HomeBusinessSME chat: Getting unstuck from the past: Mauritius experience

SME chat: Getting unstuck from the past: Mauritius experience

According to the Ease of Doing Business Index, Mauritius is one of the top ranked investment destinations in the world. Although a tiny island 0,4% the size of Zimbabwe, its GDP is nearly four times greater. According to the Mauritian Minister of Commerce, Industry and Consumer Protection, Cader Sayeed-Hossen, from independence the country was a low income, agriculturally-based economy.

Most people remember the country for its sugar. But six years ago, the country’s leadership realised that the prevailing level of growth was not sufficient to lift the country from low-income to high income. Instead of doubling efforts in the same context, they decided to make a quantum shift in policy and economic direction.

Within a few years, Mauritius moved from being a sugar exporter to a diversified economy with growing industrial, financial and tourism sectors. Today the country is a major exporter of textiles and clothing, although it does not grow any cotton. Even without any mines, it is a major exporter of metal products and jewellery. Agriculture now contributes only 5% of GDP, with the services sector contributing over 70%. The country managed to get unstuck from its slow growth agro-based past into a fast-growing, high-value-adding manufacturing and services economy. What’s the lesson for you as an entrepreneur?

The history of business is littered with cases of businesses that were once leaders in their sectors but declined after failing to get unstuck  from the past. Remember Motorola, which started the mobile phone revolution? The Razr Moto was at one time the phone to be seen with. Unfortunately, Motorola failed to move with technology and markets. As the internet revolution swept, fast-moving companies introduced phones suited to internet and email applications. Recently, the loss-making Motorola mobile phones division was spun off and sold to Apple.
Locally, there are numerous businesses that have declined as a result of failing to get unstuck from the past: video rental firms that failed to change to cheaper DVDs; local grocery shops that failed to adjust when low price retail giants moved in; postal services that were overtaken by the introduction of email and internet; commodity farmers who failed to change to higher-profit cash crops. Getting stuck can happen even in your type of business. How can you get unstuck?

Many business owners are stuck in the past; running their businesses the same way they have been doing for the past 20 or 30 years. They are in a comfort zone which has worked well for them in the past. However, the business environment in Zimbabwe and globally has changed. The old ways of doing business do not allow for much growth or profit. Not wanting to stress themselves, some entrepreneurs have come to accept their fate and are satisfied with low profits, old technology and the usual hard work in the rat race. Why are they satisfied with mediocrity? — Because that is the only context they know.

It takes a lot of thinking and conscious effort  to get unstuck from the past.  The starting point is your mindset. How badly do you want to grow your business; to be rich and to be able to retire early? What do you see in your vision for success? Do you see your company making millions for you? Do you see yourself selling the business for millions? Or listing it on the stock exchange and cashing in millions of dollars?
Your context limits your vision. And that limits your success. To remove those limits, and get unstuck, you need to open up your mind and get in more information. When last did you read a book or listen to an audio CD on how to improve your business? Or bought a business magazine? Or attended a business seminar? You need to read a lot about business, financial management, investing and business opportunities. Look at successful entrepreneurs and learn from them. They are just people like you, but with bigger visions.
Don’t miss any opportunity for networking with people who can help you broaden your mind and widen your context.

Business is a team sport. Most SMEs remain small because they are not used to having a team assisting them with their business and financial planning and decisions. No-one knows everything. If you work in your business, you g

et emotionally attached to it and you won’t  see things objectively. When you see profits declining the usual reaction is to redouble your efforts.
With a team of professionals to assist you: accountants, lawyers, bankers, business consultants, you get the best advice. If you want to win, you want the smartest people on your team. And they don’t have to be expensive. Retired professionals will gladly advise you for a small fee, or even for just lunch. You need to widen your contacts and networks if you want to have access to these professionals.

lPhillip Chichoni is a business planning and financial management consultant who works with SMEs and entrepreneurs. He may be contacted on email:  chichonip@gmail.com.

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