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Six ways to make your first million

By Maina Gachanjah | Aug 15th 2019 | 4 min read
By Maina Gachanjah | August 15th 2019

I’m sure all entrepreneurs would agree that making that first Sh1 million in business looks easily achievable on paper, but is a dazzling mirage in reality.

If you’re new in business and would like to make your first Sh1 million in the next 12 months, here are some of the tried and tested steps you need to take.

1. Focus on the mission not the money

In one of my consulting seminars on marketing management, I got a client who wanted to double the company’s sales register.

We first of all took time to define, with the help of the CEO, what the company actually does in exchange for money. The founder’s primary goal when starting out her business was to print clear, quality and affordable building plans for architects, surveyors, contractors and engineers.

Right there lies her mission statement and reason for being in business.

If you are a serious entrepreneur, your mission statement ought to be the primary reason you and your team wake up early and go to bed late.

You want to make your clients happy by sorting out their pain points. Endlessly fantasising about how much money there is to make will distract you from this mission.

Keep in mind that money is a by-product of a well-delivered mission statement. Focus on your company’s deliverables.

2. Find out where to get a million customers

Most brilliant business entities fail to take off, not because of inadequate capital, but due to an emaciated prospect pipeline.

The best way to deal with this is to clearly define your mission statement and package it into a simple and clear marketing message that can be broadcast to a million people.

If you own a website that hosts news and insights daily, for instance, and your business derives money by selling advertising space on the portal, then you’ll need a list of marketing platforms that would help you broadcast your message to a million people over 12 months.

These platforms could be social media, print or electronic media, flyers, billboards, emails, business cards or word of mouth from satisfied customers. Just ensure the marketing message revolves around your mission.

3. Find an invisible mentor

If you can’t find a visible, physical mentor, then come up with a list of 10 people you admire in the industry or field you’re in.

Do your research on them, follow them on social media, engage with them, and read their books and/or commentaries. Find out what makes them who they are.

I maintain a list of marketing, finance, strategy, management, entrepreneurship and economics gurus that I catch up with daily at the start of my day. They make up part of my daily business guide.

Whether you’re a writer, musician, athlete, consultant, lawyer, doctor, auditor or researcher, find mentors you can track daily for ideas on how to make money and become better at your area of interest.

4. Help others climb up the success ladder

I attended a marketers’ retreat once, and the trainer came in with 10 pairs of children’s shoes.

The 10 of us in the room were each asked to write down our surnames and the first name of our first child on each pair of shoe. After that, the shoes were put in a separate room and we were asked to introduce ourselves.

The trainer then asked us to go to the room where the shoes were, pick a pair randomly and pass it on to whomever’s name was on it.

There was a whole lot of confusion in the beginning, but the exercise ended in under two minutes.

Why? Because we helped each other. Successful people help others achieve their goals.

Build your business by helping other people become successful, whether this means your customers, partners, stakeholders, shareholders or employees.

You get what you give, and when you help people, they’re more likely to help you back, thus improving your chances of business success.

5. Design a much-needed product or service

A problem/shortage in the market/society is an opportunity to offer solutions and make money. Our routine and mundane urban lifestyle created the opportunity to build a multi-million-shilling comedy industry.

Mobile money platforms solved the issue of long banking queues.

Taxi-hailing made it unnecessary to hike long distances looking for a cab.

Look around you. What problems do you or your peers face? What can you do about it?

6. Replicate and be effective at a competitor’s activity

If faced with a shortage of business ideas, then research a viable activity someone else is doing in a small, shoddy or ineffective way. And then replicate it in a much larger, unique and cost-effective way.

You could also take an idea from Nairobi to the counties.

Between Alibaba and Amazon, for instance, it isn’t quite clear who copied the other, but whatever the case, Jack Ma and Jeff Bezos have made their billions from eCommerce.

A lot of the time, you’ll find there’s room for more than just one business in a particular industry.

You just need to figure out how you can do at least one thing better than your competition does.

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