An Exploration of Factors that Lead to Failure of Small Businesses in the Kagiso Township

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1 An Exploration of Factors that Lead to Failure of Small Businesses in the Kagiso Township by BOYSANA LEPHOI MBONYANE MINI-DISSERTATION submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the MAGISTER TECHNOLOGIAE Business Administration COLLEGE OF ECONOMIC AND MANAGEMENT SCIENCES at the Supervisor: MW Ladzani NOVEMBER 2006

2 DECLARATION I, the undersigned, declare that this dissertation is my own unaided work. It is submitted for the degree of Magister Technologiae in Business Administration at the University of South Africa. It has not been submitted before for any other degree or examination in any other university. Signature.. On this day of November i

3 ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS I would like to express my appreciation and gratitude to the following individuals who gave their support and guidance during this research study. My supervisor, Mr Ladzani, for his guidance, interest and capacity to share knowledge and expertise. The library staff at UNISA, especially Maggy Makwela, who could always be relied upon to organise inter-library loans. My colleague, Mr Shepherd Dhliwayo, at the University of Johannesburg, for his cooperation and willingness to participate in the research. The interviewees (small business owners) who volunteered to participate in this study. ii

4 ABSTRACT This study examines the factors appear to lead to the failure of small businesses in the Kagiso Township. The high failure rate can be partially attributed to the lack of support that the small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) receive from support institutions as well as to their own internal weaknesses. Strategies are recommended that will help small businesses be more successful. The study was exploratory, descriptive and qualitative in nature. Semistructured interviews were used to gather data. Results indicated that the most common causes of business failure were lack of knowledge regarding legal matters, lack of funding and a general lack of business acumen. The study recommends that government should improve the effectiveness of its support mechanisms and that record keeping and cash flow management training is critical for SMEs. These recommendations, if applied properly, will ensure small businesses success in Kagiso and the rest of South Africa. List of key words High failure rate of small business Lack of government support Lack of small business knowledge Lack of small business commitment General lack of business acumen/ and or funding Small business training programme Small businesses commitment Government involvement Involvement of financial institutions Improvement of support mechanism iii

5 TABLE OF CONTENTS PAGE CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION INTRODUCTION BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY PROBLEM STATEMENT PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY RATIONALE OF THE RESEARCH DEFINITION OF KEY CONCEPTS LIMITATIONS LAYOUT OF CHAPTERS 5 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW INTRODUCTION FACTORS THAT LEAD BUSINESS TO FAILURE Small business environment in South Africa Understanding small business PROBLEMS THAT HINDER SMALL BUSINESSES Poor planning Lack of small business management education (training) Lack of employee satisfaction Lack of customer relations Lack of budget management Lack of technology Poor location (infrastructure) 15 iv

6 2.3.8 Lack of inventory management Financial challenges in starting up Lack of financial support Lack of managing cash flow Poor crime management CONCLUSION 20 CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODOLOGY INTRODUTION RESEARCH DESIGN RESEARCH METHODOLOGY Introduction Methodology Population Sampling Data collection Data analysis Reliability and validity of data CONCLUSION 26 CHAPTER 4: RESULTS AND DISCUSSION INTRODUCTION LACK OF LEGAL REQUIREMENTS FAILURE TO MANAGE FINANCE Records Start-up finance Budgeting 31 v

7 4.4 POOR STOCK CONTROL Ordering stock Transporting stock Stock theft control measures Overtrading FAILURE TO MANAGE CRIME FAILURE TO GRANT CREDIT POOR STAFF RELATIONS Hiring of staff Training INFRASTRUCTURE Infrastructure - roads and driveways Electricity Water supply Technology CONCLUSION 45 CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS INTRODUCTION CONCLUSIONS RECOMMENDATIONS FINAL CONCLUSIONS 48 REFERENCES 52 APPENDIX 60 vi

8 CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1.1 INTRODUCTION This study examines the factors that appear to lead to the failure of small businesses in the Kagiso Township. Chapter 1 sketches the background of the research study as well as detailing its problem statement, explaining the purpose and objectives of the study and describing the rationale of the study. The chapter concludes by defining some key concepts, noting some limitations to the study and giving an outline of the research report. 1.2 BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY Small businesses are the backbone of many economies across the globe. The major challenge is, however, to overcome the high failure rate among these small businesses (Buckley 1998:87; Kinunda-Rutashobya & Olomi 1999:7). In South Africa, where small businesses constitute more than 80% of the business sector, the failure rate is high (Bowler & Dawood 1996:2; Badenhorst, de Cronje, du Toit, Gerber, Kruger, Marais, Strydom, van der Walt & van Reenen 1997:3). On average, 50% of small businesses that are started eventually fail. This failure rate goes up to 80% in some regions (Macleod, as quoted by Ladzani & van Vuuren, 2002:155 and SDBC 1996:22). Small business development in Kagiso is no exception. Some of the businesses that were started in the early 1990s are no longer in existence. There are also those businesses that are not growing beyond the survivalist stage. The high failure rate can be partially attributed to the lack of support that the small, medium and micro-enterprises (SMMEs) experience. In the past, the South African government did not give enough support to the small business sector. Big business typically received more support than SMMEs. However, this scenario has changed since The government has since initiated small business 1

