South Africa does not have a skills shortage – It doesnt know how to manage those skills!

November 9, 2009
3 min read

Having spent the year working on and in my and Dave’s startups, Penguin Tutoring, Silver Apple and Webmarketing – and now leaving them to take on a brilliant position in SA’s leading Bank, I have a few insights to share with fellow South African startups.

We hear that there is a shortage of skills in South Africa. I tend to disagree with this. We have massive amounts of skill, talent and opportunity in South Africa. Universities and colleges are churning out grads each year and skilled individuals are returning home to South Africa after the economic environment soured abroad.  This, mixed in with the fact that we have a massive pool of skilled individuals sitting in the unemployment bracket – is a massive opportunity for skills to be leveraged to service a local and international demand. We’re seeing some of the brightest South Africans developing start-ups that set the benchmark in international standards.

My problem is this. When going through the phases of setting up a business – and then while you’re running a decent one, you seek out quality services at affordable prices. And you find these. From far and wide, every man and his dog is now a “Social Media Expert” and “SEO specialist”, “Web designer”, “Database developer” and even a “Business Systems Analyst” – and that is only looking into the digital marketplace! These skilled people put forward very competitive quotes and promise to deliver on your every wish, plus more.

Then when it comes to delivery, deliverables start falling by the wayside.  If the company gets to calling you back after the first meeting, or even quoting you, that’s decent. Start by paying a deposit, and you’re holding thumbs. Unless you project manage your supplier, you’re bound to not have your targets met. Sadly, in all my experience, this has been the case.

South  Africa doesn’t have a skills shortage – it does not know how to do business. I think that is more apt? What do you all feel?

The ramifications of this are quite dire. Normally, a client will try out and have the same shoddy service from two or three suppliers. They then end up with lost capital, bleeding deadlines and a short fuse. Then they have to approach a “Big corporate” to provide the service, at a massive premium. This affects these suppliers as well, as they’re under pressure to deliver on tight deadlines, and are so swamped with work having to pick up the pieces from tardy competitors, that they too start falling into the same trap.

So who is to blame? Should we no longer listen to the guys in the bar who say “I have this idea for a business – I want this website that does …” or to the supplier rep claiming they will deliver on time, to your every expectation?

My tips:
– if you want an above average delivery, you have to pay above average prices-
– Make sure you sign a quote, and the terms include a refund policy and payment acceleration and deceleration clauses
– Call the references of the supplier and check out the portfolio
– Make sure your scoping brief is crystal clear, so you can’t be hit for scope creep changes
– If it feels a bit on the expensive side, you’re probably with the right company

Your tips?



Interesting article from a different approach to this problem.
With my limited experience dealing with business people, from both small and big business, I agree with your take on this one.
The reason for this I think, in my own opinion, is business people are living for the moment, they want the business now, whether they can deliver or not. They are not thinking about sustainable business, especially small business. Big business is probably thinking it wont fail, or possibly in a monopoly, and they dont care about the client or his/her repeat business. Bad service is the norm in S.A, it is everywhere, and has been engraved in the country’s psyche.

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