Big company lessons for small businesses

Small businesses employ over half of all African private sector employees and are responsible for most of the growth within Africa. Over the past decade, they have generated about 75 percent of new jobs annually. Most importantly, it is where our most creative thinking comes from.
Small companies fail because of poor business practices. The New Times / File.
Small companies fail because of poor business practices. The New Times / File.

Small businesses employ over half of all African private sector employees and are responsible for most of the growth within Africa. Over the past decade, they have generated about 75 percent of new jobs annually. Most importantly, it is where our most creative thinking comes from.

However,  most small companies fail because they have poor basic business practices. Consequently, I am excited about having the opportunity to mentor them and hopefully share some lessons from the question I received. Think about it; it is a lot more exciting to get a company to earn you from 0 to 100million than getting a billion.

Q. what is the biggest misconception people have between small and big business?

Most small business owners think that big companies have limitless resources and tonnes of money and accordingly can do whatever they want. At the same time, most large companies think that all small ones are entrepreneurial, acting quickly and bursting with creativity. Neither of these common beliefs are true. Most big companies do not throw a lot of resources at every project, and most small companies tend to become stagnant when they are through with their initial entrepreneurial stage.

Q. How are big companies applying lessons on small companies?
    
This question is asked everyday and every small business has to ask itself. At the end of the day, business is business. The size of an organisation does not matter. Well all must understand our customers and market and put the right people in the right places and be sure the organisation is aligned to deliver on our goals and objectives.

Q. What strengths should entrepreneurs focus on?
       Small businesses have important competitive advantages. When founders are managing their businesses, they do so with an authentic passion to deliver on a vision. It is their life. They know their business and customers better than anyone else, and this knowledge can be hugely leveraged with the right operational practices. A large company may have more money for research but leaders of a small company almost have more direct interaction with their customers. I truly believe that customer-driven strategies win over in the long run.

Q. What is the most significant challenge facing small businesses?

The biggest issue is how well the entrepreneur can scale up. It is important for entrepreneurs to realise that one person can not control everything that they can not be the vice president of marketing, sales, operational and so forth. That kind of a mindset will not work in the long-run.

Q. How can an entrepreneur meet that challenge?

     It’s important to let go-to trust people you hire-and to be okay with them making mistakes along the way. Even if the manager moves 108 degrees in the wrong direction, it’ll probably be okay. Let them learn from their own mistakes.

Q. What are the other lessons that would be helpful for small businesses and emerging leaders?

In my conclusion, years ago I started a plumbing supply business. I didn’t have enough capital so I sometimes had to become creative on how I filled the orders. I went out of my way to ensure that every order was filled. Sometimes, this meant getting the parts from competitors or buying them from retail to complete the order. That was okay, what matters was never disappoint a customer. I believed in the “YES I CAN” principle years before the Obama did.

In addition to the customer come-first principle, I always had a motto that the higher you get in an organisation, the harder you have to work. Also dive to important issues and time “work the line” with other employees.

The best way to shape peoples behaviour is to inspire them by doing it all yourself. Finally, focus, don’t overburden your junior staff. Save the intensity and for the most important company priorities and always make sure those are done first. To help make that happen, deal at most with five things at a time, don’t put number six on until number one gets knocked off. You will definitely increase your chances for success.

The author is a young entrepreneur and also the founder of Easy Goal Entrepreneurs Networks.

 

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