Plan best in your own language
NELSON Mandela's observation that when you speak to a person in their own language they understand you better was in the minds of Sanlam business executives when they conjured up the idea of translating the company's web-based in-depth business plan guide into isiZulu to assist budding isiZulu-speaking entrepreneurs.
Clement Nhlangwana, Sanlam's business market spokesman, says one of the biggest challenges facing many South African entrepreneurs is to articulate their business concept in the clearest and most exciting manner possible.
"When you articulate an idea that you have written in your own words, it is easier to motivate people to buy into what your dream is all about. This is currently not happening with the vast majority of entrepreneurs," says Nhlangwana.
This, he says, is because many have to use a language they are unfamiliar with - English.
"Mandela's message was poignant. But at the time, it seemed they were just beautiful words of wisdom. It was as we were considering the translation, that this message popped up again and we immediately felt its profundity," he says.
Sanlam, one of the country's leading financial services companies, believes it might have the answer to the high rate of new business failures.
Nhlangwana says a well conceptualised and well formulated business plan is often critical to the success of a start-up business.
While it's challenging enough to put one's business plan onto paper, doing so in a language other than your mother tongue, makes it all the more difficult - hence the company's decision to translate the guide, he says.
Nhlangwana says they were also inspired by the advancement of Afrikaans-speaking South Africans who used their language as a potent tool to advance their progress.
"If the Afrikaners could make such a success of their language, why not the isiZulu speakers? Besides, there is a growing trend for publications to translate into isiZulu and it is working well.
"We are confident that when this has shown the positive results we expect, we will translate the business plan guide into more indigenous languages," he says.
According to Census 2011 results, a fifth of South Africa's population, or more than 11,5m people, list isiZulu as their home language, making isiZulu the most widely spoken language in the country.
Nhlangwana says the need to offer assistance to entrepreneurs ties in directly to the vital role small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) play in the South African economy.
"Approximately 61% of South Africans are employed by SMEs, and 91% of businesses are classified as SMEs, generating 52% to 57% of our annual GDP.
"This means it is critical for as many SMEs as possible to succeed, both for the sake of their own livelihood and for the sake of the nation," he says.
Nhlangwana says a sturdy, well thought-out business plan is a critical starting point for the success of any business.
"We have had a very positive response to the English version of our Creating a Business Plan e-book, recording more than 30000 downloads in just four years. With an isiZulu edition we now have the opportunity to extend the positive impact to a wider audience," he says.
"Though Sanlam generally focuses on businesses with an annual turnover in excess of R1m, we have a strong commitment to grassroots entrepreneurship in South Africa," says Nhlangwana.