Being in business is one of the toughest pursuits one can engage in. And that’s if you know everything there is to know. In reality, nobody knows everything there is to know and in our environment, many are starting businesses without having worked in industry for long durations. As such theres, a lack of experience and this results in a bumpy ride in order to learn some vital lessons. However, there are also some misunderstood things about business that can result in you not getting the right end of the stick.

Businesses exist to maximise shareholder value

This one is obviously going to be a little more than controversial but I think after examining the evidence in our own example you will understand why this may not be the truth about business. Businesses exist to take care of employees. A quick look at the Zimbabwean situation with businesses happily raising prices to the tune of 176% over the year and offering salary increments between 10 and 30% and cushioning allowances makes the statement seem a little crazy. However, consider the state of those businesses. Do you get a warm feeling when you visit their premises or rather a staff compliment that seems to almost want to chase you away? We must of course never forget that Zimbabwean employment practices have carried a lot of the cultural norms of oppression and segregation and perhaps businesses have not fully transformed from that era. None the less, well taken care of employees (and business owners) are the best ambassadors for any business.

Your community must support you

In the words of former American President Kennedy “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”. Its become a common theme to see entrepreneurs in our environments complain about not receiving support from their communities. However we really should look at this the other way around, are you supporting your communities? This is not a question of charity and corporate social responsibility but rather of how much value your business provides to the community that you expect to patronize it. Do you provide something they need? Are you offering any advantage over alternatives? is your offer compelling enough for them to see the value? People are rational beings and will support with their wallets if it is in their best interests. So perhaps you need to look in the mirror if this is something you have struggled with.

You are the boss

When you start a business the general thinking is that you will finally be boss and hopefully your own boss. You will call the shots and be the master of your time. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your customers are your boss and they call the shots. Customers fire employees and can shut down entire businesses by closing their wallets. So the customer is the ultimate boss in any business. Many have been tempted to please their own tastes and preferences at the expense of customers and have learned a lesson the hard way. I’ve said before that a business has one essential requirement, a customer. You can have all the other requirements but in the absence of a customer you still dont have a business.

The ideas are pretty straightforward and applying them shouldn’t be too hard. Write them down somewhere where you see them regularly to keep them in mind.