According to Claude Grunitzky, a renowned Global media entrepreneur, regardless of your business idea, the entrepreneur must ask him or herself, “what is the single necessary and sufficient condition for a business?”
It is not a product, a technology, a customer need, a business plan, a vision, a strong team, investors, or competitive advantage. While all those things are important for a company to have, none of them is the right answer.
The single necessary and sufficient condition for a business is a paying customer – the person who will pay your company money for its product or service.
Before any good business plan is hatched, the first thing that comes to mind is the target customer.
Ironically, in our setting, some customers can collapse a business of the young entrepreneur through their self-seeking gains, with the help of some careless, self-seeking or short-sighted employees engaged by an entrepreneur.
Every entrepreneur would want to succeed in business, but unfortunately, greed can push some to orchestrate to bring down colleague entrepreneurs in their quest to succeed at all cost.
The reason why most Ghanaian businesses don’t survive is as a result of these issues – lack of integrity, dishonesty, poor planning and self-centeredness, which have eaten deep into our moral fiber.
There have been several attempts by political or business leaders geared towards encouraging Ghanaians to think of owning their own business. Examples are the Presidential Pitch, McDan Entrepreneurship Challenge etc., plus a whole Ministry set up to push this agenda.
However, many start-ups are also confronted with diverse challenges ranging from cash flow management, time management, capital etc.
But in my view, one of the most difficult challenges in entrepreneurship especially in the Ghanaian society, is having the right personnel, especially for entrepreneurs who are engaged fully in their professions, but manage a business on the side.
Aside from access to capital which is undoubtedly a difficult hurdle most start-ups are confronted with, the next big hurdle as I mentioned earlier; is the quest to have the right personnel. Most of personnel these days, particularly the youth, have different motivations for work, and have become self-seeking.
For this reason, they can easily abandon the business or stifle it from growing.
A ‘Side-Entrepreneur’ friend’s experience
A friend who works with one of the government agencies shared his bitter experience of his failed side business with me. He started his ‘Iced Kenkey’ business and employed a few people to handle it.
Although he played a critical role in the running of the business, he hands over to the staff and goes to work in his professional space every morning.
According to him, he realized later that, his staff conspired to produce the same product on his blind side, and then after that, used his resources (Van, Ice chest) to sell theirs – allowing his (‘Iced Kenkey’) to go bad.
This guy went to the extent of registering with the Food and Drugs Authority, FDA, and yet had to wind down his business after the disappointment.
My ‘Side-Entrepreneur’ experience
As the owner of a start-up in the courier space myself, one thing I identified in my business is that, some customers are able to collaborate with employees to short-change a business.
They do this by dealing directly with the office or the field staff to shortchange the business owner.
In this case, some field staff i.e. riders; pocket monies meant for the business and deliver items to customers at the expense of the company.
I found out that many customers, especially in the courier service space I find myself, cut corners just to make abnormal profits.
A number of these customers operate in the Small and Medium Scale Enterprises (SMEs) sector, comprising restaurants, retail shops, fashion designers among others.
A typical scenario is where employees give out their personal Mobile Money numbers to customers; instead of providing the office Money Transfer number; and then divert the company proceeds for their personal gain.
They do these in collaboration with some of these dishonest customers.
Some of my customers, especially the restaurants, ended up poaching my firm’s riders. Unfortunately, they lose them to other courier companies; and you find these same customers returning to us to engage in business.
How does this customer expect the business owner to pay these same employees at the end of the month?
How do they expect the business owner to remain in business, whiles these customers whom I presume are religious or profess to be morally upright, pray to God for their businesses to flourish?
How do they expect the business to finance regular maintenance of the bikes?
And how do they want the business to increase the fleet of motorcycles to meet the needs of customers?
I understand that sometimes employees are callous to their employers or the business because they are not paid well or treated better.
But some employees are generally dishonest, ungrateful and destructive regardless of how well they’re treated.
As a start-up, I did my best in making my staff comfortable.
There’s also the scenario where the customer, upon seeing a new business setup, would go there and compare their services with the “giants” in the industry, and punch holes in all your processes just to take advantage of the young entrepreneur. They will not give you any chance at all to grow.
There was an instance where a customer walked into my office, and created the impression that she was in a hurry. She hurriedly dropped her item for onward delivery, and then provided contacts to the supposed recipients, but she failed to leave behind her personal contact details.
She however made payment and quickly left.
Apparently, all the two contacts of the said recipients were wrong and could not be reached.
The staff was thus unable to deliver the item (A Wreath), since both the sender and the supposed receiver could not be reached.
The Sender surprisingly returned to the shop to demand payment of GHS300.00 for the wreath because it could not be delivered, even though we’re not to blame.
In the end, the company had to painfully part away with GH¢300.00 just to save image after she created a scene.
Clearly, this was nothing but a well-orchestrated strategy to extort money from us.
These are just a few of the many hurdles a young business owner has to go through just to keep a business afloat in this country.
In the end, some of my young riders broke into my office and made away with two of my motorbikes just a day after they all received their salaries.
It’s unfortunate that a substantial number of our youthful population are looking for money, but obviously do not want to work honestly. They have the ‘get rich quick mentality’, and so they engage in suppression of cash, thievery, insubordination etc.
Although my Comprehensive Insurance Policy has taken care of these stolen bikes, I am in the process of winding up this business because it looks quite clear that for as long as I will keep the business as my side job without my full attention, I cannot find trustworthy people whether as supervisors or normal employees to run the business properly.
So, a lot of start-ups in Ghana continue to wrestle with an extremely unfriendly business environment that hits from all angles whether from customers, employees or government agencies, while the high cost of credit remains a bane for businesses.
You can never be sure that any kind of business will be successful. But starting a side business and remaining in employment, can give you some peace of mind that if your business doesn’t work out, you’ll still have work and be generating an income.
It also gives you a competitive advantage in your career, as starting a business requires you to learn new skills. Such skills can be used to develop your own career and give you a competitive advantage.
And starting a side business can be the perfect way to unleashing the creativity inside you; although it also comes with some disadvantages such as you not having much spare time to spend with family and friends, and less time for your side business and your main job as well.
Nonetheless, in dealing with the aforementioned challenges of employee dishonesty and the likes, I dare say that one of the most important solutions for any start-up is to be fully present and totally involved in the generic growth of the business.
This will give you the owner the chance to fully appreciate better the nooks and crannies of the new business.
The Author, Felix Ekow Eshun, is a Banker and Supply Chain Professional. He is also a member of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and an entrepreneur.