In the past I have written articles on entrepreneurship, how to spot market gaps and fill them with business ideas. The response has been overwhelming and a few readers contacted me through email and on social media with questions on what or how to do it.
I am always honest with people, I am not a motivational speaker who gives you the false energy but doesn’t equip you with skills. I am a marketer and an entrepreneur, I say it as I see it, I also don’t help people do it, I advice, share my thoughts and let you do the rest. A lot of Kenyans are plain lazy, procrastinators; who are busy doing nothing, bumming around while thinking big. Well; if you are broke, thinking about all you can do when money comes in is nonsense. If you are in the right frame of mind wake up and do something! Stop being a dreamer and do something when dawn breaks. As I write this article, I am thinking of that frustrated employee somewhere, that one lady who feels she doesn’t have the strength to go work because her boss is horrible and always solicits sexual favours from her. I am also thinking about that overworked salesman who is paid little commission yet he brings in so much business. I am also with that recent graduate who upon finishing school thought companies would hire him but they still haven’t done so. He has now resulted to drinking daily to drown his frustrations, why? He can’t face life anymore. If you are that person do something about it, taking alcohol the whole day by borrowing, hustling and stealing cash from your friends makes you a beggar! Wake up, DO SOMETHING! I am also with that guy who feels underpaid in his current job and thinks going to business is the only way to financial freedom. Well bro, it’s not always a case of living happily ever after.
On the brighter side I am also looking at that employed guy, with a good salary and fringe benefits. This guy drives around town in a decent car and lives in a good neighborhood; however my guy too is dissatisfied! Why? He wants to leave his employer for business. What motivates him? Could be more money, fulfillment in life, to create employment to the youths or change the world and the way things are done. People go into business for various reasons which I will not discuss here today. However what factors should you consider before you quit that job to go into business? What should you have before you borrow cash to put into your idea? Here’s my two cents of advice to all those willing to get into business and be the next generation of entrepreneurs in Kenya and in the world!
1. 1.Do it for the right reasons
Kenyans are peculiar people; some of us will go into business to make money; wrong choice. Another bunch will leave companies they work for to start a similar company and thus make money; that’s greed. God will never bless you or help you kill your former employer! Some will go into business simply so as they can be in control, cool! But that’s simply being hungry for power and authority and the last group will do so because others have done it and succeeded. My advice to you is, do it for the right reasons, your business idea must meet specific needs, have a target market and should be economically viable. Going into business for the sake of it is nonsense, don’t blow away your life savings and borrow more if you don’t have a good clear reason why you want to go into business!
2. 2.It’s not all about the capital
There’s this perception that all you need to get into business is just capital, well you need money to run a business but it’s certainly not the only thing that swings business! Sadly Kenyans always blame the lack of adequate capital as their major hindrance to starting a business. If you think all you need is money to run a business then you’d better keep that job, learn a few more things, if you are in a small company where you meet the owner/s daily just ask them how they started. If they are good people, they will give you a few wise words before you resign!
3. 3.Income and Expenses
When you go into business, all the expenses will be borne by you since you’ll start small. Once in a while you’ll have to chip in from your pockets to ensure everything runs properly; to buy office paper, cartridges and glue etc etc. If you are used to a scenario where your employer gives you airtime, cabs to take you to meetings and allowances then adjust accordingly. All these are expenses and should you and your staff use cabs to meetings, that’s an expense. Am also looking at a scenario where your sales men ask for airtime and fare to do prospecting in the morning yet you’ve got no cash in the bank and in your wallet to give them! Do you see a point where suppliers cannot grant you credit yet you need to purchase a few things urgently to deliver an order and get paid? Should you not have an accountant to take away this heat and pressure you may cry and close shop! Accountants help a lot, even when the company doesn’t have the money, the MD (You) will always refer suppliers to the accountant yet he knows there’s no cash!
On the brighter side, all the income comes to you, am sure you are now happy because probably in the past you were given a commission when you brought business. Sounds cool, right? Can you see the dollars trickling in? YES am sure! All I am trying to say is, when you are starting; you will be the accountant, so watch your expenses and income columns in your books. You’ll also be the chief financial officer so manage and invest the hard earned income wisely. Put in cash into projects that have a good ROI. Should you decide to buy leather seats and a red carpet for your office just ask yourself what they’ll bring in! Do not also do what others are doing, eg branding your car because it’s the in thing or making staff uniforms. Concentrate on what you can’t do without, things like office rent, internet, electricity, salaries etc. If that is well catered for then check your company’s technical capability before you start doing an aggressive sales campaign.
