A headline about banks in Hong Kong investing in it’s “unique position as a financial gateway to China” despite Beijing’s political aspirations, reminded me of the importance of prioritising business over politics. A lesson for all South Africans – from the individual, to the private sector to government…
Listening to local radio station RSG earlier this week, one of the contributors shared how they empowered a man with a bicycle and the opportunity to deliver bread and milk directly to households. The investment was very small and the project very basic, but two important boxes were ticked: the opportunity to make money and the will to make it work.
Sometimes opportunity knocks on your door. More often, however, you have to go knock on a few doors to find it. It’s not easy, but it is possible. There are individuals and foundations and corporates wanting to help. You also need the will to make it work. The delivery guy had the bike and the basic business model, but he still had to get up early, be at the depot and get on with his deliveries. Come rain or shine, people want their bread and (I almost rhymed with wine) milk. Today he has a small business with a few more people doing deliveries and he manages to provide for his family and even to support a few others.
In South Africa, there is a very strong focus on access to tertiary education and having a degree. It is an admirable aspiration and having a professional title or a corporate job bring much-wanted financial security, but in our economy, I do think there has to be much more energy when it comes to entrepreneurship and establishing own enterprises. Some interesting points were raised about opportunities for entrepreneurs in the same RSG show. Many of the contributors felt that there is not a strong enough focus on starting your own business, that the barriers to entry are too high and that South Africans lack the will to make it work. Such a lack of motivation is possibly because of an expectation of government support, because too many have failed before or perhaps because there are literally no money or even knowledge of where to find money or support. (Listen to the podcast in Afrikaans)
With the opportunity and a drive to succeed, come hard work. It is a non-negotiable. This is not limited to the start-up or the novice – even those who have the means and expertise to start a new venture, have to work hard. Recently a successful butchery close-by branched out to open a delightful deli in a new development. They have all the experience and expertise in that line of business, but success for their new venture demand more than the capital – they are investing with early mornings and late nights.
But even when the opportunity and the motivation are there and even when you work really hard, it is also important to be wise when it comes to business and politics. Both concepts have multiple applications in various contexts. Business can be a small, individual enterprise, a family concern or a big corporate. Politics doesn’t have to be politics in the normal sense of the word, it also applies to company or family politics. Politics muddles the picture and influences decision-making. To be efficient, I would urge you to focus on successful business practices. This is even true when it comes to real politics…. When governments are successful in the business of governing, I think, they can be on top of their political game too.