First a couple of observations. Doing business in South Africa has become increasing complicated. And perhaps it's not just a South African phenomenon. There seems to be an ever-increasing list of demands that have little to do with a successful business. Like corporate social responsibility, and turning our offices and workshops into primary school level classrooms. Things that government should be taking care of. Our education system. Our taxes. Our favorite charities.
My next observation is that as a business grows it gets increasingly complicated. It's so easy to forget about the basics. And yet it is vital that we don't lose sight of the fundamental principles that got us to our complicated business in the first place. Because they still apply.
My final observation is that we tend to hop around in discussing business related topics. There's no problem with that and by all means let's continue. But I think it's time we also laid a foundation of basic business principles that are built from the ground up.
So here is the start of a series that I hope we are going to work through together. For anyone in the early stage of the business experience, we're starting from where you're at. For those of us who have been at this for a while, it might be useful to remind ourselves of the simple things that we tend to take for granted or forget in the midst of all those seeming complicated decisions.
Add your comments along the way. Ask questions. And let's build this from the ground up.
Now I don't pretend to know all of these rules. But I'll talk about the ones I've found. And maybe you'll take the time to talk about the one's you've found. Or you might take the time to disagree. And perhaps this will become the definitive series on business from the small business owners perspective. Goodness knows there seems to be a need for it.
So, to kick this off, let's talk about the purpose of a business. Not your business, but ANY business. Because if we talk about your business, we're going to get confused by your dreams, needs and aspirations. Not that those aren't important. They are your drivers that will get you to do what it takes to move your business forward.
But a business is an unemotional machine. The product depends entirely on the raw materials put in and how they are processed. And just as there are laws of physics that determine these things in the material world, there are similar laws of business that determine the results of a business based on the raw materials and the way they are assembled.
So you might think the purpose of your business is to make you enough money so that you can build a boat and sail around the world, or to pay for a three month vacation, or (add your own purpose here) - but in reality that is your purpose for having a business. And I'm sure we can get to discussing that too.
So right now - first things first: What is the purpose of a business? Any business?
The best I've ever heard is to get and keep customers. It really sums it up in a nutshell. And it's blunt enough to reflect the real character of business fundamentals. Can you think of an example where it does not apply?