Entrepreneurship & SME development matters

Article by Dr Charles Dahwa

Patriotic Entrepreneurship – Key for socio-economic development – Part 1

The world over, the role of patriotism in starting, operating and growing businesses (i.e., patriotic entrepreneurship) is largely overlooked in entrepreneurship discussions within academia, private and public sectors. What is excessively spoken about are entrepreneurial tenets such as risk-taking, alertness, creativity, innovation, value addition, commercialization, persistence, hardworking and profit-seeking amongst others. There is a strong misperception that ‘patriotism’ should be restricted to politics; hence, when patriotism is spoken about, it is usual to hear some within the business fraternity say ‘Don’t mix business with politics’. Yet business and politics are inseparable, anyway, this is a subject for another day.

Given this trajectory, it is high time that we as Zimbabwean entrepreneurs take stock of our patriotic entrepreneurship and envisage how this impacts positively or negatively in achieving our national strategic vision – Zimbabwe a middle income by the year 2030. Before unpacking patriotic entrepreneurship, let us first explain some key terms: Entrepreneurship and Intrapreneurship.

The term entrepreneurship is commonly defined as a process of being creative and innovative in starting and growing new businesses profitably, competitively and sustainably. Apart from being closely associated with new business start-ups and growth, entrepreneurship is also predominantly associated with micro, small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Because entrepreneurship inevitably involves creativity and innovation, it is a very close association with SMEs that implies that significant innovation and creativity occur amongst SMEs. Notably, entrepreneurship is more synonymous with SMEs and in general, they tend to be more creative than large enterprises.

Several factors make SMEs more creative and innovative, and these include having limited financial and material resources, having more informal communication, being less bureaucratic, having flexible organisational structures and decision-making largely reposed in a single person: the owner-manager. These factors tell a single story, that is, because SMEs have to compete in the market with constrained capabilities, to survive and prosper, they incline themselves to be more agile, creative and innovative by setting up less bureaucratic structures and increasing more informal communication. Further, the owner-manager, who is usually the Chief Executive Officer and sole decision maker is mostly involved with entire business operations and as such is readily available to pass a decision on the spot. There is more on-the-job learning in SMEs which, therefore, promotes significant trial and error thereby ultimately buttressing creativity and innovation.

The above sharply contrasts with the more formal and bureaucratic communication and structures in large enterprises, which to make matters worse, usually have various centres of power and decision-making, for example, various senior managers and divisional heads or directors. Business processes are mostly formalized with rigorous internal controls and with little if not no room for learning on the job. Unless occurring under specifically approved projects, such as new product development test runs, trial and error are very much limited and mistakes are significantly punished.

Further, with the exception of large enterprises which are learning organizations, the tradition in most large enterprises is that employees do not fully tap into their creativity and innovation and all they predominantly do is routinely discharge their duties in conformity with their stated job descriptions. However, management, especially senior executives have the latitude to exercise their creativity and innovation and direct subordinates accordingly. Nevertheless, although large enterprises are less synonymous with entrepreneurship, they still are creative and innovative. This is because being creative and innovative is not a monopoly of SMEs. Even though employees in large enterprises might find it challenging to be fully creative and innovative given the constraints of their rigid and formalist job descriptions, they still can be creative and innovative whenever they are afforded the opportunity to do so, for example, when put into teams to solve identified business problems.

Annual strategic planning workshops also provide a golden opportunity to employees to demonstrate their creativity and innovation as they usually suggest novel ideas during such workshops. Consequently, it is a fact that large enterprises are known to draw on the creativity of their managerial and non-managerial employees, senior executive and non-executives to drive creativity and innovation leading to novel business processes. All this is referred to as intrapreneurship, that is, risk-taking to competitively and sustainably exercise creativity and innovation within an existing business, whereas for entrepreneurship such creativity and innovation is directed towards starting and growing a new business. However, in general, the private and public sectors rarely talk about the term intrapreneurship preferring to use entrepreneurship as a term with a broad meaning that incorporates intrapreneurship.

Therefore, in this article, entrepreneurship carries this inclusive broad meaning. Notwithstanding the differences between entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship, what is common in SMEs and large enterprises is the primary purpose of profitably and sustainably producing various products and services to meet the socio-economic needs of the country and doing so better than the competition. In the end, the production activities of SMEs and large enterprises advance the quality of life for citizens. Consequently, when as Zimbabweans we aspire to be a middle-income by the year 2030, we are at the same time bestowing significant responsibilities to our SMEs and large enterprises to be more effective in their entrepreneurship and produce high-quality and competitive products and services that can help us grow our economy and advance the quality of our lives.

Interestingly, when the world looks at what SMEs and large enterprises should do in terms of succeeding in their entrepreneurship, it predominantly considers all factors that fall under the characteristics of a successful entrepreneur while circumventing or paying very little attention to the key factor of patriotism.

