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How I tripled my business in a year

By Caroline Okello | April 15th 2020
Dreadlocks specialist Hadad Tondo at his workplace [Elvis Ogina,Standard]

Hadad Tondo, owner of Locked by Hadad, a hair salon that deals in temporary locks always knew that entrepreneurship was for him. But while some business owners have the opportunity to come up with a business idea and mull it over before finally taking the plunge, Hadad’s path was different. He got fired in just two weeks of working in a salon where he had planned to hone his skills. Faced with unemployment, he used up his savings to pay for a working station in another salon and as time went by, his clientele increased. “I became obsessed with saving money and after obsessive saving for a year, I had enough money to venture out on my own. My starting capital was Sh600,000 but I kept reinvesting in the business, something I still do,” Hadad says. In 2018, he opened up his centre that could sit 10 clients in Nairobi’s Highway Mall. 

In just a year you managed to move from a space that sits 10 clients to a much bigger one that sits 30. What do you attribute this growth to?

Discipline, hard work, and good communication skills have gotten me this far. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how good you are at something. If you lack these three qualities, you won’t get very far.  

What fears did you have around starting your own business?

I worried about whether I’d pay rent on time. I feared the prospect of shutting down after a few months because of financial issues. I’ve seen businesses suffer the same predicament. But I am a risk taker, and I took all measures to allay these fears, like reinvesting profit into the business instead of enjoying them. In life, if you don’t take risks, you will always work for someone who does.

What challenges did you face when you first set up, and have you ever regretted the move and wished for employment again?

I have never regretted starting my own business. I faced stiff competition as more and more people are getting into this line of business. The good services I give to my clients speak for me, I guess. I value my clients, so I make sure they all walk out satisfied. Having said that, making everyone happy is hard as different customers come with different expectations. I try to give my best to my clients but as you know, sometimes my best may not be someone else’s. In that case I go with the mantra, “Do your best and leave the rest in God’s hands.”

As a business grows so do new challenges crop up. What emerging challenges are you facing?

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Since my team is also growing, leading a big number of employees is a challenge because I must ensure everyone is doing his or her job as expected. I started with two employees and now I have 17. I deal with this challenge by choosing leaders amongst my employees. That way I don’t handle every minor issue. Handling many clients in one place at the same time is another challenge, because I must ensure that amidst all that, the business is running smoothly and is well organised.

What business mistakes did you make when you started out?

Hiring friends as employees. This came with a lot of costs since most of them didn’t take me seriously, especially when I was advising them on how to handle clients and how they should behave at work. Some friends joke a lot and I didn’t want jokers in my business since I invested a lot in it. Though I still care about my friends, it’s better to hire a professional stranger because for them it’s all about work. When hiring staff, I look for discipline. Since I train most of my employees, I expect them to be very disciplined because if I wasn’t disciplined myself, I wouldn’t have gotten this far. Good communication skills is also key for me. If you have a bad attitude towards my clients, we may not be able to work together because It’s how you handle and talk to clients that keeps them coming back, on top of the good services you’re giving them.

What do you know now that you wish you knew then?

Being a service provider, how I handle my clients is what keeps them coming back. In other words, my clients are my bosses. Back in the day I used to think that I’m the one helping my clients with the services I offer. Ever since I discovered that the client is the boss, I started caring about how they feel and made sure they leave my place happy by giving them the best services.

What’s the best business advice you’ve ever received?

Listen to your customers while you still have the chance. I’ve received a lot of good advice but the one that I consider the best is, “As long as people are complaining, they still want to do business with you. When they stop complaining that’s when you need to worry.” The best advice I’d give working professionals who want to start their own business is hang in there as you’re saving up for whatever business you want to start and finally when you have enough capital, you can make your dreams come true.

How is the Covid-19 crisis affecting your business?

It has greatly affected me since my place gathers clients from different places and countries. I take in few appointments to emphasise social distancing and I’m taking all possible precautions to keep my employees and clients safe.

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