It is the fifth day I have been here in Jagna and everything has been good. On Monday it was my first time meeting with Norma, the shop owner of Norma NJN Fashion Wear. I am grateful that she has very good English so there is no language barrier among us. She later revealed that she had studied in the university with major in business management and had worked in the government for 20 years. Four years ago, her mother who had operated the fashion wear shop passed away and she decided to take over and continue the business.
(Norma said the uniform is made of better fabric and only two shops in the Jagna market sell it)
We started by asking her if she has any record of income and expenses. She showed us two books, one for tax purposes and one for her own reference. When I looked through her records, I found she simply listed things she has sold, the expenses of the shop, and also her personal expenses on daily basis. There is no calculation of total or any summary of the business performance, so I thought it is very likely that she did the records simply out of intuitive sense.
(Norma’s daily record)
She proved that I was correct. She said she is lazy and doesn’t really like keeping the record so she does it whenever she remembers to do so, thus misses some records especially when the transactions are small. She did not try to gain insights from the records either. We asked if she would like to keep separate entities for business and personal expenses and her first reaction was “Huh? No.”. She feels there is no such need as the shop is a sole proprietorship and she has been in such practice for the past four years for which everything is fine. She did not spend time looking back at how the business has been doing. What she wants is to spend minimum time on bookkeeping. The response is kind of what I expected and I still want to improve her practice of record keeping. Because this seemingly small thing can do a lot to better the business. It allows better analysis of business’ profitability and gives insights on what changes might be needed to make.
(Norma was explaining the situation and we were brainstorming solutions together)
Being a small business consultant, I would see my job as not only about working with Norma to develop business plans and skills, but also about personal development. For example, unconsciously self-sabotaging behavior like aiming low or limiting how much can be made in business could stop people from moving forward. These resistances are common among people and businesses, regardless of geographical locations and backgrounds. The process of working with Norma is not one-way advice giving, but more about mutual communication and coming up with goals and solutions together to ensure that the new suggestions would be better implemented. I also notice that Norma usually gives short and brief answers so it is important to ask follow-up questions to dig into the hidden information. Sometimes Norma is not clear about the answer either, such as the important one – the profits she made last year. Therefore it takes time to understand the situation. It could be challenging but I can foresee the sense of achievement when we are able to create real value for Norma in effective ways within these three weeks.