Sunday, 18 November 2012

The many travails of the small business owner

This week, several countries including Nigeria celebrated Global Entrepreurship Week (GEW). The GEW initiative was launched in 2007 by Carl Schramm, President and CEO of Kauffman Foundation and Gordon Brown, former Prime Minister of the UK. The reasoning behind the launch of the initiative was to create a global movement to inspire people everywhere to embrace entrepreneurship. Laudable idea but certainly a tall order for Nigerians when you consider the many travails of a start-up or small business.

Speaking of travails, what do you consider the biggest bottleneck in starting a small business in Nigeria?
  • Power

  • Startup capital
  •  People

  • The business idea

  • For a while now, my friends and family have encouraged me to start a small business as a plan B income and I haven’t been brave enough. Until very recently I believed my major deterrent was startup capital but after a close examination of the challenges small business owners around me face, I have come to a conclusion that their major bottleneck is PEOPLE!

    Think of it, if PHCN doesn’t give you power, you can generate yours by relying on a generator; for start-up capital you can get bank financing, or loans from a cooporative or famly, as for ideas, they say there’s nothing new under the sun. There are loads of global case studies to learn from. But it is difficult to get substitutes for good PEOPLE.

    Small businesses have the highest staff turnover. The average Nigerian worker is increasingly unreliable. Fresh graduates all want to work for blue-chip companies even when they don’t have any work experience. What’s more, a lot of them cannot generate a basic report of speak good English, yet they want to earn the same pay as those who started their careers 5 – 10 years before them.

    Attitude of semi-skilled workers is even worse. They don’t understand that customer is king. They don’t understand that without the customer they have no pay cheque. They are plain rude to the customers you work hard to get. They come crawling and begging for a job and 1, 2, 3 months on the job, they become truants. Just when you think they’re settling into the job and you are building a stable workforce, they bail out. You are then faced with costs of recruitment and training all over again.

    There is no dignity in labour. People don’t want to work but want to have all of life’s luxuries. A worrisome situation because we need entrepreneurs if this country is to develop. How can we over these challenges? Let’s talk about it.


    1. Well spoken. In my experience, the greatest challenge has been human resources: people. Sadly, the situation isn't getting any better.

    2. I beg to differ on the issue of human capital. Well the unskilled worker will continue to be a menace, however entrepreneurs aren't setting up their structure right which is why they are unable to attract their ideal staff. I have seen small businesses succeed with high staff trunover but infrastrucure is the real issue that's killing us. There are a lot of variables in this country that you can't predict and this makes it difficult to plan a business operations.