Uganda has many small and medium enterprises. To a large number of students leaving the university annually into the job market, the gospel they are always taught is starting a business and being self employed. While this is easily embraced in principle, in practice, the road to business ownership has several challenges. Any intending entrepreneur must thus address certain issues before embarking on this journey. While statistics of failed businesses outweigh those that don’t, we must be optimistic and learn from both sides.
The debate on whether entrepreneurs are born or made has never ended. It is embraced that both factors apply. Emphasis is however placed on the ‘made’ factor because anything can be learnt. If people were born with certain traits, they would not try to do anything they felt they were not born with the trait for. Entrepreneurs must thus equip themselves with certain traits and values as they prepare to embark on an enterprise. This preparation is greatly lacking. People just wake up one morning and decide that they want to go into business simply because they have some cash on them. An in-depth discussion with them reveals lack of vision (dream), mission, goals and objectives, financial plans, growth and marketing strategies. These don’t have to be crystal clear at the very beginning, you can always do the fine tuning along the way but what is important is to have an idea, something you can work with at the beginning. Having a vision means that you have set your mind on achieving something and this will stir up courage and determination to pursue it.
Entrepreneurs often make the grave mistake of going it alone. There is great safety in numbers. Businesses that survive and make it through are mostly those operating as partnerships. Partnering offers a broad base of ideas and resources. Being a lone ranger entails drawing almost everything from yourself: unfortunately we are not self sufficient. We can’t downplay the value of advisory boards and mentors.
Many start-up enterprises do not plan sufficiently. It is not enough to merely have the money to start up a business. Planning is of utmost importance. Planning means that you will address all the resource needs in light of your targets. In other words, I must first know what I what to achieve; planning will give me available resources to achieve my targets. If you want to start a milk distributorship and your start-up capital is USD5000, it will entail establishing your costs with regard to the initial consignment, staff costs and transportation. You must develop a marketing and sales plan simply because you are not a monopoly. Many businesses omit intricate details and that leaves them struggling until they finally give up.
Managing people is a critical factor and one of the biggest challenges business owners face. A business owner must recognise that the human resource is the most valuable resource. A business owner must learn what makes his people tick and motivate, encourage and provide a work environment that will get them going every day. The mistake often made by business owners is to immediately translate motivation into a cost. There are simple cost free ways to motivate staff. Initially, you can begin by constantly commending staff for a job well done.
Integrity in business is no longer optional. In a world that is constantly suffering from the devastation caused by corrupt men, governance has become an integral part of business operations. A business will take a while to build but it can crumble overnight because of unscrupulous dealings, bad books of accounts and the like. This has affected small businesses.
Some entrepreneurs give up too early. Good things don’t come easy. The great business leaders of today had their business failures yesterday. They didn’t let the failure crush them but rather learnt from them and applied lessons learnt in their next business ventures.
This discussion won’t be complete without pointing out the critical role of government which is to create an enabling environment for business to start. Peace and stability are perhaps the most important factors. The financial system is critical to meeting capital requirements at a low cost. A proper environment will ensure protection of business owners on the legal front.