The Emperor’s new clothes
Ben Keyes pays tribute to the ‘real’ small businesses of New Zealand – the ones holding up our economy in the most difficult of times. There’s nothing worse than someone who thinks they have all the answers. Add to that the fact that, as you’re reading this you’ve probably seen about 25 thousand articles all […]
Ben Keyes pays tribute to the ‘real’ small businesses of New Zealand – the ones holding up our economy in the most difficult of times.
There’s nothing worse than someone who thinks they have all the answers. Add to that the fact that, as you’re reading this you’ve probably seen about 25 thousand articles all suggesting exactly what your small business needs to do to leverage the opportunity/survive the chasm/seize the day/grasp the chance, etcetera. And I’m pretty sure the last thing you want to hear is the ‘reckons’ of some random guy from Canterbury.
Well, sorry, I was invited to opine so opine I will. Hopefully, however, I’ll be a bit of fresh air to those of you who have been doing it hard [over the past months] and have grown frustrated at all the platitudes.
First a little bit of context. I’m the majority shareholder of Cactus Outdoor and Albion Clothing, a pair of decades-old businesses that are now, jointly, the biggest apparel manufacturer left in the country. I’ve been doing this for nearing three decades now and have also been involved in a host of other businesses. So, maybe, I’ve got a bit of experience to share. Though not experience that will necessarily be directly applicable to your business as we’ll see in a bit.
Anyway, my point to get across is that I am, possibly like you, frustrated at the plethora of websites that have been set up, the gurus who have been opining on LinkedIn and YouTube, and the overnight experts who have been shoving advice down your throat at every opportunity.
It’s like they think that the reality for a one-man-band plumber from Otahuhu is the same as for a graphic design agency in Wellington and that both of them should do exactly what a coffee roaster in Christchurch should do.
Well, sorry, but it doesn’t work that way. And neither is now the time for all of those super-slick consultants with titles like ‘brand manager’, ‘growth hacker’, or ‘culture consultant’ to be pitching their wares to you – the business owner who is run off your feet trying to work out how you’re going to pay staff, how many of your customers will be able to afford to pay you, and whether your customer base is going to evaporate overnight.
Because that’s the reality of small business and especially small business in New Zealand.
We’re all niche players and we’re all different – there’s no playbook that applies to all of us and anyone who suggests that there is should be shown the door with all the other snake oil merchants.
But the great thing about small business in New Zealand (and, for clarity, I’m referring to real small businesses, both the aforementioned consultants and those Instagram lifestyle coaches) is that they’re real. They have that Kiwi spirit of getting in, doing what is needed, being handy with a bit of Number 8 fencing wire and just surviving.
Time to shine
For years you’ve heard that as a small business you’re not important – those high-growth technology companies are where it’s at for our economy.
I’d like to suggest that now is your time to shine. Quite simply, when a nation is struggling to survive an economic meltdown, when food, shelter and clothing is its citizens’ number one priority, all of that cool wordy stuff that doesn’t actually achieve anything is shown for what it is – an emperor prancing around naked.
So here’s to all you small business owners and managers – you always were the backbone of our economy, but now that will become obvious to all.
Ben Kepes is a Christchurch businessman, entrepreneur and tech commentator. You’ll find him at www.diversity.net.nz