Small businesses matter. Here's why...

Mark Sham, CEO and co-founder of The Tryst, recently hosted the Ignite event, sponsored by Sasfin Bank. Entrepreneurs, SMEs and business-minded people of all types were in attendance.

M Sassoon

Down. Not out.

“We’re not in a physical lockdown any more. We’re in an emotional lockdown. South Africans are a bit ground down, mentally,” says Mark Sham. Michael Sassoon, CEO of Sasfin Holdings, readily agrees that Covid-19 forced people into survival mode, where the focus was simply holding down the fort, and suggests that we work to figure out how to find a growth mindset again.

Look around you. Some small businesses have pivoted. Others have improved. Others have consolidated, or leapt into the vacuum. But if their competition hasn’t, it has died.

Michael surprises the audience when he says, “I can’t help but feel there is a lot of positivity right now.” He reckons that crises, like Covid-19, have happened over and over in the past, and each time “the businesses that reinvented themselves become giants.” In every crisis there is opportunity.

Now, you might think, “But of course a bank CEO is positive!”

But we’ve seen, again and again, the very real way in which Sasfin supports small businesses, like us.

Have you ever applied for SME finance and been turned down? Michael explains how Sasfin decided to do something about supporting SMEs, outside of the traditional financing route, because they were feeling frustrated about being unable to support certain businesses off the back of risk profile.

Introducing our Small Business Showcase!

“Beyond a bank.”

Sasfin’s slogan is “Beyond a bank.” This is a version of something Mark asks himself every day: “How do we go beyond being a business; how do we create as much value as we can?”

Valuable insights from Michael, in conversation with Mark, include:

  1. Mentality seems to have shifted. There’s opportunity to grow. Seek it out.
  2. Whether it’s load shedding, potholes or excessive rain, try to look for the good.
  3. Momentum is a powerful force.
  4. Even if you went into defensive mode in 2020, be aware that you may have created a resilient base to deal with a new world.
  5. Be selective in what you do, and work with people who have proved that they can navigate choppy waters.
  6. Business is about taking risk, so if you can’t handle risk, don’t own a business.
  7. Create a stable base, when times aren’t difficult, that can see you through difficult times.
  8. Show generous goodwill to those who’ve earned it over many years.
  9. Surround yourself with wise people who will be honest with you.
  10. Back people who create value.

This last one makes our hearts sing. At the end of 2020, Sasfin approached us directly and to ask if and how they could get involved in the small business shout-outs and viral recordings Mark was creating. As Mark says, we “created the value and then [Sasfin] showed up.”

Remote? Nah.

When Mark asks Michael what sort of challenges he’s facing right now, the audience laughs at Michael’s response: “We-e-ell… this work-from-home story…” It’s funny because it’s true. People have strong opinions about the office-home conundrum.

Mark agrees, “If my team’s listening… There’s no such thing as remote. Just to be clear. Good chat.”

But Michael covers this issue with depth and empathy. He points out that sometimes 25% of a person’s wage is spent on public transport. “I’ve identified the problem, although I don’t have a solution… It’s a challenge,” he admits. But he’s thinking about it.

This is what the Sasfin Ignite event was all about. Thinking. Connecting. Sharing. Creating value.

A final word

Asked what people can do to ignite their own growth, Michael says, “Fight. Scrap. Have grit. Push. If you’re gonna buckle at the first moment where things go against you, there’s not going to be growth – especially in an economy with no growth. There’s huge opportunity in this market if you push.”

We agree. Ready to push?