Aka is a successful business man who now in his mid 70S. In the early 90’s he invested in a supermarket business in one of the suburbs and being a hands on person he dedicated most part of the first year to learn the business operations. With time and with other business opportunities calling, Aka hired Jane his niece; a high school graduate to manage the supermarket. His choice of Jane was informed by his need to hire someone who would be loyal, trustworthy and reliable as the business evolved.
Fifteen years down the line the once successful business has been struggling to meet its financial obligations. This is due to the presence of new supermarkets which have found home in the vicinity. The once loyal customers have since shifted their allegiance to the new businesses which offer spacious, attractive interiors, more variety and friendly customer service among other things.
In contrast Aka’s supermarket looks like a museum of sorts because hardly any changes have taken place over the years. There is nothing exciting with the business interiors, from the pale coloured walls to the immovable wooden pallets affixed to the walls, products are heaped on the shelves with no creativity whatsoever, while the shelf attendants look gloomy in their long sleeved aged dusty coats.
This explains why majority of the sales constitute of the basic items namely milk, bread and water while the rest of the items have not made a sale over the past months. It seems that the average shopper is driven to this supermarket out of necessity rather than choice.
I sat down with Aka to discuss about developing solutions to keep his business afloat, I queried whether he was aware of the changes taking place in the retail industry over the years to which he responded that in as much as he was his focus was on making and keeping money. He added that today’s customer is very fussy, demanding and superficial. To him shopping is simply about identifying, picking, paying and leaving the premises. The rest are gimmick ways of eating into his hard earned money. On his part and through Jane he facilitates shopping by ensuring that there are adequate trolleys, the shelves are well stocked and that the premises are clean.
Getting Aka to adapt to some solutions such as undertaking some renovations, improving the shops interiors, invest in staff training was not easy but finally he came through.
Most small business owners find themselves in similar circumstances where they ignore making necessary changes in spite of the changing market dynamics. For most the need to respond is normally urgent, costly and inevitable but because of the nature of their limited resources, many find themselves rendered redundant.
The reality is that change is normally a catalyst of growth. To ignore change is to ignore growth. I would suggest that owners of small businesses embrace change incrementally rather than avoiding it all together.