It is often argued that growing a small business is much like raising a child mainly because of the devotion, care and affection that the parent or the business owner needs to show during the ‘development’ process. For a child, the process of growing up has its fair share of challenges and it is precisely the same scenario for a small business. The prevailing sentiment for both is that they need to grow, prosper and be able to stand on their own in a highly competitive environment. The process of growing up is never without a handful of lessons and challenges, but if a child or a business is in good health, prosperity is certainly within reach.
Sanjeev Orie, CEO of FNB Business Value-Adds shares tips of development for both a child and a small business:
The first word
For many parents, a child’s first word is a moment to treasure. For a small business owner, this could be getting your hands on that small business certificate that confirms that you now own a business and can officially start trading.
Baby steps: Learning to walk
Amongst babies, this is usually a tricky balancing act which involves breaking one or two valuables around the house. But for a business, this means getting used to the ins-and-outs of running a small business, and learning how to stand on your own feet, independent of others.
Things get a bit itchy around this time, because the parent and child are both irritable as nothing seems to work – Grandma’s old book of remedies might be necessary to get through this phase. For a small business, this could be the time when the owner delays paying salaries because the client has not payed or the time when the business owner needs to tap into the family’s financial savings or school fees just to get through the month. It is a trial and error phase where you have to learn what works for you. There are loads of books out there, for teething, and running a business, but you are the only one that knows what is best for your “child”.
First Day at School
Moment of nostalgia for the parent as they leave their child in the hands of strangers. Similarly, at this stage, a business owner needs to start letting go so that middle-managers can start doing what they are hired to do. If you’ve done your research, cross-checked references and conducted thorough interviews, trust that the process works. Your business is in good hands.
The thought of seeing one’s child growing to become their ‘own person’ can be a combination of pride and fear, because teenagers have a tendency to absorb both negative and positive influences. The adolescence stage for a business comes in various forms; managers start influencing the way the business operates and a few hard lessons are learnt along the way.
Being an adult – Time to let go!
At this time, parents tend to feel like they have very little or no influence over the lives of their kids. For a business owner, the feeling tends to be pretty mutual because at some point, you either have to handover the baton or delegate full authority to a younger, fresher or better skilled individual to intensify business growth.
In a nutshell, my analogy is less about raising a child and more about the devotion, love and care you should show in order to grow a small business.
As with raising a child, you can only do the best you can with what resources you have available. You can definitely “upskill” yourself with books, advice and possibly studies or courses, but at the end of the day, you make judgement calls, and you have to be confident that you are making the right decisions. Arguably, the spirit of entrepreneurship is within many of us because we either grew up in an entrepreneurial community or family. However, such a spirit needs to be harnessed for the greater good of one’s future and country – that way; an entrepreneur can create sustainable livelihoods and contribute to economic growth