This is according to Ms. Sally Gitonga, Country Manager at Business Partners International, who says that, “It is also important to note that contributing to a community and garnering loyalty is something that a business can, and should, do all year round, as opposed to sticking only to specific times of the year when it seems most appropriate and socially expected."
Gitonga shares three steps that business owners can take to become recognized as valued contributors in their communities.
1. Run a profitable, efficient business
In a certain sense, it sounds like the polar opposite of being community-minded or charitable, but being profitable is the single biggest contribution that a business can make to the community in which it is based. It means that the service it provides is sustainable, and that community members will be able to rely on it being there next year and the year after.
Being profitable means that the jobs provided by the business to members of the community are stable, dependable and long-term. In contrast, the respect earned by the big-tipping type of business owner who prioritises buying flashy cars over business sustainability is as superficial and short-lived as the business itself.
2. Be visible to the community
A business owner's presence in the community provides another crucial contribution to the development of the country, which urgently needs role models to show the youth that self-employment or entrepreneurship is a valid and worthy alternative to working for someone else.
Business owners do not have to be flashy or glamorous in order to make an impression. A solid presence as a role model can be established by low-key involvement such as giving talks at schools or serving on the board of a local community project. And here, charitable giving can play its most important role. When business owners sponsor the kit of a local soccer team, for example, the value they provide as role models is worth much more than the price of the donation.
3. Be vocal about issues that hurt your business
Workers have well-established structures and methods to make a noise and exert pressure when they feel their rights are being threatened. The voice of the business owner, however, is largely silent, even in the face of serious damage inflicted by unnecessary red tape and a generally unconducive economic environment. Big business, when they do speak up, often do not face the same challenges as small businesses.
A significant part of the problem is that business owners are often too busy to spend time genuinely participating in and setting up local business associations – something that also has to do with a low culture of activism. Join your local chamber or business association, even if it is dominated by big business, and even if you contribute just an hour or two per month. In their numbers, the voice of small businesses can become powerful.
In closing, Gitonga says that community support is powerful; and should make business owners more confident about conducting business. “As the community sees you as a role model for defying the odds, the loyalty and support you have earned, will serve as an important source of encouragement during tough times."
About Business Partners Kenya:
Business Partners International is a specialist risk finance company for formal small and medium owner-managed businesses in Kenya, and selected African countries. The company actively supports entrepreneurial growth by providing financing from US$50, 000 to US$1 million paid out in local currency, specialist sectoral knowledge, and added-value services for viable small and medium businesses. Since establishment, Business Partners International has provided business finance worth over US$110 million and facilitated over 10 500 jobs. Visit www.businesspartners.africa for more information.