GETTING AHEAD

Take the lead in your sphere

In Summary

• Kenyan entrepreneurs, especially the young, are not self-directed.

• They lack the competitive skills needed to compete in the global market, and they are yet to fully embrace the power of technology

Six months ago, I read a persuasive advert of a boutique firm that promised to transform any website within a matter of days at a modest fee. We contracted them to redo our organisation’s website and paid $1,000 (Sh99,818) for their copywriting and design service.

During the conceptualisation stage, the CEO requested an additional $200 (Sh19,963) for an emergency business expense. He was overseas and needed cash sent home quickly. He offered added discounts for this new payment, including the transfer of our domain from our former hosting company and a free complete redesign of a second site.

The first product was inadequate, and the other offer is yet to materialise. This is an example of the ineptitude I regularly encounter while attempting to promote Kenya’s local businesses with an income of less than $100,000 (Sh10 million) annually.

 

Had this occurred in the US, I would have received a refund for poor service since customers are entitled to a cash refund if a company, however small, fails to provide goods or services that meet their expectations.

Nordstrom, an American chain of departmental stores and other similar companies, extend their cancellation and refund policy to one year after purchase. In Kenya, you will be fortunate enough to receive quality goods, or services, leave alone the right to cancel and receive a refund.

Entrepreneurs also need to hone their skills in their areas of expertise. A jack of all trades portrayal diminishes credibility. That’s why we are country of numerous ideas that barely flourish due to impatience and lack of integrity. We cannot all be CEOs of the next fortune 500 companies, but each of us can become leaders in our areas of expertise.  

 

Last week, our Board sanctioned $6,000 (Sh598,913) to procure the same service from an American firm. So far, the engagement has been worth every dime, and I have regretted not utilising this American firm at the onset of our website redesign project.

 

It is routine for Kenyans to blame a corrupt and inefficient government system as the only cause for their despair and impoverishment. Such an assertion is partially correct.

But Kenyan entrepreneurs, especially the young, are not self-directed. They lack the competitive skills needed to compete in the global market, and they are yet to fully embrace the power of technology to scale their businesses beyond their borders.

Sporadically, young people I contact to offer business opportunities demand an in-person meeting to finalise the transaction. Most are yet to comprehend the fact that you can provide goods and services worth millions of dollars without the need for a personal meeting. In the US, China and other developed economies entrepreneurs work from home and prefer to complete all client transactions on phone and online, without the need for a meeting.

Besides, I realised that I have to closely supervise most Kenyan entrepreneurs for them to meet my project deadlines. Consumers should not have to physically monitor or incessantly follow up with an entrepreneur who desires to scale their business earnings. Emerging businesses should aspire to meet the requirements of a project with less supervisorial direction and deliver a quality and timely finished work to their clients.

 

Entrepreneurs also need to hone their skills in their areas of expertise. A jack of all trades portrayal diminishes credibility. That’s why we are country of numerous ideas that barely flourish due to impatience and lack of integrity. We cannot all be CEOs of the next fortune 500 companies, but each of us can become leaders in our areas of expertise.  

Technology has created global markets of a diverse clientele. Businesses are no longer only networks of commerce but also function as a public sphere where values intersperse with products and services. Nike’s 2018 Just Do It campaign that featured Colin Kaepernick is an example of how a business value system can directly affect its market capitalisation and earnings.

Business positions on issues such as equal pay for equal work, the affirmation of LGBTQ+ employees, climate change and ethnic composition can upsurge or diminish an entrepreneur’s revenue. We cannot afford to take an ill-informed position on such matters and expect to compete with other entrepreneurs globally.

The challenge ahead is not only an efficient and less corrupt government but an informed consumer who makes payments on time and an entrepreneur who delivers on their promise. It is time ordinary Kenyans take the lead in their everyday practices to inspire the change they need to see in the political sphere.

Former chairman of the Martin Luther King, Jr Africa Foundation @mwangimukami