Tuesday, December 07, 2010

We will send the auctioneers tomorrow

My friend Roger clearly remembers those particular words from the telephone call. After many days anxiously spent waiting for it the bank had called him that sweltering December afternoon. The call effectively put a nail in the coffin for Rogers’ fledgling insurance agency.

Twelve months earlier, Roger had started his business with unbridled and unstoppable optimism. He quit his well-paying but stressful job as a marketer in a large company, much to the distress of his pregnant wife.  But Roger quit because he had a dream. He dreamed of giving his unborn son everything he ever wanted. He dreamed of an end to the despondent dependancy on his pay cheque. He dreamed of hours of relaxed recreational family time.

Driven by a lucid, Technicolor vision of his dream Roger took a one million shillings loan from the bank to start his agency, only to have the bank take it from him one short year later.

The auctioneer came the next day, a greasy-faced, pot-bellied, squinty eyed man wearing a garish yellow suit. With him were about twenty smelly, gruff, and clearly drunk young men to help him. Without ceremony the intoxicated young men roughly tore down the office partitions with vicious efficiency. They hauled off the furniture and computers into a waiting lorry. The greedy looking auctioneer kept smiling as he ticked off the carted items from his list. The men soiled Roger’s expensively installed wooden parquet floor with their muddy shoes. They left debris, papers and files scattered everywhere as they took what was Ceasers. Roger remembers the silent, sympathetic stares of his neighbouring tenants. They folded their arms against their chests as if shielding themselves from Roger’s failure.

Devastated and destablised by the failure of his business and anxious about the impending future Roger spent days mourning what seemed to be the end.  He cursed that it happened only a week to his son’s first birthday party.

Laughing and gurgling at his party his son seemed oblivious to the despair of his father. And when Roger saw the exuberant and excited smile of his son as a lone birthday candle danced in his eyes; Roger felt a surge of hope once more.

The closure of his business was not the end, but only a speed-bump in the journey of his life. So that he would never forget he thought about the top three things he should have done differently.

The most striking result of his self-evaluation was that Roger and his staff never really knew what they were selling.  Many times when potential customers would call in, Roger and his staff did not have the answers to questions asked by the prospects.  Roger lost valuable sales hours furiously searching for the information requested. By that time, a more knowledgeable competitor might have snatched the deal from under his nose.  Once, a potential customer told Roger that he had decided to buy from a rival whose website provided the information the prospect was looking for. Roger realised that he would need to know his products as well as he knew the back of his hand.

 Have you ever lost a customer because you didn't have information on your products when the customer needed it?

Another grave error Roger realised he made with potential clients was not calling them back. Follow up, follow up, follow up. He wrote it down three times for good measure. As a marketer Roger was great at making people aware of his product but he struggled to maintain a sales conversation that spanned several visits and calls. Despite droves of people seeking the services of the agency, these would trickle down to a handful of undemanding customers, as Roger and his agency failed to follow up on the inquries.

To buy, some prospects only needed a bit more information, a reminder, or a call at the end of the month when they had money, but Roger did not follow up.  He would either forget to call them, not call from fear of rejection, or call back when it was too late.

The failure to follow up meant money spent on marketing would many times go to waste.The interest of highly potential customers who were not followed up  would wither out and die like a neglected houseplant.
Follow up. Follow up. Follow up. Roger wrote it down once more.

Do you ever fail to make a sale because you didn't follow up a prospect?

The third most important lesson Roger could learn was the need to match his expenses with revenue.  He had to calculate exactly how much money he would earn from what he spent. Working in a large organisation, Roger had learnt how to make and keep to a budget. The problem is Roger never counted how much each shilling he spent would earn him back.

An example was the hundreds of thousands of shillings Roger spent on snazzy office furniture. This was done despite only 5% of his customers ever visiting his office.

Roger made the mistake of spending most of the money he borrowed on things which did not earn him any money back. He realised that the money would have been better spent on marketing and product development.

Do you spend too much money on things that don't earn you any money back?

So that December, Roger lost his business to auctioneers for a loan balance of a quarter of what he had borrowed. But Roger’s fire was not extinguished; far from it - like the dancing candle in his boy’s eyes, Roger’s own eyes were lit up. The blood in his veins burned with red hot with enthusiasm. He would list and learn from his mistakes; he would carefully plan and plunge back into business, he would solider on and succeed.


Visit www.eva.co.ke to see how Roger got his groove back.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Differences between a Business Name (Sole-Proprietorship / Partnership) and a Limited Liability Company

While consulting for our online company registration service, Incorporator I find myself answering the question "What is the difference between a sole-proprietorship and a company?"

Anybody who is considering starting a business must consider what type of business structure is needed for his or her particular situation. In Kenya there are three types of structures that one can use to start their business.

1. An LLC, or Limited Liability Company
2. A sole proprietorship
3. A Partnership

A Sole-proprietorship and a Partnership are registered through the same manner (Form BN/2) with the exception that a partnership has more than one owner and although not necessary, entrepreneurs are advised to register a partnership deed as well. In this article all references to sole-proprietorship also include partnership.

Understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each structure is important when deciding which one you want to use for your company.

 Legal Protection

The first major difference between a sole proprietorship and an LLC is the legal protection that each affords their owners against lawsuits. In a sole proprietorship, the individual owner(s) and the business are one and the same. This means that if someone sues the business, then the personal assets of the owner(s)—car, home, etc.—can be seized in any judgment against the company.

On the other hand, if your company is organized as an LLC, the company is a separate entity from the owner. If a person sues the company, only the assets of the company can be used to pay any legal judgment. The personal assets of the owner are safe.

Of course, this protection is limited. If the owner is personally negligent for wrongdoing by the company, then the liability protection is not going to stop victims of his or her negligence from being able to come after their personal assets.

Credit

Most new businesses require some type of capital to get started. Because a sole proprietorship is founded on the name of the person who owns the company, any credit and debt is the sole responsibility of that person. If the business fails and loans cannot be repaid, the owner of the company is completely liable for that bad debt. With an LLC, the business is a separate entity from the owner. This means that if the business should fail, in most cases, the debt would not be the sole responsibility of the owner.

In addition, how a business applies for credit and financing differs with each business entity. With a sole proprietorship, the credit history of the owner is the sole basis in determining whether the business is a good credit risk. If the owner has bad credit, getting the business financed is going to be much more difficult.

Because an LLC is separate from the owner, getting financed can be easier. Especially after the business has been in existence for a few months, many banks will begin to look at the credit record of the company to determine its credit-worthiness. This is obviously a major advantage to the business owner.

Legal Requirements

Another major difference between these two business entities is the requirements to maintain the legal status. Because a sole proprietorship is a business based on the name of the owner, no special fees are typically required. While the business will probably still need to obtain a business license in the area in which it is doing business, the company will not have to file annual returns every year declaring its status.

