Over the years, banks and non-bank financial institutions have focused mainly on financing bigger firms mainly because they offer better security to the neglect of SMEs who are beset by many challenges, including inadequate capital, lack of corporate structures, lack of planning, inability to reach markets, little or no underpinning research, and low complementary human resource base, and so on.
However, problems SMEs face in accessing various sources of finance have been brought to account by many financial institutions around the world.
Policy makers in most market-oriented economies have concentrated efforts on evolving and implementing policies and programmes targeted at enhancing the ability of SMEs and their entrepreneurs to generate, as well as access funding.
In UK, for instance, the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform (BERR) has set itself the key target of helping to build an enterprise society in which small firms of all kinds thrive and achieve their potential.
In this country, to ameliorate the constraint of access to credit, the Investment and Credit Department was set up to help ease the financial problems facing the sector.
Also, in the search for potentially high growth-oriented firms to invest both in their equity and debt, the Venture Capital Trust Fund (VTCF) was set up to facilitate funding for SMEs in the country.
Notwithstanding the aforementioned by these different stakeholders, access to funding and key business advice continues to be elusive to most entrepreneurs in the country.
According to the Managing Director of Premium Bank, Mr Kwasi Tumi, the bank had realised the challenges and taken steps to support potential and young entrepreneurs by offering advisory services, as well as funds to either expand or start their businesses.
“If SMEs employ 85 per cent of Ghanaians, then they are of strategic importance to all of us, and we must find creative and user-friendly ways to help them,” he says.
Engaging SMEs through the Helpstation
The Helpstation was set up by Premium Bank to bring specific focus to essentially manage the relationship between the bank and SMEs while reorganising their internal systems to better serve the sector.
The consultancy is aimed at building a vibrant community of SMEs and providing them with the requisite business support, advisory services, adequate financing and coaching.
In an interview with GRAPHIC BUSINESS, the Director of the Helpstation, Mr Ekow Mensah, said the consultancy took their clients through a process known as Business Needs Assessment (BNA).
This process, he explained, gave a general overview of where a business was and where it wanted to go.
“The Helpstation provides innovative and tailor-made business growth solutions to challenges SMEs face”, he said.
He added that the consultancy after taking clients through the BNA process, looked at the bouquet of business support services that could be provided for their business to grow.
The benefits the Helpstation provides include; funding, in terms of debt and equity; capacity building through training consulting and coaching; exposure espoused on branding, marketing and publicity support; among others.
These services the consultancy provided held good promise since they contributed to closing the financial gap facing SMEs in the country.
Identifying potential SMEs
According to Mr Mensah, the SME wing under TANOE does a month-to-month research on existing SMEs to be able to put them into different sectors.
“Through the TANOE wing of research, we are able to fish out specific SMES in specific sectors and aim at getting them to be clients of Premium Bank. This is to better position them to be bankable, in order to benefit from the services the bank provides”, he added.
Partnership with InGenius Africa and SOLUTIONS
Mr Tumi said the expectation of the bank and Helpstation, was that SOLUTIONS TV and Radio drama, woven around the life of an imaginary business advisory, very similar to the Helpstation, became a hit and attracted a large following.
“ We are sponsoring SOLUTIONS because we believe using a TV and Radio drama, with its trappings of humour, wit, fun and all manner of shenanigans, it will help break down the complexities and literarily drive the salient points home to the viewing public and the SMEs,” he says.
He added that all that attention generated would lead to an increase in their customer base.
“We are especially excited by the review segment of SOLUTIONS, which will further expound on the dramatised events and also enable viewers to participate in the programme electronically via, voice and text. This will expand the frontiers for educating and sensitising the SMEs on a diverse range of business-related issues,” he mentioned.
Mr Kwame Boadi, the Producer and Director of SOLUTIONS says, the review segment, which will involve a panel discussion open to the viewing public, is a value addition muted by TV3, and supported by a consortia of strategic entities, led by MTN mobile money.
The TV drama aspect of SOLUTIONS begins airing on TV3, in the first week of December.
According to the director, the pioneering attitude, passion and support shown by the folks at Premium Bank and Helpstation, had translated into a very enthusiastic and vibrant set, which was poised to unleash a blockbuster. — GB