x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Big dividends can be reaped from doing small tasks

Small-business owners know that by going back to the basics they would learn the golden rules of successfully managing a small enterprise.

A friend of the writer who owns a cafe says that helping out in the kitchen has yielded many benefits. Amy Leang / The National
A friend of the writer who owns a cafe says that helping out in the kitchen has yielded many benefits. Amy Leang / The National

As small-business owners, my entrepreneur friends routinely perform tasks that larger organisations would associate with secretaries, and office clerks. We answer phones, respond to emails, cater to our clients' concerns and schedule meetings as well as monitoring our business development.

But as the global economy continues to stall, many of my entrepreneur friends still continuing to perform such tasks, wonder if they should step back and leave it to the "junior staff", or perhaps hire an assistant.

The ironic thing is that by performing these "small" tasks, my friends found the silver lining - the key to developing their businesses. It is by going back to the basics that they have learnt the golden rules of successfully managing a small enterprise.

The first rule is that the customer comes first. Without clients, there isn't a business.

Being involved in different social aspects, such as running my own business, writing for different publications, and working for a company that deals with international suppliers and clients, I had the advantage of dealing with customers from a wide variety of backgrounds, and the one certain thing is that good customer service can, almost always, cover up for any mistake that you might make.

Good customer service does not mean accepting that the clients are always right, but it means that when they are wrong, you can still find a way to compromise that makes both parties happy. Your goal is to ensure that customers keep coming back, and not to prove them wrong - even when they are.

The second rule is that no one is too skilled to take on minor tasks.

Many business owners are so busy focused on keeping their profit margins high that they do not know exactly how their companies operate. They know that person X is in charge of marketing and Y is managing the kitchen, but they do not understand what is involved behind the tasks. By dedicating some time to get down to the basics and physically observe how each member does their job, you will know what is needed to develop each sector of your business, and what needs to be fixed.

A friend of mine, who owns a cafe in Abu Dhabi, believes in being involved in every aspect of her business. At least once a week, she will be in the kitchen with her chefs, preparing food and ensuring that the storage, as well as her customers, are being taken care of properly.

In the beginning, her presence had the benefit of keeping staff on their toes, but in time other upsides emerged as they now know what she prefers and what she doesn't. It also gave her ease of mind, as she got to know how each and every employee operates, gained an insight to their personalities, and learnt how to deal with them.

This takes us to third rule, supporting your staff.

The key to any successful venture is to have competent and talented employees who share your passion and are smart enough to solve your company's problems when they occur.

If you are lucky to have found such people, you have to support their abilities and trust their judgement, meaning that even if they have not catered to a problem the way you would, let them take responsibility for the solution and be accountable for any repercussion.

The only way your staff will develop, just like your business, is by learning from mistakes.

Some of these rules may sound like something taken from a management book on how to run a business. Well they are. Behind every great business is someone with good leadership skills.

Sometimes we all need to go back to the basics, whether it is once a year, every day, or every hour. Regardless of the frequency, your business will thank you for it in the long run.


Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer and fashion designer based in Abu Dhabi