Turning small family businesses into professionally run institutions

Turning small family businesses into professionally run institutions


I grew up in a business oriented family with all the male members actively involved in the family business. Getting into the groove of a retail business at a young age was not difficult as I saw everyone do it then. From the men's clothes and shoes to ladies stoles and sweaters, by 10 I was able to take them out of the racks, show it to customers, have a sales pitch for a seconds and fold them back. The sense to help family at times of need helped me overcome some of the trivial wasteful desires that would eat into their time and brain. I guess at a young age, that's the best I could do once I began to understand things. Regarding my performance at the job then, I sincerely don't remember how well I did then, but I had pleasure in doing it.

Our business, like all businesses universally, had to evolve. Existing people were retained and new business ventures began. We started migrating our energies from the old retail business to expanding domains. This way we retained people and learnt new trades and skills. Existing networks were used to gain knowledge and gather information to explore trades which we had untapped for long. We pivoted into the business of school supplies and clothing as dedicated partners.

A few years later, this too evolved, besides just trading in clothing, we decided to venture out into trading products that cannot be physically carried away after making a payment - plots of land. To this day, we have been able to expand and make the business a role model in the field, just the same way we did with all our older businesses.

Strong relationships, good reputation on fair trade and ever willing to learn I feel were the elements that brought us this far. In a competitive environment, anyone could become a dog to the environment and fish out his way to reach the top but I do not believe it would last. In our path to growth, trampling on others feet may not hurt the offender immediately, but it will show up on the day when he slows down and another catches pace. Growing together with our partners has mutually benefited and profited in the long run. Taking a chance to hit bottom line for that year alone did not make sense to us as that would reflect in the performance of the years to come. When you wish to drive growth with a team, do it aggressively, but not at the cost of breaking the bond once the transaction is done.

One of the key deterrents to greater growth I believe is the lack of professional systems to manage resources and people. When things go wrong, fortunately firefighting is a technique that saves the day, but it is not a solution that can work in the long run. Professionally managed systems can reduce the risk of loss, reduce the wastage in a system and can improve the elasticity of growth. Working with rules of thumb come after a lot of trial and error, age old information and loss of time/money. When an opportunity to strike opens up at your doors, things are smoother to decide on taking up a venture or not from a financial perspective rather than the capability level. Will professional systems replace management? No, they only aid management but are crucial to making things happen.

In the past, when technology was nascent and limited, a network of people were needed to create more robust systems within the organization. Strong accounting and work record books helped in making processes systematic. Today with the advancement of technology, things have become easier to manage. With systems in place, the organization can be leaner and focus on work can be greater. Professionalising is made easier, even though it is a necessity in many cases to sustain business operations.

I am working on professionalizing the business with the use of technology and am willing to grab on anything that makes management easier of data, people and resources. Making informed decisions is the way forward to make a business stabilise, create sustenance and harness growth. Keeping the ideals that have helped us come this far combined with professionalism will help me drive this next leg. The best gift I can give is to keep breaking the status quo and build the business to create more positive ripples.

I may one day rewrite this post on professionalism, giving it more body, definition and structure of how we could achieve this efficiently. If there is anything I ever develop to bring in professional management, reporting, standardization, it will be on this blog or on my GitHub account as a solution.