Cost of Registration
A sole-proprietorship is usually cheaper to register than an LLC. We charge KES 3,999 to register a sole-proprietorship and most advocates will register companies from around KES. 25,000.

Taxes
A sole-proprietorship being owned by one person files taxes under Individual Income Tax and the PIN certificate used is usually that of the owner. A partnership usually has its own PIN certificate but the rates of Income Tax are usually the same as that of a sole-proprietorship. An LLC must register its own PIN/VAT certificate and is charged corporate tax of 30% of profits.
 In the end, deciding which type of business entity is right for you is dependent upon your personal circumstances. Things such as your type of business, where you are doing business, and your personal financial history all come into play. Anyone who is considering starting a business truly should consult to determine which entity is best for his or her situation.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Who is Eva? BPO for small businesses? Really?

In the January of 2002 a young man found himself battling against frustration and despair as he saw his barely four month old company go up in smoke. It was his first real business venture and he had sunk all of his meagre savings into it, only to find himself unable to convert his enthusiasm into sales.

Four months without a single sale he only had well worn shoes to show for his effort.

When he started the business, he thought he had it figured all out. He had bought a mobile phone and a decent second-hand computer and sublet a small office in town. He listed down 500 prospects, wrote an introduction letter, and proceeded to call and visit the prospects. Four months and several disappointing calls and visits later, he had only managed to see a handful of prospects and none were yet to give him any business. Meanwhile his landlord was on his back asking for rent and he had run out of money to make telephone calls. He had no option but to close down his fledgling business.

For the next three months, his business remained closed as he worked on raising more capital. Finally decided to get a job in order to raise some money; so he brushed up his CV and went job hunting. Within a short time he was lucky to land himself a job as a techie to one of the most successful entrepreneurs in the town. He knew he would learn a lot from working for the Boss, but he never knew how much until the day he met her.

From the first day he met Stella he knew he was in love. But it was not the love that a young man feels for a woman, but a love of something so efficient it was a joy to behold. Stella, an executive secretary with over twenty-five years experience, knew her job very well. She worked as the personal assistant to the Boss, but seemed to help his business in so many other ways.

The young man’s job had him working a lot with Stella and he had time to observe the effective manner she undertook her job. He marveled at how she seemed so confident and organized in her tasks. She seemed to know everything about the business, even more than the Boss.

Stella handled the Boss’ diary, she spoke to his customers and suppliers, checked and responded to his emails, and generally kept his office running smoothly. Stella seemed to juggle all these tasks with ease and never lost her professionalism.

The young man realized that a large part of the Boss’ success could be attributed to Stella. Without Stella the Boss might have been just like the young man was those long four months. The young man kept this lesson, and after saving for a few more months he left the job to go back to business and use the knowledge and skills he’d picked up.

With time, the young man got his own “Stella” and just like the Boss before him his business flourished under the efficient stewardship of the office by his “Stella”. Elated by how well this worked for him, he decided he would share “Stella” with all other entrepreneurs whose great business ideas failed to take-off as they got swamped by the routine day-to-day operations of a business.

At Business Made Simple we have taken all the good things that made “Stella” so effective and put them into Eva. But we haven’t stopped there; Eva is not a single person but a team of people with a diverse set of business and technical skills guided by a strong sales strategy that we help you develop. Eva is a super-secretary, a one stop shop for all your administrative human resource requirements.

Benefits of Eva.

As a small business owner working with limited resources and a tight budget it is critical to only use products and services that positively contribute to your bottom line. Hiring Eva, can provide several benefits to your business.

It is estimated that entrepreneurs running small businesses spend upto 40% of their time undertaking routine admin tasks. This could be checking or writing emails, setting appointments, doing research, generating new sales leads or looking after existing customers. While all these tasks are important, they do not positively contribute to the bottom line.

Save Times allowing you to do what you’re good at.
If you hire Eva to handle these and other routine tasks you will immediately notice the fantastic amount of your time you free up; and we all know time = money especially with small businesses.With the freed up time, you can concentrate on what you’re good at in the business, whether it is making architectural drawings, farming tomatoes, or taking photographs. With more time on your hands, this can equal more money and a higher return on investment on your time. The free time also allows you to take time off and spend it with your friends and family; the business should not be your life.

Save on Labour Costs
Hiring Eva allows you to benefit tremendously from the high quality skills Eva provides as a team of professionals with an unbelievably low price. With the starting KShs. 5,900 package per month, you get access to a professional web designer, a business consultant with 10 years experience, a personal assistant, a sales executive, a telemarketer, and an internet marketer. Eva helps keep your labour costs low while providing high value human resources.

Save on Office Equipment Costs
With Eva, you do not need to purchase office equipment, hire office space, or pay for utilities like telephone and internet. All these facilities are included in the price you pay for Eva. In fact, if your job is mainly service based you can even work from home! Eva saves you tens of thousands of shillings a month you’d otherwise have to pay on this equipment.

Boost your Revenue
Research has shown that with an effective telemarketing and internet marketing campaign, you can boost your revenues by more than 150%. What are you waiting for? This alone is reason enough to hire Eva today and experience growth in your sales and satisfaction of your customers. With the business consultant, sales and marketing executives you get an end-to-end marketing package that makes sure your products and services are continuously being introduced to new and existing customers.

If you want to hire Eva right away, simply follow this link. If you still need further information, call us on +254 751 773 087 or email us at sales@eva.co.ke for a free 30 minute consultation on what your business can gain through Eva.

Articles first published on www.eva.co.ke 

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Safaricom Scared! The Inside Scoop

It seems even giants can be rattled.

Since Bharti/Zain welcomed the birth of Kenya's second republic with the lowest call charges across mobile networks, their counterparts on Waiyaki way (Safaricom) have been as busy as bees. I can now exclusively reveal through my inside sources the happenings at Safaricom these past three weeks, some of which are utterly shocking.


1. Shutting down the Facebook Page
Even before Zain introduced their game changer tariffs, the official facebook page for Safaricom http://www.facebook.com/#!/SafaricomLtd?ref=ts was peppered with negative comments from users. After Zain's tariff launch however, it seems people went full time on #chukifm on the Safaricom facebook page, complaining on every single comment from Safaricom. Sample some posts from users below:


"...as long as u guys stil continu stealin our credit usin ur unlimited internet shit,u suck in evrthn u do.actualy,u stink!"
 "MASAA YA KUIBA...i want my 21 mb of free data and 50/- that u stole...nktesticles! "
It got so bad that the fellows in charge of the Facebook page (I assume it's marketing/PR department) wanted to shut it down. Probably for the same reason their twitter account twitter.com/SafaricomLtd went quiet for over a week. Apparently the CEO Michael Joseph (MJ) had to intervene that the site not be shut down, as he argued that it provided good market research on what the consumers felt about the company.

