By Marang Marekimane, founder of Business in Theory
Ever been asked, “so how long have you been doing this for?” Saying anything in terms of months doesn’t leave the impression that you know what you are doing”. At this point in the conversation, the doubtful voices in your head that seem to follow you everywhere, and get louder. I’ve seen how this question can burst the bubble of confidence at networking sessions.
What you need to realise is that it’s not how long you have been an entrepreneur that matters. When discussing expansion plans with entrepreneurs, I am often reminded of the years in operation, the hardships along the way, and how I look too young to have any working experience, much less be in a position to offer any advice or solutions. The fact that I look much younger than I really am, doesn’t earn me any favours in business.
According to Stats South Africa, 69.2% of our population start informal businesses (i.e. unregistered business) due to unemployment and a need for income as opposed to supplementing an income. Most informal businesses are in townships and rural areas, where employment is limited and the family needs an income to put food on the table and kids through school.
A spaza shop is a typical example of an informal business in the township. These spaza shops have built homes, put food on the table, and put kids through school for decades. Some of those kids had to work, or drop out of school to work in the family business. Basetsana Khumalo and her sister Johanna Mukoki, of Travel with Flair, often share stories of their experiences and how this has influenced their entrepreneurial journey.
In the beginning it may not seem or feel like you have processes in the business. Over time, you know what needs to get done and by luck, lots of prayer, and a few miracles along the way, you’re able to make it work. Underneath all of that emotional rollercoaster, the organized chaos, there is a process.
To move away from that confusion and the frustration of operating on a whim, take note of how you get things done – that’s your process. With a clearer view of your business processes, an understanding of your customers and your team dynamics, it would be simpler to decide on how to invest in the processes and systems to reduce the waste of time and effort to facilitate growth in your business.
The owner of the spaza shop that has been operating for more than two decades now watches "new age" entrepreneurs as they open boutique shops fitted with point-of-sale devices, shelving and space, with an ambience to add to the shopping experience. Granted, today’s township entrepreneur has a lot more support to start their businesses than ever before – the most vital component of which being a growth strategy.
So, no matter how long you have been an entrepreneur, now is a good time to invest in how you grow your business. Formulate a growth strategy beyond marketing to get more customers. Your growth strategy should include investments in the processes and systems that will facilitate growth.
After 11 years as a Project Consultant for large corporates, Marang Marekimane started Business In Theory in 2014 to assist entrepreneurs to formulate growth strategies and improve business processes. Marang also hosts workshops for entrepreneurs to define or review their business model – this clarifies what’s working and what isn’t. She also speaks at business events on strategies for SMEs. In 2017, Business In Theory will launch the SME ScaleUp project to provide free business process improvement services to SMEs. The goal is to improve the sustainability of SMEs and create jobs in the sector.
Read more articles by Marang