4. 4.The Skills
A lot of graduates always say ‘I’ll work for 2 years, save and resign to go do business. Just before you quit ensure you’ve got the right skills and experience; for networks you’ll always meet people along the way. No one knows everyone! This is one area that differentiates the failures and those who will succeed. According to the (Baseline survey, 2008) It is documented that most small businesses live longer than we most think – 58% were three years or older and a full 43% were 5 years or older. Where do the rest go? When you go into business chances are you’ll be the salesman, the marketer, the accountant, the receptionist and everything before you hire people. The sad fact is if you hated or you don’t know how to do basic things like proposals, reports, spreadsheets and accounts chances are you’ll fail. When employed you were employed am sure someone did this for you however in business you might be required to do it yourself! You need to have negotiation skills to pitch new business, presentation skills and loads of other soft business skills to run your start up. What I am trying to say is no one looks at your grades or transcripts should you decide to do business, your business requires the skills so have the right set and mix of skills!
5. 5.A killer Team!
Do not just bet on strategies, you need people to help you deliver. First time entrepreneurs tend to feel like they can do it all on their own, the truth is you can’t. If you try, you’ll burn out so soon and die! Having a good team is critical to your success. Hire great talents, people who are coachable and can fit into a team. If you get a good business partner kindly get together. One reason why our local start ups don’t grow is because we tend to prefer owning 100 % of 1 Million rather than 20 percent of 1 Billion. Having the right partners can propel your business whereas having a good talented team ensures your customers are happy. A good team ensures customers leave with a smile, do not hire ‘monkeys’ and expect great results. I have seen small firms that hire form four leavers to sell their products or services. Well, these sales people could be cheap to hire but they’ll need a lot of training before they meet their targets. Always invest in what will bring in more cash>>a killer team is one! Oh on this same before you do sales, ensure you hire marketers first. A lot of entrepreneurs hire marketers to do sales and vice versa. Give the right job to the right man!
This had almost slipped my mind; there are people who leave employment to work flexible hours. The truth is that isn’t always the case. If you are bored and tired with the 8-5 job then business might mean more. As a small business owner you might be required to start your day at 7am and leave office at 8pm, once in a while you’ll also work over the weekends to ensure everything runs properly. If you don’t have a talented team that means you can’t delegate much to them. If you thought going into business will grant you more hours in bed, then think again. Lazy people don’t go to business, if you aren’t disciplined, meaning you always come to work late and leave early your employees will pick that up from you and do the same. To be a good leader you’ve got to lead by example, the beauty of putting in extra hours into your business is you’ll be rewarded handsomely in future. If your company grows and you hire shrewd managers then you can delegate much of your routine work to the managers and your PA leaving you with only the strategy role. At that point you can go play golf all day, travel the world, take vacations and do anything because the company can operate without you!
7. 7.You are the BOSS
Finally let me remind you, you will call the shots since it’s your business. Your employees will come to you with all sorts of problems that need urgent financial assistance, will you give everyone money? Secondly since you are the boss you manage everything in the office, will you micro manage people? Will you let them be? What sort of a leader will you be? Will you listen to your juniors? Can they have access to you on short notice or will you implement an open door policy? Ooh, you also hold the powers to hire and fire, so will you fire who refuse to sing to your tune? Will you only hire girls you’ve slept with? Will you pay people on time, how well will you manage your finances? All these decisions will be made by you and should you make the wrong move you suffer the consequences. You burn your money should you take the wrong course of action! People make mistakes and the best thing is to always learn from them however don’t make the silly ones, those ones where you hire a blonde just because she looks good and expect her to perform extraordinarily! Don’t mix business with family too, when you go into business, all your cousins, brothers and relatives will ask you for jobs. Do not bow to pressure from folks to hire people just because “Ni watu wa Nyumbani”. I have seen cases where by ¾ of employees in an office were all related by blood! To cut the whole story short, that company closed shop 8 months after opening! Why? These guys spent the whole day speaking in vernacular in the office, no working and they were untouchables! No manager could reprimand them since ni ma cousins wa mdosi!