However, it appears that later on the marketing fellows did get their way (partly) as all August posts and comments from visitors were deleted from the facebook page. It's as if Safaricom never existed in facebook cyberspace in August 2010.

2. Intentional hanging up on Customers
At 16 Million plus lines with only 800 customer service (CS) personnel at any one time, it's understandable that the Safaricom prepaid help line 100 would be hard to get through. Over the years Safaricom has continuously invested in customer care, changing their systems, hiring more staff, and building an ultra-modern customer care call centre in Mlolongo. However all that effort seems to go down the toilet based on prevailing attitudes of customer care staff who have admitted to this blogger that they hang up the phone on problematic clients.

Since some(all) calls are recorded to be reviewed later, the CS staff will not NKT before they hang up, but have developed artful methods of disconnecting that on later review it will seem that it was either accidental or unintentional. And good luck to you if you decide to call back to speak to the same CS staff (it's almost impossible to get through and almost impossible to be reconnected to the same agent.

Personally I use email to complain, customercare@safaricom.co.ke, my legal background, means I am more assuaged with the documented chain of evidence that email provides.

3. New Billing System "Overcharges" (read Steals) with Knowledge of Top Management

After they launched their new tariff Masaa Ya Kubamba, most of us expected to significantly cut on our airtime expenditure. For those with data enabled phones however it has been an entirely different experience. On September 5th after noticing irreconcilable differences in airtime I purchased and service received, I contacted Safaricom customer care. They replied explaining that it was an error with the new billing system, specifically stating:
"The process explained below is the data service billing principle. However, the process of reserve and refund should be seamless. Reserve is done ranging from KSh 2 to KSh 16, on termination of the session, any unused amount is refunded back. Hence even with as low as KSh 2, you can still be able to access internet.
 
We apologize that during this time, there were delays in execution of the billing process principle, a problem that has since been resolved"
A few days later I got several "refunds" from Safaricom for airtime. However when I asked for a statement to prove that they had really refunded the airtime and that they had not "overcharged" me on other occassions, they deflected, ignored, stonewalled, and finally told me to get it from a retail centre at a cost of KES. 500.

My sources tell me that statements are made difficult to access because top management is acutely aware that customers are rampantly "overcharged" and is wary of accepting liability. This also is the number 1 reason why CS staff hang up on customers.

4. Staff morale at an all time low

Despite record-breaking profits and growing client base, my sources report that morale of Safaricom staff is at an all time low. There are several reasons for this:

1. MJ is a slavedriver
Now I personally think there is nothing wrong with pushing your employees to deliver their maximum output. However MJ takes it to another level and has previously fired an entire team from the manager down for goofing up. Those most at threat are people in Data and Mpesa divisions, who live under constant fear of the systems going down as it may mean the end of their jobs.

2. MJ is leaving 
As much as he is feared, he is also loved and respected. My sources all seemed very fond and fiercely loyal to the American who has built Safaricom into the giant it is. Staff are now worried about the future of the company (which many of them are owners of) with the changes at the top. No one really knows what to expect of Rob Collymore and whether he has what it takes to battle with Bharti.

3. Renewed Competitors.
Everyone at Safaricom, though they won't say it, is scared stiff of Bharti. Unlike the previous competitors, Bharti has the financial muscle, technical savvy, and marketing experience to make life for Safaricom very difficult. Word around the water cooler is that bigger companies have been toppled and Bharti has the qualities of a giant killer (although it's also a giant itself with over 190 million subscribers worldwide and the world's fifth-largest mobile phone company). Their $1.5B Africa deal to outsource computing technology, customer and other services to IBM (signed in Kenya no less by both CEOS) was a serious wake-up call to Safaricom on how serious Bharti is.

Orange have also taken a good nibble of the market with their KES. 100 unlimited call offer for 1 month, and Yu seems to have wrapped up the under 18 market segment who provide the greatest pool of new subscribers.

No one is polishing their CV up just yet, but my sources tell me that its only a matter of time before we see a mass exodus of highly trained Safaricom staff to the competition.

Keep your bookmarks locked on this site as I give you more inside scoop on the happenings at Safaricom

Friday, September 03, 2010

10 Things I hate about Safaricom

Since my post on why I won't be ditching my Safaricom line any time soon, I've been getting a lot of love from Big Green affiliates broadcasting the post. What these fellows should have been doing is sorting out the many issues with their products and services. Since everybody likes lists, I'm going to put up another one today - on the 10 things that I really hate about Safaricom.

1. Masaa ya Kubamba tariff.
Surprised? Don't be. This is the most annoyingly complex product Safaricom have ever devised in their evil labs. First of all, how to determine what you'll be charged based the card you use to top up might make sense to the financial division, but it is absolute torture to the consumer. To make matters worse it isn't clear what happens if you top up 100, use 50 then top up 30 with M-PESA, sambaza 80, redeem bonga points, okoa jahazi, receive 100 through sambaza: what tariff are you on?

2. Okoa Jahazi
They should call this product Tuna shylock, at 10% interest for 3 days this is a ridiculously expensive product, and the fact that it works sometimes makes it a huge #fail as an "emergency credit" product.

3. Internet Bundles
Since Safaricom launched the Virtually Unlimited Internet service (*544#) of KES.8 per 10MB all other internet bundles stopped making sense. Why would I pay KES 1,000 for 300MB when I can simply top-up my number with KES 240, subscribe to *544# and wait one month as my internet bundles accumulate to 300MB? However, Safaricom (cleverly or not) has ensured that subscribing to 544 is a nightmare - there is never an immediate response to subscription and its almost impossible to know whether the subscription has gone through, failed, or if you are already subscribed.

4. M-PESA API (or lack thereof)
As a sometimes developer, I'm frustrated that Safaricom has failed to open up MPESA to developers through a well-documented API. The knuckle-head who makes these decisions at SCom should realise that this would explode the functionality and popularity of M-PESA.

5. Cost of an SMS
It's KES 3.50 on net and 5.00 off net! Enough said.

6. Calling Safaricom from VOIP.
Why is this still so expensive? (that's a rhetorical question to the squeeze-profits-out-of-hapless-suckers bosses at SCom). I'd love to use Gmail Voice Calls, or even Yello from Access Kenya and IzzyTalk from KDN but the cheapest is KES.8 per minute. Come on guys, interconnection fees have been reduced, let's bring down these charges.

7. Kama Kawaida
At some point SCom told us that if we were in Uganda or Tanzania, we would enjoy the same tariffs as if we were in Kenya (hence the "kama kawaida" slogan). Anyone who has travelled to TZ or UG and used their SCom line knows this to be a damn lie. And if the promotion was cancelled, an appreciate a warning message when I cross borders (i.e. that I'm on international roaming, and international rates apply)

8. Safaricom Live (formerly known as Safaricom Broadband formerly known as Safaricom Bambanet)
If you google "Bambanet", you'll see my post where I lambasted Safaricom for their internet through modem product, could it be why they changed the name? Well it's a new name, but they still got enough problems. Right now, what I hate most is how the software installed with the modem can never give you a true and accurate picture of how many MBs you've downloaded or uploaded.

