By Peter Egwuatu
Small Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) in Cross River and Akwa Ibom States have lauded Diamond Bank Plc for the drive towards building a crop of knowledgeable entrepreneurs across the country.
They gave the commendation at the bank’s eighth Business Enterprise seminar which took place at Axari Hotel, Calabar, Cross River State capital and attended by business operators from the Micro, Small and Medium Scale (MSME) segments of the economy.
Coordinated by Mark-George consultants and facilitated by entrepreneurs who have made their marks in their chosen areas of interest, the seminar provided platform for participants to acquire new skills to be able to move their businesses to new level.
According to Samuel Timothy who runs Mol-Ti Technical Ventures, a service provider in the telecommunication industry, the seminar was an opportunity for him to gain practical insights on how to grow his business.
“It is not theoretical, it something that can be applied in every business setting, it is innovative and the bank has developed a special interest in guiding small business operators,’’ he said.
Timothy whose enterprise serves to bridge the gap between network operators in the telecommunication industry and the end users by transferring credit to subscribers account without making them to leave their offices however identified lack of access to credit
facilities as a major challenge facing MSME operators in the country.
He urged that interest on loans by SME operators should be on a single digit, stressing that it would go a long way to boosting the development of entrepreneurship in the country.
Earlier, Chima Nnadozie, Coordinator, MSME propositions of the bank said the seminar aimed at broadening the horizon of the participants to grow their businesses by building their capacities.
“We want to give back to our customers, particularly those in the MSME segments who are the engine room of the economy, the opportunity to acquire new skills in the running o their business,’’ he said.
According to him, if the capacities of the customers are assisted to grow, they will in turn be more customers for the bank adding that they are given the opportunity to listen to consultants and experts in different fields which they might not have had on their own.
Nnadozie who said the bank was considering increasing the series to three times a quarter in a year and spreading it across the country emphasized the importance of business operators planning and putting processes in place to ensure that business do outlive their owners.
In a lecture entitled Failing to Plan, Olugbolahan Mark-George of Mark-George Consultants emphasized the need for a good business plan, warning that those who dabble into businesses just because others are doing it and succeeding hardly succeed.
Another facilitator, Yetunde Allen of Lateral Links, also seemed to make huge impressions with business executives in the garden city with snippets of her real-life experiences in running a business. According to him , “ in business people are often sentimental. They hardly think about exit point. That is why businesses in this climate hardly live beyond their founders. Good planning works better than trust in business.
The most trusted person in a business could die because death is certain. What then happens after that?”
Adedoyin Balogun, CEO of Baldon Clothes, also from Lagos taught survival tactics to entrepreneurs, especially in these trying times (recession). He urged businesses to give out bonuses to attract higher patronage. “Always seek to retain cash and increase volume, so as to
Chidimma Lawanson, Proposition Head, MSME, told the entrepreneurs that the N500 billion intervention fund set aside by the Central Bank of Nigeria would boost lending to the productive sector on a long-term basis She explained that the CBN had realized that real businesses required long-term loans to grow the economy but what was available was short-term fund.
She said banks were not just being cruel not to lend on long-term basis but that the CBN would not allow banks to lend with shareholders funds but only with deposits by customers, which she said were short-term funds.
She said: “Help is on the way to boost long-term loans in Nigeria. The CBN is giving us N500 billion through the Bank of Industry (BOI) to begin this new move. It is one of the interventions from the CBN to help boost production and assist the economy on a productive basis.Modalities are being worked to float the fund. Entrepreneurs should hold till this is out”.
The officer also caused further excitement when she announced a specially structured loan to cater for the medical sector of the economy.
She said at the moment, banks found it difficult to process demands for large loans to pharmacists and medical doctors because drugs do not qualify as guaranteed stocks which can serve as collateral as in the case of goods like spare parts and some other imports.
She said banks were waiting for a financial package from the US humanitarian agency that provides humanitarian aid and assistance for development to countries so that medical doctors and those that deal on drugs can easily get loans to advance their businesses.
For other SMEs like restaurant operators, hair-dressing operators, tailors, parts dealers, etc, she said the SME loan package was structured to fit into their income pattern without recourse to traditional forms of collateral requirements.
“If it is for purchase of plants, the plant would serve as collateral because we can impound it if the loan is not performing”. She also said stocks can serve as collateral because it can be impounded upon default. And still be resold, unlike drugs that can easily expire and become worthless stock in the hands of any bank that impounded it.
Diamond Bank urged businesses to embrace the SME accounts that have a maximum turnover limit of N40million per month with not more than N6,000 charge per month instead of N20,000 charge for the same amount in other packages.
The bank also advised businesses to move away from cash transactions, bring all cash transactions into the banks, and embrace e-transfers to enhance the safety of their businesses and attract loans through impressive bank statements.