A Jamaican Business Owner’s Fight To Survive: It’s the System, Stupid

We rejoin the saga of business owner David, whose trucking company was facing serious challenges. On the verge of giving up on his entrepreneurial dream, David found a glimmer of hope for the way forward in a book about business success and resolved to keep on fighting.

“Ping!” The familiar notification sound roused David from his reverie. Absent-mindedly, he glanced over at the phone message, his finger poised above the delete button. He expected it to be another annoying advertisement from the mobile provider which constantly interrupted his train of thought.

Seeing the words ‘Free business workshop’, David snapped to full attention and put down the receivables report which he had been reviewing. The holidays were coming and he had to get some of this outstanding money into the bank if he were to pay Christmas bonuses this year.

The seminar looked intriguing, as it promised to reveal steps that a business could take to improve its results. Looking in his calendar, David noted that he had an important meeting with a potential client on the same date. “I can’t afford to lose money sitting down in a training session,” he thought.

Willing, but weak to change

Sighing, he remembered the night when he sat alone in his office reading the E-Myth Revisited by Michael E Gerber. After his breakthrough, David was determined to start practising some of the strategies in the book, but the realities of his business challenges quickly captured all of his focus.

David felt like he was spending all his time outing one fire after another. Whether it was a truck that needed a major overhaul, an employee that messed up a client’s request, or a supplier that wanted faster payment on a bill, he was consumed with the daily grind of keeping the business afloat.

The painful knot between his shoulder blades returned and David twisted his neck to relieve the pressure. “I think this business is going to kill me,” he muttered. Turning wearily to the email on the screen, he saw the words, “Learn how to make your business work so you won’t have to.”

Straightening his back, David grabbed the phone and spoke tersely to his assistant. “Call Mr Chen and reschedule the meeting to next week.” He was tired of constantly going around in circles like a hamster on a wheel. “Either I find a way to get this business to work or I’m getting out!” he thought.

Organising for growth

As he sat in the seminar room, David realised that the firm hosting the training was the same one that had organised the event he had prematurely left years before. Ruefully, he noted how humble he now was, willing to accept advice to save his business, and perhaps even his life.

The presenter, a representative of the business coaching franchise ActionCOACH, explained that the main reason most enterprises fail is that the owners get burnt out. David could identify with this, as he felt weary and worried about his business, instead of enjoying the process of making money.

Defining a successful business as “a commercial, profitable enterprise that works without you,” the presenter outlined the six steps required to give a business massive results. First, the owner had to obtain mastery over the business in terms of its vision, financials, productivity, and service delivery.

It was also critical to implement strategies to improve the profitability of the organisation by creating a niche business. David learnt several ways in which he could boost his prospects and convert them into customers, as well as increase their number of transactions and average spend with him.

Systemise or die

The presenter asked the participants if they could start afresh, would they hire the same staff they currently had. As he shook his head with the rest of the attendants, David knew that he had to get the right employees in the right positions if the business was going to work without him being there.

David experienced an ‘Aha!’ moment when he learnt about using systems to improve efficiencies. Every procedure in his business needed to be properly designed, accurately documented and rigorously tested to ensure that his clients received the same level of service every time.

Now David understood that the only way to remove his stress was to create a system that worked. The problems of running a business in Jamaica would still be there, but with the right systems in place, he was sure he could overcome them. “I’m up for the challenge,” David pledged to himself.

When David reached back to the workplace, his assistant greeted him with good news. A dormant client had called and asked them to resume delivering their goods. “Wow, this seminar has started paying off already!”

David eagerly shared with her some of the business insights he had gained. Humming the Pharrell Williams tune Happy, David opened his office door. As he rifled through the mail on the desk, an envelope from Tax Administration Jamaica caught his eye. Tearing it open, David stifled a curse. “Can’t a businessman get a break in this country?” he whispered.

Copyright © 2015 Cherryl Hanson Simpson. No reproduction without written consent.
Originally published in The Daily Observer, December 10, 2015.

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Cherryl is a money coach and business mentor, and founder of Financially S.M.A.R.T. Services. See more of her work at www.entrepreneursinjamaica.com and www.financiallysmart.org. Contact Cherryl