9.Network clarity
I know that I've previously said it's just good enough, but I still want to pull my hairs out when I have to spend 15 seconds of airtime saying "Hello.... can you hear me....hallo....can you hear me know?.."

10. Insufficient credit messages.
Anyone who has ever tried to send a text message to Safaricom when they have insufficient funds can immediately identify with me, why this can be one of the most annoying things about Safaricom. Not only do they send you a text message telling you that you have insufficient credit, but they send you three such messages in quick succession. I mean, come on! This has been going on for ever, you can't tell me that there isn't a Safaricom engineer who can fix this??

I've just realised that I can go on and on, but let me hear from you. What do you hate most about Safaricom?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Can you be the next Donald Trump (in Kenya)?

Stephen Alala, co-founder of SoftLaw once told me an interesting story about a lawyer who while doing an assignment for a venture capital firm was so enthralled by the work that he decided to quit the practice and join the angel investors. At the next meeting with the other angels, intending to wow the board he excitedly gave a presentation on a new business venture that would make the firm triple-digit returns on their investment. He was therefore surprised that after he finished his pitch the expressions on the faces of the board members all around the table were unimpressed, bored, and even disgusted. One of the friendlier faces explained the mood with a question "it's all well and good that this idea can make money, but will it race up my pulse, make my mouth dry, keep me from sleeping at night, and wake me up early in the morning twitching and excited?"

Simply put, these angel investors had already made tons of money, and that alone could not excite them. What they needed was an idea that they were so passionate about, that it would occupy their every waking thought.

I took a lot of comfort in this story, because I've also always pursued business with the need to achieve something greater than making money. My passion is to support, grow, and develop other entrepreneurs through sharing knowledge and leveraging the power of technology. The difference is that for me that I am yet to make tons of money :( Well today I want to try something different,  I want to blog about what makes a lot of money in Kenya - the property business.

In the past few years, we've probably witness more new millionaires in Kenya than at any other point in our history as land prices shot through the roof and beyond. I hear stories of someone who bought a 'shamba' at KES. 15,000 back in the nineties, and now is selling it at KES. 5,000,000. Or of masaai sons whose father left them 'worthless' hundreds of acres in Kitengela. Land brokers who got on the gravy train early on are now living off the fat of their early bird status.

It is pointless to look at this and wishfully think. To be a true property tycoon, one now has to rightly predict how the property market will look five years from now and make the right decisions. Today, I will give you my three predictions on how to make money in property in the coming years.

1. First of all we must realise that land speculation as we know it (in Nairobi) , is all but finished as a way to make money. Not only will the new provisions of the constitution discourage this by taxing people for idle land, but we will also witness a high urban to rural migration that will take pressure off land outlying Nairobi that has seen the highest price increases. If you want to make money, then you need to know where migration will be going to.

My prediction is that with the decentralisation of government through counties, a lot of this migration shall be to the centres of these counties. Also unlike before where the central government retained control of the purse strings, this time money shall flow to the counties. This will mean that marginalised low density population counties like Tana River which has adequate natural resources will now have plenty of cash to develop. The bigger budget and smaller competition population-wise for the money will mean traders, merchants, and brokers of all and sundry shall flock to such areas.

Whoever owns the land around these areas which can be bought pretty cheap now will be in prime position to benefit from the migration.

2. Donald Trump made money in New York by taking on large building projects in Manhattan that would offer opportunities for earning high profits, utilizing attractive architectural design, and winning public recognition. He was a master at turning derelict properties into high-class real-estate. Despite my predicted urban-to-rural migration, I believe Nairobi will remain a growing city and the commercial centre of Kenya and Eastern Africa. More and more local and international businesses will want to set up in Nairobi. With the impending completion of the widening and modernisation of Thika Road, the Eastern side of the CBD (the area between Globe Cinema roundabout, Kirinyaga Road, and Ring Road will be prime real-estate to renovate (if one can manage the politics Donald Trump style). Already there are plans to turn Muthurwa estate into a modern state-of-the art residential and commercial complex. Once this is done there will be pressure on the property around it and investors will be willing to put up similar properties.

3. Thirdly... ummm okay it seems I only had two predictions, but keep your eyes on this space as I share more wacky ideas on how to be the next (Kenyan) Donald Trump.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Why I will not be moving from Safaricom

For those who've been reading my blog you know that I have a love/hate relationship with Safaricom. One week I will lavish praise on them, the next I'll be trashing them. With such swinging passions, it is easy to find inspiration to write on them, and resultantly I do it often. This week I'm at it again, giving my 3 reasons why I'll be sticking with Big Green and ignore the Vuka to Zhairtel wave currently going on.

1. Data Services.

Safaricom's recent press release responding to its competitors drop in voice call charges captured one thing right on the mark. They are no longer just a mobile telephone company, they are a total (communications) solutions company. Just like DoCoMo of Japan, Safaricom early on realized that voice services were not enough and their future lay in data/internet services on mobile phone handsets. They've gone ahead and backed this conviction with some serious investment in 3G, fibre, WiMax, and now 4G. Safaricom has not stopped at infrastructure, they are also leading in the development and distribution of local content. Their safaricom.com portal and facebook face off promotion are some examples of this.

What Zhairtel might not see is that with the rapidly improving network infrastructure and availability of smart phones a time will come when VOIP is a cheaper alternative to voice calls. When this happens, I want to be with the operator who has invested in data services.

2. M-PESA

Two years ago, I blogged here how Safaricom would transform itself into a bank on the back of its wildly successful MPESA product. At that time there were 2 million MPESA users, right now this figure has exploded and more than 10 million have MPESA accounts. Well, Safaricom has not out-rightly transformed into a bank, but products like M-KESHO show that it is serious about its financial services division. I'll make another prediction here, and that is that in 3 years, M-PESA and its offshoots will be Safaricom's largest revenue earner and flagship product.


I strongly believe MPESA is the future of commerce in Kenya, with more and more services going online, M-PESA is primed to become the number 1 payment system in Kenya. Already PayBill is being used for services as varied as airline booking, classifieds, and utility payments. Buying goods at the supermarket seems also to be on the cards for Safaricom considering their Buy Goods menu under the M-PESA menu.


Kenya is well positioned to be a leader in mobile commerce and Safaricom is in the best position to lead this revolution.


3. Safaricom Innovation Board


Of all things that make me want to remain with Safaricom, this is probably the most important. I have seen a Vuka phenomenon before and after all the excitement I know most of us went back to Safaricom with our tails between our legs.


