business opinion: with DR FARAI CHIGORA
As we dwell and further unravel the home-grown philosophy that should be the centre pivot for economic development through the SMEs, we are proceeding with the PEOPLE model as this edition focuses on the second acronym: ECOLOGY. This is an assessment of the environment for entrepreneurship and industrialisation and understanding the key issues that should define and catapult the enterprise forward in successive obits of growth and wealth generation both for the households and the national economy. Considering the intensity, multidimensional and complexity of doing real business, it is inevitably necessary to have a 360 degree scrutiny of the apt ecology that is supportive in promoting industrialisation through entrepreneurship.
There is need to inspire strategic engagements, synergies and sustainable involvement of relevant multiplicity of stakeholders of our internal and external ecology. Instead of using needle eye to deliberate on entrepreneurial matters this stance broadly position start-ups and growing businesses on top of all ecology-operational matters. Even with policy coherence and conveyance proposals that have been advanced in previous instalments, it is only a prescription without medication as action and position are further required to strike an equilibrium.
The ecological viewpoint of setting up a successful enterprise seem not to be on the agenda of many entrepreneurs as their focus is rather short term and narrow, mainly bordering on subsistence and the bottom-line. Relating to a football team, there is need to have synergised relations, teamwork spirit, coach leadership, wowing of fans, abiding to the rules of the sport (referees and lines man) and conciliatory with the international rules of the game. This aligns with the ecology of entrepreneurship where such an integrated and systems approach should be adopted. It is worrisome that most SMEs confine themselves and their operations in subsistence operation and the rest is left as a broken chain in the ecology. The world famous and successful businesses have considered their ecology as a key strategic component for success.
This is one of the greatest impediments to ecologically transform these businesses as adaptive, approachable, sustainable and welcoming both to local and international investors. Attending SMEs workshops and being members of such defined bodies is not the only driver to sustainable existence. Let’s think of our businesses as a concoction of different brains, characters, rules, collaborations, benchmarks, policies and professionalism. A one man/woman gang is a misleading strategic approach in the development and growth of our businesses. Just like in a homestead “no man/woman is an island” you need family and friends support to you through both calamities and triumphant moments. Charity begins at home, but should not end there. These values sustain us in social and emotional existence the same way they do in business. In this view point the thrust of this edition is to unpack some ecological factors that are necessary for entrepreneurial growth and sustainability towards agenda 2030 and beyond.
It takes two to tango, that is the entrepreneurs and the global ecology to sustainable wealth generation, hence the need to redesign policies and practices towards a synergetic blended approach to ecological adoption. More time should be expended on surveying and creating synergies in each area of business operation so as to stimulate the shared working (ecology) and transformative spirit. To reflect on the fissures currently restraining entrepreneurial for industrialisation, various start-ups do not have properly designed operating structures spearheaded by a clear vision, mission and values which then translate to a defined organisational culture. The birth and growth of many SMEs has been deterred by the failure to define their internal ecology. If defined from the vision then it contributes to an effective organogram (functional areas specified), clear Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs), chains of communication and command, clear span of control, responsibilities, accountability and authority. It is true that these are aspects of the managerial techniques, but there is a thin line between schooling and practice. These aspects are viewed by many as hygienic, not starters of prosperity as they do a backward approach by thinking that businesses makes money first and later on build structures. Evidently, this has been a prescription for the current high “entrepreneurial infant mortality” rate.
Conversely it is not one-sided to develop a perfect ecology for entrepreneurial industrialisation. As mentioned earlier, it is a hybrid and circuit of various internal and external ecological matters. A Private Public Partnership (PPP) should be placed at the epicentre of practices, negotiations and formation of a transformative ecology where the government dominates. Unlike policies and regulations which are most of the times forced and imposed on the entrepreneurs, the composited recipe for this pillar of the PEOPLE model is an individual’s food for thought ( to take or not). For other key stakeholders in the business ecology the following suggestions are for blended dialogue towards vision 2030. My thinking towards building a robust and attractive long-term ecology for entrepreneurial industrialisation should consider these aspects.
Civic community engagement
Businesses do not operate as standalone, but are engaged with a multiplicity of direct and indirect relations in their modelling. The civic community is inordinately vital in achieving sustainability, mainly by self-introspection in evaluating the impact that the business is exerting (positive or negative) on their livelihood. Entrepreneurial impact to civic community can only be through well-engaged partnerships led by transparency of purpose. In return, these will support the enterprising ideology not only in ululating but by proving societal views and constructive recommendations (societal participation) leading to glorified and shared sense of ownership. Enterprises rooted in communities last the stretch.
Peaceful conflict resolution
An ecology that respects and adheres to various aspects that provide peaceful conflict resolutions between the PPPs. This is reflective of who we are if Zimbabwe is to be open for real business. That is an ecology for a mutual, morally acceptable and ethically respectful relationships in our Zimbabwean ecology. Something that cannot only be achieved through dialogue but doing what is right.
This might sound generalised and known through various representative bodies, but is not being considered as a must-take by the entrepreneurial world. It is important to provide a fair ground for both sexes to express their creativity without discrimination.
Sexual harassment issues
Relating to the above mentioned, it is critical to have an ecology that is free from sexual harassment as it has been an unacceptable practice by entrepreneurs. Besides it being a crime it blacklists the perpetrator and the start-up. This is so because Zimbabwe is largely a predatory patriarchy that has recorded cases of sexual harassment with impunity. This needs to be nipped in the bud.
Room to nature leadership through succession planning
One of the major incontrovertible reason for failure to have longevity in the localised approach to business and industrialisation through entrepreneurship is not seeing the business beyond its present founders. This has brought not only failure in succession planning, but a selfish drive towards building a sustainable ecology. It is a smart approach towards lasting attractiveness if not positioning one to be worth working with and a partner in investment in venture creation.
Spirit of consultancy
The reason why we have different specialisations in life is to encourage a guide for social exchange. Many, if not all, start-ups ignore the supremacy of consultancy. As individuals, we do not have totality acumen to fit all-size jackets. Appreciating the dynamics and complexity of consultancy will restore legacy in our own enterprises. As businesses we need to forecast, plan and act. Why not do the same search from our localised practitioners who can extent to localisation of best practises and national language. Prominently this is a critical mode for education.
Harnessing ICT policy in operations
The supremacy of ICT in the formation of SMEs and industrialisation is one not to deny. It is the new normal towards agenda 2030 and beyond. Many of the start-ups are yet to embrace the presence and progression of ICT in their ecology. This is now the trend not only for efficient operations but to connect with global investors, sell products/services and move with newer innovations. These include the Internet of Things (IoT), web visibility, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics.
Thinking of brand not personalisation
Entrepreneurs should now think of themselves as brands and not personalised set-ups. Brands are quicker to position and create a global identity. In the present ecology, it is important to have a positive image in the environment of operation. This will go to an extent of escalating perceptions in the quality of offerings to build loyalty and associations. All these can be achieved when the entrepreneurs apply branding as the way to reach global markets and be known.
Dr Farai Chigora is a businessman and academic. He is the Head of Business Science at the Africa University’s College of Business, Peace, Leadership and Governance. His Doctoral Research focused on Business Administration (Destination Marketing and Branding Major, Ukzn, SA). He can be contacted for feedback and business at firstname.lastname@example.org, WhatsApp mobile: +263772886871.