Breaking away from the herd

Breaking away from the herd 31

At some point in every SMEs life comes a moment when it must choose whether to remain where it is or to break away from the herd. To every small business owner, there is every reason to let the status quo remain, due in part that the thought of putting systems in place evokes sheer terror, and due in part that the thought of the business owner handing over the reins to others evokes even more terror. Yet, for a business to grow beyond itself, systems are the only way through which this can be achieved.

From the perspective of leadership, I humbly submit that this process is an inside-out affair that can only be initiated by the owner of the business. I have witnessed countless business owners attend course after course and seminar after seminar on how to automate businesses and these owners are unable to loosen the vice-grip with which they run their enterprises. It doesn’t help that our predominant African culture (and I use the word African loosely here) does not lend itself to the leadership of letting go.

In all fairness, most SMEs are built through sweat, blood and tears, more so because funding and financing opportunities are few and far between. It is for this reason that business owners run very tight ships, in which they remain at the helm as Captain with a view of every intricate facet of the business. It is for this reason primarily that the change over from owner-led to systems led businesses need an inside out approach. The desire for change must stem from the owner. There needs to be the recognition that the business has reached the apex of this kind of organisation leadership and now a new way must be found for the business to charter to bigger waters. It suffices to say that expansion is not for everyone and some business owners are content to keep the size of the business just as it is, and this is perfectly fine.

For businesses whose owners think that the business needs fresh input, so to speak, a good place to begin would be to examine the mission and vision of the business. A self-serving mission is not a mission. For instance, I am going to start this business in order to feed my family. While this is a valid reason to get up at the crack of dawn each day, the mission must be bigger than the daily challenges that we are all faced with. Therefore, does the mission and vision with which the business was began still hold? Have the problems that the business solved previously changed? Are there new opportunities for the business? Have other opportunities shrunk, for example, been overtaken by events such as technology or change in legislation? In other words, the motive of the business owner is crucial.

It is said that there are four ways of tackling something: doing the right thing in the right way, results of which are excellent; doing the right thing in the wrong way; results of which can be rectified once the wrong is righted; and the final two categories, the wrong thing in the right way and the wrong thing in the wrong way; results of which will never yield any good fruit!

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