Wamaitha runs a hardware store in Kitengela. It has been open for five years, and does well. It has its ups and downs but in general, it pays the bills and supports her lifestyle quite well. Wamaitha wants to take her business to the next level. Let’s examine her options.
Wamaitha has an assistant manager and an accountant. The assistant manager handles the orders, inventory and suppliers. He rarely interacts with the
customers. He can handle basic enquiries but if it gets complicated, he reverts to Wamaitha who happily takes over the conversation.
The accountant manages book-keeping, collections and payments. He spends his day in front of a computer. Wamaitha keeps the business cheque
book with her at all times. She opens and locks the shop every day. Her customers interact with only her.
The day I spoke to Wamaitha, she had missed her son’s sports day because a large order was coming in and she couldn’t afford not to be at the
store. I asked her what taking her business to the next level would look like. She told me it would mean opening more stores in high traffic areas and,
of course, making more money. She wants to target the type of client who can give consistent orders, which makes cash flows more sustainable.
Taking a business to the next level depends on how you use your time. Wamaitha’s is the typical SME: Her business depends on her completely. This
is the primary reason why many businesses cannot grow. She definitely cannot open more stores because she cannot be in several places at the same time. She needs to be able to release her current store.
FEAR OF LETTING GO
The fear of letting go holds us hostage and keeps us small. As we talked she realised that she is so scared of losing a sale that she controls the conversation and jumps in. She definitely has a way of speaking to customers that puts them at ease and gives the comfort. For many of us we read
this to mean that we are the only ones who can do it while, what it should mean is that we need to take note of it enough to be able to teach someone
else to do the same. We also need to accept that nobody will do things exactly like you, but they also bring in something you don’t have.
To grow, Wamaitha will need to attract and retain good people. This will not happen if they see no room for advancement. Maybe her assistant
manager can actually handle clients if trained and given the opportunity. If he can do that, she can spend more time establishing relationships with the
kind of clients she is after instead of being stuck at the store. As business owners, we also need to rid ourselves of a misplaced sense of importance.
In Wamaitha’s case, for example, her accountant can process and receive large orders. He and the manager can collect the supplies. Had she enabled
her team appropriately, she could have gone for her son’s open day.
FEAR FROM LACK OF SYSTEMS
This fear also comes from lack of systems or structures. Think about them as the routines that are needed in your business. In Wamaitha’s case,
some of the routines would involve how goods are received and dispatched. It could also be the paperwork and reports that are generated so that
when she does come back from her son’s sports day, she can still get a good sense of the business activities for the day.
Then she can stop holding the cheque book and allow the accountant to process payments which she can then approve. Eventually, she may not even have to do this. It is a nice ego boost to look like we control everything.
However, the opportunity cost is in the use of time. To grow a business, you need to spend time growing a business. Working ON it as opposed to
working IN it. Move from creating a job in a business that you just happen to own to being the leader of the business.
Waceke runs a course on entrepreneurship. Get in touch with her on [email protected]|Facebook/WacekeNduati|