Njuki Moments

Friday, May 27, 2011

end of the word(kigambo)

I am sure by now you have already noticed that we postponed the end of the world.Our leader here

agreed with us that every one needs a second chance(you must have watched the soap) we did too. So you were spared. You see,this was going to be fun,remember us the followers would be watching the rapture on TV,can you imagine,as the rest of you die.Let me break this down. Some where around the world,the world would end.But there would be news teams filming,and reporting,then the faithful would be praying,oba for what and also watching a horror kind of movie,okitegeera?
Meaning this thing was going to be selective. Yes,even things of heaven be like that;ani akumanyi sort of. But then we re-scheduled,because we had not subscribed to enough channels to watch bulungi.

This should be a warning then for you to move away from places where you see news crews gathering.

While we were still reeling from the postponement and wondering just how St Peter would feel for having postponed his work,I watched TV. I told you we would be watching. But it was our Ugandan TV and it was Channel 44.You know it? Yes.There was this preacher working(read preaching) and something hit my eyes hard. A Mobile Number (registered for Mobile Money). Us viewers and congregation I guess were also being encouraged to send in the money.I didn't send ,well, because there was no network on mine,but I am sure those who sent in,plus secret code a fat blessing must have been SMSed back. Ensi eno!

Monday, May 23, 2011

and that is how industrialisation took place

May be its just me, but every time I tour a big factory and look at the intricate network of machinery in perfect coordination, I just can't help but marvel. And I try to imagine myself at a point where I can put perfect sense to the workings of those machines. It even gets better, since I have this childhood ambition of becoming an industrialist, while the guide is explaining away what this machine does and what that machine does, I am far away in a far off pace in my mind wondering just how I could put a perfect price to that maze of machines and how I would determine that this, and not that machine is the better one for my industry.
One day the day-dreaming caught up with me, and I decided, I was going to mechanize, with disastrous results. At that time I was selling eggs, most of them to supermarkets, packed in nice little plastic trays with a green label. So, I decided, since I sell eggs, I can also sell their mothers, the chickens. And the plan was hatched. However, unlike eggs which come ready to sell, chicken need some preparation, so to say, if they will be sold through the same outlets.

True, I knew how to use knife on a chicken, but then how about the parts. Who even comes up with those names, like drumsticks, breast; on a chicken? So I go buy a packed chicken from a nearby supermarket to start my study of packed birds. That was lesson one. More were in store for me. I also realized that a knife alone could not suffice. I needed more machinery. Yeah. Machinery. The puzzle was unraveling. Then the visits to machine show rooms began, and you should have seen me, trying to explain to bewildered machinery sales people what I needed to cut up chicken ,and mostly getting blank stares as if to say, go disturb some one else. Haven't you ever heard of knives!

After several searches, I decided on my ensemble of machinery and where to procure them. I needed a butcher knife (you know what for) a tray sealing machine, a work table and a deep freezer. A few other consumables would also be necessary. So I got to work. Due to the fact that I couldn't head hunt from established enterprises that did what I was planning, (salary and other money issues) I decided to do it myself.
The receiving clerk at the supermarket didn't know whether to be horrified or to laugh. So she decided to carefully ask me what each part was while checking it off my order and delivery note. She was even kind enough to educate me how breast for chicken actually means breast (not breast and back) and, Sir could you compare what you have just delivered with this from storage? I had no answer. But I was taking mental notes fast. I took quite a beating that day, and I did my best to be brave and learn about meats and chicken portioning, from a supermarket receiving clerk. My next delivery was more acceptable and several orders later, I had some one helping me part time from the established competitors.

I have learned a lot since then. I have also found outsourcing such a life saver. At some time we were churning out delicious local chicken gizzard at a good rate. There was this client who instructed the supermarket orderlies to notify him every time we delivered so he could buy the gizzards before any one. We were stuck with more gizzard orders from the store than any other chicken portion. We had to explain both in writing and in person that gizzards come from slaughtered chicken and each chicken has just one, and a pack of gizzards means about twelve chickens gave their lives so the pack can be complete, therefore we can not just slaughter chicken for gizzard only. Orders had to be complementary. That was a challenge even intense mechanization couldn’t take away. But my awe for machinery and production lines has not gone away yet.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


I would not be writing this if a certain accidental occurrence had not happened in my life. A particularly bone -cracking incident that changed my life. Purely accidental, it was. As a result, so many years later, I have had this rare opportunity to sit on either side of the table. Seeking a job, and seeking to give a job. Each side has its interesting aspects.
When you go out to seek a job, your interests are very clear, a lot of times. You need a monthly pay, may be some medical allowance, you will work from 8 to 5, unless you work in the strong room in a bank.(and you will expect to be appropriately compensated for over time in such circumstances) You have your rights and you are quick to point them out, if you as little as suspect they are being infringed upon. First among employee's rights is to be paid salary on time. Not a day late.

