By Safari Fungo
A small business operator is someone who runs and operates a firm which is independently owned and operated, with a small number of employees and relatively low volume of sales. In the United State of America they consider number of employees to be fewer than 100 while in the European Union it is below 50 employees. In the context of Tanzania, there is no defined number of employees of a small business operator.
Apart from the number of employees, others consider small business based on the methods used to classify small companies include annual sales (turnover), value of assets and net profit (balance sheet), alone or in a mixed definition. Furthermore, they claim that small business operators are usually not dominant in their fields of operation.
Small business operators are common persons in our society; their firms are operated depending on the economic system in operation. Typical examples include: convenience stores, other small shops (such as a bakery or delicatessen), hairdressers, tradesmen, lawyers, accountants, restaurants, guest houses, photographers, small-scale manufacturing, etc.
For many of us, the idea of owning a small business is a dream come true. Whilst this is definitely a possibility for long term success stories, the truth of the matter is that owning and operating a small business is a very tough task, can be stressful and the owners are often stretched financially until the business gains momentum. It is, therefore, the aim of this corner to explore and to highlight the challenges often encountered by small business operators and thereafter to navigate the role of standardization in overcoming those challenges.
For a small business operator to survive and be a long-term success in business, he/she needs to be aware of the challenges which can ruin his/her best-laid plans. Most of the critical challenges which might often hinder the success and growth orientation of small businesses can range from internal environment – the one concerning an entrepreneur him/herself – to those in the external environment categorized from policies and regulations.
Incapability to move with technology or to master new technology is one of the major challenges for small business operators. Most businessoperators lack time to plan and implement new technologies, and if they obtain it, another problem arises in that they lack fund for implementation and worse enough most of the technologies are patented, thus access is associated with a huge budget. Based on these considerations and with the advent of the current revolution in information and communication technologies, the contribution of the technology to economic growth is rising tremendously in this information age. Since economic growth takes place through the transformation activities carried out by the production system of a nation, an appreciation of the main actors (technology and entrepreneur) on the impact and consequences of the national production systems would be useful and timely to introduce their important relationship in the society. Technology and entrepreneurship are not “root and branch” but “one step at a time”, i.e. a product here and a policy there both complementing each other for the desired output required by the entrepreneur. It is on this thinking that entrepreneurs, who are an important ingredient in the transformation process of natural resources and intermediate goods into useful products and service, need an entrepreneurial dose which might help them to overcome the restrictions of moving with technology.
Incapability of moving with technology can be resolved by opting to use standards which ensure the room for innovativeness and they are not patented. Standards do not restrict an entrepreneur on the way he/she should meet stipulated requirements, thus providing a room for innovation.
The tendency of innovation offers constantly and keeps pace with technological changes. Worse enough most of us think moving with technology is all about ordering instrument from the glossy catalogues, if that is what you think, it is just like cheating yourself. Let us try to see in our minds, the carving market at Mwenge in Dar es Salaam, for sure we advocate artist design exquisite and remarkable vinyago by only using small knife and razor; along with, those vinyago are scrambled for in European markets and this is probably the reason for their price shoot-up.
Thus an entrepreneur can use standards as a springboard to improve his/her products, procedures or reputation. In a more broad consideration innovation is also necessary to cover entrepreneur’s operations from pricing, promotion, customer service and distribution, just to mention but a few. A standard keeps entrepreneur’s eyes for new ways of doing things whose applications can improve the quality of his/her products and efficiency of his/her operations.
The creation of wealth in any social setting depends crucially on innovation, i.e. in making new products; applying new methods of production, processes and management; creating new markets, and extending or modifying existing ones for socio-economic gain. The use of standards ensures the ability and provides a room to create new or modify existing technologies for attaining a desired need of a human being. Recently, many development practitioners have realized the role of STANDARDS in its broader sense as a strategic variable for socio-economic development. It is for this strategic reason that standards can be used as a tool for overcoming inabilities of moving with the technological changes.
(Continues next week)
Mr. Safari Fungo is a Standards Officer at Tanzania Bureau of Standards (TBS). E-mail: