MWIRIGI IKUNDA: Challenges of running businesses emanate from the workforce

Many businesses come down due to owners differences

In Summary

•Disputes among business partners in our Kenyan environment are so common that they are frequent in the various media and/ in courts of law.

•Businesses that were otherwise started by close friends or people with the same interests or relatives quite often are seen to fall through the cracks after some time.

I have worked in various organizations in Kenya and Africa from very junior positions to some significant high levels over time.

I have experienced and learnt a lot. I have also run my own business and interacted with many leaders and business owners and discussed the challenges they have faced and face daily.

Among key issues that many face while running businesses (whether their own or other people's) or organizations are bad work attitudes, laziness, fraud, poor employee relations, exploitations of an employers time and so on.

Those who have tried to do their own businesses like matatus and others while working elsewhere can attest to the mess they have gone through.

The same happens to those who have attempted telephone farming.

While there are decent employees in businesses or organisations who are keen to develop their careers and perceive it on a long term basis there are many who care less.

Some seem to be in it for quick gains by whatever means or do the bare minimum or even nothing for a day, weekly or monthly pay or whatever arrangement.

It seems to have developed into a bad culture as we also witness in the media a lot of graft cases in government and its numerous bodies and agencies.

That we have witnessed many fly by night millionaires and billionaires attributed to being in government in either way as politicians or officers it seems it’s an ingrained culture that has slowly but surely percolated to the fabric of the society.

Handling matters like fraud is seemingly a day to day job of any business leader to not only ensure mechanisms to prevent it but to always suspect it.

I once worked in an organisation where despite having strong fraud prevention mechanisms and very good internal auditors still would fall to some ferocious fraudsters regularly.

We were even forced to deploy an intelligence-gathering system involving informers often called moles to help spy, identify, prevent and crack down on fraudsters and potential ones.

They were very effective in providing useful intelligence as the level of transactions and nature of the business was highly susceptible to fraudulent actions.

Forced with this kind of circumstances you end up spending a lot of resources and money in preventing fraud which could have been deployed more to develop the business. It is quite unfortunate.

Moreover, as you handle preventing fraud on one hand there are numerous other elements hitting you hard. One of them is to ensure employee productivity.

This is also not easy. For small businesses and medium-sized ones without so many resources, this is like a daily waking nightmare as you may not have all the systems and processes that ensure productivity is optimized. 

You may not even have the capacity for a very resourced human resource department.

Yet still, there are so many people who it has been proved are so promising on paper and interviews but on the ground/practice, it is a challenge for them to put up the required effort of optimal or relevant productivity. 

You also often hear stories or arguments that many government jobs you may not have to put so much effort to be paid.

Apart from those where results are needed like in the health and education sectors plus some of the security areas it is said for many others you don’t have to put up with so much painful efforts or productivity.

Whether it is true or not is neither here nor there. The culture in private businesses is different but optimizing productivity involves a lot of painful effort.

In many cases, if you check what have killed many businesses it usually revolves around fraud by management and/employees, ownership wrangles, bad culture and laziness or lack of control of what employees do.

In most cases, its matters that could have been avoided more than market situations/conditions.

There are those businesses that are affected by adverse market dynamics or changes in say technologies or regulations to cause failure. But there are many more that are killed by largely behaviours/habits or cultures inside the organisations.

Besides the aforementioned, many businesses come down due to owners differences.

I have noted many partnerships or group-owned businesses or companies that have failed not because they were not viable but the owner’s disagreements especially on money and amount of effort each put into them have led them to fall apart.

Disputes among business partners in our Kenyan environment are so common that they are frequent in the various media and/ in courts of law.

Businesses that were otherwise started by close friends or people with the same interests or relatives quite often are seen to fall through the cracks after some time.

This is more common in African populations than Kenyan Asians or the latter who invest in the country.

Asians especially those of Indian origin have been seen to successfully do business as close relatives and quite often to great success.

This is unlike African populations which many of these enterprises end up in chaos.

Even reviewing most businesses problems after transitions of the founder patriarchs or matriarchs in Kenya they grace our media due to court cases demonstrates the nature of our society.

The African populations in Kenya that seem to follow the Indians are Somalis as so many have seen relatives doing businesses together.

This does not mean that Indians or Somalis businesses also don’t get into squabbles.

The problems are there but relatively at lower rates than other communities in Kenya more so the African ones if court cases and reports in the media are anything to go by.

In a nutshell; it is not easy to run a business in Kenya or probably most parts of the world or Africa generally if some of the challenges that come to the fore are anything to go by.

Dealing with employees, suppliers and even creditors and debtors is also enough to require an iron steeled heart. Many debtors even if they can afford to pay dilly dally with payments that lead to a lot of business problems.

Yet still, besides chasing debtors you have the other organization challenges that include employee behaviour to deal with.

At the same time, you have numerous governments’ compliance issues to handle besides the tough operating environment economically and politically.

Moreover, for government institutions, there are so many other issues to deal with. Some bodies have issues in the media of corruption now and then and the politics of the day don’t help much.

Perhaps in each organization, you have a lot of employee relations issues that revolve from bad characters, chicanery, subterfuge, dirty politics, character assassination, jealousies, dirty scheming, oppressive tendencies, tribalism, racism and adverse competition to ever deal with.

It's tough but who said building on civilisation or civilising a society is ever easy?

Political, Economic and Social Analyst and Commentator


Edited by Kiilu Damaris

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