Stewardship is recognised and respected by people everywhere over time. Its core meanings until today include “duty of service”, “responsibility”, and “management”. It has different interpretations in various fields.
But let us look at the word from an ethical (performance at a level of excellence where the holder acts in accord with established ethical doctrine and the accounting owed by stewards to the grantors and beneficiaries of an office ), and managerial perspective (where all stewardship is management, yet not all management is stewardship.
The former adds to management, a heightened sense of responsibility and devotion to the beneficiaries of stewardship, and a demonstrable respect for the principles making the activity worthwhile).
Can our problems actually be, as Winston Churchill would say, ‘a blessing in disguise’? The most likely reason that every Mugabo and Ingabire will give for not starting a business is that they have no capital.
And it is true...though not entirely. Isn’t it possible that it is not totally a bad thing that start-up capital is in most cases lacking?
The popular misconception is that business is all about money. As President Obama puts it, those who hold this contention ‘don’t get it’.
Money to business is like oil to the car engine. But important as it is, oil alone would not make your car move. It is about having the right principles and practices so that your business can thrive and flourish.
This brings into focus the question of stewardship. How good are your internal systems?
These principles boil down to stewardship and trust. Are you a good steward? Can you and your business be trusted?
Do you deliver on your promises to your customers (both internal and external?) Do you strive to improve your performance? Are you in control of expenses, staff performance and market growth?
Is everyone, beginning with you, taking their responsibilities seriously and creatively? Do you empower your team or does life literally stop when you are not in?
If you can address these questions properly with a small business outfit, you can comfortably handle a bigger organisation. Let’s look at a business as a house.
What do you need to clean your house? A broom of course! It could range from a simple traditional broom to a sophisticated vacuum cleaner, but a broom nonetheless! You use the broom, the house will be sparkling clean, you don’t and it won’t, simple!
Now, a town is but a collection of houses, no? So what do you need to clean up a town? Again brooms! And it carries on. Like a house or town, the basic principles and practices of running a business remain the same.
It is the magnitudes that change. If you get it right with a small business, you will most likely get it right when the business grows. In fact, this would make the business grow.
Keep the big dreams; visualise them in your imagination even as you start small.
Use the current lack of funding as an opportunity to grow. Put your house in order. Build strong internal systems now so you do not have money leaking from your business. Keep your promises.
This is good stewardship. And it helps you to practice well and avoid a monumental mess. Imagine what you would get yourself into if you ended up mismanaging huge amounts of funds If your fingers burnt now, would you burn the house then?
As the good book says, if you can be trusted with a little, you can be trusted with a lot.
Sam Kebongo is a skills and business advisory services consultant. He also teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College.