Saturday, January 21, 2012
I was my own sole employee for a few years.
I had even launched two new product lines to the market. No jokes. Seriously-I just like the line...launched two product lines to the market-eggs and packed chicken. Then Faith happened. Not Faith the virtue. No. Faith, the person. She was my first employee and as a result she introduced me to the world of head hunting.
You see when you start a business unless you are the genius type, which I am not, you will get to a point when the business outgrows you. At that point, you will constantly you struggle to learn new skills and you will constantly fire fight to get things right-on time.
That is what happened to me the first day my new product line was launched. I told you I love that line. It was that bright day when the receiving clerk at the supermarket asked me to differentiate between a thigh and a breast-of a chicken. I know I needed someone better than me in this area.
When you realize you need better skills the urge is normally to go back to school do a course or something. You will rarely find that useful. By the time you complete the course your business will be far back than you left it, especially if it is the type where you play a key role and your presence is needed daily. There are people out there who have done what you want done for a while. This is how Faith came into the picture. She came highly recommended and she had the experience from a multinational company to boot.
Problem was, I didn't think I could afford her. Business skills coming to the fore, I negotiated not her salary-I didn't know how much she was worth and my deeper fear was whether I would be able to accommodate her skills fully-whether my small business would generate enough challenging work for her.so when we spoke, I negotiated for time. Half her time in a day. I let her be the boss. Come in here early morning and you can go do something else. Come back in the evening and finish up for this fee. She accepted. With time I would ask her to train someone else to work in her absence so skill transfer can take place. When you have an arrangement such as this with lee-way either side you can’t go wrong.
With time Faith agreed to work more time and even gave me insights never thought needed. Don't die under the load. Ask someone with experience to help. Give them the convenience of choosing the terms-at first it will guide you well on how to proceed. Use them well and build a team. You will be surprised just how beneficial such a deal can be in the long run. They tend to look at this young outfit as their baby and well-steered you will achieve much more than if you had engaged another rookie so you can still be the most knowledgeable on the team.
Being smart is measured by how well you manage people who are smarter than you. Learn the skill and if you are in the service industry, outsourcing pretty manners and some faces goes along way.
Saturday, January 7, 2012
Not many entrepreneurs are known for their depth of knowledge from formal school. That is if we get talking diplomas and degrees. However, one thing you may observe is that no one can pass for a fool or uneducated if you may. If you have experienced some form of success in creating and running a business, you have far too much education, and experience than you get credit for. Why?
Because that is just the way of business, it is a game that requires tack and skill, and experience and speed and if you are winning, you certainly are doing something right. Money is fluid and requires careful handling. When you succeed in so doing, you have what it takes to win in the rest of the world’s challenges.
But most importantly, what entrepreneurship requires of you is knowledge of your business, attention to detail and questioning even that which seems obvious. You need to mind your business, and getting information before and after you start is important. Learning never ceases.
When God said, 'My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge'(Hosea 4:6) take it that he had you in mind. A lot of entrepreneurship graves litter the horizon. Cause of death? Lack of information and insufficient care to own business. Let us share some examples.
In March 2008, I found myself in a long line of investors who wanted a slice of the Safaricom IPO shares. Safaricom one of the most profitable telecom businesses in the region was listing on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. The Kenyan government was offering 25% of its stake in the company. Talking money, the IPO was offering 10 billion shares priced at 5 Kenyan shillings a share(Ush 150), which implies a value of KES200 billion ($3 billion). As expected there was this whole lot of promotion for the Initial Public Offer, and everyone imagined themselves owning part of that juicy offer. Catch was, you had to subscribe for the shares in Kenyan shillings plus opening up a CDS account and brokerage fees, all for small percentages, it seemed.
A lot people lined up converted their cash and went in for the kill. If you spoke to some people queuing up-like I did, the strategy was to get their allocation and sell immediately on the opening day hoping the price would appreciate as had the KenGen shares two years before. As luck would have it, the IPO was oversubscribed, meaning not many people got all the shares they had subscribed for, they therefore had to go through the money losing and heavily stressing process of reconverting their money at obnoxious rates some months later. At the end of the day, the banks and agents had made the money and so had Safaricom. Not many speculators came out smiling, because to add to their troubles the share price dipped on opening. Now some people had taken loans hoping to cash in and pay back.
Now, specialists and consultants are important in business but you remain their boss, meaning they are meant to refine your thinking not stop it. Eventually it is your money and therefore you should take the last decision depending on your independent analysis.
For this particular example, anyone who has played the markets should have told you that you invest for the long run, which makes more sense so you should be prepared before you go in. But if you miss the analysis you go down.
I can imagine God up there looking on in wonder, tugging at his white beard, calling Jesus, 'Hey son, come here and observe earthly beings making a fool of themselves' and probably wondering how to help all out. Sadly for you, if you miss making your own analysis, Angel Gabriel doesn’t deliver messages here like he did before. So you are on your own. Key point is: invest in doing your own studying and no matter what the experts say, if the deal doesn’t make sense to you don’t go in. You would rather be sad for missing an opportunity than taking it and crying for losing even more money.
The same would go for Ugandans who have taken up online trading and playing the global markets. Truthfully, it is a viable business opportunity but one needs to invest in knowledge so you know how the money is made. It is foolhardy, in my opinion, to save up and deposit all your money with a consultant’s company and simply expect monthly pay outs without knowing how the business runs. Invest in knowledge. In short even when you employ experts to manage your money, mind your business.