Categories: Vegetables

Don’t ignore the small guys

I suppose it’s human nature – or is it just greed for people to favour big clients?

After all, they bring in the most business and they deserve the best one has to offer when it comes to service and support. You could argue that the “little guys” have more “nuisance value” than anything else, and the amount they contribute to the bottom line doesn’t justify spending too much time and effort on them.

If you want to be hard-nosed about it, you could say: “So what if they fall by the wayside? As long as we don’t lose our big clients!” That’s all very well – and for a while the bottom line will reflect the “wisdom” of that attitude. But is such an attitude sustainable? Will the big guys be with you forever? Will they forever remain big? Neither life nor business is that predictable.

That’s why we all have to continuously review our business relationships, our service levels and above all, our attitude! When arrogance creeps into a business, the end is in sight. I’ve seen it happen many times over the years – market agencies growing big, cumbersome and eventually arrogant. They seldom survive over the long term.

There may be many reasons for their demise, but you can bet one of them was that they ignored the small guys. When you’re making money you start to believe you can’t put a foot wrong. For that’s invariably when you decide you’d rather hobnob with the big boys. Or so you think.

There are thousands of small fruit and veg farmers in South Africa. How many of them are getting a good deal from their market agent? I’m not saying drop everything just for the sake of the little guy. But are you giving him the service and support that will help to build his business?

The problem with arrogance is that it blurs reality. Worse, you start believing your own misconceptions – just like politicians. When talking about the big companies, I always ask how they started. They all started small and built their businesses over the years. Does that not also imply that today’s small guy will be the big guy of tomorrow?

If an observant market agent identifies those likely to succeed and nurtures them, both parties will reap the benefits in the long run. It will be more of an investment at first, but profits will come in time. Isn’t that the key to any wise investment – put in now to benefit later?

Mike Cordes e-mail

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