About 70% of new job opportunities globally are created by small businesses. In a South African context with its growing problem of unemployment, small business is not only important, but also decisive for economic growth and survival.
The creation small businesses should be a high priority, but just as significant is the nurture of those businessmen and woman that have already taken the first steps to setting up a business or venture.
There is not a fixed recipe for success, however there are some guidelines following from research and experience that entrepreneurs can follow in order to ensure that their businesses will survive, thrive and grow.
- First of all, an entrepreneur should constantly check his or her mind-set. Some of the core qualities of entrepreneurs are that they are positive and creative. In tough times, which most entrepreneurs experience during the early stages of starting and vesting a business one can get overwhelmed by negativity and fall into a survival mode rather than being creative. Staying positive is crucial for the entrepreneur. The best way to do this is by surrounding yourself with positive people. Make sure you constantly stimulate yourself with ideas and opportunities by attending network sessions, training sessions and workshops to up-skill and re-motivate yourself. Attending such workshops from time to time may just bring the next “spark” to take your business into new levels of performance. Entrepreneurs often make the mistake to think that they cannot afford to be away from their business for a day or two without everything coming to a standstill. The truth however, is that in order to be successful, it is crucial for entrepreneurs to spend time on working “on” their business as well and not only “in” their business. The more one tend to work “in” your business only, the easier it becomes to become one-track minded and miss out on opportunities and ways to improve and grow your business.
- The second thing is to constantly rethink the challenges and actions of the business. Most people are nowadays aware of the concept of “red ocean” versus “blue ocean” competition. The concept is based on a book published by W. Chan Kim & Renée Mauborgne under the title “Blue Ocean Strategy”. In “red ocean” environment the competition is fierce and you have to face the big players head-on or have to fight off many other small players to get part of the bait. This is a difficult environment for a small business to survive and grow. On the other hand, “blue ocean” environment is where there is still some uncontested territory where you can apply and sell your product or service. This concept boils down to identifying and focussing on areas where you can create unchallenged market space and don’t have to compete against the big players or a multitude of other small players (red ocean). The good news is that markets never stand still. They continuously expand and move around. This means that there will always be new gaps to enter (blue ocean territory), but then you have to identify them and move quickly. This will probably not happen if you are caught up in your business to such an extent that you do not have time nor energy left to explore new territory.
In order to act fast and smart you have to act while others dither. Small businesses need to position themselves for fast action by following the so-called “lean start-up” process, coined by Eric Ries (another valuable book for entrepreneurs to read). Planning is crucial for success, but over-planning can kill you in the water. Entrepreneurs need to design quickly, get their product or service in the market (test marketing) and improve along the way as they are doing business (a concept also known as “Kaizen”). Waiting for the perfect plan or opportunity will put you back into the “red ocean”.
Being positive and creative are two sides of the same coin. Positive people are more creative and creativity stimulates positivity. This means that you have to make time and space to work “on” your business rather than working “in” your business only.