As it appeared in the Daily Nation on September 3rd 2019
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu
Over the last two decades, I have worked with diverse businesses. Some have been small others large; some have been in early stage and others at maturity. I have interacted with business founders, owners, budding entrepreneurs, managers, staff as well as board members. As I have interacted with these people, it has been evident that businesses hoping to succeed put in extra effort. They put in sustained effort in order to survive both in the present and into the future. On the inside, these businesses cultivate trust, grow talent and create a healthy workplace culture. On the outside, they focus more on customers, comply with government regulations and contribute positively to society. I believe that unrelenting effort has led to the survival of the few businesses that celebrate their 10th anniversary and go beyond.
Not every person has the zeal to sustain the effort required to build a sound business. Additionally, not all business ideas have commercialization potential and the ability to reach maturity. For many people, staring and building a business is a bittersweet experience. I recall a renowned entrepreneur now in her second successful business recently lamenting about the challenges experienced in business. Her conclusion, “building a business is not easy; it takes great effort”. Most business owners can attest to the fact that starting and running a business proficiently is not a hassle free process. Businesses at different stages of growth face diverse challenges. These challenges come from both the inside and outside environments. Many have started businesses that soon grind to a halt. We often have multiple genuine and not so genuine excuses to make. In most cases, we blame the external environment and often give up too soon. It takes great courage to keep going!
I believe that when starting a business, it is important to take time to define the problem that the business will address. Businesses aiming to solve a specific problem have a better foundation and a higher chance of survival. Such business are likely to sustain effort even when times are tough. Once a business is off the ground and on a growth trajectory, sustained effort counts even more because growth can kill. In the growth phase, some business experience major financial challenges relating to cash flow and lack access to working capital. Understanding matters finance becomes critical at this stage. What I have found also vital is the effort towards growing oneself as a leader and building a high-performance team. Furthermore, as the business grows it important to put effort towards growing a solid network of partners. Smart businesses also incorporate customer insight into their journey to sustain effort.
Finally, if starting and running a business is not that easy, how then do we expect millions of youth in our country to start a business? How many such businesses will eventually succeed? How many of these youths would score an A for focus, ability, effort and for getting things done? It is a tough call to presume that any unemployed youth needs to start and succeed in business. It is not enough to make funds accessible and to equip the youths with basic business skills. To increase the success rate of our businesses, we need to concentrate more on ways to sustain continuous effort and learn from past failures.
Dr. Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy