The amusing thing about a majority of Kenyans is that we have peculiar habits and tend to copy-paste ideas. I say this with all pun intended and encourage you to laugh along.
For example, at any given time we all go to school to learn the same course that is in high demand. Then we all seek internships and employment at the same multi-national companies which end up with a huge pool of cheap labour.
Like a fad, others opt to send their children abroad to study the same highly ‘marketable’ degree.
If not for school, we all opt to travel to Dubai to conduct business, open a mobile phone dealership, an up market spa; a small business stall similar to the others on the same street, wear the same latest trends, import cars from abroad etc.
We seem to have the inability to define our own personalities and direction in life. Sadly, we are a people more concerned with keeping up with the neighbours than in living our lives. What I am not sure is whether this mentality should be blamed on our education system or our socialisation.
Talking of which, the idea that a perfect business plan should be crammed full of information (read 40-plus pages) ought to be done away with. For me, in any new business proposal, it is not your financial projections that matter … after all, they are just but educated guesses. If I am going to take a risk on a start up – and by saying this I believe I represent any business person or financial institution that you are approaching – it is the substance in your idea that I would be looking for.
So before you make the leap, or more appropriately, the mistake of investing your savings in an idea which your ‘chama’ has touted as the key to getting rich quick, here are a few things you ought to consider.
First, your idea should demonstrate that it offers your customers a unique benefit or value that they cannot get in your locality. For example, if your idea is to open a boutique, it ought to be clear in your mind and in your financier’s mind, that indeed there is great need for your product or service and perhaps why there is that need. This is the value proposition.
The assumption also is that the majority of us are not ‘Einstein’. Understandably, someone somewhere will already have come up with an idea like yours and will be running an outfit like that which you propose. In this case, you will need to show why people will be drawn to your business beyond the ‘fad’ phase. This is also called differentiation. What is the comparative advantage of your product or service over your competition? Is it great skill, expertise, location, price, convenience etc. What is it that will keep your customers hooked to you?
Secondly, you ought to make sure that there is a feasible market for your idea. In simple terms, viable just means that your idea is practical and can very possibly take off.
In deciding whether your plan is practical, you ought to consider whether there is sufficient demand to keep you working and whether, the people you target have the purchasing power required to sustain you. Many years ago, we were taught to implement plans that target niche markets.
However, much is to be said of mass markets that derive higher returns because of the volumes. In Kenya specifically, you may also need to understand if and how the ‘kadogo’ economy will affect your business idea.
For me, if you can sufficiently answer these few concerns, then perhaps your idea is worth a second glance and we can proceed to analysing the rest of your business plan, including the all routine swot analysis, environmental scan etc.
This is still conditional however; I must be able to sense in you a passion akin to that of ‘starving artists’. This phrase came about because true artists who believe in their product have such passion and commitment to their ideas and a belief that success is just around the corner, that they are willing to sacrifice just about everything in their lives.
Their reasoning cannot be tainted by banter of questions or self-doubt. This passion is what keeps you going to work early on cold mornings instead of sleeping an extra hour. It is what keeps you pursuing that difficult stakeholder without whom, you cannot succeed. In short, your passion and commitment gives you a higher likelihood of success and everyone likes to be part of a success story.
In ending this note, I want to say that if God had wanted all tall, or short, or fat, or one-language people, I have no doubt that he would have created us as such. Instead, the world is full of all the above to the extent that even identical twins often have different likes, dislikes and personalities.
I say, we’ve had enough of ‘Kenya Uniform’ ideas. Let us embrace our uniqueness and learn to think along our unique characteristics. Perhaps then, the referendum choices wouldn’t be such a threat to opponents.