by Alan Ong’ang’a
Many young Kenyans today yearn to be entrepreneurs. They long to attain financial freedom. They want to influence things and attract fame. They want to make lots of money. With money comes the easy life and social recognition. How we so hate living in obscurity!
Yet so, many often have the wrong objectives for wanting to venture into entrepreneurship. Their sole objective is to make money and become famous. Granted, every business launched is in it to make money. That is the core design of capitalism. But when your sole aim of establishing a business is to amass wealth and become socially acceptable, then you are setting yourself up for a very big disappointment.
Many young Kenyans have been conditioned to believe that unless they launch their businesses and become self-employed, then they have not achieved anything. It is almost the same as being conditioned to believe that unless you own a parcel of land somewhere, then you have not achieved anything yet. So what happens is that young people like Robert live with a heavy
weight on their shoulders. They want to fit in. They want to become somebody. It does not matter whether they have a passion for entrepreneurship in the first place. So long as he or she can introduce him or herself as an entrepreneur, then the details will follow later. But hey, there is nothing wrong with working eight-to- five for the rest of your professional life. Many millions of professionals have lived fulfilling lives knowing too well that entrepreneurship was not for them. So they made a conscious decision to plan their finances within the realms of formal employment. With that comes delayed gratification. Financial discipline is needed to make delayed gratification a success.
Every day social media and online material is inundated with young people who pontificate about how aspirations to build careers out of everyday eight-to- five is to have one’s vision in the wrong lane. These young men and women posit that one cannot attain professional fulfilment unless they are running their own enterprises. And so the race heats on. People are registering business with blistering pace as the race to become the next entrepreneur heats on. And part of the consequence is that majority of these businesses end up making the wrong statistics.
Studies done in the past have shown that out of every 5 small and medium enterprises that launch their operations, only 3 live to celebrate their third birthday. That is a 60% success rate, considering that youth unemployment stands at a staggering 67% of the total unemployed workforce. However, the SME sector’s contribution to the GDP is promising and thus youth enterprises should be encouraged. The SME sector has an employment absorption rate of between 12% – 14% and this figure is expected to grow considering that 98% of all registered business are from the informal sector.
But why do many young enterprises fail? The pressure to become entrepreneurs perhaps is too great for some to weather the storm. Many young minds will launch startups without enough managerial experience to help navigate the murky waters of the business world. When this happens, what follows is an array of poor business decisions, one-man show approach and a tendency to suffer founders’ syndrome. Coupled with poor financial management, since most can barely afford to hire financial experts to manage their books, the businesses’ only path is an assured oblivion.
In today’s start-up ecosystem, investors want to not only invest in businesses. More than that, they want to invest in people. When the people presenting their ideas have no known track record of business management, or any work experience, then getting an investor’s money becomes a hard-sell. What follows is frustrations with getting financing capital to plug any deficits that the business might be experiencing. Matters are not helped by the fact that financial institutions will only finance business that have gained some traction.
A considerable segment of the young population will run businesses on the side as they also juggle with formal employment. For most, it is a means of making the extra bucks. I have been in that bandwagon. For some, it is a matter of waiting for the business to gain some traction before they can quit and run their outfit full time. But often, the result of such experiments is failed deliveries, disgruntled customers, and missed deadlines leading to missed opportunities.
The biggest source of business is happy customers. When you fail to deliver because you could not convince your boss that you had to dash out to attend to an ‘emergency’ then your customers will find the next available service provider. When this starts happening, what follows is the cancer that has led to many business failing to celebrate their third birthdays.
We all have a role to play in our beloved Kenya. It is unfair to yourself and your customers to give expectations you know you may struggle to meet. Running a business requires a full time commitment. You cannot have it both ways and succeed. Those who quit formal employment to set up their outfits seldom fail. Why? They have the benefits of experience and the much needed time to form a personal relationship with the businesses and their clients.
If entrepreneurship is not for you, you need not apologize to anyone or feel like you are not an achiever. If running a business as a side job is too much work for you, then you owe it to everyone to quit and concentrate on the one thing that you know can give you fulfilment. If you feel a whole load of weight from your peers and mentors about launching a business, remind yourself that it is still okay to be an eight-to- five person.