Monday, April 30, 2007

Journey of an Afropreneur: Focusing on the dream,

It's been almost 4 months since I made the leap into the business world and I've learned so much. Many times when I meet people they ask me what I'm up to and I tell them that I'm the Technology Director at a communications (web) company, they get all excited and start asking me for jobs (the good ones do that) the nasty ones just ask me for money, but what most people never seem to listen to or bother to hear is the challenges (financial and social) that are part of starting a business and getting it to actually make money.

I remember a few years back I had the opportunity to pick my friend Harry's(Startups In Kenya) brain on the important points of running a business. At that time I had no intentions or plans to venture into the unknown in fact I was content with "mediocre employment existence" and was happy getting a pay check and smiling for the boss and the clients who walked into the office. On the most important points I picked up from the whole conversation was the "Always have cash available (liquidity) for your operations, all the projects in the world will not help you if you don't have cash to pay your bills" that point stuck in my head through out the whole conversation and little did I know that a few years later I would need to apply it practically in a business I'm now trying to build.

Business has been quite slow almost non-existent the last couple of months and so our cash flow has really suffered. If you look at the bigger picture, the lack of cash for our day to day operations means that we can't focus on the issues that made as start this company. The way we've set ourselves up is that Product development is the core of our business, we build applications that we intend to sell and the only way to focus on that is to get one or two projects/clients out there to provide cash which will in turn fund the R&D aspects of product development. So far we've gotten a few good leads but nothing solid has come from it, any entrepreneur will tell you that leads/proposals don't pay your bills and a large number of them don't even translate into cash.

It's during times like this that one questions whether they made the right choice to leave the "comfort" and "security" (false comfort and security) of employment in order to pursue a dream and of late I have been pondering my decision. There is nothing wrong with doing this trust me, its human to question every decision especially the ones that radically change your life, and any entrepreneur will tell you they've been through this cycle several times some even go the step of filling out job applications, but what keeps me going is that currently our company is poised at the forefront of reaping the fruits of an ICT enlightened society and that change takes time. I'm not the most optimistic guy in the world actually I'm a very strong believer in pessimism but you there are times when I can't help but just believe in the dream. I can't help but think that even the most successful businesses went through times of drought but like the mythical phoenix arose to glory (sounds like a line from a movie).

The question is "What do you do when you feel like you can't go on?" well I'm no psychologist (Dr.Frank Njenga kando) but in my view its important to do the following things, they've helped me a lot:

  1. Read the mission of your company every morning when you wake up and at night time before you go to bed.It helps to remind you what your fighting for and living for.
  2. Goals and Results. Set the goals and always measure the results, just to see where your coming from and where your heading.
  3. Never be to proud to admit that the you need a break, after all building a business can be likened to running a marathon the pace at which you run is very important, if you sprint you burn out.
  4. Focus on the bigger picture and then break it down into the small pieces that help build the masterpiece. It's easier for you to deal with stuff when you break it down into smaller and manageable tasks.

There probably a few more other things you can do, and I do welcome my fellow afropreneurs to throw in their 2 cents on this. Success comes with blood and sweat and don't be fooled into thinking there is any other way.

2 comments:

startupkenya said...

Bravo Quadimoso four months and going, great achievement. You can be certain though that the question you have posed (What to do when you feel you can't go on) will recur several times in your journey. All I can tell you is that as bad as the situation looks at that moment its usually overblown. The next day things won't seem as bad, and as the days go on you will even wonder why you were so worried before.

Your posts are really inspiring even for those of us who have been around for some time, keep up the good fight.

AFRICAN LIZ said...

This posting is simply the prescription i need at this time. Your experience motivates me in my biashara pursuits. I have come to learn that it takes uncompromising belief in one self and unshakable determination to succeed.