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Can you afford to be absent from your business?

A leader is best when people barely know he exists, when his work is done, his aim fulfilled, they will say: we did it ourselves. — Lao Tzu

Phillip Chichoni

There is this business strategy development workshop that a friend of mine was invited to recently. It is said to be a game changer for entrepreneurs who want to take their business to the next level.

“So, when are you going for this high-flying workshop, Steve?” I asked my friend.

“What? It’s a three-week course overseas and I cannot leave my business for that long!” replied Steve.

Now, Steve is missing a life- changing opportunity because he cannot leave his business unattended. Can you?

Speaking at the Small and Medium Enterprises Association of Zimbabwe (Smeaz) monthly networking event last week, a colleague Gabriel Chipara said most owners of small enterprises are not real business owners. Instead, they are simply self-employed.

Small business owners whose presence is required in order for the business to generate revenue are all self-employed professionals.

Nothing happens if they are not working in their business. Even among those who employ workers, many are reluctant to entrust any responsibility to their staff. My friend Steve falls into this category.

The drawback with being self-employed is that you cannot afford to be absent from your business. When you are not there, there is no business because you are the business. Like Chipara said at the event last week, systems can change your business from being a one man self-employed professional, to a business that runs without the need for the owner’s constant presence.

With a properly documented system in place, a business owner can rely on his staff to deliver without he or she doing the physical work. This requires the owner to train and empower the employees and then leave them to carry out the work. The owner’s job now would be to plan and monitor that goods and services are being delivered at acceptable levels of quality and on time.

In the book The One Minute Manager, Ken Blanchard talks about this manager who only needs to tell his people what to do by, first teaching them how it should be done, then asking them to come to him when they have a problem that they cannot solve. So, the people know what to do and how it should be done, only going to the boss when there is a problem beyond their ability to solve.

Now I have heard many business owners talk about how some employees leave after being taught the production system, only to go and set up their own businesses. Yes, that happens. Many SMEs today were started by people who were not happy at their jobs.Because they had the knowledge, they were able to start their own enterprises, in many cases competing directly with their former employers.

This is not a problem of disloyal employees. It is a problem of leadership. A good leader gets loyal followers. He persuades, inspires and motivates others to follow him.

Tom Peters said that the best leaders don’t create followers, they create leaders. You must motivate others to follow your vision, to support and achieve the goals and objectives that you have set, to buy into that mission of the organisation as you see it.

To achieve sustainable success as a leader, you must earn the trust, respect and confidence of your people. You must also fairly reward your people’s efforts and initiatives. That way, you will find that employees will never leave; in fact, they will be happy to see your business succeed because your success is their success.

A business system basically is a set of manuals that describe how things should be done in the enterprise. They cover the key areas of an enterprise, namely production, marketing and selling, finance and human resources management. Responsibilities are assigned to specific people, who become accountable for the attainment of set goals.

When the system is working well, everyone knows what to do and the results they are expected to produce; so the work flows like clockwork. A system allows management to monitor performance. You can therefore identify slackness and take corrective action. Non-performers will clearly stand out as a result of the monitoring and control functions of a business system.

If he had a good system in place and his people’s full buy-in, Steve could afford to go to Europe for the three-week workshop, with the peace of mind of knowing that empowered and responsible people are taking care of his business. With the instant communication available via the internet, he can get updates and reports on how the business is performing on his laptop or smartphone.

Now, start working on making your business systems so you can be able to take that occasional break, or go for that well-deserved holiday without having to worry about things falling apart when you are not there. Until next week, keep on accelerating your growth.

Phillip Chichoni is a business development consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. You may contact him by email, chichonip@smebusinesslink.com. You can also visit http://smebusinesslink.com

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