Passionately running SMMEs

Opportunity Editor, Lindsay King

Weather permitting, I run about 8 kilometres on a beautiful stretch of beach in Cape Town every day after work. Some people meditate – I run. It has become the scenic place I escape to for a tiny bit of sanity – a place to escape into my own little world and forget about everything else in my life.

Recently I have had a rather odd experience on one of these late afternoon runs. While warming up before the run, a guy I don't know from Adam asked if he could join in the run. What could I say?

We started of jogging at a comfortable pace, iPods and earphones in place, enjoying the sunset casting a spectacular array of colours on the horizon above the ocean. At that stage it made no difference that I had unwelcome company. But my sanity did not last for long, as my companion started a conversation that would last for the entire run…  Yes, I’m probably partially to blame for telling him (when he asked after my profession) that I edit business magazines - knowing that old chatterbox already shared with me that he was an entrepreneur. And it was absolutely my own fault for boasting about our amazing SMME Opportunity Roadshow.

The door was wide open and I was gradually subjected to an SMME owner who had everything bad to say about (other) start-up businesses. The man believes that when it comes to small business, there are only two kinds of SMMEs: great businesses and rubbish (it was his favourite word). There’s nothing in between – no space for mediocre. As the sun set over the ocean and the seagulls scavenged for their last crumbs of the day on the beach, I started to increase my pace, hoping to leave him behind, but my fit entrepreneur was not going to be outrun.

Huffing and puffing, he continued slamming everything that I believe in, rambling on and on about how especially small business in this country should all be thriving and be successful. I stopped participating in the conversation. Did the man not know about the many challenges small business have to face every day just to keep afloat? He rambled on about how unbelievable it is that too many small businesses just don't make it – and that it’s the easiest thing in the world to set up business and avoid mediocre. I started running even faster, but alas, I could not shed him.

At one stage I was not even listening, I just kept on cursing myself for opening my big mouth – and for not being fit enough to outrun him…

Although I was already well out of breath, I dared not stop, as I feared it would prolong my agony. I was about to tell him to put a sock in it, when he, reaching the half way mark of my run, started to talk about how most small businesses in the world are started out of the basic need to earn an income – and that that’s a dangerous place to start. For the first time he was making sense. I slowed down the pace and wanted to know more. The big point he was making, was that if small business are started out of a passion, opposed to a basic need, small enterprises will have a better chance of survival. And that passion combined with a solid business plan, is the winning recipe for successful enterprises. I could not agree more, as that was exactly the message that I took away from our recent SMME Opportunity Roadshow in PE after meeting several passionate experts and energised SMME owners.

After the run we ended up talking on a bench on the promenade until the sun was long under. He spoke, now with passion and energy – and about passion and energy as the foundation of business success.

Parting ways, I realised that I had to sharpen my running skills – but on second thoughts, if I do, I might just miss out on the next conversation about passion in business and the unimportance of being mediocre …



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Issue 91


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