Zimbabwe: SMEs - Refuse to Be Victims, Accept Responsibility

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"Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things." -- Peter F Drucker The business environment is tough. Business is slow. Liquidity is tight. Foreign competitors are stealing our market share. Corruption is rampant. The cost of doing business in Zimbabwe is just too high. You simply cannot start a profitable business in this environment. Don't you agree?

If you are not starting or growing your business because of the above or similar reasons, it is a warning sign: YOU ARE INEFFECTIVE!

An entrepreneur is a person who habitually creates and innovates to build something of value around perceived opportunities. Instead of seeing problems, entrepreneurs see opportunities.

The first law, according to Stephen Covey's 7 Laws of Highly Effective People (1989), is that effective people are proactive; they take responsibility for their actions. They are in charge of their lives, and believe that every achievement is a result of their actions. Instead of feeling victimised by other people or a hostile environment, they choose their response to whatever situation they face.

The external environment will always be hostile. To thrive and build a successful business, you have to be proactive and respond positively to difficult situations.

Instead of being proactive, many small business owners are reactive. They see opportunities long after someone has already skimmed the cream. They arrive at the station after the train has left.

Just look at the number of informal market stalls flooding the urban centres in Zimbabwe. The few traders who started importing clothing and electrical goods from Asia over a decade ago made a killing. Because they were offering products that were not found in Zimbabwe, they were able to put high mark-ups and make good profits. When others saw how these traders were becoming affluent, they started following them to Dubai, China, Tanzania and other countries to buy similar clothes, shoes and electricals to sell at similar flea markets and stalls.

Major parking spaces and avenues in Harare are a hive of activity during weekends with traders selling these similar goods. As I write, some are actually thinking of starting their own flea market businesses. Will you make a good profit from it? The laws of supply and demand and diminishing returns clearly say no.

Instead of following the trends and grabbing just the bones after the first movers have taken away the steak, use your mind to think of ways of grabbing new opportunities before others have seen them.

Here are some of the ways that can help you stay in charge of your business, instead of feeling like a victim or a loser all the time:

Be accountable and responsible

Management at big companies are accountable to shareholders. If they produce poor results, they get fired or they lose their bonuses. Very few SME owners accept accountability for the performance of their enterprises.

To win, start by reviewing your business' performance and accepting responsibility for the results, whether good or bad. Do you have monthly management accounts produced for your business? That could be a first step.

Plan to win

Do you have measurable goals for your business? Sadly, many business owners operate on a hit and miss basis, having no definite goals for this year or the next five years.

Without goals and plans on how to achieve them, you won't achieve much and will always feel like a victim. You need to set goals, with financial targets and strategies to build a profitable and sustainable business.

Put first things first

Many business owners are so bogged down by daily and petty operational issues and forget to work on the more important things like developing strategic plans, making marketing plans, seeking new customers and new markets and developing higher value products and services. Set up business systems and delegate routine activities to your staff so that you can work on building your business.

At the next BusinessLink networking breakfast meeting on June 27, the topic that will be covered is: "Why your business needs a regular internal health check."

More details are on our website http://smebusinesslink.com. Like last month, I am giving away two tickets to readers who email me two good reasons why they want to attend.

This week's quiz tests your tax knowledge: If you give your employees transport allowances and personal loans, are these taxable and if so, how?

Please email me your answer and you could win a CD containing my eBooks; Business Planning Simplified, High Impact Low Cost Marketing Strategies for SMEs and Developing a Three Step Strategic Plan to Grow your Business, while one person will get a copy of Rabison Shumba's new motivational book; Fountain of Inspiration Volume 1.

Phillip Chichoni is a strategic business planning and financial management consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs.

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