Having engaged and reviewed the entrepreneurship discourse, to the best of my knowledge, I have not come across academic articles, entrepreneurship textbooks, or business conferences that devote much space to patriotic entrepreneurship. Globally, entrepreneurship success is widely understood from the perspective of shrewdness, risk propensity, entrepreneurial opportunity recognition and exploitation, cashflows, profitability, shareholder value, market share, innovation, upscaling, proficiency in adapting to the complex and dynamic macroenvironment, bouncing back from failure and long-term business viability. True, all these factors indeed indicate one’s entrepreneurial prowess but what is very surprising and conspicuous by its absence is how patriotism rarely features among the criteria for entrepreneurial success. Yet, before one becomes an entrepreneur, first they belong to a nation and are inevitably bred and cultured in a specific nationhood.

In our case as Zimbabweans, ‘ubuntu’ is a timeless ideology that not only distinguishes us as Africans from other races of the world but also shapes and fosters our mindset and behaviour in the family, neighbourhood, community, business, society and the world at large. Consequently, for every entrepreneur, having a strong affinity for their nation and being incessantly drawn to find ways to be creative and innovative to effectively address challenges in their country’s economy is not imaginary, nor far-fetched but a lifelong aspiration, passion and burden. This strong affinity to one’s country and its political-socioeconomic issues thereof reflects what patriotism is all about.

Patriotism leads to unquestionable loyalty to one’s motherland; subordinating personal desires and preferences to national interests and joining hands with the entire citizenry to achieve the motherland’s national vision and strategic objectives. Importantly, patriotism is not a phenomenon that is only spoken about and demonstrated in the political sphere but should in equal measure be alive and indeed a predominant driving force in the business arena.

Given the above, it is, therefore, crucial and logical to question how patriotic are we as Zimbabwean entrepreneurs. To what extent do we subordinate our profiteering motives to the advancement of our national interest? What do our behaviours in the market reveal about the kind and degree of our patriotism: Strongly patriotic or strongly dissenting? Of course, strongly patriotic here includes persistent optimism, constructive engagement and criticism, proffering creative and innovative alternatives to advance our national interests.

In sharp contrast, strongly dissenting encompasses perennial pessimism, murmuring, gossiping, name labelling, non-stop opposing and indulging in zero-sum game market behaviours. I can go on raising questions but to remain succinct my final two questions are: Considering the brave decision our government made to address the land question, it being a fundamental means of entrepreneurship, what importance do we as Zimbabwean entrepreneurs-businessmen and businesswomen attach to patriotism as we operate our businesses? Further, how best can we exercise and strengthen our patriotism in the execution of our entrepreneurship?

Notably, interrogating our approach to entrepreneurship in such a candid manner is of paramount importance especially considering that our strategic economic trajectory as a nation, courtesy of the new dispensation and the second republic under his Excellence, President E. D. Mnangagwa is not only well crafted but already under execution with some demonstrable milestone successes. Further, in this new era geared towards high national economic performance, whose key strategic motto is ‘Zimbabwe is Open for Business’ and the strategic philosophy ‘Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo’, all birthed by our President, His Excellence Dr E .D. Mnangagwa, patriotic entrepreneurship has to, should be and must indeed define how we conduct business. To attest to this, let us pause for a few seconds and objectively think seriously about this ideology ‘Nyika inovakwa nevene vayo’.

Honestly, it is as clear as the distinction between day and night that ‘Vene ve Nyika’ can only effectively and successfully build their country if and only if they are patriotic. Therefore, it is not superficial to infer that although patriotic entrepreneurship is largely overlooked globally in the entrepreneurship discourse in academia, private and public sector corridors, actually, without it, the strategic vision for the socio-economic development of any country either dies in stillbirth fashion or if it sees the light of day, its execution is lethargic.

The net effect is mediocre results which leave the majority citizenry querying; It is entrepreneurship by who and for who? Dr Tafataona Mahoso and the late Dr Vimbai Chivaura and the late Professor Usheunesu Mupepereki (May their souls rest in eternal peace) correctly interject labelling such entrepreneurship as ‘Kuembisiwa’ in their impactful and patriotic programme, zvaVanhu. For this reason, to avoid ‘Kuembisiwa’ in entrepreneurship, our second republic has since ushered in the mantra ‘leaving no one behind’.

Therefore, to ensure you do not remain behind, interrogate your patriotism in all your endeavours whether you are an individual, an SME or a large enterprise entrepreneur. To be continued….

Dr Charlie provides cutting-edge consultancy in Entrepreneurship and Business Management. Importantly, SME growth, policy and development are central to his work. Dr Charlie holds a B. Com Marketing Degree – from Zimbabwe Open University, MBA – from Africa University and a PhD in Management from Manchester Metropolitan University, (UK). He is contactable by Email: drcharlie@sbgazim.com Mobile: +263 71 370 2933

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: