Saturday, August 13, 2011
It’s a warm Saturday afternoon, and I am seated on one of those benches at GC reading my novel. I am at chapter 14 where the novel is at its best. It’s a thriller, and the hero is about to get the bad guys. ‘Go get 'em’. A Voice in my head shouts every time he outsmarts them.
Then my sight is arrested by something. On closer look, it’s a vixen, eer sorry, girl, dressed like Niki Minaj, leading, by the hand, so much in love, I could say, a frail old man who at first I mistake for her grandpa who has come to visit Garden City. He is dressed in a luwande pair of trousers, those they make from Kiyembe and a very new shirt, and you know those ones which remain with many lines after you have unfurled them from the suitcase.
Momentarily, the bad guys in the novel are forgotten. How sweet! I wish my grandchildren also take me to Garden City when I am old. But, science also! This girl has a Mzungu grand daddy! Since I was never good in science class anyway, I let one of nature’s miracles pass me by.
Then, quickly, like lightening, even before I can see bulungi…the old man has kissed the Niki girl. I am not lying…really kissed! Hmmm. Then I wonder how young lithe vixens like to taunt old grayed-near-clean-balded-grand fathers. Poor old men!
World of advice: Watch your back,and pension, old man.
When I say watch your back, Ssebo,I don't mean it figuratively. Far from it. I am being straight up. You see, in case you neglected to Google ‘girls who like really old men' before you left home, I will give you the results here; they are well schooled in the art of getting you tired fast. Hence, the term lithe. You may therefore forget you are 80 going on 70 and slip a disk.
I even wonder why they don’t choose men their own age!(that is biff, if you insist).Preying on the weak, indeed.
This pleasure, old man, may not just eat into your old faithful Medicare insurance and pension also. It may also endanger your back, as mentioned above.
But I should also mention; we love you, for bringing in the elusive dollar to our country. Our economy loves dollars.
Just don't be the retired mullah flying to Ug for vacation who takes a ship back home with a broken back to look for work. Cleaned out of health and pension.
Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Milk is great for the development of babies. Cash is the milk of business. Cash flow is the process of managing that milk. When you have a business, built or inherited, it is wise to refer to it as a cash cow.
Now, whether you have seen a live cow in real life or not, does not matter. Educate your self on the behavior of looking after milk giving cows. But I use that as a figure of speech. Money that comes into the business is for the business, and the shareholders in that order, just like milk that a cow may have is for the calf, and the owner of the cow in that order.
However, it is not that kind of order that sees some businesses struggle. Every business leader will tell you that sales run business. You need to sell, sell. True. They do not however tell you that after sales, collections are as important. You need to attach as a strong a force to sales as to credit collection.
If yours is a small young business chances are that your HR department is watching your head count strictly, so they will allow you in a few sales people every once in a while but when credit department asks for more man power in collection, they may develop cold feet. Don’t encourage it, my friend. You see, much as you are taxed of invoiced on money not received yet, in real life the only money that is really yours is that which you have in the bank. Billions owed you is not your money yet, till you collect it.
At any stage of business, especially at the young stage, how you collect from debtors is as important as how you sold to them. Yours could be a cash based business, and in our economy, those are many but at particular times as you grow and in order to develop more lasting relationships, you may find yourself extending credit to ‘good’ clients. Watch out; these may lead to your death, if you do not collect as soon as the accounts are due.
I had struggled through the worst two years of my business and I was looking to expanding slowly. At that time, my business dealt with Supermarkets, and shops, if you may. Reason being, they had a customer base which I was looking to tap into. Only challenge was, most of them were credit based. They would order, you deliver, and then collect accounts when due. For most of them accounts could be due in a week, but for some, they could take a few weeks, say three. However, in the mean time, supply orders were flying to and fro and threatening e-mails were being sent once an order delayed.
It is during this time that what I thought was a life saving deal came through. The biggest outlet then entered the market, and suppliers like me queued up to supply our wares. Knowing their strength in size, our agreement stipulated payment within thirty days after delivery. However, that did not mean we were not mandated to supply every time stock went low (and it did quite often weekly). I found myself making more supply trips than cheque collection trips, to my detriment
You see, a situation like that means you need to have enough resources to produce and supply as you wait for maturity of your credit. You may even borrow to meet orders, and by the time the cheque is due, if you get paid as promised, that is, you have interest to pay on the loan as well.
