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SMES REACHING OUT FOR GROWTH

In modern day economies, for the purpose of national policy making and boosting economic activity, businesses have been categorized by different governments across the globe. There are multinationals, big, medium and small sized businesses. There are micro and Soho businesses. There are different criteria that determine where a business fits into. Some of them are

  • Annual turnover
  • No of employeeschinwe
  • Assets-land, machinery,
  • Capital Invested etc.

But I am not government. I am a Value Creation Consultant. All I can see is that business is business- at different degrees of operations, with different needs, but businesses are businesses. If I recall, Coca Cola, today regarded as a Multinational business, sold all over the world, was, according to Wikipedia, originally intended as a patent medicine when it was invented in the late 19th century by John Pemberton. It was eventually bought out by businessman Asa Griggs Candler. It started as a small thing.

When Arthur Guinness started brewing ales in 1759 at the St. James’s Gate Brewery, Dublin, Ireland, I am not sure he envisioned how big his stout would become. He signed a 9,000 year lease at £45 per annum for an unused brewery (Wikipedia), expecting to make profits. Today Guinness is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide. It is brewed in almost 60 countries and is available in over 100. Now it is a multinational, but it did not start as one. It grew into one.

All the big businesses with history started with one man, who just put his dreams into action. One day at a time, there businesses grew through the ranks. Even here in Nigeria, I witnessed the new generation banks spring up in the early 1990s. Today some of them have grown into colossally big businesses across the continent and internationally. We can call them big businesses now, but they all began as what we would call Small or Medium Scale businesses-SMEs.

The big question is, what magic did they perform to get from where they began to where they are today? How come they outlived others? Was Coca Cola the only Cola drink? Was Guinness Stout the only stout drink? My answer- their constantly changing and innovative business practices. In fact, in today’s business world, they are said to operate with ‘best practices’.

As small businesses, they had to surmount the same challenges that small businesses face today especially in our environment. They simply imbibed business practices that guaranteed change and growth. They evolved over time through these practices and grew. It did not just happen. There was a process. There were processes. Business processes.

When we look at small businesses in our environment, they have few things in common. Besides the fact that, the infrastructure is ailing, they cannot access financing easily; their major problem is lack of business skills to navigate their territories. It requires certain skills that go beyond guts feelings to get the juice out of the market place. Businesses cannot thrive on whims. Whims come and go. That is why they cannot sustain businesses on the long run. There must be the shift to documented, tested and tried business practices that will deliver results repeatedly. If these are not put in place, the businesses remain small, even though the potential for real growth is there.

Such things as getting extra training or engaging the services of business consultants to look through their businesses sound intimidating and expensive. They do not realize how crucial these skills are to the continuous growth of their businesses. They focus on the cost of getting extra skills, internal and external, rather than the benefits and potential for growth.

On the other hand, the big businesses constantly look for ways to improve their businesses despite their size. They never stop. Huge amounts of money are spent on research and development to discover new ways of doing business, new insights, new opportunities. What they cannot do, they engage others to do. What they do not know, they pay huge sums of money to learn. Yet the small ones refuse to step up their game.

What am I trying to say? Businesses are living organisms. If they are well fed and nurtured, they grow, wherever they may be. Japanese products used to be rejected because they were inferior to their American and European alternatives. Today they compete in the market place. That is growth. Nurturing means constant change for the better. Most of the time, the skills to do this are outside the businesses, so they must reach out of themselves to get the required skills to grow.

I believe that is where business consultants and training come into the picture. They engineer the processes to ensure businesses get value. Every kobo spent to ensure growth means more value for the business. Most businesses, even the big ones do not have the required skills to see what needs to be done, so they hire business consultants who open their minds to the core issues. That is what Coca Cola, Guinness, Microsoft, GE, JP Morgan Chase, Wal-Mart, Chevron, Toyota etc, all do on a constant basis.

I’d like to bring to life what I am talking about. Early in 2011, we met a business woman who created a music asset Bongo Star Search in Tanzania. It was a huge budget asset but she was unable to get the caliber of sponsors she required to make the program a huge success. When we met with her, she felt we were con men who just wanted to make money off her. She took the risk on us, probably because she was desperate.

On looking at all she had done, we discovered that her Selling document did not have the kind of information that would encourage any Brand Manager or Marketing Director to buy into her program. So we reworked the document to highlight the real benefits of sponsoring the program. We included real facts and figures that were not originally in the document. Suddenly, the scales tilted in her favor. It changed from a music reality show to an asset that businesses could leverage to delight their customers. That made all the difference. Non existent budgets became available. We were immediately able to get one of the Tanzanian Telcos to buy into the program. She was able to raise enough money to run in 2011. By 2012, she was able to get a TSH2bn contract for 2 years simply because she now understood exactly what the Marketing and Sales teams required of her.

What made the difference? Why was she not able to get the big budgets she required? Her lack of skills, her lack of understanding of the real issues, her inability to draw conclusions from what she had done before. This required skills she did not have. All she knew was that she had a good product but selling it was an uphill task. All that changed as soon as she acquired new skills from a business consultant.

I believe, my short story has been able to drive home the need for owners of small and medium sized businesses to begin to see their organizations as growing & dynamic businesses that must constantly reinvent themselves by getting the help and skills they need outside themselves to gain grounds in the market place. When they do not gain, they actually lose grounds. There is no place of balance, grey line, middle wall, where they simply survive. That is how business works; they are either growing or dying. The need to take steps, not just to stay alive but to grow. That is a choice every small and medium business must make every day, no matter the costs. That is the path to Value Creation.

Chinwe Kalu

Value Creation Consultant.

Customer Passion Point Limited.

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