Before you start a business...

Many people go into business without the basics, which ultimately leads to failure. Rose Njoki, who handles investor relations for Entrepreneurs Spot, tells us what the basics are.
1.       Passion

This is the most important one, because if you love what you are doing, whether there is money or not, your love for what you are doing will surpass everything. It will be your driving force even when business is bad, the economy is falling or whatever challenge it is you are facing. If you are passionate about it, you will wake up every morning to face whatever challenges crop up. For instance, if you are passionate about painting, figure out how to monetize it. That way, even when you are 80, you will still have the passion and do it whether there is money coming in or not.

2.       Planning

From our experience with consulting businesses that want to expand, we have found that about 80 per cent of businesses are started without a plan. People decide to just try something and hope it works. People just wake up and decide to sell handbags, shoes, start mobile money transfer shops – but there is nothing that informs that decision, so everything in the business just happens by chance. Writing down the business plan helps you visualize how the business should operate and where it is going. A plan in your head is of no use. You have to put it down on paper.

3.       Market research

Does the market need what you are selling? Assuming that you want to sell shoes, what has advised that plan? Is there a need for it? If there is, how big is the need? If you want to sell shoes, say at Sarit Centre, you need to do research and find out: how many other shoe shops are there? Where do they get their shoes from? What is their price point? A lot of businesses fail because they did not do their homework. Will your business still exist in 10 or 20 years? You do not want to do an overnight business like the quail business.

4.       Vision

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Where do you see your business in 10 or 20 years? Without the vision, you will be opening a new business every year. If you do proper research, it will show you how big your market is. Can it be a leader in the market for the next 10 or 20 years? This is considering there will be competition and other people coming in with better products than you.

5.       Focus

When you start, you need to have consistency, and you need to focus on that one thing until you do it perfectly. For instance, you know Coca Cola (the company) for Coke (the soft drink), but they have many other brands apart from Coke. So what is it that you want to be known for? We do not know Coca Cola for Dasani, even if that is one of their products. You have to choose one thing, consistently remain with it until the market recognizes you for that one thing before you introduce another product.

6.       Skill

What are your strengths? When you identify what they are in terms of your skill set, then you are able to know where you need help. For instance, you might be good at financial management, but you are not good at sales, so you need someone to help you with that. You need to understand which skills you do not have that are essential for the business.

7.       Asking for help

This comes even before you start the business. You will be going out to talk to competition, to suppliers, to potential customers and so forth, so you will need to also ask help from people who have been in the industry longer, so that they can be able to give you some insight that you may not have. 

8.       Hiring right

Do not hire for convenience. Hire for competency, ability and skill. Many times you want to hire relatives and so forth because you have a quick need, but is that person really able to do the work required? Skimping on your hires may be the death of your business.

9.       Prepare to fail

Be ready to fail and to be broke. Many people do not tell you the truth; that you will likely fail, so many go into business thinking it will be a success. It does not work like that and you will end up very disappointed. You should go in with the mindset that if and when you fail, the important question will be what you learnt from the failure. You will most likely be broke for the first one to three years. So decide if you really want to do it. Not knowing this is the reason most businesses don’t make it within the first three years.

10.   Start small

People think they will open their first shop in big malls, not knowing that the people already there started elsewhere and started making money before they were able to set up shop there. Start small, so that even if you fail, it will be easy for you to go back and recover based on the lessons that you have learned.

You can reach Entrepreneurs Spot on [email protected] and

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Entrepreneurs SpotRose NjokiStarting a business