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Opinions of Monday, 2 August 2021

Columnist: Abdul Hafiz

How businesses in Northern Ghana and other Zongo communities are managed

File photo: Map of the Northern part of Ghana File photo: Map of the Northern part of Ghana

Hajia Mother (not her real name) is a business merchant who deals in textile fabrics, jewelry, and many other ladies garments. Her goods are mostly from Dubai and China.

Two decades ago, Hajia was able to start her business after she gathered all the gifts she had received during her wedding ceremony, converted them into cash and her newly wedded husband also supported her with some small amount of money of which she was able to buy just ten pieces of GTP wax with.

As a result of hard work and dedication, Hajia’s Textile and Fabric shop alone (she has businesses too) is now estimated at around GHC1,000,000 (10b old cedis). Because of the strategic location of Hajia’s shop, she makes daily sales of not less than GHC5000.

Retailers far and near buy from her shop. It is said that Hajia's mother has the capacity to provide up to 100 yards of the same fabric (yaaye) for a single occasion. Hajia’s shop is the number one-stop-shop for all occasions, in Tamale.

After about 20 years in existence, one problem identified in Hajia Mothers’ business is the failure to adapt to modern business practices that employ technology and also best hands based on qualifications and competence. All the staffs in the shop are family relatives of Hajia and non of them have Secondary education.

A performance audit was recently conducted by an audit firm in Tamale and it was identified that Hajia Mother Store loses GHC1000 weekly and more than GHC50000 annually through internal pilfering by staff.

After the loss, the owner, Hajia's Mother got upset and fired all her 10 Staff in the shop, including her younger sister who manages the shop in her absence.

The sacked staff are appealing to the Head of Hajia’s family including Imams in the area to intervene and call Hajia to return them to their jobs. What have Imams got to do with affairs of private business? You see our problem!

Hajia's Mother should visit Melcom or Games at Mall and learn modern techniques in book-keeping and accounts. Those stores have all items tagged. It means once an item leaves the shelf, it is recorded as sales.

Once it is put in the counter machine the price enters the company register as revenue. There are cameras with monitoring room viewing every customer. But at Hajia Mothers’ store, prices are in the heads of the sales attendants, once a customer points to an item, the price is mentioned. Some prices are not even known until the sales girls call’s the owner of the shop for the prices if she’s away.

There is no single computer in Hajia Mother's shop except if it is hidden in the ceilings. I doubt if Hajia herself has a computer. How do you run a billion cedis outfit like that? There isn’t a single teller machine, monies are counted with hands, all calculations are done off the head, no computer for data capture and storage. No CCTV installations, no advertising mechanisms, Hajia runs her business manually.

Once in a while, Hajia invites her spiritual fathers to come over and pray for her business. At the close of business every day, Hajia’s younger sister will do all the calculations and call to tell her their daily sales.

I once visited Hajia’s store and discovered it was a business entity that operates without control. I watch whiles customers bought items, paid (some with cash others on credit), and without being given any receipts. What I saw was just unbelievable.

For a business to be poorly managed in this manner and still make a profit could only be by the grace of God.

What Hajia Mother needs to do is to invite retail consultants that will set up the business for her. Retailing is not rocket science. The consultants will employ competent people based on merit, not blood affiliation or patronage. They will employ technology that will put all controls that will close all leakages that drains the store’s revenue.

Most northern businesses don't believe in POS technology. Some multimillion shops in Tamale markets will not accept ATMs or mobile money transactions.

Some don't have company accounts. Just like Hajia, she collects cash from the shop and lodges the money into her personal savings account. When it is time to get a loan and the banks want trade history through bank statements then she shouts discrimination.

For every business to succeed the owners must spend money on experts to put it through modern practices. Check all Asian retail shops and you will see the difference. Go to KFC or Melcom right here in Tamale, you won't see a single American or Indian.

It is run by Ghanaians on a system that is based on best practices. No chicken wings or candy can get missing. The employees are not relatives or friends of the owners. That is what northern businesses should copy.

Nearly all shops in the North closes during prayer times. Once it is time to pray especially on Friday, the shops are locked up between the hours of 12:30 pm to 2:00 pm. That shouldn't be the case. The owners can employ Christians who will cover that shift period.

You can't have shop gates unattended because all Muslims are attending prayers. And vice versa. Tamale is a Muslim populated city but on Sundays, most shops in the city are closed because of social events such as weddings. Quite ironic.

The business has gone past just the hope of divine blessings, adapt to modern business ethics and practices, include technological skills in your business and grace will fall on your business.