How to be a Kenyan entrepreneur

How to be a Kenyan entrepreneur

First I think there is a lot of confusion about the two words being used synonymously; I do find these two words distinctly apart at least in my own terms and understanding. First things first, an entrepreneur is an innovator/inventor of a new way of doing things and a businessman is just that…he does business solely for the purpose of making profit with no clear cut value addition to the industry or society e.g. to put this example. Lets say you see your friend running a Kinyozi (barber shop) and you open exactly the same one with the same/exact product offerings you are a businessman, There is no value you are adding to the industry or to existing clients but if you open a kinyozi with a unique product/service offering alongside the standard barber services, you are an entrepreneur. This not only adds value to existing industries but creates a multiplier effect to the industry. An innovation or an invention adds a whole range of business to an industry and society in general. That’s what Kenyans should strive to be. An entrepreneur has to be an innovator, or an inventor of new things. Now that’s where issues arise. Introducing new ideas/technologies normally has its downsides. One being the market reception-how will clients adopt to my new idea. Will investors fund my idea? But again if you choose to be an entrepreneur that’s one of the things you have to go through.

Again, let’s get some things straight. Business is a system and as we all know any system is made up many sub-systems which have to work together in unison for it to function efficiently. One thing as a business person is to learn how to synergize all these sub systems to work together for a common goal.

In Kenya, we are so used to doing businesses the old way and the notion is of ‘si imekuwa ikifanywa hivyo” (it’s always been done like that). This notion sometimes impedes great ideas that would otherwise be useful to all of us. Though with increased information and the success of some ideas, people are slowly adopting to new ideas and that’s a great thing, I must say.

One distinct thing as much as business is just business, there is great disparity in the way Kenya we do business and our Western counterparts, needless to say are more efficient and professionally run.

I do like……no love business and I have been soaring for the internet for ideas and  business literature and I thought should share the little I know of what have learnt so far that might apply to Kenya entrepreneurs  and businessmen before starting or currently running a business in Kenya…………

Be Innovative

Let’s stop the copy cat idea of doing business where you open a similar business to someone else because you think he/she is making money. If you feel you have just to do the copy thing you have innovative, give a unique product/service offering to what already exists. This promotes healthy competition and grows an industry. Alternatively you can create a totally new idea/invention into play that never existed on the Kenyan scene. To be an entrepreneur , you’ve got to be a risk taker…it just comes with the territory. But again comprehensive market research and planning has to be done before embarking on such projects.

Do what you love

This is becoming more of a cliché especially when related to advice on starting or running a business. Most people romanticize business especially when they see all these glitz and glamour related to entrepreneurs e.g. when you hear Forbes World Rich list or the Times list. Business is a hustle and a struggle, for most of those people to reach those levels, they had to go through rough patches, some almost becoming bankrupt in the process but what held them on is because they loved what they did. The whole idea behind doing what you love boils down to the ability for you to hold on when things get real tough, a harsh reality in business.

Business Plan

This is one overlooked aspect for many people when starting a business. You get these idea and you don’t have a clear written formal plan on how your business is to operate. They are many elements that go into a business plan but you need a formal and written guideline. You can chart down simple details to get you started and can change aspects as you go-business model you intend to use, your target clientele, cash flow management. The plan should also have detailed market research information on the product/service you intend to sell/provide. Market research enables you have a much focused business plan. They are lots of resources online on writing business plans.

Honesty/Integrity

Someone once said “Bad ethics is Bad Business”. Always be honest and have integrity in your business dealings. Don’t offer false promises shortchange suppliers/distributors, over charge clients even if you have the advantage to do so. Good businesses are built on good reputation. These should boil down to your entire business including you employees where they should be guided by a code of conduct.

Customer Service

Ever walked in a store and when all the attendants seem to be too busy to attend to you or are plainly assuming your presence….Ok, next time would you even bother to go back to the same store? Same goes if you run your business, customer service is focal to any business because clients are the lifeline of your business. Courteousness, promptness in offering services and products is essential to any business. Clear cut guidelines should be in place for employees to follow especially handling customers. Follow up on clients’ purchases will reinforce their loyalty to your business.

Branding

Focus on building a brand for your business. These might be the strong philosophy and attributes that resonates well with your clients and potential clients at the sight and sound of your business name. This might be professionalism, reliability or integrity….name it .Branding is a wide and complex subject but when done correctly, it will be inevitably indispensable to your business.

