A guide for assessing small businesses
It is estimated, that 90% of small businesses in South Africa fail within the first two years of their operation. The South African Government has improved business support services to small businesses. However, it has called on all South Africans to become involved in supporting small businesses and not to leave this responsibility to a single role player. Improving individual entrepreneurial capabilities should therefore be a focus area for all stakeholders involved in the promotion of entrepreneurship in South Africa. Changes brought on by growth, competition and many other factors, frequently require businesses to quickly identify alternatives, for driving significant improvements in their businesses. Business assessment tools generally provide a framework to assist business leaders to review the operations of their businesses. It was against this background that this research study was undertaken. The main aim of this research study was to develop a guide which can be used to assess small businesses. This study identified and evaluated six business diagnostic tools currently used nationally and internationally. The information gathered from evaluating these assessment tools were verified through discussions with five expert business practitioners who have relevant experience and knowledge on assessment tools. A self – assessment can be defined as a comprehensive, systematic and regular review of an organization‟s activities and results. Of the six assessment tools evaluated, it was found that the Baldrige Quality Programme, best satisfied the research questions, in terms of applicability of content, procedures and effective administration of diagnostic tools. The guide for self - assessments for small businesses was therefore, developed by using the Baldrige Quality Programme as a benchmark. This research study demonstrated, by means of an exploratory case study methodology, that self - assessment diagnostic tools do have a critical role to play in improving entrepreneurial and organizational performance of small businesses. Through the use of the self - assessment guide, developed in this study, entrepreneurs have an opportunity to take an integrated approach towards the improvement of business leadership, management and general business capabilities. This self - assessment guide fully involves the small business owner in the planning, implementation and monitoring phases of operating his or her business. There is also an element of skills transfer designed into the administration aspects of the tool, as guidelines are included in the tool, where possible. The researcher strongly feels that the use of this self - assessment tool can contribute to enhancing the success rate of small businesses in South Africa.