Innovation is the lifeblood of any company and Safaricom seem to understand this very well. Price wars will work for a while but what happens when Safaricom also reduces its price? As the market leader it means Zhairtel will have to go back to the drawing board, and if start another price war, they might just push themselves into bankruptcy and/or another sale of their business. The only way for a company to maintain its market share and outperform the competition is to innovate. The Safaricom Innovation Hub will not only capture the best ideas in the country but will also (however unfairly) own them exclusively to the detriment of its competitors

So today, as you laugh at the Inspekta Mwala ads and buy your umpteenth Zain card, I will remain with my 'ol green 0722.

NB: On page 7 of the Sunday Nation (August 22, 2010) there is an ad of green text on white background that reads "MASAA YA KUBAMBA INAKUJA". I think Zhairtel might want to hold off the popping of champagne bottles for now if this ad means what I think, which is that Safaricom is not going to lied down and let its customers walk away.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Chopping up the big green giant (Safaricom)

It’s time to take Safaricom down. It’s time to chop up that green giant into smaller pieces.

In just 10 short years, Safaricom Ltd has grown from a small unprofitable subsidiary of Telkom Kenya catering to the uber rich into Kenya’s largest telecommunications company, ISP, and bank. This behemoth, with its size, information control, and growing database of personal information of its clients threatens our economic stabilty, individual liberties and our sovereignty and  cannot afford to left this unchecked. At the end of this speech, fellow toastmasters you will join my petition to have Safaricom Ltd, be broken up into smaller, more regulated companies.

1.       The first and most obvious reason why we need to break up Safaricom is because of its sheer size. In every category, Safaricom is a lumbering giant. It has over millions of Kenyans using its services and makes billions for its shareholders and government. 


While these numbers may bring comfort to it’s over 500,000 shareholders, we should remember that the bigger they are, the harder they fall. We have already seen our government backtrack from regulating Safaricom’s prices when it complained; it is not therefore a stretch to say that our government may consider Safaricom “Too big to fail”.


The “too big to fail” public policy means that if Safaricom fails to manage its risk effectively and is under threat of insolvency, the government may use taxpayer money to prop up the company.  The TBTF policy which has been applied to America’s biggest companies in the past two years has been shown to encourage laziness, promote rapacious business activities, and increase market nervousness.  It is a policy that can destroy our fragile economy while unfairly promoting corporate interests.


For everyones’ benefit we need to ensure Safaricom remains a robust company and the only way to do this is to break it into smaller, more nimble, more manageable companies which do not have the power to hold our economy at ransom.


2.       If the threat of the giant falling is not worring enough, then this second reason should convince you that the time to break-up Safaricom is now. We all cheered when Safaricom came to town, and happily embraced its services. Little did we know that as we called more, texted more, mpesad more, and surfed more, we were creating an Orwellian Big Brother. It can hear you, read about you, knows who you are, where you are, how you spend money, what information you search for and which friends you have.


We have already seen this power being abused through Premium Rate Service providers affiliated to Safaricom who send us marketing messages for lotteries, or political messages to influence our vote.  The trend from using this power for marketing to using it for political goals is indeed worring. Many Kenyans rely on Safaricom to access information, and it is easy to see how this dependency can be abused to spread propaganda and misinformation.


While the executives of Safaricom may have the noblest intentions, it is a historical fact that power corrupts. We should not wait to act when the company has been corrupted and we are in bondage. The company must be broken now to decentralise its growing power and potential for control.


3.       Threatening our individual liberties is a good enough reason to break the company up, but this third reason takes the cake, on why breaking the company up should be done immediately. Recently our government directed that mobile phone companies register their subscribers to reduce mobile phone related crime. While the intentions are good, the jury is still out on how effective registration will be in curbing crime. The secondary effect is however clear, which is that Safaricom will amass sensitive personal information on a large population of Kenyans to add on what they have already collected. 

The information acquired by Safaricom will rival - in utility - even that of the immigration and National Registry Bureau, as it will be current, in electronic form, and have mobile phone numbers. At 16 million subscribers, we shall witness the birth of the Safaricom nation and whoever controls this data will be very dangerous, and to leave it to a private entity that is majority owned by foreigners is to threaten our social fabric and sovereignty.

I admire Safaricom as a business, and find their services very useful; but I cannot stand by and let the potential for Safaricom’s turn to evil threaten my livelihood, threaten my freedom, and threaten my nation. I ask you to join me today in choosing economic stabilty, choosing individual freedom, and choosing social stability by signing my petition to break up Safaricom into smaller companies.

In conclusion I will ll leave you with a quote from Ayn Rand, substituting the word collectivism with Safaricom

"The greatest guilt of today is that of people who accept Safaricom by moral default; the people who seek protection from the necessity of taking a stand, by refusing to admit to themselves the nature of that which they are accepting; the people who support plans specifically designed to achieve serfdom, but hide behind the empty assertion that they are lovers of freedom, with no concrete meaning attached to the word; the people who believe that the content of ideas need not be examined, that principles need not be defined, and that facts can be eliminated by keeping one's eyes shut. They expect, when they find themselves in a world of bloody ruins and concentration camps, to escape moral responsibility by wailing: "But I didn't mean this!"


--------------------------------------------

 Please note that this was my Project #3 speech at Nairobi Toastmasters. This is a fictional petition and I do necessarily think Safaricom is evil.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Firefighting

I hope this battery lasts....

I've mentioned in previous posts that I went to more of a concentration camp than a high school. No really it was that bad. Can I hear a shout from all my Rongai Boys peeps. Apart from the usual high school "chores" all students in form 1&2 also had intensive farm duty. I'm talking about at least two hours every morning before breakfast, half day Saturdays, and at least 6 weeks over holidays! The work was not cosmetic either. We ate from the farm and the supervisors ensured it produced. The piggery for obvious reasons was considered the worst but personally I found cutting and chopping 160kg of Napier grass before breakfast for the cow unit far worse. Something far worse though was midwife duty. Apparently pigs need a lotof care when ... birthing... calving... pigling? So when a sow was in 'labour' form one's would take turn at night seeing that when the process began, it went smoothly.

Thus, one very cold, very dark night I was rudely woken at the witching hour to be informed that it was my turn. After persistent unsuccessful attempts by my midwife predecessor to get me to wake up, frustrated he groggily walked off leaving the hurricane lamp and a stern warning of what consequences I faced if I did not take up the baton. Blissfully in my half sleep state I shrugged it off and snuggled deeper into my blankets.

The domino effect was catastrophic! Enough be said that the sow piggled that night and 5 piglets died as there was no one to watch over it and guide the piggling.

I was made aware of this the next morning and now fully awake I remained in mortal fear of my punishment which I doubted would be any less than a suspension.