Internet and Web

These offers one of the most inexpensive ways for you to market your products and interact in real time with potential clients thanks to social networking sites e.g. Facebook and Twitter. Professional networks like LinkedIn enable you to connect with business and likeminded professionals in your desired field. The geographical expanse of the internet enables you not only interact and market products with clients, it also opens up new market opportunities that would otherwise been very expensive to reach

Marketing

What is the use of setting up a new store and launching these new product/services and sitting down waiting for clients to come in? A concrete marketing plan should be incorporated in your business plan that outlines your target clients and how you will market your products e.g. cold calling, email marketing, SMS, newspaper classifieds or online advertisements. You have to go out their and market your product with zeal for you to make sales. You don’t have to be a marketing guru to market your products successful. If you have no idea on how to market your products and a bit cash strapped, the internet has a wealth of marketing information resources to get you started on your marketing plan.

Embrace, embrace technology

Unless you are doing business in the 18th Century, employing use of technology in your business is a sure plus for your business. They highly improve efficiency. Don’t sit back and think that my business doesn’t need technology. You will be amazed if you do a little research online or offline on the many technological tools that suit and will improve your business productivity. Technology ranges from business utility tools e.g. software (for accounting, payroll), websites/internet and machinery/equipment. They are a growing number of professionals in different fields who can help you adopt appropriate technology for your business. One nice about technology is its evolving fast and making even the most complex of technology easily and cheaply accessible to SMEs. A good example on the Kenyan market is the Safaricom Cloud where you get software as a service and you get to spend less than investing in the infrastructure itself. A great cost saver there…

Don’t be too smart

As I said earlier at the beginning of this article business is a system which depends on many other sub systems. Having expert grasp on all these sub systems will be difficult unless you are some super genius, you will need professional advice on some aspects of the business. Don’t be a know it all…..Warren Buffet once said “If you don’t know Jewelry, know the jeweler”. The same applies when running an area business of your business you don’t understand. You will be surprised what you earnings from the offered advice to greatly surpass the cost of hiring a consultant.

Knowledge and more Knowledge.

Business is dynamic and the more you know, the better off you are in terms of your business productivity and staying ahead of competition. Know about your business environment, technologies, opportunities, and markets. Also try to improve your business skills and knowledge…thanks to the Internet; they are lots of free resources where you can do that. They are also many local and international business publications available in the Kenyan market. You can get them with ease at most newspaper vendor outlets, bookshops and supermarkets.

Give back to society

Don’t be in business for the sole purpose of making money. Always incorporate a corporate social responsibility in your business no matter how small your business is. Be it feeding the neighbourhood street kids or paying support for a kids fee. Great businesses mind and care about the society around them. Be also social responsible not to interfere with the environment you operate. If you operate a pub in a neighbourhood and you play loud music until the wee hours of the morning and they are kids going to school in the morning, that’s a totally socially irresponsible business.

Hiring of employees.

Employees are one of the greatest assets you will ever have in your business. Take great caution when choosing and hiring new employees in your business and make clear cut duties, responsibilities and tasks to performed in the business. Get professionals or skilled workers for the different tasks. You can also alternatively choose to outsource some tasks of your business to other third parties. Don’t employ randomly without proper considerations of tasks and duties because excess staff could hurt your balance sheet.

Book keeping

Italians acknowledge the need for accounting and book keeping hundreds of years ago, so why not learn it or hire somebody professional to do it for you. Most people get scared at the sight and sound of ledgers, balance sheets and related jargon. Truth is for you to run any business successful you need an understanding of what they are for they give you an accurate financial position of your business and will give a better base for making other business decisions like forecasting, sourcing for loans and funds.

Core Competencies

Learn to focus on the part of your business that you know best and outsource the rest to other parties. These will not only improve on the quality of your products and services but will prove to be a great penny saver.

Cash flow management

Learn your revenue and cost centers’ in your business and learn to reduce costs and increase revenues. Learn where the  money is coming from is growing, this is a major plus for the technology point above, there are numerous software on the Kenyan market today that allow you to track your revenues and costs in a timely and organized fashion.

Savings

As a start-up or growing company you will need to set aside part of your net profits as reserves for further investments. This is normally will be a cheaper source of capital if later you need to expand or diversify your business than going for other financial let’s say loans.

Learn the art of delegation.

Can your business run in your absence and not suffer? This should be on your mind, delegate some duties to other employees and let them perform them independently of your interference.Mentor someone also to run your business because who knows sooner or later you got relieve yourself the duties of the Chief executive and the business has to continue without you as its head.

Finally, a clear distinction should be exist between you as the owner and the business. Don’t use the business as your personal ATM for personal pleasures. As much as you are the boss, be an employee in your business a clearly set aside. Remember businesses need a high level of discipline and sacrifice to succeed. And don’t be Jack the dull boy, get sometime once off from your business and get to time to  relax, this not only revitalizes you but gives you new ideas.

Good luck with your business.

The writer welcomes any comments, complaints, compliments on the article and contributions with the aim of making Kenya a better place for doing business effectively and professionally.

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