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Management of small businesses

Management is the ability to organise and control teamwork, direct and inspire people, create contacts and handle problems that arise

1996 Available in English, French, Portuguese and Spanish

Footsteps magazine issues on a wooden desk.

From: Credit schemes – Footsteps 26

How enhancing access to credit can help people lift themselves out of poverty

by Gideon Yong Njini.

Management is the ability to organise and control teamwork, to direct and inspire, to create contacts and to handle problems which may arise. Management channels resources to achieve pre selected objectives.

Management skills may be provided by an experienced management team, but with a small business, the owner usually has to provide most of these skills. The manager of a small business has to be willing to take risks, to plan and to budget and make good use of the available resources (whether money, goods, ideas or services) in order to make a profit.

Aims of small business

Profit is the main aim of most small businesses. Before setting up a small business, planned activities must be carefully examined and selected. These are examples of the sort of questions that need examining:

  • Will the business be able to provide good quality goods?
  • Do they have enough set up funding to avoid over-dependence on loans?
  • Can they cope with the market demand and supply?
  • Is there a good market for their products?

Managing small business

Once a well thought-out decision is made, the manager or owner organises their resources towards meeting their objectives. There are many kinds of business ventures:

Art – producing paintings, sculptures, carvings, or drawings. In this trade, the manager employs and organises other artists with the aim of producing attractive art objects in larger quantities through group efforts. The manager decides on capital, tools, equipment, etc. Markets for these objects are found both locally and internationally through tourist sites. Good managers make contacts and place their articles at the right places for sale.

Crafts These are typically village based activities. Craft workers organise and manage business in carpentry, woodwork, bags or basket weaving, needlework, brick works, gardening, etc. The manager finds premises, obtains tools and equipment, sets plans and directs apprentices and employees. Where the team includes apprentices, part of the business income will come from training fees and the rest from the sale of craft items.

Retail trade This is where an owner with sufficient funds buys in goods in bulk and sells (retails) them in smaller quantities to consumers. The manager employs staff, organises storage of goods and displays the goods. The difference between the bulk cost and the selling (retail) price gives the business profit in retail trade.

Processing industries Small scale processing activities are organised in some areas to process cassava into gari, palm nuts into palm oil, soap making, etc. The manager finds premises, obtains raw materials, employs labour for processing and controls the quality of the product.

Service provision Services are provided in bicycle repairs, cleaning and laundry, farm labour, hair-dressing saloons etc. The most important assets in this type of business are the manager’s talents. The manager will work with and direct apprentices and employees.

Business resources

The resources needed to start a small business are either one, a combination or all of the following:

Working capital This is made up of money meant for daily business activities such as salaries, cost of goods for sale, rents, etc.

Fixed capital This is made up of long term business assets, such as property, sewing machine in a tailor’s shop, manager’s bicycle or truck for transport, counters, benches, etc.

Human resources Workers are recruited, trained on the job, encouraged and paid well to help the manager achieve their business objectives.

Talents – the manager’s abilities to plan and organise resources effectively.

Where to find help

There are no fixed standards to manage a successful business, but there are a number of books which can help increase the manager’s knowledge and experience. Books on management can be found in the offices of the Chamber of Commerce (if one exists in the area), in good bookshops and libraries and in offices of banks or loan agencies. The business person can also seek the advice of a truthful and experienced manager, business consultant or bank manager.


The most important qualities in managing a personal business are a willingness to take risks and the ability to think clearly and to plan wisely. Management will involve commitment, discipline and courage in making difficult decisions. In our communities, businesses come and disappear very often for lack of direction. Fortunately, as well as the short-sighted managers who fail, there are also managers whose businesses have grown from strength to strength. A successful business is an achievement to the manager, an asset to the family and brings the potential of economic growth to the community.

Gideon Yong Njini is a consultant with Resources Management Consultants, Bamenda, Cameroon, and author of Business, Management and Society. His address is PO Box 5011, Nkwen Bamenda, N W Province, Cameroon.

Business CHECK LIST - 1. Setting up

  • Identify a business venture suitable to your knowledge and abilities.
  • Collect information about it and also study the chosen products.
  • Talk to proposed suppliers.
  • Talk to potential customers.
  • Talk to others with experience.
  • Find out working capital needs.
  • Work out initial overheads and fixed capital investments.
  • Get loan advice from your bank manager.
  • Make a plan of action.

Business CHECK LIST - 2. Management

  • Plan (budget) systematically, control and direct the plans.
  • Select employees objectively and encourage (motivate) them to work.
  • Select equipment that is adaptable and can be serviced locally.
  • Keep accurate records and statistics (book-keeping or accounting).
  • Know your customers, their needs and timing.
  • Deliver orders promptly or apologise for delays (if any).
  • Seek advice from consultants for problems which do not have clear answers.
  • Seek new market opportunities.
  • Plan for growth of business.

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