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True entrepreneurs thrive in tough times

“Be miserable. Or motivate yourself. Whatever has to be done, it’s always your choice”. — Wayne Dyer

Opinion by Phillip Chichoni

The recent Confederation of Zimbabwe Industries Manufacturing Survey Report paints a gloomy picture of the country’s business outlook in 2013.

Not only does it indicate that manufacturing capacity has declined after seemingly recovering since dollarisation, it also predicts further decline and more company closures this year.

Although big companies are making the headlines in bad news, SMEs are in the same boat.

I passed a certain shop in Harare last week with a sign saying: “Closing down sale. Hurry now, everything must go!”

This could be a ploy to cash in among hard-pressed consumers looking for bargains, but it is surely a sign of the reality that is catching up with business.

The worst thing about bad sentiment is that it is contagious.  Some are driven to give up simply because their neighbour has gone down.

For true entrepreneurs, hard times present rare opportunities to shine and grow, while others are worried about the elections, liquidity crisis and competition from outside. Some of the most successful businesses were started during tough times. Strive Masiyiwa launched Econet at a time of critical foreign currency shortages and tough restrictive laws.

Microsoft was created by Harvard University drop-out Bill Gates in 1975, a period of serious recession in the United States. Today it is one of the biggest companies in the world.

CNN might be a news giant now, but in recession-plagued 1980, it was a little-known station called the Cable News Network. It transformed how people received information when it launched as the first 24-hour news channel. Today it is watched by a third of the earth’s population.

Why do these entrepreneurs succeed when others are deep in worry and stress?

Success came because the founders recognised a market need and filled it. Identifying such needs is the key to any thriving business, regardless of the economic climate in which it begins.
True entrepreneurs are always on the lookout for new opportunities, grabbing those ignored by others who are waiting for things to get better.

key factors to help you shine during these tough times:

Ignore the gloomy predictions
Worrying and stressing saps up your energy and kills your zeal. Instead of feeding on all the negative news being spewed from all sources, focus on positive thoughts.
Of course you cannot block all the information reaching you, but you can be selective on what you dwell on. Read motivational books and articles. Think of success and keep on the watch for new opportunities.

Focus on your passion
Think of why you went into business in the first place. It could have been because you wanted to make a difference in the world or to become financially independent. Remind yourself daily of that reason and you will stay focused on your goal.

Look at the big, long-term picture

Tough times come and go. Entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint. Don’t let up-hills distract you. Endurance and long-term vision are the traits that distinguish true entrepreneurs from mere business owners. Keep your eye on the prize, what you will have achieved when you eventually win.

Don’t skimp on your marketing and value delivery
One of the first expenses to be cut when finance becomes tight is marketing. It is seen as not necessary compared to other expenses with more direct effects on the business, like salaries and rentals.

But the moment you reduce your marketing efforts, sales will start falling and the finance situation will get worse and worse. Some businesses start reducing quality and service levels when hard pressed. Customers will not forgive you if you cut corners and will drop you in favour of better competitors.

Let us not remain ordinary business people; let us be true entrepreneurs. Keep on learning and acquiring new skills and useful information.

To succeed, we need to learn from those who have succeeded. At the Businesslink Networking Breakfast meeting on January 24, award-winning entrepreneur, business leader and promoter of women in business, Marah Hativagone, managing director of Codchem (Pvt) Ltd, will share her success story and talk about how one can succeed in the highly lucrative and fast-growing business of network marketing. Don’t miss it.

Phillip Chichoni is a strategic business planning consultant who works with entrepreneurs and growing businesses. You may contact him by email on
or visit

5 Responses to True entrepreneurs thrive in tough times

  1. Ali January 20, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

    Very true Phil…

    • machikichori January 20, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

      Not only that.,they also learn from previous failures and rebound wherever possible.They accept defeat and strategically fight back and reposition themeselves for the better

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