A colleague recently invited me to write on the challenge she faces in her work of supporting entrepreneurs; lack of patience in entrepreneurs. This is important if you consider that 46% of businesses established in Kenya often die within the first year. While death sometimes is inevitably a good thing, there is unfortunately a substantial number of businesses that die prematurely. What proportion of blame should then be apportioned to the entrepreneurs? Patience is a virtue. There are African proverbs and sayings that advocate for patience. I know your bible does it too and definitely also other religious books. So then, where do we go wrong?
If you have tried business, you will realize that it first looks easy before you start than after. You have to surmount challenges you didn’t even anticipate or you underestimated. Then there is the whole learning curve that comes with it. You have to muster the supply and sourcing end to know where to get your supplies at the right quality, the right price and also timely. You then have to muster your production processes, people and all the internal affairs of your business and then later get to know your market really well so as to be useful to them. Now, that takes time. You will make many mistakes before you get really good at it. Unfortunately most businesses hardly get through the learning curve. Guys run away at the slightest whiff of trouble only to go start the learning curve again. I know you have that friend who is always doing a new business each time you meet them. It is likely that even in 20 years that guy will still be trying to setup a business.
- Lack of Role Models
We must admit that Kenya has a serious deficit of good role models across board with the biggest casualty being in entrepreneurship. You see, we have many rich business people, the only small problem is that there is hardly any clear convincing stories behind their successes. Some of these guys have never gone through the entrepreneurship journey to be able to add value to yours. They may have not founded but bought/taken over mature businesses. They may have never had to hustle to get their first or second loans rather they woke up one morning Kabura style and found they had more than they needed. Some might be extremely successful today but behind them is a trail of failed public corporations and stolen public resources. So the challenge with looking up at such people is that we can see where they stand today but without having the benefit of learning from their journey we are denied the lessons that come from it. What can we then learn if half of the most successful youths we know run not a single business we can point at? There are also dealers/tenderpreneurs/brokers that won’t make anything but will broker it most probably imported from China or supply air. No wonder then in January 2016, the Aga Khan East African Institute found, in a study, that 50% of Kenyan youth do not mind how they get rich hence have no trouble stealing to get rich.
- Unrealistic Expectation
The current generation of youth in Kenya are generally an impatient lot. But why not, they haven’t been taught how to make. They know what they want but not how to make. Do we blame it on their education? It has been severally said that the 8-4-4 system we went through lacked the practical edge. It then produced so many theoretical and lazy bums. We have guys with diplomas in technical skills like mechanic, carpentry, beauty etc who won’t take their thoughts from getting a job. How many technical graduates are seated behind a bank teller booth in our banks today? How many of us are skilled in the services but won’t consider even freelancing? No. We don’t want to start small and grow. We’d rather just get a job in a big company. Whereas out there some guys are motivated by the challenge of working for a startup, in Kenya we want big company that brings big reputation and top dollar.
- Blame the Money
Let’s face it, most entrepreneurs you meet today are motivated only by money. Of course money is very important, but it can’t be all you care for. An entrepreneur must be driven by the need to fullfil a need in the market and the passion to do it in a specific way. If the driving force is only the money then you won’t care about your product, your processes or even your customers. You have seen guys who have no problem selling people fake or even harmful things without a care. Others are outright cons who will fleece gullible customers off their money and quickly move on to their next scam. Why bother establishing a business and waiting to make money over the long term when you can skim it off the top very quickly. No. we just need more and need it now. So forget about 2047. We will think of it when we get there.
- Lack of long term orientation
The Hofstede Center has done a lot of work studying world cultures. One of the variables they have considered is a people’s long term orientation. Now, you will agree with me that we have a big problem with thinking long-term in our ecosystem. No wonder we hardly have any local businesses that have stood the test of time. Most die early deaths because of that short-term-ism. Both entrepreneurs and their buyers are always looking to make maximum benefits from each encounter. Buyers don’t think of growing their supplier base over the long term. Sellers do not want to think or invest in growing their markets over the calendars. Your suppliers don’t care to do anything that will give a chance at being around tomorrow. Your banker doesn’t even imagine you being around 20 years so they make loan products of 3 to a maximum of 5 years. With all that lack of confidence in our going concern you find that even when an entrepreneur has a good thing going on, they also do not envision their long term in it and instead of investing long term they had better move their profits to other things just in case.
Just a small favour; would you please share this article in your social sites after reading. It is good for your friends too. You never know how it will affect their lives. Thank you