If you choose entrepreneurship however, the tide changes, you realize you are the employer now, responsible for other in your fold. But we are getting ahead of ourselves. How did you get here in the first place? Business is tailored in away, like a merry go round. The more, the merrier. And there is so much to do; you need more hands every time. One time you realize you need to hire some one to carry forward some work, while you are busy fitting the business puzzle together and we all know it rarely fits from an office. If at all, you are rarely in office. The four walls don't seem to be able to contain you. This task is carried out like your first bike ride, you have the confidence, but no skill whatsoever and a few falls are eminent. Woe unto the first candidate you choose to interrogate (because it is more of that than a job interview). At this point, not even you the supposed boss know what you want or even know how to get to it. You are prodding in the dark, hoping you do a good job about it.Un be-known to your soon-to-be employees; the only systems that exist at this point are only in your head. There are no manuals, no guides, and sometimes not even enough work tables.

Sometimes you select fitting people. A lot of times you are not so lucky. Because you didn't know better any way, don’t beat yourself up too much. However, you have to make up for this flaw with being easy to let go. If you don't fire all incompetent recruits as soon as you know you have them, you will soon end up with the worst team any team leader could dream of. But it is not their fault; you chose them out of naiveté. Unfortunately, business must go on. It's at this point that you realize the biggest turn over, soon to hire, soon to fire, till you get it right. You may get bruised too; a lot of people do really walk the streets a lot before they even get a chance at an interview, let alone a job and a desk. Firing them is like throwing them into an abyss, yet gain. Some won’t go without a fight. Do it with kindness and refer them to appropriate employment, if you can. But you must know by now, that it is more in business than anywhere else where the adage holds, that it is okay to make a mistake but you can only make i t once. Learn fast, correct and move on. You may be sued a few times.
Of course a few will leave on their own, having not received fulfillment in current employment, or just fed up of running battles with creditors that tend to characterize young businesses at this time. Wish them well, and keep doing your best. But all through this, look out for loyalty. This is a trait that is priceless, and however much you train, this is not a trait that is easily learned in old age. One either has it or has not. And it is people like this who will stick by you even in the hardest of times. Make a point to reward them appropriately as you grow.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Lord, I need a partner

So, you have searched your brain.You have double checked your business plan too. You have just scrutinized your bank statement. Something is wrong. You need an answer, and an answer fast. You have come up with all the justifications for you r choice. You just need to act now. So the search begins. A search for a partner. (This, my friends, is a business column. No lonely hearts here. We are talking business partners.)

Just like the social scene. People who fit in to what you had in mind are not far off. I mean, they are people we see every day. People we admire, people we pray we emulate (sometimes.)We could even share a church. Your search probably starts from your phone. You check the names and appraise them. You write them down, with notes on the side. Pros and cons against each. You could also ask around for a perfect fit. You are looking for people who are a bit like you .You think alike. The ambitions are alike, and they make great partners.

Maybe you succeed, maybe you don’t, but you try again, till you get one, or two. Business life, just like social life can get lonely at times. It also has that canny habit of making you feel insecure, a tad unfulfilled, in need of more company, or even thinking heads. Sometimes more hands.

The truth is partners are worth their value in gold. Well selected, that is. They make hard life a walk in the park. They make hard situations easy. They financial support makes friends out of creditors....and life doesn't seem so lonely after all. So every one’s prayer is that they be directed in their steps to find their perfect partner. Say a prayer before you start the process. You don’t want to choose wrong.

Because entrepreneurship is not just about money, and how many trucks you can fill with it, getting a business partner cannot just be about how much money you are going to make. Entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, a haven of sorts for people who think alike and cherish the same things in life. The freedom, that comes with directing your thoughts and operations. The creativity, finding solutions and who are we kidding, the money. But it is not just the money. In cases where you may have failed or ignored to consider the fact that you are stuck with this person almost for life, you have my pity and prayers too. You will need them.

There are going to be nasty situations where you don't agree, where their opinion is theirs alone, and because there is money involved, such arguments, are more like fights. Forget how we fought when we were young, adult fights are more long term and consequences maybe dire. You need to find someone who you share something with other than that business. In fact the business and the fact that you are partners should be a result of your other relationship, not the other way round. You need a friend, someone who understands you and vice- versa and someone with principles you can rely on.

You see, business comes out of character. Our business takes on our persona. If you are geek of some sort, your business smells the same (yeah, smells geeky, if you like). If you are a friendly person, who loves people, people around your business feel that trait on interaction. Therefore, you are not just doing yourself a favor, you are setting a good foundation for employees, clients and all stakeholders in doing your very best to get the very best partner. Someone who complements you .Someone whose strengths back up your weaknesses and someone you will want around you and your family even after business hours.
Because, my friend, if you ever get unlucky or pretty silly and end up with the wrong partner, you are in for a long ugly marriage.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Farming as a business with Njuki Emmanuel CEO of The Chicken Company Ltd

With Kind introduction from Yusuf Mulinya.

