After I left my formal employment many years ago, I started a business called CPE Strategies cc. It is based on a computer program that I wrote, called the CPE (Critical Planning Exercise). The program was aimed directly at Small and Medium Enterprises in SA and the intention was to use it to halt the abysmal failure rate of about 90% of all new businesses that still pertains today. It was highly successful in doing so, and resulted in many saved businesses while I used it in my consulting practice. It was, in many ways, the most exciting achievement of my life. It really worked, and it worked well. I eventually licenced its use to a Govenrment agency and it is presently being used by a Government- funded organization called SEDA (Small Enterprise Development Agency). To date, several million Rands of tax payers money has been used to train, accredit and implement the use of the CPE system throughout South Africa. But, alas, it could be implemented far better, with correspondingly better results.
Because of the present position regarding my health, I have made the difficult and frustrating decision to allow my contract with SEDA expire at the end of March 2008. This is because I will not be in a position to continue the physically demanding work of training the users in SEDA any more. The added frustration is that there are already a large number of competent users of the CPE technology in SEDA and there are trained trainers able to keep the training and accreditation process going without me. The system does not need to die, even if I eventually do.
There are other organisations apart from SEDA who know how the system works and who want to use it. Here is a copy of an extract from an email I received from one of them on 16 January this year when the owner found out I had a malignant brain tumour and that the CPE initiative was therefore under threat:
You initially developed the CPE with good intentions of assisting small business development in South Africa.
It must be recognized that the CPE still remains one of the finest diagnostic tools that I have yet had the priviledge of using, and believe me I have been exposed to a whole range of these tools as an Industrial Engineer.
When I was busy with my PhD (which I never completed due to working circumstances at that time) I had to research international enterprise modeling tools of which I ended up with some 460 in a database. It must be said that your tool remains the one that I have a great appreciation for iro its value to the customer, functionality and critical focus areas.
. . . .the tool is really needed out there.
As I negotiate the uncertain path ahead with my brain tumour, I am also trying to negotiate with the ortganisation run by this gentleman to hand over the CPE technology to him when my contract with SEDA expires. I certainly hope it works out, because he is utterly committed to make it work. To me, the great frustration is that this course of action will need me to spend a few months modifying the program for use by his organisation, time which appears to be running out! Then there will need to be months of very physically demanding training and accreditation to attend to. If it were somehow possible for SEDA to continue using the program, no modification will be needed, there are already trained users, there are trained trainers, and the process could continue without a hiccup. Frustrating indeed!
What is at stake?
There is a way of making sure that small businesses in SA have a tool and a system for avoiding failure reliably and contributing to the economy at a time when it is more critical than ever. I have the ability and passion to help SEDA make this happen, but my physical position at present and the future prospect of staying healthy is facing a very serious challenge.