Ways you can use flexibility as a small business advantage

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Have you come across the textbook growth of a small business? You are supposed to start with your savings to produce a viable product or business model. Then, in time, your family or friends will be your angel investors. If you grind properly for 5 years or so, you’ll attract the elusive impersonal external funding. Not just commercial banks, but also venture capital and the likes.

Are you on track? The textbooks also say that from this stage you’ll exit in about a decade via an IPO or selling off. You can then spend the rest of your days writing books or giving paid talks about early retirement, responsible personal finance, how travelling gives you perspective and other patronizing themes. Dreamy, no?

One of the qualities of small businesses that could help you find your way past these milestones is flexibility. The big firms getting a whole spread on your business newspaper can only dream of this. Flexibility, in this context, refers to being able to reorganize your business on the fly. It has limitations but whatever payoff you can cash out will be worth it for you. Here are a few suggestions to use flexibility as an advantage for your small business:

People

People are not just drama. In business, people are also a huge cost of business. They not only need to be paid in bad business months, some feel entitled to forms of compensation like health benefits. The nerve. Big businesses try to shift from this by using contractors or lowering job-entry qualification so salary demands are low. Can you copy that? You can go further and adopt flatter hierarchies, where your team gets a lot more autonomy. Women entrepreneurs are better at this style of management. Do you really need employee A reporting to stalling employee B? You’ll just be hampering your advantage of quick decision-making.

What about employee theft concern? Invest your time on better recruitment, instead of catching crooks. It may be hard to believe, but there are Kenyans who are nice people.

Operations

There are unwritten rules we are supposed to follow in life. Finish school, get income, marry, let your body go (like just reduce your meal portions, haha). For work, business it has always been work the whole day. Even highly successful people with personal assistants will tell you about their shift. But this mentality means higher operating cost – there are those utilities, variable costs that increase with how much you involve them. Do you need you and your team to commute daily? If it’s avoidable, reducible don’t wait. Should you just be chilling in your shop waiting for the rush hour crowd? Can you share some operating costs like workspace like techies do? Some manufacturers do this. A few questions to think about.

Strategy

Look at Nairobi. Do you feel sad? That is what a lack of strategy results in. An important thing about setting goals is surpassing, meeting or coming close to your aims. I think in 2019, we should ditch that “at least I tried” mentality. This doesn’t mean you should be too hard on yourself, just set realistic goals. And the thing with small business flexibility is that you should be open to changing everything you thought was true. We see bits of it when a salon adds an Mpesa or an estate restaurant goes into deliveries. These decisions are made fast, sometimes over an alcoholic drink (I was told. I obviously don’t drink unhealthy things). If your guts tell you to change your products, service or target market, have a rational look into the how.

Money

I feel like a bad boy. I feel like when I bring up money I have to break your heart, because I can’t lead you to free cash. And the way women entrepreneurs love money! Let’s think flexibility with this too. A small business cannot be entitled. You don’t have that much room to maneuver. The best thing you can do is focus on working capital and revenue (profit is too slow), which is cash flow. Banks and investors are more interested in consistent cash flow. So, better the financial results of your bad months then go see them again. If they are still difficult, it could be because of these other reasons your loan application was rejected.

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Web Content and stuff. You can reach me you know: editor@herbusiness.co.ke, malitrobert@gmail.com

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