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How to win in 2021

By Judith Mukiri Mwobobia | December 30th 2020 at 11:32:56 GMT +0300

This year, we have featured entrepreneurs who have shared incredible insights on starting and running businesses. If you missed them, worry not. We have done a round-up of some of the nuggets of wisdom that we hope you can carry into the New Year as you get your hustle on

Bharat Thakrar, founder of Scanad and CEO of WPP Scangroup says:

Bharat Thakrar, Scanad founder

Guard your cash flow jealously. Without cash flow there will be no one to finance the business. Banks want you to generate cash so that you can repay them. If half of your cash flow goes to loan management, banks will not like you, and won’t want to give you money. Money must be in circulation at all times.

Just do your best. I live by one of Bhagavad Gita’s fundamental philosophy espoused by the Karma Yogi. That of a person who keeps his head down, hard at work without waiting for a reward. For example, a doctor does not wake up in the morning saying he will treat 50 patients but because he is a good doctor, he always finds patients in his clinic. They know of his reputation. A soldier too does not join the military to kill but the call was to defend his land. That is his duty. Therefore, if you are good at something, try and excel in it. The rewards will take care of themselves. Be like that mason proud of building the wall, or the gardener who knows that plants need a lot of love. He will even talk to the plants. If he is clever, he sets up his own gardening business to amplify the good work he does. The other day I was watching the guy who does upholstery work on our sofas. We call him professor. He is so meticulous at folding the corners of the cloth, so focused on his job, and he is so good at it. I lead a similar lifestyle. I am 68-years-old and still in it. You only succeed by sticking to your strengths.

Sarah Karingi, owner of Global Networks Investment and co-director of Miles Ahead Investments says:

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Turn the loan into business as quickly as possible. Be disciplined and borrow only if you know what you want to do with the money. Do not borrow to buy expensive clothes or cars just to show off. Climb the tree from down up. Turn the loan into business as quick as possible. If the financier has told you to pay up in six months, pay up in six months, not in five months. If you borrowed Sh100,000 and your business is making Sh150,000, avoid the lure to pay off the loan at once. Some think that paying up earlier is a good thing. No; make more with the loaned amount while paying the stipulated instalments.

 Dr Jennifer Riria, a business leader and CEO of Echo Network Africa says:

Dr Jennifer Riria

Do not be a copycat. Before you start a business, talk to someone who started something successful and find out how they did it. We have in the past connected someone with a thriving startup with another person looking to start a startup. However, do not start the business like your neighbour’s. For example, one woman goes to Dubai to buy clothes for resale in Kenya and you invest your savings on the same business model without any understanding as to why they did it. Do not sell tomatoes just because everyone is selling tomatoes. Look for real needs that ought to be addressed by your business. Could you perhaps do value add to the potatoes, perhaps by making crisps? You must know what you want to do and where your market lies.

Make it more than just the money… If you start a business because you just want to make money, you might get frustrated quickly if your expectations are not met fast enough. Entrepreneurship is about helping people transform their lives, and for women in particular, the lives of their families. For example, if you lend money to a woman to start a business, the money somehow finds its way back to the family. Entrepreneurship is about giving her a voice. In the process, she fills a real need that in turn brings her some income. Have more than the need to make money in your vision and you will be fine.

Ideas attract capital. One of the common complaints among young people aspiring to do business is the lack of business mentoring. However, I encourage them to join networks and learn to be innovative. Banks fund ideas and when young people innovate, they can get bargaining power. I have the example of a young man who was so demotivated to the point where he almost gave up on life. But he held on. And came up with a good business idea. I just learnt that he got a grant from Commonwealth to connect young, innovative people from all over Africa. 

Chris Bitti, founder and CEO of Digital Brands Agency says:

The biggest mistakes new entrepreneurs make is expecting that business is a smooth ride and that you will make it the very next day after starting. I hear many young business owners talking about depression when things don’t go well for them. In South Africa, at some point, my roommate and I did not have food, making just enough to survive. But we carried on, because business requires the heart of a lion. You are allowed to have a bad day. But that should not crush you.

You have to be agile. You see, Nairobi is a place where you start something and the very next day, everyone else has copied your brand and are doing the exact same thing. Competition is very high. People could do anything for survival. In an era where social media has given relevance to some people who don’t deserve it, take advantage. Position your brand where it can be seen and felt. Covid-19 should wake people up to leveraging on social media to create and position their profiles.

Dr Ahmed Kalebi, founder and chief executive of Lancet Group of Laboratories in East Africa says:

Stay focused on your goal no matter what. I grew up in poverty. Without positive thinking and determination, I would never have pursued the opportunity to do pathology and would probably have resigned to being condemned by the negative sentiments I initially received. Always keep your eyes on the goal, have a positive mental attitude and never say any task is impossible.

Don’t waste opportunities. Life is always full of opportunities. It is a matter of seizing the moments, trying out things and going for whatever one is capable of with all the energy. My passion was in pathology and the opportunities were there. My view is that unless you have something better preoccupying you now, any opportunity that comes your way is worth trying out.

Maintain proper structures for a healthy business ecosystem. For any business to thrive and be sustainable, one must develop and maintain proper governance structures and best practices. Once a business takes a life of its own, it is no longer about an individual or the few individuals who started it or own it. It is key that you ensure proper management and adherence to laws and regulations that govern your business.

Lead from the front, delegate where possible. A leader’s involvement in the day to day affairs of a business depends on the nature of the business and the style of the business leader. My approach is to mentor and empower others to do as much as possible, only getting involved when I need to. If others in my team can do it better than I, then I let them do it. That said, I would get directly and closely involved in a matter until I’m satisfied that those I delegate to are able to run with it better. 

Mary Njoki, CEO of Glass House PR says:

Mary Njoki, Glass House PR CEO

People will not always buy into your idea. Do not feel entitled or catch some negative feelings if people do not buy into your idea. Nobody owes you anything. Do not worry about the shame of failure. Pick yourself up, dust yourself and move on.

If I was to go back in time to when I started my business, I would learn things quicker and also hire the right people with a shared vision. I would also conduct a good client background check. I have suffered in the past for not doing enough homework on a client who exaggerated his real net worth for the sake of a good public image.


Samuel Njenga, founder of Itrade Company Limited, a real estate firm says:  

Real estate is a tricky field to get into. The country’s economy is a key indicator of how real estate behaves. For example, people can only buy a house after satisfying other essentials. In lean economic times, real estate investment is not a priority for many.

In real estate ventures, mistakes can be costly. For example, failure to do due diligence on some property can even put you in a legal and financial quagmire. You might buy a piece of property that lies on a road reserve or other social amenities. Just searching for the property in a lands office may not reveal all there is about the property. You may need to consult the physical planning department to see the bigger picture with regard to future amenities.

If you want to own a home and can’t outrightly pay all the money, buy two or three small plots, wait for some capital appreciation, then sell two and build in one. You will own a home without a mortgage that can tie you down for a long time.

Real Estate Lancet Scanad
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