It was a cruel and stressful time as those days I seemed to move from crisis to crisis. If it wasn't still born piglets it was broken equipment in the lab, or contraband found in my locker. I would spend every day putting out new fires only for more to pop up. It seemed that I could never cut a break.

Strangely and fortunately this time I did get a break. The issue somehow never developed and up to this day I have no idea why but thank the gods nonetheless.

Running my own businesses my firefighting skills are well developed and I have learned to accept it and be positive. These days what might have seemed an insurmountable problem is seen as an opportunity, a business death blow is viewed as challenge. I don't win all the battles but they do keep me fresh, hungry, and energized.

That said, today I face what could be my greatest challenge yet and this time like with the piglings I could do with a break.

The battery lasted! Take that Android!


- Posted using BlogPress from my iPhone

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Curiouser and curiouser

Peer to peer sharing is the public enemy number one for anyone in the digital media industry. The ease at which someone can download movies, music, and software made significantly easier by high speed fibre-optic connections has eroded the earnings of producers and artists worldwide. I would love to say that I can throw the first stone, but sadly the lure of free stuff is too strong even for me. It is with this backdrop that I managed to watch a fairly good camera copy of the surprise early 2010 blockbuster Alice in Wonderland. I didn't expect too much, but once again Tim Burton pleasantly surprised me. Alice, based on Lewis Caroll's fabled children book has been updated for the modern audience and given extra pizazz by the always entertaining Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter. Before this becomes a movie review, I'd just like to re-iterate one of Alice's quotes that deftly captures the topic of my post today: curiouser and curiouser.

This is how I describe some of the things I observe at my office building View Park Towers. Now, View Park Towers is a majestic looking building overlooking the John Gakuo revitalized central park, with its lush green lawns dotted with water fountains. Having been here nearly 5 years now, I can attest to the high-street atmosphere of the place and it is one of the selling points for our serviced offices at www.geniuscentre.com

The imposing view park towers

However, events in the past year have befuddled me, and I wait every day with anticipation on what new oddity I'll observe. Here I go through the top 3 I've seen so far.

1. Scanning People Entering the Building
Security of buildings in Nairobi has never been the same since the '98 bomb blast. Metal detectors and body scanners now are commonplace for most buildings. Unfortunately (at least at View Park) it seems that while the equipment was purchased, no training was given to the security guards on how to use them. Makes me think that the security company might have just thrown scanning in the pot to sweeten its proposal and win the tender.

Case in point, first of all the guards at the entrance will only scan you when their supervisor is present, or they are not tired or hungry. And even when they do scan, it is a laughable pass over a random part of your body. Nothing, not even an alarming beep from the machine will give them reason to do any further search. It really does nothing to my confidence when I think that someone with a suicide vest could easily enter the building.

Secondly is how they search vehicles entering the basement parking. Not only do the guards 'sell' empty lots to day parkers thus comprimising the building security but they have openly admitted to me that they have no clue what they are looking for when they pass a mirror under the car's body. They only check the boot when they are in the mood, and a practical joke (one day I put a poster written THIS IS BOMB on a gas cylinder) went flat because they didn't even get it!.

2. Turning off the water at 4:00 PM and on weekends

This is not only curious but downright ridiculous. Despite having a very high occupancy (with KEMU students occupying three entire floors of 30,000 SQ FT with about 1 student per 25 SQ feet) and most of these coming past 5 pm, the management sees it fit to turn off the water. The argument goes that if they left the water on some tenants (have previously) will leave their taps on and flood the place! This to me doesn't fly, I'm more likely to attribute some sort of rationing on this dry-tap-after-4pm business.

3. Placing a Security Guard in the VIP lift

Started only a week ago, I was very surprised to find a seat in the VIP lift with a very bored security guard on it. At first I thought he was there to help people press the lift buttons; but the absurdity of this and the languidness of the guard convinced me otherwise. On inquiry, I found that his job was to provide... ahem ... security. It seems that recently a lady was robbed of money while in the lift . Now, I sympathise with the victim but surely there must be a better way to provide security. Not only does the guard take up valuable space, but the process of his normal bodily functions compounded by being cooped up in a 5'x5' lift make riding the lift less than savoury, if you know what I mean. Placing a CCTV camera in the lift would be much more effective in preventing and arresting any crimes in the lift, it's also cheaper in the long run, and the now freed security guard can be used to turn off any taps left running at night.

UPDATE: 16/7/2010

While going through some archive blogs I found this even more impressive snapshot of View Park, that I took from Central Park. Enjoy

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The most underpriced real-estate in the world!

When we are young most of us dream of being rich and famous. I was no exception and I made sure I started working towards this early in my youth. I sold contraband, got three jobs, started a business, and did consultancy, trying to add up the shillings and cents to meet my goal. At some point though (especially after finishing college) I discovered that sometimes the goal was just getting by. The reason I'd wake up in the morning, get myself to the office, answer calls and emails, meet clients and suppliers, write reports and proposals, balance books, was just to make payroll and rent. And even when the money came, it didn't bring any satisfaction, after spending  16 hour days doing the same-old, same-old.

When my business finally gained stem I really thought I had escaped the rat race, but by settling back into a routine just to 'survive' I realized that all I had done was change lanes. To further drive home the futility of it all someone told me that the worst thing about a rat race, is that even when you win, you're still a rat.

..and being a rat, you might end up like my friend here 

Q: So how do you break out of the rat-race.
A: You make sure you never get into it in the first place.

Different folks have their way of ensuring that they do not slide into the monotony and repetition of the rat race. Today I'll share with you a method that will not only save you from a rodent's existence but can potentially make you very wealthy.

The secret is real-estate.

No, not that real-estate which is measured in acres and hectares and in Kenya has been acquired mainly through patronage, sycophancy, and grabbing. For many of us born after 1980 and with slim chances of inheritance, that type of real-estate (at least in sizeable quantities) remains a scarce commodity.

The real-estate I'm talking about is the that found on the World Wide Web. As we move into the future, the hot properties will be those in cyberspace, where instead of acres and hectares we measure value by eyeballs and clicks. The best thing about this real-estate is that it is available and accessible at a very low cost. A domain name usually costs under than a thousand shillings per year ($12.50) to register and hosting is not much more. From there you simply need to put up a property (website with content) and if your property is good you should start getting tenants (visitors and users).

So to escape my version of the rat-race, I have been amassing this 'space' and constructing all sorts of 'property' to get 'tenants'. And today I welcome you as tenants to my latest property http://BuyMyKenyanCar.com. Unlike most car sites, which either ask you to list your car for a fee or free and sell it for you, BuyMyKenyanCar.com buys cars from Kenyans and pays instant cash. As a pioneering service, we hope to grow and learn with our tenants and inject some vibrancy into Kenya's used (reconditioned) cars market.