9 support measures aimed at developing and promoting the SMMEs (Bowler & Dawood 1996: 2). The National Strategy for the Development and Promotion of Small Business in South Africa White Paper was published in This initiative was followed by the National Small Business Act of PROBLEM STATEMENT Kagiso is located about 30 km west of Johannesburg in Gauteng. The township has a population of people based on an average growth rate of 2.1% from 1996 till There are a number of residents that are unemployed in this township. Some of the unemployed residents and those who were retrenched mainly from the neighbouring mining industries and firms started their own small businesses in the hope of earning some kind of income. However, these businesses are not flourishing. Too many such small businesses have failed to get off the ground. The question addressed in this study is therefore, What makes small businesses in Kagiso Township fail? 1.4 PURPOSE AND OBJECTIVES OF THE STUDY The purpose of this study is to explore the factors that seem to be responsible for the high failure rate of small businesses in Kagiso. By identifying these factors and understanding their dynamics it is envisaged that strategies can be developed which will help to reduce this failure rate. The objectives of the study are the following: To identify factors that lead to the failure of small businesses in Kagiso To develop guidelines for small business owners in order to promote successful business enterprises 2

10 1.5 RATIONALE OF THE RESEARCH The rationale for undertaking this study is to provide answers to and probe further so that the study may shed some light regarding the problems experienced by small businesses. The results will help prospective and current SMME practitioners not to commit the same mistakes that have led to failure in the past. It is hoped that this approach will reduce the high failure rate of SMMEs and will lead to their success. 1.6 DEFINITION OF KEY CONCEPTS The key concepts that are used in this study are briefly defined below Small Business Different authors define small business differently based on where they are and the requirements of that country. For example, the definition of a small business in the United States is not necessarily the same as in South Africa, especially in terms of size. This study will follow the definition of small business as defined by the National Small Business Act of 1996 of South Africa. This is as follows: a separate and distinct business entity, including cooperative enterprises and nongovernmental organisations, managed by one owner or more which, including its branches or subsidiaries, if any, is predominantly carried on in any sector or sub-sector of the economy and which can be classified as a very small, a small, a micro or a medium enterprise (SMME) The White Paper (1995:10) sub-divides small business as follows: Survivalist enterprises - These are defined as enterprises that engage in activities carried out by people who are unable to find a paid job or get into an economic sector of their choice. These activities 3

11 generate income that falls far short of even minimum standards. Little capital is invested and there is virtually no skills training available in the particular field. Only limited opportunities are available for growth into a viable business. Micro-enterprises - These refer to a very small business, often involving only the owner, some family member(s) and at the most one or two paid employees. These enterprises usually lack formality in terms of business licences, value-added tax (VAT) registration, formal business premises, operating permits and accounting procedures. Most of these enterprises have a limited capital base. The operators of micro-enterprises only have rudimentary technical or business skills. However, many micro-enterprise advance into a viable small business. Small enterprises These are regarded as the bulk of the established businesses, with employment ranging between five and 50. The enterprises are usually owned by a manager or are directly controlled by the owner-community. These enterprises are likely to operate from business or industrial premises, be tax-registered and meet other formal registration requirements. Medium enterprises These are still viewed as basically owner/manager controlled, though the shareholding or community control base could be made more complex. They employ a maximum of 200 employees and have about R5 million worth of capital assets (excluding property). These medium-size enterprises face obstacles and constraints that cannot be solved through normal market forces and private-sector action. 4

12 1.6.2 Spaza Shops Sediba Private Game Lodge (2003) defines a spaza shop as a traditional name given to a general dealer usually situated in a rural area, which sells a variety of merchandise and curios. Triple Trust Organisation (2003) regards the spaza market as the domain of the poor (both as owners and as customers) and thus any interventions that improve this market will benefit the business owners as well as the customers who are (by definition) members of disadvantaged communities. 1.7 LIMITATIONS This study focuses only on the micro-, very small and small sectors of the SMMEs. Medium enterprises are not included in the study. 1.8 LAYOUT OF THE CHAPTERS This study consists of the following five chapters: Chapter 1: Introduction Chapter 2: Literature review Chapter 3: Methodology Chapter 4: Results and discussion Chapter 5: Conclusions and recommendations 5

