Ever since I became an entrepreneur, one thing that has fascinated me almost as much as innovations that drive new businesses, is the complex management skill required to build large ones. Making a business bigger depends on management expertise. This is something many people do not really appreciate as much as they should.
More than 25 years ago, I had a construction business that grew very well for a number of years. I had hired the best-qualified people I could find, and we had many contracts. Then one day almost out of nowhere, we started to struggle with cash. We just never seemed to have any money, even though we had big projects. I struggled to understand what was going on. I even accused the staff of stealing from me as I angrily sought someone to blame!
Eventually I was simply overwhelmed by creditors. In the end unable to cope, I applied for voluntary liquidation of the business. It was a massive humiliation. Everything was sold to pay our creditors. I lost everything, and more than 1,000 people lost their jobs.
Although I still had other businesses that were successfully operating, I was very disturbed by what happened, and for a while quite depressed.
Over the months and years that followed, I did many soul-searching postmortems to try to figure out why a business that had at first appeared so successful could suddenly fail just like that.
I know many of you may have recently gone through what I’m talking about. You may even be going through it now. It is the ultimate nightmare of any entrepreneur.
As you start a business, the question of how you grow it into an even bigger business is really about management.
After analyzing my own business as a case study, I concluded that I did not have sufficient management skills for what I wanted to achieve in my business life. At first I thought to go back to university, but my circumstances at the time simply did not allow for a formal program. So, I sent myself back to school. Of course, in those days there was no Internet, or online courses. The MBA was a new concept.
No one is born a good manager. It is an expertise you learn both through experience and education. People management, financial management and marketing management are just three of the “core courses” that are essential to running a successful company.
I became passionate about understanding modern management. I would never take it for granted. I threw myself at learning all I could find on the subject. I wanted to understand how someone could take a simple hamburger, which anyone can cook, and turn it into a global business like McDonalds!
Every night after work, I sat down and read books. When I travelled, I would lose myself in bookshops, always in the business management sections. What I learnt I tried to put into practice. I subscribed to magazines on business management.
Soon I could do deep diagnostics of what happened in my business that failed. It did not happen overnight, let me tell you, in case you think there’s a silver bullet or someone lays hands on you, and bang, you are an expert in business management.
God has given each one of us “a sound mind” and He wants us to use it. This is what it also means to “study and show yourself approved.”
Gradually, systematically, I began to see the deficiencies and how to address them. I began to understand the “tools” that are used in the management of a modern organization, and how to use them skillfully.
I cannot say, “I have fully apprehended,” but I’m consciously working on it. You cannot address a problem that you are not willing to accept exists. It starts there. If you want to manage your way to the top: analyze, read, ask the right questions and don’t be shy to benchmark yourself with the best in the world!
This piece was written by Strive Masiyiwa on his Official facebook page. Strive is the founder and executive chairman of Econet