The notion that we small business owners have to wear different hats can be detrimental to us and our businesses. I always wondered if the concept of working ON your business was real and feasible, given the resource constraints at a start-up phase. Given my Damascus moment and my experience, I can say, it is possible. Resources at the start-up phase are not the issue.
In the 2000s, just after I opened my laundry company. I joined the entrepreneurship program which was offered by Raizcorp, an enterprise development house founded by Mr. Allon Raiz. One of the weighty lessons I learned from this institution especially from Allon himself was: Build your business in such a way that you work ON it, not IN it. When I first heard this, my scepticism shot to the roof and silently I would respond: "I wish you can come work in my laundry for a week and then come and make that lofty statement".
Truly speaking, I believed it was easy for Alon to preach such a gospel because he didn't have to practice it. Sadly, this was just one lesson I profusely disregarded and rebuffed, believing it was inherent in this journey to do everything yourself if you wanted your business to succeed. Entrepreneurship is no respecter of an ego filled man. I was humbled and I learned my lessons the hard way.
I believe there is something very thrilling and rewarding to be pulled in all directions at the start-up phase. The excitement, busyness, sleepless nights, doing it all and messing it all up, really confirms that one is an entrepreneur and somehow it is a badge of honour.
To tell you the truth - it does not have to be like that! When it dawned to me that I could not do it all. I was already experiencing panic attacks and few mental breakdowns here and there. The conversation I had with Mr. Mpho Ramufhufhi from SEDA (Small Enterprise Development Agency) changed my life and my business.
I had given up, ready to close down my business. I felt everyone from staff members, family, clients, and suppliers were not getting enough of me. I was being pulled from all directions; I didn't even know my name!!
I told Mpho that I had become nothing, but, a super switchboard operator and the firefighter of my company. I was being called for Point of Sales that were responding, customer complaints, machines that were not working, safe keys, cars getting stuck on a high way with no petrol............
His response was simple- "you need a Quality Management System (QMS)". Being ignorant about QMS, I was convinced I needed to hire more people. Mpho explained to me that as long as I didn't know what processes in my business required extra resources, hiring more people will not help, but create more problems. At first, I believed that a QMS was for big companies, especially those that are in the manufacturing sector and it was extremely expensive.
After a series of workshops with Mpho. I realized that the QMS was nothing, but set of documented policies, processes, and procedures that will enable the company to plan its production and the delivery of services to the clients. I also realized that these set of policies, procedures, and processes will be unique to our company, as they were defining how we were uniquely doing things. During this process, I likened the QMS development as creating a and documenting a recipe. A recipe by its nature is meant to be implemented independently of the originator and certain ingredients can be replaced by others if they not available (the non-static and continuous improvement nature of QMS).
Right there!! All my misunderstanding was cleared. My Damascus moment had arrived! - Through the QMS development process, I was building a company that was totally independent of me, and that will be passed from one generation to another.
I started documenting every process in the business, from telephone answering, greeting customers, counting the money at the end of the shift, ironing a shirt versus ironing a trouser.......... It was amazing to realize that I did not have to crack my skull for procedures and policies that we needed. Out of the process documentation, policies and procedures came into being. The other remarkable discovery was: built in every process there was a high level of accountability, that is, who is supposed to be doing what and when. Suddenly just from this process, I could account for resources I had, and justify more.
It then made sense to me why the existence and continuity of big companies do not depend on the founders. They invest in developing policies and QMS.
It took us(my company) some time to get the hang of it, but when we finally did. The real benefits of implementing the QMS were: Suddenly the rate of calls I received was drastically reduced. Staff handled their work confidently and independently. There was a high level of accountability and there was standardized service offering across branches.
The REAL VALUE I got, which I think most entrepreneurs who do not have QMS are missing was:
1. My role as founder and the investor in the business became clear. My role was to craft strategic direction for the business- "Working On my business not In my business".
2. We became customer focused; because we were no longer fighting fires every day. Responding to self-created emergencies due to lack of QMS. Our focus was on delivering the service to our clients.
3. Our revenue increased due to eliminated costly mistakes. Mistakes that are done because staff members do not know how to do things can be very costly
4. We became a company that was continuously improving, and, that became our culture.
5. QMS became our trump card when pitching for new business.
Dear entrepreneur out there. You are missing out. Start documenting your processes now. I would like to anticipate a question from entrepreneurs which is: Do QMS have to be ISO certified? The Advice and guiding I got from Mr. Tebogo Matobako, the owner of Hlalele Management and Auditing Services, was: you do not develop the QMS in order to get a certificate of achievement (ISO certificate). QMS are meant to bring efficiencies in the company once the QMS has become the lifeline, the bible of the company, then certification can be considered, given the benefits that come with ISO accredited Quality Management Systems.
Photo: William Iven On Unsplash
Hlalele Management and Auditing Services: http://www.hlalelemanagement.co.za/