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Are we not thinking small on big things?

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By Phillip Chichoni

An economic commentator wrote the following on the Techzim website critiquing the Zimbabwe Industrial Policy announced a few months ago:

“There is something seriously not right about a poor and developing country having a mobile telecommunications firm as its largest company, followed by a beer maker.”

Where are the energy, mining, food manufacturing, IT, engineering, chemical manufacturing and infrastructure builders? These are the leading companies in other parts of developing Africa (see African Business magazine April 2012 issue). What does that say about our priorities? Are we not thinking too small and too near into the future?

Mr. Zuze poses for a photo after the breakfast meeting

At the BusinessLink networking breakfast meeting at the newly opened and exquisite ZimCafe Hotel and Conference centre, a senior executive of  the Standards Association of Zimbabwe touched directly on this issue. Mr. Sebastian Zuze, the SAZ Director of Quality Assurance, made a presentation entitled How standards ensure sustainable SME development”. Below are the main points that he covered.

1)     What is a sustainable business? Quoting the Old Testament verse of Proverbs 13:22 which says “a wise man will leave an inheritance for his grandchildren”, Mr. Zuze defined a sustainable business as one that lasts not just beyond you, but beyond your own children.

2)    Entrepreneurs should look at the whole complex supply chain. No business operates in isolation. The bigger you want to get, the bigger and more complex the system you are going to be in. Take the billion dollar projects for example, like infrastructure development, mining or energy generation. Construction and operation of these massive projects require hundreds of different suppliers to work together.

3)    Strategic partnerships are the key to growth. Your small business will never grow without the co-operation and help of others through strategic alliances.  You need to start looking at not just your own business, but at others who can help you achieve big goals.

4)    Standards make alliances and expansion possible.  There is one problem that arises when two or more companies doing business together: the assurance that the other party will deliver the required quality consistently. This problem is solved by the development of quality management standards. The trend now as trade expands and opens up beyond borders (e.g. Comesa and SADC agreements are opening up borders in Southern Africa), is for companies that want to be taken seriously to have certification from their national standards bodies, which are all members of the International Standards Organisations. Many SMEs are losing out on lucrative contracts and alliances because of lack of certification.

5)    SAZ is there to help businesses. The Standards Association of Zimbabwe is a non-profit statutory body set to increase competitiveness and protect consumers. Consumers and your potential partners will have confidence in your products and services if you are SAZ certified. SAZ tests  your business and quality management systems and if approved, will issue you with the appropriate certification according to your industry.  They don’t provide training or systems development;  professional consultants will do that for you and then the SAZ will come and carry out audits of your processes.

Some of the Business owners at the breakfast meeting

Mr Zuze emphasized that quality is not expensive, as is the perception among most SMEs. In fact, lack of quality systems costs your business enormously.

You will find more information on the SAZ website www.saz.org.zw, or you can contact Mr. Zuze by email to szuze@saz.org.zw, or phone 04-772514 or visit their offices at 17 Coventry Road, Workington, and Harare.

 

The next networking breakfast meeting will be on Friday 21 September, 2012. We will advise of the speaker next week.

 

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