit service.
This initiative offers an opportunity for successful South African businesses and brands to launch into the United Kingdom (UK) market with a high likelihood of success while, at the same time, offering the same opportunity UK based businesses wanting to enter the South African market, generating increased employment opportunities South Africa.
A Business Assessment Questionnaire (BAQ) has been developed as the BusinessFit International project backbone and features five stages, including top line review, two questionnaires, research and recommendations. In addition, BusinessFit has created a first of its type in industry app. This new app is aimed to help entrepreneurs meet potential clients, comply with governance reporting responsibilities, introduce best practice into businesses, and take their business to the next level. “We are purposeful,” concluded David, “This is our Godgiven purpose. It is just so special for us to be involved this important work.”