Any sane young entrepreneur carrying out farming as a business is deemed to have committed a certain form of class suicide. I highly suspect this is a result of our education system which hardly inspires us to be farmers. However, I also suppose that the current breed of farmers in business is also not particularly an inspiring kind - or the kind you’d want to have on your company advisory board.

But as the scales and tidal waves begin to change, as the need for food rises together with population and an opportunity to profit, farming is becoming more and more appealing. The current inflationary levels are opening up our minds to the fact that food security is the true independence. One cannot claim to be independent if one has no food security.

By food security, we mean households having access to affordable, sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet the dietary needs for an active and healthy life. Isn’t it shocking to realize that Uganda, a country with the largest organic soil percentage in the world, a country gifted by nature, a country in which one only requires a ‘do nothing guide to farming’ for one to succeed, can be a country without food security? How is this possible?

Our podcast with Mr. Njuki is timely. Not only does he address the concern or the need for us to view farming with a keen business eye, he addresses the key challenge of facing the second class citizenship and how to deal with it plus opportunities involved. The future billionaires will be food billionaires - he quotes Al Gore.

In the last part, we highlighted current issue of sustainability. To a certain extent, we need to grow some food for ourselves, and not outsource the entire operation to farmers in business. The main criticism I have found with this issue is that not all of us can be farmers, we specialized into various professions, so this is unworkable. It is my sincere opinion that if we find it hard to carry out some of the farming ourselves, or difficult to practice farming as a business, then perhaps we should consider investing in farmers who are willing to work. A vast majority of farmers, like any other businessmen, are facing capital and short term financing problems. If we found ways of partnering with them to form investment partnerships, they would be able to expand capacity, and we would get returns on investment both in the form of food and in dollars. A win win situation is definitely good business.

Enjoy the podcast.Farming as a business with Njuki Emmanuel CEO of The Chicken Company Ltd

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Move over entrepreneur;hello C.E.O

Interesting things happen in life. I guess that is why it is sacred. Dreams and ideas coming to life, and there the magical transformation of just a thought or dream into something real must indeed be magical. Yet that is what life is, magical, and those who don’t take the time to enjoy the journey realize that life just like a journey the beauty lies in the experience, the buildup. There is quite no definite end.

In a world where there are no defined roles, the world of entrepreneurship, you are everything and anything. You pay the bills, (lining up in the bank, for both Accounts, the business and your personal Savings Account).You make the sales, you grow the ideas, you ward of creditors, and you take out the trash. At this stage, you also tend to lose a bit of weight and sometimes have toned muscles (due to heavy lifting I suspect.Tables and shelves do that to you)

Other than well established entrepreneurs whose creation of new businesses is never the same as when you craft your own small business, the small- time, first time entrepreneurs tend to start out alone or with a fairly small number of people. It s this multi tasking that makes them succeed and quite at home in a structure free business world. Sometimes, there is talent attached to the entrepreneur. Sometimes it’s just what we call business acumen. Seeing things in a particular way (a lot of times not very popular with other people). This state of mind, or mentality and the attached talent (if any) is what makes you tick. It also gives you confidence to chase a dream.

Several years later,(sometimes decades) you are joined by employees, people designed to man(or woman, if you like) particular and specific jobs and pieces of work within the company. An Accountant here, a driver there. A cook somewhere. The all rounder is not entertained at this level, you will be competing with the boss, and a rebellious and stubborn streak tends to follow such people.(I suspect again that is why they are entrepreneurs in the first place.)
As employees become more, and more specific job descriptions are written and enforced, ironically the person who started it all is also boxed in. Most times you become C.E.O or MD, with specific roles. It will most probably amount to a scandal if you are found enforcing discipline to guests, including those who visit mostly at night through the back door(sometimes also called thieves) .That is the duty of the guard or the watch man. He may sue you for interference and rendering him redundant.

Manners and some decency finally have to be learned such as the ability as to speak well and dress properly. There are conferences to attend and briefs to make. You must do all these well. For someone who loves freedom and hence left employment to attain it, it’s then disturbing that institutions take on the very shape you had escaped. The only consolation is that this time you are at the top. Some people fail to make the transformation. I don’t think I ever will fit in properly myself. The roles are so different. But necessity dictates so. The more stubborn ones stay clear and appoint a Chief Executive Officer who fits the role so they can continue to act out of structures themselves. Coming to work when they feel like, or working through the night and experimenting with new ideas. The others conform and wear the suits, and learn the ropes of corporate governance.

You realize after that long period that success pushes more work towards you, including learning new things faster every day. You then hire people to do what only you were able to do, and a lot of times you are left with nothing visible to do,(having assigned all the work to professionals)
My experience tells me, that if you have not honed people skills for all this while, kindly create the structures and let someone take over the day to day management of your business, because if you are not honest with your own appraisal, you then become a liability to a business whose success you have sacrificed a lot for. Know when to move over. A lot of times to start something new yet again.