What's the Problem?

 In our work with entrepreneurs I hear a lot about the problems that they face. Their descriptions often focus on symptoms and as a result, the solutions developed often just treat these symptoms without addressing the true/underlying cause of the problem. While it may seem logical to take a step back, identify the problem and come up with a long term solution, the actual process is trickier than it seems. That's where process maps come in.

Process maps document each action/decision within your business and can therefore be a great tool for pinpointing where problems exist and which solutions are best suited to solve them. Check out our short video on process mapping to learn more about how you can create one for your business.

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Do You Have A Company Culture?

Your company culture defines your day to day operations and influences all aspects of your business. It goes without saying that as the business owner, you should epitomize this culture so that your current and future employees can learn by example. In defining your company culture you should focus on:

  • Developing an Organizational Hierarchy: Is the structure of your organization flat or vertical? 
  • Making Hiring Decisions: In addition to making sure that the people that you hire are qualified on paper (i.e. have strong resumes), it is also important to ensure that their personality is a good fit for the company’s culture.  
  • Customer Interactions: Your company culture also impacts how you are perceived externally by your customers.
  • Workforce Management, Task Assignment and Decision Making: How you manage employee performance, reward and punishment, and reporting and decision making is largely dictated by the hierarchy that you have developed and should also be a reflection of the company’s culture  
While this list isn't exhaustive it does provide a great starting point. Investing time in the development of a strong culture for your business has the potential to greatly improve your operations.

Interested in learning more about how you can create a culture for your business? Register for our Building a Winning Start-up Course today!

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Is it Possible to Maintain a Startup Culture as your Business Grows?

Start-ups are known for having a very entrepreneurial environment, in which:
  • Employees are given significant amounts of responsibility and leadership opportunities
  • Independent thinking is encouraged
  • There is a flat organizational structure
  • Customer relationships are a priority
Unfortunately as many companies grow, and their internal structures shift to support this growth, these characteristics are lost and can sometimes lead to the loss of star employees or cherished customers. How can your business avoid this?

While some change in culture is inevitable as your company grows (e.g., if you’ve gone from local to international operations, as a CEO it may not be possible for you to have weekly lunch meetings with your staff), having a clearly defined company culture at the outset can help you to retain your core values and principles throughout the life of your business. To learn more about how you can create a company culture, register for Start Smart’s Building a Winning Start-up course today!

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Creating Economies of Scale on Your Own

As a small business, one of the biggest challenges that you’ll face is high costs. Whether it’s in:

  • The procurement of inputs or goods for resale, where you pay higher prices as a result of not being able to buy in bulk,

  • Your production processes, where the quantity of output produced is below the optimum level,

Operating at a smaller scale can often mean higher costs. Typically as businesses increase their scale of production, and can for example buy goods in bulk at a wholesale discount, they are able to reduce their costs and realize economies of scale.

Economies of scale refer to the cost benefits that an organization enjoys as a result of its scale of operation. As a small business owner, however, it is still possible for you to realize economies of scale. Here are a couple of ways:

  • Joining Forces: Do you know other small businesses in your area that require similar inputs? Team up with them and order in bulk! By pooling your input needs together, it’s possible to generate enough demand to warrant bulk discounts

  • Strategic Sourcing: Try sourcing from other small businesses, which are willing to offer you discounts in exchange for a guaranteed market for their goods.
How have you been able to achieve economies of scale as a small business owner? Share your story.
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What Makes A Business "Big"?

The size of a business is typically defined by its revenue, management and decision making structure, number of employees, level of output and number of customers served. However, the size of a business can also be deduced from its approach to financing and marketing.

Financing: Typically businesses are financed through loans (personal or business), venture capital, grants, personal savings and angel investors. The key difference between the options available to large and small businesses, however, is variety. Larger businesses tend to have access to a broader variety of financing options as they:
- Are often perceived to be less risky, since they've usually been in business longer and have developed reputations, and also have more assets that can be used as collateral. As a result the cost of borrowing (i.e. interest rates) for larger businesses tends to be be lower than it is for smaller businesses.
- Generally are better able to show that their idea is scalable and will generate large returns

Marketing: As with financing, both small and medium sized businesses tend to follow the same basic principles, the difference however lies in implementation. Differences in budget and approach for example are what differentiates small business marketing from that of larger businesses.


The figure above illustrates the business marketing cycle (How Small Business Marketing Differs from Big Business Marketing) for both small and large businesses.

What are some of the differences you've noticed between large and small businesses in your industry?

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Has it Really Gotten Easier to do Business in Ghana?

By most accounts, it appears that doing business in Ghana has gotten easier. In 2003, it took about 23 days to start a business, and by 2013 the number had dropped to about 14 days (World Bank). While this figure is encouraging, I believe that it fails to account for a number of factors which make it difficult for businesses to thrive, particularly start-ups.

For example, while some of the initial costs of starting a business vary by industry,the cost of compliance (e.g., taxes and registration) is high. These "costs" arise as a result of official fees, as well as the time and monetary resources lost tracking documents and finalizing processes.

Do you think it's easy to do business in Ghana or Africa as a whole? Share your thoughts!

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Should Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Matter to Start-Ups?

As consumers have become more socially conscious, CSR has gained increased visibility across industries and companies. Whether it manifests in the form of scholarships or community service activities, many companies have taken an active interest in the communities that they operate in.

This kind of commitment, however, often requires significant financial resources. Larger companies may have the revenue to support this, but should CSR matter to small businesses?
In my opinion all businesses, regardless of a their size, have a responsibility to give back their communities. The questions should therefore should not be if your business should be socially responsible but how it can be. Figuring out the answer to the latter is as simple as walking through your community and noting down what you find either through direct observation or by asking the people you meet.

Do you know of a small business that has taken the time to serve its community? Share their story!

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