13 CHAPTER 2: LITERATURE REVIEW 2.1 INTRODUCTION According to Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill (2000: 44) the literature review forms the framework on which research is based as it helps to develop a good understanding and insight into relevant previous research and emerging trends. Based on the key points drawn out in the literature review, the author will provide the reader with some background knowledge of the research questions and objectives. This will enable the reader to place the research in this paper into context with regard to previously established research on the subject. 2.2 FACTORS THAT LEAD BUSINESS TO FAILURE There has been some research into the matter of why small businesses fail. Dickey (1994: 197) reports that small businesses fail because more often than not cash flow is not properly managed. The point is made that when a business starts or expands; more money needs to be invested for a while and gives the business owner very little in return. According to Hall (1995: 19), the most wellknown set of reasons for failure are the following: one man dominates rather than leading employees and who makes decisions despite their hostility; a nonparticipating board exists, which reinforces a one-man rule; the top team, with respect to its skills base, is unbalanced; a weak finance function occurs; lack of management depth and no-one above in the combination of chairman and chief executive roles awakes or directs or warns one about any caution. The argument regarding the failing of small businesses is that small businesses will most likely employ poor financial information, respond badly to change and may well overtrade as well as allow their gearing to rise to levels that convert normal business hazards into constant threats. 6

14 Buckley (1998: 36-38) reports that in the last quarter of the twentieth century many new businesses were started and still more are failing year by year. Furthermore, business owners may have displayed a good deal of confidence and enthusiasm in opening their business, but they still also experience high mortality rate. Kinunda-Rutashobya and Olomi (1999: 1) state that small and medium-sized enterprises are starting to play an important role in striving to develop businesses throughout most of African countries. The article by the Small Business Advisor (1999: 15-16) also indicates that thousands of businesses fail every year, ranging from small, medium-sized, and big. Most surveys conducted on small business indicate that the primary reasons why businesses fail include bad stock control, bad customer relations, bad personnel relations, lack of staff training and bad budgeting. According to Kuratko, Hornsby, Naffziger and Hodgetts (2000: 2), the US Department of Commerce reported in 1995 that crime and its effects are a major issue for small business owners. The United Chamber of Commerce stated in 1995 that 30% of all small business failures resulted from the cost of employee dishonesty within the business. In addition to this, small businesses are more likely to suffer from business crime than large businesses. Mambula (2002: 58-61) reports that most small businesses from the 32 small firms studied in Nigeria failed because of lack of training and lack of acquired foreign capital to purchase machinery and small parts. The Nigerian government officials also frequently harassed firms by extorting money from the businesses. Other additional obstacles comprise poor infrastructure, including bad roads, inadequate water shortage, erratic electric supply, and poor telecommunications systems. Lack of these facilities cost most firms higher overheads because they are responsible for obtaining such facilities at their own expense. Mambula further refers to the fact that most government officials in Nigeria expressed the view that policies that were successful in other countries on SMMEs are of little use in Nigeria because of the unique and highly diverse experiences and cultural backgrounds in various parts of Nigeria. Drame, as quoted by Mambula 7

15 (2002:61) further adds that implementation of any existing policy can be difficult because of the constant changes in emphasis following government take-over and intergovernmental conflicts. Some of these problems need to be addressed in the future. van Aardt, van Aardt and Bezuidenhoud (2002: 250) identified eight major reasons for the failure of small businesses. These reasons are poor management skills, poor record-keeping, poor money management, and too little effort to market the business, poor planning, poor pricing practices, poor human resource management and the business owner s inability to adapt to the changing demands of a business. Macleod, as quoted by Ladzani and van Vuuren (2002: 155) believes that a considerable number of small businesses fail just before many of them start to operate. This is caused by lack of preparedness and failing to accurately estimate the cost of starting and running one s own business. Ladzani and van Vuuren (2002: ) emphasise that training alone may not be the only solution that can help small businesses succeed, but that constraints such as the lack of financial resources, lack of access to markets, lack of support services, and low literacy levels should also be addressed. Drodskie (2002: 19-20) points out that small enterprises, particularly those located in townships and former black areas, face obstacles very different to those located in white areas. Many small business owners around townships have poor credit records. One of the reasons for this is that they don t have easy access to cheque books, which in turn means that in many cases the small business owners are not able to pay their premiums by debit order. This places a heavy burden on the business as it impacts negatively on the cash flow for the particular month in which the premium falls. Instead, they are required to pay the annual premium up front. Furthermore, Drodskie (2002) adds that small business in township and former black areas face difficulties because of lack of title deeds to property. Drodskie points out that ownership of property will be one 8

