Running your business to make money

2008-09-01 00:00

Many thanks for all your recent responses and comments, particularly with regard to last week’s column on labour’s attitude. It appears that some readers have got the point, but others are quite a long way off the mark in terms of understanding our labour’s problems and its relationship to performance.

In truth, you couldn’t have expected to get a highly motivated performance from your staff before all this latest economic rubbish hit the fan, so you certainly can’t now.

Let’s cut to the chase and spell out the reality of the current labour situation. Across South Africa and particularly within the SMEs, labour — your employees — are stealing from your business. It may be as little as a pencil and notepad to give to the children to use at school, or as big as being the inside man to theft of finished goods from the factory. This shouldn’t come as a shock when people who we have put into government are filling their pockets. I am not saying all politicians are bad, but the majority aren’t exactly good role models to the masses they represent. What I am talking about is a culture of “take”, a selfish culture that is corrosive to all relationships, whether in business, friendship or family.

To compound this situation, management and SME owners are committing the central sin of abdicating responsibilities. Turnover is devilishly difficult to hold on to, costs of running the business are escalating and staff aren’t performing. This situation is akin to a fishing trawler at sea in a massive storm. The trawler is in the storm, but its captain isn’t aboard. Here’s the point. Many SME owners go into their businesses believing it will be easy money — get the premises, get the people, put in the stock, do a couple hours’ training and off we go, up the yellow brick road.

Well let me say this: there is no easy money in business today for SMEs. You must accept your responsibilities. You need to be there to open and close your business and put in the hours, every day. You need to know what is happening regarding your stock, how your customers are served and what the training and motivational needs of your staff are. If you neglect people, they will neglect you. The truth is, many SME entrepreneurs are even lazier than their staff. If you want a successful business, you have got to put the hours into it.

It is at such times you should be spending more time with your staff, encouraging, supporting, checking and being a part of what they do. Unless this attitude is in place, you will have a devil of a time getting through these rough economic seas. Ironically, all the same principles apply to a production manager of a large factory. If he is not putting in the hours with his people, if his presence is not felt on the factory floor, watch out. Up will go scrap, up will go theft, up will go overtime, up will go remakes and up will go machine downtimes and so on. If you are sitting in your office looking at numbers, it is too late. You should be spending your time with your production people; that is your priority as a manager. Next week, I intend to look at SMEs from the perspective of landlords, bank managers and selling prices.

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