BY OLUFEMI ADEDAMOLA OYEDELE
Ever since the establishment of trade, that is the beginning of exchange of goods for goods, called “trade-by-barter”, the motive of business has been to make profit, that is, have “competitive-edge” over “business partners” (other businesses and customers). A ‘producer’ of yam will want to ‘outsmart’ the ‘producer’ of bush-meat; and that was how haggling about the quantity and quality that are commensurate to each product began. The quantity and quality of meat that a hunter will part with for a certain amount of yam will depend on the negotiation skills of the two business partners, desperation of the parties to have the other party’s product based on availability of alternatives or not, the season of the year the haggling is taking place and the number of producers of each products available in the market.
From the smallest to the medium, and to the biggest one, business organisations are corporate bodies orchestrated to generate profit for the business promoters by satisfying customers’ needs. They are entities created to carry on the business of commercial enterprises. These organisations depend on money-making transactions – manufacturing, sales of goods and products or rendering of services for payment – to survive. Business organisations are hubs of risks. They exist on the laws of the country (constitutions) in which they operate, laws of contract, incorporation and property rights. Four types of these organisations exist in the business environment; sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC) or public limited company (PLC), and corporation. They operate to meet stakeholders’ requirements.
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Management has been variously defined by different scholars, theorists and renowned managers. Henry Fayol (1841 – 1925) stated that, “to manage is to forecast and plan, to organise, to command, to coordinate and to control”. E. F. L. Brech (1909 – 2006) opined that, “management is a social process… the process consists of… planning, control, coordination and motivation”. All businesses have two main ambitions; one is to make profit and the other is to increase the business’s value. Businesses must focus on the strategies for making profit and recording growth. Businesses involve men (people), business premises, money, materials, machineries, business continuity management like advertisements, insurance, research and development etc. Business success depends on business tools, especially the optimum combination of these tools by the business managers.
Business management is the planning, organising, controlling and administering business activities. Business managers oversee business operations and assist employees and businesses to reach their goals. They must be competent in managing resources, especially human, material and financial resources of the business. They must know how to use strategic management tools to achieve business goals. These management tools include, method of funding the business, recruitments of workers, motivation of workers, customer relationship management (CRM), including customer retention management, business location management, occupational health and safety management, business development etc. Since change is the only permanent phenomenon in life, businesses must continue to adopt change management. Business leaders/managers must know that people are essential in business.
Business challenges are the situations/factors that threaten or hinder or derail business goals. Each sector in the business world has its own set of requirements and challenges. Some of these challenges are common to all businesses while some are unique. Managing top quality customer relationships, meeting customers’ needs for goods and services satisfactorily, preserving a good business reputation, retaining quality employees, evolving an effective brand, and efficiently marketing and effectively distributing products and services in saturated and competitive markets are some of the challenges of modern businesses. Quality customers are not easy to come by. A good business manager must design a method to keep them permanently. Customers’ needs are varied and verse, a good manager must ‘struggle’ to meet all.
To grow a business, a good business leader must start from planning. Benjamin Franklin (1706 – 1790), the founding father of America, stated that, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.” All business managers must plan at the beginning of every business year and re-plan during the course of the business. The vision and mission statements of businesses must be visited and reviewed at the beginning of every business year. Managers must know how to develop a team through the power of “team interaction”. There must be a management staff retreat every year where the business goals and how to achieve them will be discussed. Targets-setting, and monitoring and evaluation (M&E) are becoming important tools to ensure business success. Before setting targets, SMART analysis must be adopted. The targets must be specific. It must be measurable either quantitatively or qualitatively or both.
The targets must be achievable and moderate though there is nothing wrong in raising the bar every target-setting season during business strategy reviews. The targets must have a timeline and be relevant. The targets must be time-based for final review and performance-measurement. Businesses are typical projects involving focus of the project managers and workers. All risks must be classified and those which must be avoided must be avoided. Those which must be reduced must be reduced while those which must be transferred to professional risk managers must be transferred to avoid business failure. There is power in market survey and feedback management. There are professional market survey companies which can be engaged to assess how a business is faring and its future performance forecast. Most of these marketing research companies are now engaging social media, technology and electronic mails to perform their functions speedily and effectively.
Business growth is not easy to manage because businesses, which are growing, easily catch the attention of “business sharks”. If your business is into a profitable new venture that can easily attract new entrants, make sure you have a good brand, register the brand-name with Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment, patent your innovation or product, look for a business mentor to appraise and improve your business methodologies and products, adopt the use of technology in your business and market your business as well as its products. Most businesses in Nigeria do not have websites or social media platforms. They are not benefitting from the impact of moving their markets to the large population of internet users. Have good relationships with your clients and always put on your thinking cap to expand your production and customer base, and benefit from ‘economies of scale’.
Motivate your staff commensurably to your financial performance and in relation to industry competitors’ rate and stay focused on “invaluable” staff identification and retention. Bill Gates once said about Microsoft staff recruitment that “If we stop employing foreign engineers especially from India, then there will be another Microsoft born in India.” The most important tools of any business are its workers. The objective of a ‘focused business’ is to recruit and train (human resources function) and retain (management function) ‘best workers’ available in the labour market. Business growth mainly depends on the contributions and efforts of focused, dedicated and hardworking workers and not only on the vision of the founders and mission of the business.