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Sustainable SMMEs key to Africa’s economic revival

Students at African Leadership Academy Enterprise Festival
Students at African Leadership Academy Enterprise Festival

Five important things young entrepreneurs must know to attain business sustainability

Many entrepreneurs, especially those who are young and inexperienced, have very little understanding of the concept of sustainability in business. In Africa particularly, with startups largely run by very young and inexperienced people, the problem is quite prevalent. However, because youth entrepreneurship is generally seen as a beacon of hope for the continent, it is important that strategic support is provided to help these entrepreneurs better understand sustainability and how to implement it.

“And this must be our mandate as a continent as we lift our economies out of the shackles of the pandemic,” proposes Thokoza Mjo, Programme Lead, Very Young Entrepreneurs Acceleration at the Anzisha Prize.

Having been involved with many young entrepreneurs over the past few years, watching them amass impressive and sustainable success, Thokoza shares some of her most important lessons about sustainability in business.

  1. Anchor your business in your values

Your business is likely to succeed when it is founded on principles, beliefs and values that drive you as an entrepreneur. When these principles are specific and best define you, the way your business operates will be shaped accordingly, thus growing in the direction that fulfills you. And for as long as the mission is driven constantly within those specific values, it is likely to grow sustainably.

For example, some of the most successful business people in the world believe that collaboration is key to business success. They believe that it is important to work with people collaboratively from different backgrounds and with different skills and, as part of this, most importantly, respecting everyone no matter their positions. This way of looking at people helps generate a diversity of ideas and to formulate a diverse way of thinking and working. And often in such environments, the best business outcomes are achievable.

  1. Be agile and adaptable to change

If a business is capable of adapting to change, it stands a good chance of becoming a leader in its industry. But one that is not capable of this often becomes the dinosaur. We know a few such businesses that we had loved in recent years and have now forgotten they’d even existed.

Take Nokia and Blackberry, for instance. They are  just not as relevant as they used to be – mainly due to the lack of innovation and adaptability to change. One of the most popular electronics companies, Samsung, was established in 1938 as a completely different business. The company only started manufacturing electronics in the 1960s and mobile devices only in the late 90s. The story behind Samsung’s success is innovation.

  1. Focus on creating a strong value proposition

Choose a market wisely. identify the needs of your target market and best design your product, service or solution to meet such needs.

Sometimes our services or products are not consumed, not because they’re not good, but rather because they are targeted at a completely wrong market or a market that doesn’t understand the service. So, after choosing the market, you might also need to educate it. The role that social media plays in both our personal and business lives is a case in point. Facebook, for instance, has become a core tool for the business market, yet who would have thought that a few years ago?

  1. Resist the temptation to get comfortable

You cannot get comfortable and expect progress. And, in general, when a business gets complacent, a room is left open for a competitor to take advantage of the space. So, just because you have put in the work and the results are showing, it does not mean that you can rest on your laurels because, by so doing, you’ll be inviting competition. Don’t forget that while you’re basking in the success of your business and becoming relaxed, competition is still hustling.

  1. Continuously work on improving your offering

One reason human beings often resist change is that we are mostly comfortable with what we know. Whilst the prospect of change may be exciting for others, for many of us it is a daunting thought – so we would rather be resistant to change. However, this is no longer an option in business today.

These days, more than ever, fierce competition exists in every industry, enforced by technological advancements. Adding to this, the world is more globalised than it was a few years ago. This means that, even if competition does not emerge from your territory of operation, you may be challenged by a foreign competitor, who could easily take you out of business.

Lastly, we live in a world where customers have information about anything at their fingertips. This makes it extremely easy for them to access new products and services from competitors. As a business owner, continuous innovation is your best remedy to mitigate every potential threat and scenario.

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