What is business sense?

What is business sense?

What is the main thing you need to be successful in your business today? Money. Sure, you need it, but it’s not the main ingredient for success. People. Of course they are necessary, but having them may not guarantee success. Excellent products or services. Well, this is a must to be successful. But you may have them and still not succeed. Promotions, visibility, marketing. These factors lubricate your business activities for success. So what is the main thing?

Take this from the book of Proverbs. Wisdom is the main thing. Therefore acquire wisdom. And in your obtaining, obtain understanding. The rich and honor are with me. Lasting riches and justice. Translate this to your business, you get what I call Business Sense. As we move into the year 2005, we need to refresh our minds on what this sense is all about. That is the mission of this article.

So what is Business Sense? How do you do your business. Not precisely. Strategies for doing business. Well, you may be right, but not quite. Do business with the sixth sense. No, you are wrong because while Business Sense has something to do with feelings, it has more to do with wisdom.

But what exactly is Business Sense? It is the application of wisdom for today’s business, or simply common sense in business. It is more than knowledge, facts and figures. It is a copious use of ideas, especially those that are so simple, ordinary, or basic that they are discarded. It is insight, the ability to interpret developments and the business environment differently, and to see, discern, and use differently and profitably what others see but ignore because it seems too commonplace or silly. If you focus your attention on those simple issues and things about how you work and live, and use them for business, you are operating with business sense.

Business sense. Two words, so profound, easily accessible, so simple to learn and apply, yet largely ignored. You can call it common sense. Although easily abundant, it is not as common in the acquisition and application among the professional and managerial class that rules the corporate world.

They have studied in the best schools locally and abroad, have acquired the latest technologies and skills and apply the best management methods, but they are still struggling with the challenges of the market. It is as if the more degrees, diplomas and certificates our professionals acquire, the less they use common sense in business.

Not so for the traders at the Alaba International Market in Lagos. What they lack in formal education they make up for in a great deal of business sense. No wonder virtually all banks flock to wherever these merchants congregate to set up branches.

No economic sector or concentration of businessmen/women or professionals exchanging value has been able to attract such corporate attention from the financial services sector in Nigeria. These merchants prosper while many other sectors complain. Don’t blame banks for going after merchants. They urgently need the cash these merchants generate daily. That’s why they gravitate towards traders. No other group maintains such a gravitational pull on such a formidable sector as the banks.

A teenager entering this market to learn the trade starts from the basics: bookkeeping, retail, pricing, and delivery of goods. In four years, he has honed his negotiating skills and with the skill he has acquired, he can sell coal to a tourist from Newcastle in the UK. He is well equipped to confidently deal with consumers who are becoming very vocal and demanding. Tough times have made them very price sensitive and value conscious in their purchases. Patriotic messages may no longer move them to vote for your brands with their dwindling value for money. Nor will promotional hype do that anymore.

What business sense tells you is that consumers want more promotional information to guide their purchases. Two decades ago, a nursing mother in Nigeria would hardly glance at the nutrition information on a can of baby milk. Today, before shopping, she sifts through cans of SMA and other baby food brands to determine which offers the best value for her money. Now you can understand why Nestlé Nigeria Plc mounted a promotional campaign to teach consumers nutritional information. That baby food and beverage maker has caught the vision of business sense.

What about Guinness Nigeria Plc. Their premium brand Guinness stout says: Guinness brings out the action in you. But what the brewery has failed to do is explain how consuming Guinness will prompt consumers to act.

Take this from Oceanic International Bank. Its illuminated billboards in the metropolis of Lagos send the corporate message in two words: Live peace. Good promotion. But in these days of consolidation, banking problems and all, Oceanic Bank will definitely have more impact by sending out detailed promotional messages about how a relationship with the bank ensures peace. That’s the latest trend in corporate communications, a shift from promotional hype to information-laden promotions that communication experts call infomercials.

Business sense means that corporate entities, the professional and managerial class must bow down from their ivory towers; Go back to the fundamentals of doing business that we so often ignore and connect with the consumer. These fundamentals or common sense are readily available but hardly appreciated or used. Business Sense teaches vision, mission, ethics, corporate care, charity, courage, humility, and the proper definition of your business.

Business sense is not taught in the real sense in academic institutions and management courses. The focus in these places is more academic than real. This sense is acquired more through real life experiences, insightful observation, and learning the hard way at the Desert Experience School. That is the essence of this series of articles, to complement the teachings of these unique business schools, and encourage professionals to use common sense and what Almighty God has deposited in them.

Dan Thomas, founder and president of Focus, a management consulting firm in Polo Alto, California, USA, wrote a book called Business Sense. In the book, he shows how managers can use the core management processes he calls the Five Freedoms to achieve success. As Dan’s book tours the offices of corporate America, he sees how Ken Blanchard, co-author of One Minute Manager, described the book: The biggest problem in business today is that common sense is rarely common practice. This book is all about using common sense in business. If it makes any sense, he will read it and share it with others. No need to comment on Ken’s common sense comment. The message is clear.

To acquire and apply business sense in your business, you must be humble, have a big heart, be humble in spirit, be attentive to business fundamentals, and most of all, be close to your creator. That puts you in the right frame of mind to recognize and apply common sense. If you’re obsessed with your academic achievements, total quality management, best practices and all, you won’t apply common sense. No one is discarding these management methods. They are very necessary. But you need to lubricate your application with common sense. That is what brings lasting results.

You may be agonizing over how to deal with that management, production, or marketing problem without knowing that the solution is a common-sense application you haven’t considered.

As I say goodbye today, take this classic example of a common sense solution to a big scriptural problem that most of you know better than I do. The story of David against Goliath. This giant had instilled morbid fear in the entire army of Israel. The solution for Goliath was readily available, but no Israeli soldier or general saw it. Even if they did, they must have called it off as some managers in the corporate world are doing now that they are faced with the many Goliaths in today’s market.

Israeli soldiers who lacked faith in God put all their trust in their spears and other armor that paled in importance compared to Goliath’s. He took the courage and common sense of a teenager, David, who trusted in Almighty God. He put his hands in the stream there, took five smooth stones for his slingshot, and ran towards Goliath. You know the rest of the rest of the story. That was a simple solution to a huge problem.

The common sense approach is even more real for today’s market. Dear professional, this is my calling today: start applying wisdom in your business today. In subsequent articles, I will share my thoughts and the views of other professionals like you on common sense in business. Apply them and you will be fine.

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