Welcome and enjoy your stay

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Green means Go

A Gado cartoon of people sitting on the fence demanding for their own colour left me ROFLMAO. In case you haven't caught on yet, its about fence sitters to the referendum on the proposed new constitution. More than give me a serious rib ache, the cartoon also prompted me to stop sitting by the sidelines and take a stand.

It is therefore with a profound love for my country and belief in a better Kenya that I submit that my answer to the referendum is a big yes.

As part of my education, I had sought to find out what the NO camp objections were, and what I discovered shocked me so much that I felt compelled to respond. You can read my response here www.yes4kenya.org

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Consitutional Anatomy - 003 - Economic & Social Rights

I woke up this morning with the lyrics of Boomba Clan's song Sina Habari. The exact line was where one asks "Nairobi Water niliwafanya nini, siwezi fua siwezi osha mwili" while fully soaped up in the shower but with no water from the shower head. Needless to say I was also having a dry tap morning. I remembered someone mentioning that with the new constitution, I could sue the government if they did not provide water. I decided to check it out and see exactly what it says.

[Aside] Checking out the constitution is now much easier thanks to a great new website called katiba.mobi who get my two thumbs up for their fantastic effort. I wish though they would include a search on every page, and Previous/Next navigation as it would make the site so much more useful. Finding the article dealing with water was however much easier than the PDF file from COE that I've been using.

Article 43(1)(d) does give every person the right to clean and safer water in adequate quantities. However, in my case can I really enforce this against the state? The Fourth Schedule 11(b) makes water services a responsibility of the county government. If my tap is dry and I feel my constitutional rights have been infringed upon and that the constitution has been contravened, Article 258 gives me the right to institute court proceedings. I would bring such proceeding under the High Court which has jurisdiction under 165 (3)(b) to determine questions of infringement of rights.

Petty as complaining over water may sound, I am encouraged that Article159(2)(e) - which ensures that purpose and principle of the constitution is protected and promoted in the exercise of judicial authority - would get my taps running again.

Have you had a shower this morning?

Friday, May 07, 2010

Constitutional Anatomy 002 - Dual Citizenship

Away from the controversy, I sought to know what the draft law says about holding two passports. This is of particular interest to me as one of the services we offer under formAKenyanCompany.com is work permit registration. I regularly communicate with many folks who are curious about the provision for dual citizenship in Kenya. In the current constitution that's a flat no, but I wondered what the draft law said.

A very brief section 16 spells out the main criteria for dual citizenship, you must first be Kenyan by birth. Section 14 describes what a citizen by birth is: (1) on date of birth, one of the parents is a Kenyan citizen, (2) applies to persons born before the effective date of the new constitution or (4) a child found in Kenya who is less than 8 years old. The birthers would find this interesting as it means that Obama is still a Kenyan citizen, and even if he had renounced Kenyan citizenship when he turned 18, then (5) allows him to acquire citizenship on application. Wouldn't that be interesting, a US president holding US and Kenyan passports?

Section 18 further provides for parliament to create legislation for among other things permanent residency. This is a significant change from the current consitution which doesn't provide for permanent residency, and the current immigration law which provides for resident permits ofa maximum of two years.

So are you a former Kenyan who would like to regain your citizenship or a non-Kenyan living and working in Kenya on a resident permit? What do you think about this section?

Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Safaricom: King of Innovation

A detour from the constitutional debate. This week there has been a very public back and forth between Safaricom on one side and CCK, Yu, Zain, and Telkom on the other. The brouhaha is over a set of regulations published by CCK, which you can view here and here.

Now, I'll be honest I tried reading the regulations but I got bored, but if I'm to believe the arguments of CCK and Safaricom then I'm going to give this one to Safaricom. Why lie Safaricom deserves to be market leader. Not only have they cranked out great product after great product, they've done this while keeping their business very profitable using the "just good enough formula".

In case you have not read The Innovator's Solution, by Clayton Christensen and Michael Raynor, then I'll explain. The just-good-enough formula means that a product need not be perfect to be marketable, it must only meet the minimum threshold of the job the consumer is trying to achieve. The clearest example of this is call clarity, Safaricom's is far from perfect but it is just good enough to allow us to communicate (which is what we're trying to do) and being the market leader in low denomination scratch cards wisely ensured that we would not feel the pinch of low quality calls as bad.

Remember back in 2000, Kencell now Zain was the market leader, but they decided to go for high-profit customers (per minute) while Safaricom went for the low profit customers (per second). Eventually because of Kencell's management and ownership intrigues, Safaricom consolidate its base and moved into higher profits segments, continuously grabbing more market share. Fast forward 10 years later, and Safaricom can sit proudly on its throne as king of the telecoms.

In case you might not be able to buy the book, here is an excerpt which is a perfect description of what happened in the telecoms cellular market. (If Safaricom is the disruptor, then Kencell/Celtel/Zain is the incumbent.)

In low-end disruption, the disruptor is focused initially on serving the least profitable customer, who is happy with a good enough product. This type of customer is not willing to pay premium for enhancements in product functionality. Once the disruptor has gained foot hold in this customer segment, it seeks to improve its profit margin. To get higher profit margins, the disruptor needs to enter the segment where the customer is willing to pay a little more for higher quality. To ensure this quality in its product, the disruptor needs to innovate. The incumbent will not do much to retain its share in a not so profitable segment, and will move up-market and focus on its more attractive customers. After a number of such encounters, the incumbent is squeezed into smaller markets than it was previously serving. And then finally the disruptive technology meets the demands of the most profitable segment and drives the established company out of the market.

Monday, May 03, 2010

Consitutional Anatomy - 001- Kadhi's Courts

Jumping straight into the fray, I want to get started on one of the more thorny topics - kadhi's courts. The churches have made this one of the stickling issues to their opposition of the draft constitution, so I sought to read the clauses myself and see what all the noise was about.

At first glance the sections on Kadhi's courts in the current constitution (s.66) and draft constitution (s.169,170) appear similar.
  1. Both give parliament the power to determine how the Kadhi courts will be run
  2. Both make the courts subordinate courts. Subordinate courts means that their decisions can be appealed on and overturned by superior courts. 
  3. Another similarity is that both specifically state that these courts will deal only with matters of a personal nature, to people professing Islam.
I have noticed at least one difference. In the proposed constitution, in addition to professing Islam one is also required to submit to the jurisdiction of the court. I'm curious how this works, if I'm Muslim and I know I'm likely to come out on the losing end of a matter ending up in this court, can't I just say that I do not submit to the jurisdiction of the court? I guess the person bringing the claim would then have to go to the high court.


I've also picked out one more mention of Kadhi's courts in another sections in the proposed constitution, in section 24(4). This section limits the rights and freedoms of Muslims appearing under the Kadhi's courts, who might not enjoy the Bill of Rights in its absolute form.

