Many have lamented the demise of Bulawayo as Zimbabwe’s industrial hub. The following is an entrepreneur’s guide to avoiding some of the major pitfalls to which many Bulawayo businesses succumb. Without focusing much on the political and socio-economic causes, this article’s main focus is the few overlooked areas in which the entrepreneur has control. It is also a complimentary piece to the “How to do business in Bulawayo and win” series of videos. The article is about why Bulawayo businesses fail but I’m sure it applies to numerous other cities which are not the capital. Without wasting much time, here are a few reasons why Bulawayo businesses fail.
A FLAWED BUSINESS MODEL
The business model basically explains how your business will make money. Thus despite being in similar industries, each company is unique in this regard. Many have copied models from elsewhere and tried to implement the same but with little success. It is essential to understand your core product or service, who your customers are, and how you will ultimately get them to spend their hard earned cash. This includes building a system around the process to facilitate and enable repeat business.
The business model may seem obvious in most cases, but the disconnect between your customer and your product eventually becomes the undoing of such a business. It is therefore important for one to understand their customers’ needs and tweak your business model such that it gives you a competitive edge.
The second major reason is a failure to understand the inherent costs of actually trading. There are various costs involved in ensuring your business model is well oiled. Some of these costs are easily attributable to their respective cost centres and others not so. Most often, the production or direct costs are easily identifiable. There are other costs however, which often go unnoticed and unaccounted for. One good example, is the interest that goes uncharged on overdue accounts, especially in small businesses. This tied up capital could be performing other functions and it needs to be accounted for.
There’s also the failure to recognise overheads in the planning process. When business is brisk, this results in the illusion of a cash cow. Over time, this results in many businesses shrinking and eventually collapsing. So it’s probably not your bitter uncle from eNkayi who’s spiritually engineering your failure. It’s also probably not okungumfana lokhuyana who’s stealing your stock.
FINESSING THE CORPORATE WORLD
Regardless of the size of your business, you are a legitimate business or business person. It is important for one to conduct him/herself professionally from the get- go. This also includes showing up at corporate events and participating where you are qualified to do so. With all due respect to everyone’s hustle, try by all means to avoid the trap of becoming the perpetual “dealer” or salesperson. Build a genuine Bulawayo business that will not fail.
As you read this, my assumption is you’re dreaming big. Therefore let us work towards building legacy businesses. That requires strategic thinking, tenacious effort and lots of patience. It also means that you have to get a lot of things right even when you’re laying the groundwork as you build your enterprise.
MISUNDERSTANDING THE BUTTON PUSHERS
It is an undeniable fact that most Zimbabwean businesses are headquartered in Harare. It is therefore important to target the correct level of management decision maker to push your agenda. In some organisations, even small decisions like photocopying still need approval from HQ. So do your homework and avoid wasting your time, resources and effort targeting the wrong person. If your target is business to business, then present yourself on that level. Dress well, DO YOUR RESEARCH, make it worth their while and give them an offer they can’t refuse.
Now that, you know why some Bulawayo businesses fail. what’s next? Our mission is to ensure that your business does not fall victim to these mistakes. Through our Business Builder- Small Business Management Suite we can help you strengthen your business model to ensure that your organisation is both optimized for success and viable. We also assist with implementation strategies. These ensure your business is built on a foundation that is conducive for growth and profitability.