That is dangerous for business.
If you remember our analogy to the cow, you are milking without feeding enough. It may collapse soon. So go and pick up that cheque when they say you should. When they ask you to wait along, please wait..and when they tell you to come back in the after noon, be there. It is your lifeline. It is those small uncollected monies that grow into huge debts and they cripple the business, and no matter the size of the payment if not picked when due, urgency especially from the payer reduces and they could play dumb or divert it. Don’t give them opportunity to be dishonest. Pick your money from them urgently. It serves you both very well. You better actually.
Let me guess, the reason you left employment to go start your own business is all the stress that comes with collecting a monthly paycheck. Right? And the fact that all that stress does not take you anywhere; look it is all of seven years since I have been on this job and I have not moved at all. Hence my health cannot take it any more. I need to create something of my own. Okay, we agree.
So you start, and then you hire employees and you run a business. Suddenly, seven years on, you are stressed, your employees cannot seem to find answers on their own; they are always consulting with you this, and that. The systems you so trusted in are not any helpful and for once you even get stress from customers. You are looking for that all –purpose- shampoo to wash these problems out of your hair.
You promise your self that if you just hang in there for a few weeks, or months perhaps years, everything will be alright and you will suddenly be living your dream. You wait it up for weeks, which turn into months which turn into years and you are more stressed than before. In fact, more complex problems have since replaced the simpler ones you had earlier.
So what happened?
You are suffering from entrepreneurial loneliness. All those experiences above are not the cause, they are just symptoms. You forgot along the way that your are not superman and that when you hire people,they do not just come to take away problems and work, they have feelings too. They have moods and temperament and sometimes they cause more problems than they solve. Unless you can manage them, and do that very well, on top of looking after their welfare you are also going to be cleaning after them.
You can’t blame your employees, you hired them. Systems? You supervise those who create them. Clients? You hired the employees who found them. I am just here to be a little in your face and tell you, it all your responsibility. So, either take it away or it may just take you away, with your business. Probably in that order.
So what does one do?
Get a mentor.
Mentors are people (preferably entrepreneurs too) who have gotten a lot more ahead that we have. This should tell you they have suffered as much as you have, but the have either unearthed solutions or they just created them. Find one, and share. A problem shared is a problem half solved. Ditch your macho ego and admit you’re up to your neck in problems. You will come out better.
Find a partner.
Okay, partners have their own challenges. They can be a pain in the neck, and other places. I wanted to warn you even before we go further. But that is the cost you have to pay. But as they say, two heads are better than one. If you failed to hire your weakness, as in hire people who are smarter than you in some aspects, don’t repeat it here. Find a partner who complements you. If you are like me and figures are not your best friend, then get someone with accounting skills. Or if you would rather die than cold call a customer for a sale, hire one who lives off sales and marketing. Suddenly you won’t be lonely anymore and it is likely you will come out of this with way to less stress and more problems ticked off.
Libraries don’t just exist for students. They also have enviable stock of business management books. Basically, think about it this way. What ever you think, chances are someone else has thought about it too. Don’t believe me? You will be amazed. There are all kinds of people, management professors, entrepreneurs and ex-entrepreneurs who have either theorized or experienced what you are going through. They have answers. Look for them and apply them.
Now days, the are all kinds of associations wherever you live or work. Join up and get busy networking with like minded people. There are marketing associations; join up if your problem is so related. The are also entrepreneurial associations. Here you will find like minded people who think they have all the answers but they are slowly accepting the fact that if they did, they would not be thus troubled. So they come here to download and share and give a little advice at the same time. This is where the doctor ordered. Share as much a possible and ask for answers if they are not forthcoming.
Delegate and take leave:
This seems like madness, right?(You could say you now have confirmed your worst fears that I am a bit deranged and unfit to give advice). In my defence, I have never had my head checked, so I can still pass for sane. But you may want to explore this if all else fails. You see, the more you concentrate on a problem, the more it seems to grow. When you take your eyes off a mountain, suddenly it doesn’t seem that huge and impossible to climb. You may also be surprised just how other people may have answers to your problems and you just need to ask. A junior member may surprise you with just how much they can solve if only given the mandate to have a go at the challenge. Do that. Also, rest gives your mind energy to find new solutions. So take a vacation, and you will soak up some unbelievable angles you never imagined could be used for solutions in your head.
Emmanuel Njuki is a motivator and entrepreneur.