Last week, we discussed how you could go about starting your own small business to augment your personal finances. This was premised on the understanding that a considerable proportion of the Malawi population particularly in the urban and peri-urban centres has its current livelihood heavily leaning on salaried/wage income.
This week, however, let us proceed by asking the question of management capacity.
Do you have the skills it takes to run a small business? A considerable number of small businesses run but do they finish the race successfully? One can hardly point out a small business that grew into a reputable business without its owner having good knowledge of running a business.
Often times, businesses fail when an entrepreneur dies and the business is passed on to the spouse or children. The reason is simple: Those inheriting do not have the knowledge or skills it takes to run the business.
So, what are some of the skills you will need to succeed?
Market researcher: Before you start your business, you will have to find out who your customers are and where they are located. Are they in urban areas or rural areas?
Is it the middle income or the low income? Is there somebody else supplying your potential market? You may also have to conduct market research at various times during the life of your business, such as when you are considering introducing a new product.
Manager: If you have employees, you will be responsible for all of the human resource-related functions, including recruiting, hiring, managing and keeping track of all the staff benefits information; you will be the one filling out all the insurance forms, answering employee questions and complaints.
Sales/marketing/advertising executive: In addition to having to plan your marketing or advertising campaigns, you will have to carry it out, you may design the advertising, do some preliminary market research, visit potential customers and make sure existing customers stay happy; depending upon the type of business you own, you may have to join business groups and just generally network with anyone who could help your business prosper.
Accountant: Even if you have an accountant, you will have to know a lot about accounting, otherwise azingokupondani (may be stealing from you); you will have to know which records to keep and how to keep them; if you don’t have an accountant, you will also have to prepare all of your tax forms, and you will have to know how to prepare and interpret all of your own financial statements.
Debt collector: When customers don’t pay, it will be up to you to collect from them; you will have to know what you can and can’t do when collecting; you will have to decide how best to collect from them and when to give up (write-off).
Clerk: Even if you have clerical help, you will inevitably do some of your filing, typing, mailing, and telephone answering. Even if you have someone else, for example, to keep track of overdue accounts, you will have to know how to do it so that you can train them on what to do.
And what more on a light note, if you sell chickens, for example, you may have to also be prepared being called ‘mzimayi/mzibambo wogulitsa nkhuku uja’ (called the poultry product seller derogatorily). Never mind being called any name so long you are making your kwachas legitimately.
I have included this list of the important responsibilities of running a business so you can realistically appraise your chances for success when embarking on a meaningful small business.
Suffice it to say none of the above is an insurmountable challenge, all can be learnt by doing, from peers or better still formally by reading books on the subject or enrolling for a short course with any of the reputable small business management training institutions in Malawi.
Blessed weekend to you and yours!