16 of the most effective ways to boost the business owner s capability in a specific small business organization Small business environment in South Africa In South Africa everyone has the opportunity of going into business. Bekker and Staude (1996: 17) emphasise that the worst that can happen is that one fails through one s mistakes. Thus, learning in small business is the essential fuel for the small business owners as leaders, the source of high-octane energy that keeps up the momentum by continually sparking understanding. Research into the small business sector in South Africa has still recently been insufficient and inadequate, and this has hampered the development of the sector. According to Business Connexion (2004), during the Apartheid years South Africa's small business economy was either neglected by policy-makers or, in the case of black-owned enterprises, actively discouraged by repressive measures. Small enterprises were wiped off the research agenda of most business schools. The Trade and Industrial Policy Strategies (Tips) research study on the economics of small, medium and micro-enterprises in South Africa concluded that research in the area was sorely lacking. Business Connexion (2004) further reports that the volume of research that has been conducted over the past ten years on small business has neglected two important points: policy implementation and an understanding of the economics of the sector. The Tips report states that any policy decision concerning small business requires accurate information about numbers, size, structure, the state of the economy and contribution to the economy. The potential of small businesses for economic empowerment can only be estimated with a sense of the share of the previously disadvantaged individuals in the ownership of the enterprises. Since there appears to be a huge information gap regarding information on small businesses in South Africa and the question of why they are failing, the researcher felt that this lacuna in the field presented an ideal 9

17 opportunity to initiate some research into this field and hence the current study. The information required was gathered in the Kagiso chamber of commerce Understanding small business When understanding a small business one needs to know what the customer needs are. Resnik (1988: 48) emphasises that what all customers want from small businesses can be classified into categories, namely goods and services that work, benefits for customers that are either better than those of the competitors or different, and better services. Resnik (1988: 183) states that the purpose of understanding small businesses is to find the management direction and control of the business as well as improving the business and realizing hidden profit potential. The business owner is often out of touch with the needs of the business and therefore thoroughly unable to attend to those needs, unless they really know what is happening in all areas of the business. Pickle and Abrahamson (1990: 20-21) note that profit is regarded as an essential product of the business. Profit is the measure of the success of business organizations: it provides owners with the funds that they need to provide for the standard of living they desire for their families, it serves as the salary of the owner-manager, and it provides at least a part of the resources necessary for the stability and growth of the business. Business owners of a small business earning a profit are kept motivated, and this type of motivation is only one reward of many that small business owners may receive from running a successful small business. Bekker and Staude (1996: 16) believe that everyone should be reminded that no business starts on its own or runs by itself. It always requires initiatives on the part of someone, and if the idea is not saleable and if the profit does not benefit the consumer and the owner, then it is a waste of time. They labour the point that ideas need to be put into practice. According to Longenecker, Moore and Petty, (2003: 372) the concept of consumer behaviour can help a small business owner better understand customers who must be seen first and foremost as human beings. Thus, a small business owner should attend consumer behaviour courses offered at many 10

18 local educational institutions. This course is based on three interrelated aspects: the decision-making process, psychological influences, and sociological influences. This model of consumer behaviour views consumers as problem-solvers. 2.3 PROBLEMS THAT HINDER SMALL BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT Siropolis (1990) states that small businesses fail because they are not prepared to handle increased managerial demands. Small businesses with ten employees generally have virtual control over everyone and everything under them. But small businesses must rely on more sophisticated ways to plan and control their business once they grow. Murphy (1996) believes that service organizations often find themselves locked in a problematic dialogue with their environment. Sometimes this centres around the issues of the outcomes, sometimes on the question of resourcing and funding. In the article Theory and Practice (2004), it is said that corruption and bureaucracy are the biggest problems that hinder the development of small businesses and inflow of foreign investments in Georgia. According to the surveys conducted by various international organizations, Georgia ranks high among the countries with serious problems in corruption. Corruption rears its head everywhere, at every level of government. This can lead to both local and foreign investors wasting their resources. Several factors seem to favour the development of corruption in Georgia: there is an excessively overstaffed bureaucracy, which creates serious barriers for businessmen; government officials earn very low salaries; there is a corrupt mentality inherited from Soviet times; and corrupt court and judicial systems. It is thus evident that these factors play a major role in Georgia in hindering small businesses from developing Poor planning According to Bekker and Staude (1996: 126), one needs to begin with a clear understanding of a manager s tasks and responsibilities if professional competence is 11

