Monday, November 28, 2011

Volunteers help SMEs

Volunteers help SMEs
By Angela Celis
Malaya Business Insight
Novemeber 28, 2011

A businessman got a loan through the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP). Three years came and went but the small entrepreneur is still where he was when he started the business.

Obviously, he needs professional help. This is where the PBSP comes in with its slew of volunteer advisers in practically all types of business. Their role is to make a stagnant business grow.

The PBSP selects them from a deep bench. Clearly, the 559 such advisers handpicked by the non-governmental organization want to help the inexperienced owner of a small and medium scale enterprise who found himself unable to make head or tail of the business he thought he could embark on.

The business advisory program’s (BAP) volunteer advisers assist the owners of SMEs become efficient in organization, financial, marketing and operations management.

SMEs entitled to assistance are those involved in agribusiness, food processing, small manufacturing, and tourism. The enterprises must have an asset size of P150,000 to P15 million.

"We look at our roster of volunteer advisers, then we make a match," said Ma. Rocelyn Bernabe, manager of BAP.

"The SMEs have to shoulder the adviser’s transportation, meals, and accommodation. We also ask for a minimal administrative fee," Bernabe told Malaya Business Insight.

Bernabe said that the assistance depends on the style of the volunteer and on the need of the client. During their first meeting, the adviser and the entrepreneur agree on a work plan. The ideal time frame is six months, Bernabe said.

"Basically they’re on their own. At the end of the assistance period, we conduct an exit conference. The program is evaluated together by the client, the volunteer, and PBSP," she said.

From 2003 to 2010, PBSP assisted more than 400 SMEs.

The program was able to generate 979 jobs during the seven-year period.

Bernabe said that BAP began in 1998 when the Canadian Executive Service Organization (CESO) decided to run the program. Canadian volunteer advisers were sent to Bohol, Cebu, and Davao to assist SMEs in the area.

It was in 2003 when the Canadian government decided to localize the program and the PBSP was chosen to operate BAP. The PBSP delivered the business advisory services through the assistance of Filipino volunteer advisers. The program was supported by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA).

"When the CIDA funding ended in 2008, the PBSP management decided to include BAP as a regular program under the PBSP’s Enterprise Development Group," Bernabe said.