The debate on Kadhi's courts has been expanded to one of equality of religions, so I went fishing for what the draft says about this. I did not find any section specifically giving all religions equality. What I found was sections 27(1) giving all persons equality, 27(4) and 27(5) preventing the discrimination of someone based on their religion, and 32 giving every person the right to freedom of religion and the preamble recognizing Kenya's cultural, ethnic and religious diversity.

Away from the legalese what does the inclusion of Kadhi's courts in the constitution mean to you in practical terms? How does it affect the sufurias of ugali on your table?

Constitutional Anatomy: Prelude

I've got to say, I'm pretty pleased with myself. I recently acquired something which makes me very proud, no its' not a 52" flat screen TV (damn!) but a spanking new voter's card. Despite chronically suffering from last minute syndrome this time round, I managed to get my card well ahead of the deadline, on April 16 to be exact. I never voted at the last referendum, mainly because I had no card and didn't really care about it.

Things are different this time. After seeing the devastating effect of politics gone awry I am now keen on putting my best foot forward in making sure my voice counts with what happens in this country. It is why starting today I intend to vigourously examine the proposed new constitution to determine whether it merits my YES vote or should be given a big NO.

I will warn you that I might already have some biases, being human after all but will do my best to keep this examination open-minded and impartial. So go get your voter's card and join in the debate.

"The strength of the Constitution lies entirely in the determination of each citizen to defend it. Only if every single citizen feels duty bound to do his share in this defense are the constitutional rights secure." ~ Albert Einstein.

Monday, March 22, 2010

My first youtube video

Shocking title right? Yes, despite this technology being around for eons it's only today that I've managed to upload a video on the ubiquitous video sharing site YouTube. I had not seriously considered business opportunities in entertainment until I came across a young man by the name Deejay Kalonje.



Apart from being nominated as best DJ at the Chaguo la Teeniez awards 2010 this extremely talented young man has shown me that there is money to be made in showbiz. Let the video speak for itself, you can then vote by texting "VOTE b1e3" to 8878.

More on this later

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Forget Superman, I'm not even Clark Kent

In Form Two at the height of my adolescent self-importance I felt that I knew much more than the (what I thought at that time to be) idiotic teachers who wasted my day when I could be expanding my mind reading Plato. One exception which was sharply brought home though was my American english teacher who had a Belgian name, Ms Koch (we called her Ms. K though, because pronouncing her name for the mandatory greeting of the teacher would have wasted half a lesson). Ms. K knew her stuff and when I tried to impress her by saying that creative writing was my favourite type of writing, she reminded me that all writing is creative.

I remembered Ms. K today as I finally finished today's article of my new daily business blog (blog.my-shillings.com). In deed all writing is creative, and is more than just stringing together letters and words. A belated apology then to my "colleague" at Business Daily who I tore into some time back with a post in this blog. On second thought, I take back that 'sorry', the article was crap, there is no redeeming it.

So what was I saying, oh yes that's it. Writing on startupkenya is so much easier because I don't really have to research or interview anyone. As the blog description says, this blog is all about what I think and my thoughts when fired come pretty thick and fast, so its pretty easy to blog.

blog.my-shillings.com is a bit more objective though and I have to ensure that I get all facts correct before I click on publish. Today marks the 3rd anniversary of blog.my-shillings.com (3rd article, yayyy!!!) and I never imagined it would need such super human effort! I'll keep soldiering on though, because there is still so much more to share.

So today, hats off to all those journalists (even the Clark Kents) out there researching and preparing a story to be published to the world through their creative writing.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Introducing My Shillings Blog

Starting today I will be writing for a fresh new business daily blog called My Shillings (blog.my-shillings.com). The daily will have an article running every day with a unique perspective on real Kenyan stories about new businesses, products on the market, investments for you, and startup successes.

As a business blogger since 2006 I assure you that my reporting will be focused, and unbiased and intended to make earning, spending and saving shillings in Kenya easier and more informed.They’re your shillings so read, enjoy and be wealthy.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

My Wrongs and Rights in Business in 2009

I'm just sitting in the office on a friday evening without plans (the life of an entrepreneur - a story for another time) waiting for the chaos (police and Muslims) to subside in the city center so that I can go home and watch TV. A bit sad yes but hey I'm consoled knowing we are many out there.

Anyway I digress, the purpose for the introduction is to explain how I got into thinking about my wrongs and rights in the year 2009. Well, to be honest, I'm also a bit bored and really have nothing else to do right now.....so I got to thinking about my rights and wrongs or better still my wrongs and rights in business in the year just ended and unfortunately the wrongs are as many as the rights. I will list them down to share them with you and if you commemorate on any with me just shout yeeeeaaahhh!!

1. First and foremost, I really didn't have a proper direction for my business. I was really moving with the wind. Thats not good and its something I seriously intent to rectify this year. Not in the form of a complicated business plan but a 1-2-3 list of what I want to achieve.

2. Believing I am the business. After taking stock, I discovered that although I have employees I still micro-manage overly much. I'm in the office at unfathomed hours doing what....work. Why? Am I the business? If I am, its never going to grow. I have to let go and concentrate on strategy....ohhhh not as easy as its sounds. The business is my baby....working on it though.

3. My records to put it simply...suck. I have got to work on that. I can't plan without proper records. I don't know how I've been performing or what i should change...I'm just existing.

4. Cashflow is KING...my cashflow has been a pauper. I've been looking at sales as cashflow when in real sense its not and I'm bleeding myself by not collecting debts. This year goodbye Mr. Nice Guy hello mean, lean debt collecting machine.

Ok that was not easy, admitting all that to myself. But its not all been wrongs in 2009, there were also some rights. For instance:

1. I listened to my client's feedback. I found this so useful especially in making the quality and service delivery better. After all, at the end of the day, my clients are my reason for being in business.

2. I knew what I didn't know and tried to learn. No one knows everything and its important to know that. For me my Achilles heal is my record keeping and accounting (BORING). As I said above it sucks. But its important, so I've taken up alot of reading, attending courses, getting expert advice and this time I'm confident I'll sort it out.

3. I try to know my market and keep myself up to date of the changes in the market. The market is dynamic and if I don't keep myself updated with what my competitors are doing, I'll not know how to compete. This is something really important to me and I've been making sure I do it right.

4. Finally I try to spread the risk. I try not to have one client or supplier hold me at ransom or have just one product supporting my whole company so that if it ever fails....well you know what would happen. So my risk management is not all that bad.

All in all 2009 was a year of trials and I learnt a lot from it but I am now ready for 2010. Ready to make 2010 more rights and less wrongs....let me go home now and watch TV but watch this space because..."I GOTTA A FEELING THAT 2010 IS GONNA BE A GOOD YEAR".

a.karanja@afribusinessdevelopment.com