By Amanda Khoza, Divisional Director: Transformation & Inclusion, Liberty Group
People produce and people consume. Businesses are because of people – it is a commercialized form of Ubuntu. One cannot exist without the other.
Often cited to describe social interactions of community, solidarity and survival; Ubuntu is a universal concept that signifies tools of sustainability in the business community. Though it would ordinarily not have a reciprocal transaction attached to it, it elevates people engagement and interaction as a necessary part of being, of existing. At the core of small and business success is the customer – without this there is no business. Personhood thus compels us to build new versions and dimensions of citizenship.
As small business contributes to thriving economies, big business must activate their role in supporting small business for mutual benefit.
What keeps most business owners awake at night is having customers. It’s market share and market access. That’s what drives scope, scale, significance and survivorship. Yet there is little investment focus made on customer analysis and competitor intelligence – it is these ‘soft issues’ that will put business ahead. Legislation for financial services companies (applicable in my view for all types of businesses), has long spearheaded this move with the Know Your Customer requirements which has led to a more personable Treating Customers Fairly mandate. Business practices have to enhance the customer experience; they have to be people driven. Irrespective of the channels that are used in the delivery of the service or product to a customer, the customer opinion matters. Moreover, in an era when social media makes opinions viral and global in no time –what headlines news, is no longer about journalists calling it in – we are all newsmakers.
Market conduct suggests even more effective and better treatment of customers – addressing issues of unfair practices, inducements, and risks that customers can easily become exposed to. Individual impact has long been assigned to the bottom shelves of low risk, however all matters are now elevated to see the light of day - digital inclusion makes it that much easier to be social justice activists. Longevity is no longer about how long one lives but about how long that one viral bad customer experience lives to short-circuit your business success. Big business often develops over time with a strong customer loyalty because it has simply treated people like people. Yes, sometimes it has taken more than that, but collectively people can take a business down. In a world that has a proliferation of similar products and services, the user-experience is likely to be the one thing that connects and keeps a customer.
As big business does its social good by providing incubation and acceleration opportunities for small business, it makes sense to extend this by also extending this to market opportunity. Facilitating platforms and networks across its own value-chain allows for increased contribution to the economy. In the same manner that an organization hires qualified people as employees that they never invested in with regards to their qualifications and skills, they also procure from businesses that they have empowered or that have been empowered elsewhere.
Small business development is ultimately Ubuntu the way it should be – paying it forward for this generation and possibly for generations to come. We are and can be, because of each other.
Amanda Khoza is the Divisional Director: Transformation & Inclusion at Liberty Group, based in Johannesburg, South Africa. She is a passionate advocate for economic empowerment, financial literacy, and believes in the power of entrepreneurship to make real and lasting societal change happen on the African continent. Amanda is championing a host of initiatives for women entrepreneurs in South Africa, including partnering with Lionesses of Africa on the Lioness Lean In Liberty Sessions programme for intrapreneurs at Liberty, supporting The Mix newsletter each month as an impact partner, and joining with Standard Bank as the impact partners for the Lionesses of Africa Accelerator programme series in Johannesburg.
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