Rome wasn’t built in one day. Our dreams will also not materialize in an instant. Fikeveni Dlamini, our guest writer opines on the need to start small, to avoid our dreams turning into nightmares. He states that when building our businesses, we should build small, as growing quickly could be disadvantageous in certain instances. Starting at the bottom also enables your business to have a firm foundation, he asserts.

Article by Fikeveni Dlamini- Guest Writer

We are encouraged to dream big from an early age. Unfortunately, this leaves us unable to make the first step because we either don’t know what that step is, or it is not as glamorous as where we would like to end up. In some cases, the dream is so big it results in paralysis. Another challenge nowadays is that a lot of the world is obsessed with global matters, i.e. politics, the news, big corporations, non-governmental organizations, social media, etc.

Although the state of the world and our participation in it is important, we seem to have forgotten that change starts in our hearts, households, and that it starts small. We have dreams of being CEOs, board members, or wealthy, without the realization that everything worth doing starts small, starts close, and requires us to start at the bottom.

We have to start small because most of us do not have the capital, both human and monetary, to afford something big. We need to build the network and contacts that will eventually lead to the capital. We also start small in order to manage the risks of doing business and stakeholder relationships. The list of stakeholders should grow as we expand our revenues, jurisdiction, and staff complement.

When we grow too fast, we risk losing the enterprise. We need the time to learn and grow as we go along. For the long-term, we need to focus on strategy or the big picture, but for the short-term, we need the details. These details are easily managed when the enterprise is small. If the size of the enterprise matches its age, mistakes do not hurt as much as they would when we have more to lose. Since nothing worth doing can be done without mistakes or setbacks, we need to grow the size of the business as we grow in our leadership. 

We also need to start small in the area of spending. We cannot fall into the trap that most new entrepreneurs fall into by spending money that we do not have. We should wait a while before buying a fancy vehicle or even hiring too many people. We need to hire the people that we need and pay them well, and that cannot be achieved when we start too big.

We should start with one business vehicle, not a fleet, and buy a reasonably sized and priced personal vehicle, not one we cannot afford. Too many times, the need to look like a business person instead of being a business person gets the better of us.

Branding is important, but it should not be at the cost of conducting business. It should not stand in the way of us making a sale or covering important expenses. At the end of the day, the best marketing is a high quality product or service.

Many enterprises, in the past, have ignored their immediate surroundings in order to maximize profits and this has resulted in strained relationships between businesses and the community. A business is supposed to bring life to a community; hiring and training its citizens, treating them well, and providing them with good products and services.

When we start close, we get real-time feedback from the ones close to us on how to improve our product or service. We can also see how the product or service affects the life of the community.

One of the problems with big corporations is the fact that the executive team lives nowhere near the customers, so they make decisions that negatively affect the people, through ignorance.  We should first serve the locals, then, once we have worked out most of the kinks, expand outwards. Our network should include those close to us, in proximity and relationally.

We can experience starting from the bottom, an essential part of our development, either by working for someone else, before we open a business, or during the start-up phase of our business. We need to get the opportunity to learn from someone else or perform tasks that aren’t necessarily “CEO” tasks. When we start out, we are the cleaner, the driver, the receptionist, the sales executive, etc.

We need to perform all these tasks at the beginning, not only because we cannot afford the people we need, but also because we need to understand the importance of these jobs. Too many executives, in bigger enterprises, can lack empathy for their staff because of never having experienced the challenges associated with other positions. Out of touch managers or executives tend to be insensitive to their staff’s requests; downplaying the pressures their staff are under, while burdening them with unrealistic expectations.

We can achieve our dreams and see a better world when we start with a single step. We have to change ourselves, then our household, then our community, then move out from there. We cannot expect to reach the highest heights without first building a firm foundation.

The temptation is to wait till we can start an impressive operation, but this is very unrealistic because all the impressive businesses of today started small, and grew organically. We need to develop virtues like patience, perseverance, and humility in order to begin the journey.

We cannot despise small beginnings or neglect our environment. We should not get debilitated by the how, but rather get inspired by the why. We can achieve the impossible tomorrow when we start by doing what is possible today.

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