18 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Major Hindrances to Business Growth


The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential... these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence. -- Confucius

A business that is not growing is dying. Staying in the same position in a dynamic environment means your business is declining.

Inflation, new competition and new products necessitate that every entrepreneur remain on their toes.

In order to survive in this competitive market environment, you need to continuously think of ways of growing your business.

Although limited capital is a factor that can hinder growth, it is not the most important one. In working with hundreds of small business owners, I have found the following factors as being among the top reasons that limit business growth.

No deep desire to grow

The single most important factor that contributes to growth is a deep desire to expand. All actions start as thoughts in a person's mind. Most businesses remain small because the owners do not have a deep enough desire for growth and achievement. No big success, no great achievement, has been accomplished without a great desire. Top athletes learn to first programme their minds to desire winning; physical training helps bring that desire into fruition.

Poor or non-existent planning

Growth does not just happen, it must be planned. Many business owners do not take planning seriously. As a result they do not have clearly articulated goals to strive towards. A plan helps to direct your actions and to allocate resources to critical areas of the business. Without a plan, resources can easily be wasted on non-essential activities.

Poor business management skills

Managing a very small business is different from managing a medium-sized or big enterprise. Although you can get by with shallow skills when running a small business, you will need to improve your skills set as the business grows. You will no longer have to personally perform most of the physical tasks of the business, but you will have to lead other people who do the work on the ground.

People management and leadership skills then become far more important than the technical skills and experience gained while building the business. You might need to enrol on a course or read books in order to gain the essential skills.

Poor marketing

A business can only succeed when it makes increasingly growing sales. Sales result, from successful marketing. The notion that "if you build a good mousetrap, people will beat a path to your doorstep" does not work anymore. I know of business owners who do not have a marketing plan and rarely engage in marketing activities.

In an increasingly competitive market, you need to employ clever and effective marketing strategies in order to survive and grow.

Lack of innovation

Product life cycles are becoming shorter and shorter as new competitors come in and markets open up to global players. Your products and services will be overtaken by new ones every few years.

Look at how smart phones are slowly pushing internet shops out of business. Or how fax machines have been replaced by email.

Successful businesses are always introducing new offerings in order to stay ahead of the market. If you don't do the same you might find your business becoming obsolete.

Not thinking big

Some businesses remain small because the owners are not thinking big enough. Why limit yourself to the single shop or factory when you can expand to five or 10? Most of the successful enterprises we see today started small, some as informal entities.

Because the owners were thinking big, they took every opportunity to grow, opening many branches and launching new product lines. These owners are ordinary people like you and me, but they decided to think big.

Thinking local

The local market can consume so many products and services. With time, certain markets become saturated, with new competitors forcing prices down and reducing profit margins for all. Entrepreneurs need to think beyond our borders and explore export opportunities.

Companies from developed countries are scrambling for the African market because the continent still has great potential for growth.

We also need to dive into this market before Western and Asian entrepreneurs become entrenched. With regional and continental integration accelerating, local entrepreneurs have an opportunity to expand and grow in the new open market.

What other challenges have you found affecting your business growth? And what has worked in helping you grow? Please share on Facebook or LinkedIn, search for SME Businesslink.

Phillip Chichoni is a strategic business planning consultant who works with entrepreneurs and growing businesses.

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