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SME’s Chat: Aim to build a great company

“It is never too late to be what you might have been.” — George Eliot

SME’s Chat with Phillip Chichoni

In 1910, two explorers began their quests to become the first men to ever set foot on the southernmost point on earth.

It was the age of Antarctic exploration and the South Pole represented one of the last unexplored areas on earth. Robert Falcon Scott, from England, had two goals: to be the first man to reach the South Pole, and to gather scientific evidence. He set off with his team along with motorised sleds, ponies and dogs. They followed a route that had been taken by a previous team, the Nimrod expedition, which failed to reach the pole by just 180 km a few years earlier. On arriving at the target, Scott was utterly disappointed to find a Norwegian flag already flying at the South Pole.

Norwegian Roald Amundsen, had become the first man to set foot on the South Pole. Commentators attribute his success to a number of factors. First, he had taken a new route, unlike Scott who took the route used by previous failures.

This route shaved 96,5 km off the journey to the Pole. Amundsen had also spent time living with the Inuit tribe, Eskimo people who inhabit the frozen region of the Arctic. He learnt a lot from them, including that dogs and sleds were the best modes of transport in the ice. Unlike Scott, who had also brought in a scientific research team, Amundsen went with a cohesive team that had a single purpose: to be the first to reach the South Pole.

Entrepreneurs can learn a lot from these two men’s expeditions. You need to give your company a Big, Hairy, Audacious Goal (Bhag). Jim Collins, the author of Good to Great and Built to Last, coined this Bhag term to describe the sort of goal that will ensure that your business will be there for the long haul. As you know, most small businesses survive for just a decade or two, and very few last beyond the founder’s life. As an entrepreneur, I am sure you want your business to last for generations.

An enduring company needs a leader who has a great vision. That vision inspires him or her to set that big, hairy, audacious goal that is transformative and stretches very far. You need to see 20 or 30 years ahead.

In an interview with one magazine, current ZNCC Business Man of the Year Mike Joka mentions the importance of thinking big and thinking ahead. After training as a medical doctor, Joka said he did not think within the confines of clinical opportunities like most doctors do. Instead, he envisioned a bigger picture, building a great business that would change the landscape of the medical services sector in Zimbabwe. As of now, he is causing turbulence in the hospital and medical aid services.

Here are some tips that you need to think about when you decide to transform your small or medium-sized business into a great company:

Have one Bhag

Scott was bogged down along his mission by the conflicting goals of his mission: to reach the South Pole first and also to carry out scientific research. Think of one big goal for your company and align all your energy towards it. This goal will stimulate growth and make you better and stronger.

Don’t be satisfied with being good

A comfort zone is a trap. Do not be happy if your business is doing average and you are making average income. Surviving and barely growing is not good enough. Strive for more, a lot more.

Plan ahead

Amundsen lived with the Eskimos so as to understand life in the ice. He made plans that ensured success on the treacherous journey to the South Pole. Planning ahead will prepare you and your team to deal with the whims of fate and also help you take advantage of opportunities that will arise.
Have a greater purpose

What are you in business for? If it is just to make money, then you are not building a great company. A great company makes a contribution. Ask yourself if someone’s life will be better because you are here. In the end, business is about people, being of service and being useful.

Have a single purpose team

Build a team of people who believe in your goal and vision. You can only build a great company if your team consists of people who want to achieve the same mission as you.

I suggest you read Jim Collins’ books that I mentioned earlier if you want more detailed advice and practical examples of entrepreneurs who are building great companies. Let me know what you think by emailing me at the details below.

Don’t forget the BusinessLink Networking breakfast meeting with life coach and motivational speaker Arthur Marara on Saturday October 26. More details are on my website.

Until next week, keep on accelerating your growth.

Phillip Chichoni is a business development consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs.
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One Response to SME’s Chat: Aim to build a great company

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