19 to be developed. These managerial tasks are planning, organizing, leading and control. Managers fail to plan because of their ignorance and lack of vision (i.e. not knowing what to plan for and believing that careful thought about the business s future will reveal new problems to be faced); lack of specific objectives and ideals; lack of information on which to make assumptions about the future as well as lack of selfdiscipline and the inability to stay close to the goals they have set. Burns and Dewhurst (1996: 49) state that most small businesses fail because their plans are sales-oriented and they need a transition in outlook in order to meet customer needs. Since small business owners do not have management training, they end up planning poorly or have no plan at all Lack of small business management education (training) Much has been written about the lack of small business management skills. As pointed out by Pickle and Abrahamson (1990: 116), most small business owners are not informed about the legal aspects concerning business and failure to do so can result in financial losses or even the failure of business. Keasey and Watson (1993: 139) provide evidence that one of the major characteristics of small businesses is that the owners have a large stake in the business and a relatively undiversified wealth portfolio. As a result, any business risks are likely to be translated into personal risks for the owner. Moreover, the small business management team often lacks experience and expertise, and these businesses frequently have to depend on a few individuals, often without the support of a formal management or career structure. Murphy (1996: 13-14) believes that the reason could be mismanagement of human resources, weak pressure of or no trade unions in small business management, which might deprive disputants of the opportunity for reconciliation and the airing of grievances outside the courts. Other primary issues faced by small business would be the attitude of many managers that the business is rooted in their own personality and is therefore personality-driven, i.e. I am the business; the business is me syndrome. In this case, small business owners are displaying limited ability to 12

20 manage financial resources, and have too much informal, fragmented and subjective managerial control. In addition, they tend to be too task-, product- and sales-oriented, to the detriment of their staff, customers and business in general. Longenecker et al. (2003: 447) found that between the extremes of very unskilled and highly professional business owners there was a continuum. At the less professional end of this continuum are business owners and other managers who rely largely on past experiences, rules of thumb and personal whims in giving direction to their businesses. Other business owners and managers display much more professionalism. They emphasise getting the facts and working out logical solutions, which is a more scientific approach. Therefore the challenge for small businesses is to develop as much professionalism as possible Lack of employee satisfaction According to Hubbard and Hailes (1988: 64), a serious problem facing small businesses is working with or hiring family members into the business. A business may not show a profit for the first period of operation. And yet, the funds may be used to cover family obligations such as food, clothing, shelter, education, medical expenses and emergencies. On the other hand, Pickle and Abrahamson (1990: 34) report that some families have no clear specifications of who is in charge of daily operations, and as a result potential for conflict is created. At other times, relatives may be hired, but they may not have the necessary job skills. Chapman (1994: 120-1) points out that it is not ethical for owners to take employees for granted. For example, small business owners become sensitive, positive, helpful, team leaders but do not become so much a part of the team showing leadership. On the other hand, many small business owners wrongfully assume that loyal, dependable employees will continue to produce without receiving credit. This assumption arises from the attitude that owners believe that they are doing their employees a favour. Longenecker et al. (2003: 390) argue that if small business owners do not create an environment that encourages personal interaction, employees will never do their best in helping the business prosper. Another point regarding employees is that if there is no openness 13

21 of owners towards employees, the employees will not fully trust the owners and will not show full responsibility on their job. Longenecker et al. (2003: 415) warn that employees in small businesses often learn by trial and error (which frequently wastes time, material and money) if the owner of the business fails to provide training Lack of customer relations According to the article by The Small Business Advisor (1999: 58), most small businesses fail because of lack of daily contact with customers, lack of special promotions, price changes, and lack of new product features. That is why the customers may be the first to hear about significant changes in the competitors distribution network. One of the most important groups of stakeholders that a business must satisfy is its customers. However, building and maintaining a base of loyal customers is no easy task. It requires more than just selling buyers a product or a service; the key is to build relationships with customers. According to Scarborough and Zimmerer (2003: 374-6), the following factors influence customer relations: right to safety, right to know, right to be heard, right to education, and right to choice. In terms of right to safety, there will be no trust in small business owners if they do not provide customers with safe, quality products and services. With regard to the right to know, i.e. information, small businesses that rely on corrupt pricing tactics and provide a poor quality product and/or service may profit in the short term, but will not last long if they do not inform customers properly and do not involving them in decision-making. Another factor that plays a role is the ability and willingness to solve customer complaints. If there is no mechanism in place to resolve the complaints of the customers there will be a breakdown in communication between the small business owner and the customer. In addition, if there are no education programmes in place regarding the proper use of products, customers will become dissatisfied. Lastly, few 14

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