Research your way to the top
The easiest way to fail your business is to exist in a vacuum and not be aware of the things happening within your sector and beyond. Research ensures a business remains competitive through the understanding of the business environment. It also enables the understanding of what may happen in the near and which may affect the business.
Research is an inquiry or a thorough investigation into a subject with the aim of gathering facts and drawing a conclusion on the subject. Organizational research should be a continuous process of keeping the business informed and having an appreciation of the business environment. Taking a look at institutions that are serious about research, one notes very clearly that MSMEs have done very little to invest in research for their organizations. It is however different with established institutions where I note there are departments or officers dedicated to undertake research.
Importance of research
Appreciation of the space you operate in
The only way to understand and know what is happening in the business environment is to take deliberate effort to get information through research which means talking to people in the sector and reading into available reports. This means not only looking at the trends locally but also international trends that may affect your business. Businesses have scoped huge profits by understanding issues that may change the dynamics of their operations. If your business depends on petroleum fuel then you have to be keen to understand the international prices of oil that may affect your business which means you will not be caught unprepared when the change happens.
Unless you are monopoly, which is highly unlikely in the business world today, you have to be in the business of those operating in a similar space as you are. If you are a flour manufacturer in Kenya for example, you must put in the work to understand what Unga Limited which is one of the biggest players are doing. If they are launching a new product, you need to look into it and try to dig out the opportunity they are tapping into. What informed their move to launch a new product? Beyond that one has to also be keen to look into how the competitors choose to do business and pick lessons that may be useful to grow your own. There are businesses that are open enough to even allow you learn something from them. Take advantage of that and stay informed. Be careful to maintain research ethics and respect your competitor’s space.
Planning in business
Proper planning for your business has to be accompanied by thorough research. As you develop future business plans there has to be an understanding of what the future is likely to look like. Look into the government priorities and see how these align to your business growth and how it may affect the business. To what percentage point is the growth projections your sector ? Are there changes in climate that may affect your business operation? What policies have been proposed and how likely are they to affect your business? I am reminded of the plastic bags ban and the adverse effects it had on businesses. Those the ban caught by surprise had not taken their time to look into the policy and how it would affect them, some enterprises were pushed completely out of business. That would have been avoided if there was an understanding of the effects of the policy with timely remedial measures being put in place. Another example would be KODAK which was a thriving company producing what was referred to as films and other camera related products but was pushed out of business the in the digital era. I tend to believe for a multibillion like kodak if they had invested in proper research they would have restructured to align with the changing business environment.
How to undertake research in MSMES
Investing in research is looked at as an expensive venture and therefore one of the main reasons enterprises shy away from research it is because of the perceived cost. It is understandable for enterprises to opt to invest financially in the core of the business but there are ways of getting information without having to dig too deep into the pockets. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) releases data on various issues periodically. There is also the annual publication of the economic survey that details the status of the economy , showing its performance the previous year. If one looks at these reports analytically, they are able to draw trends that could be useful in understanding the business environment. There are also international organizations like The Economist that have useful information. There are many open data sources that one does not need to pay to get information. These include Climate Watch, World Bank, Kenya Open Data, among others.
Best Practice in organizational research
One of the organizations that has stood out in undertaking research in their sector is Cytonn Investment Limited. They send weekly updates and monthly newsletters on issues they have researched on and are of importance to them as a business and their stakeholders. Cytonn is an example of an institution that has used research to rise and be a respectable institution in the investment space.
The importance of research cannot be overemphasized. Research brings out information that would otherwise not have been known by an enterprise. It is important for enterprises to give research a try in order to develop and grow their businesses.
By Sarah Makena.