Why SMEs MUST respond to call of professionalism 

The business today is on the move with dynamism taking center stage.What effectively worked out yesterday may not work out today and also applicable in the future. It’s an industry that can’t forsake elements of  creativity&innovation, professionalism as well as many other success ingredients for sustainability. 

    Traditional SMEs suffered largely due to intimidating business environmental factors both internal and external. Just to point out competition,fair play with  bigwigs in the industry was a major headache due to limiting factors and weaker muscles to match competitive space threatening survival rate.With the changing time, several transformation has been evident that continues to uplift most of SMEs for the good but SME owners must ensure their internal and external capabilities are in better position to live up the transformation journey for productivity.We have to stop and reconsider how we run the SMEs, most have been casually handled and the results have always been on point with the increased business stagnation as well as collapsing cases. 

    According to Enterprise Research Centre latest findings, insufficient professional management skills takes large responsibility of averagely 56% of SMEs failures and one in three business having 5-24 staffs have considered and ensured professional management skills training in the previous 12 months. Giving a closer attention at the findings and exploring  current rapidly changing business environment forms the basis of this article to explore necessity of professionalism in our SMEs. 

    Consider  these insights ;

    Business and owner must remain a different entity. Separating the two has been a major headache for several SMEs, this is mostly evident in financial management where a number of SMEs still suffers from poor bookkeeping management by  having business transactions and personal transactions jointly. This continously denies SMEs the chance to closely evaluate business financial performance for appropriate planning and adjustment. 

    SMEs must now learn to incorporate high level of competencies especially in areas where it’s incapacitated. Most of SMEs is crowded with family members as part of the management team even without appropriate knowledge and skills to tackle the responsibilities.Owners must now accept the change of time and put appropriate measures to acquire qualified employees not necessarily family members that will bring on table key competencies ensuring business productivity. Even as the owner, transfering management responsibility to a team with key skills and qualifications to oversee the business operations on your behalf is a prudent move to boost profitability. You don’t have to cling on  running the business single-handedly even when you lack necessary competence. Proper structuring  through assistance of experts and mentors is necessary here to come up with positions, qualifications and responsibilities of required employees as per business rising demands to boost business productivity. 

    SMEs owners must take good care of motivational factors within a business. General welfare of employees must be a priority, working conditions should be very appealing to the staff for their productivity. Renumeration remains to be a contentious issue and must be handled with a lot of professionalism. Proper communication must be made to staff on structure and policies of payment which must be understood and respected by both parties. Pay should be directly proportional to productivity. It is very much out of order to fail paying employees for several months and making them beggars after diligently performing their duties, even during worse business time, communication and consultations plus negotiations  should be considered to handle the issue with sobriety. 

    Continous training and development has been underrated by most SMEs but it is standing out now and shouldn’t be avoided. This should always be planned by coming up with structured skills development plan outlining current and future skills /talents requirements in comparison with your business strategy so as to improve business performance and employee retention. It is true that business environment is rapidly changing and employees should continously be equipped with necessary skills and knowledge to tackle current and future role demands. 

    Investing in physical structures and positive  business environment such as office fixtures & fittings, office layouts, healthy business environment for operations clearly portrays professionalism. Some SMEs have outdated and unmaintained structures making them so untidy forcing them to hire out places which is far much costly to please visitors. Proper restructuring to incorporate condusive and attractive layout gives that positive physical outlook as well as aspect of  professionalism. 

    Business planning is a key documentation that escalates business professionalism. Through a clearly and adequately developed business plan, SMEs get the roadmap in regards to organizational planning, management planning, financial planning, marketing, operational planning in line with business vision. Planning is a key professionalism attribute that will help SMEs achieve its set goals with ease and productivity. 

    Business ethics is very essential for sustainability of any business. As a professional, an SME sets policies, values, code of conduct and procedures that must be clearly understood by all and religiously adhered to so as to promote business culture in line with the vision. These policies also saves you as an SME owner from any illegality as well as unfair labour engagements. 

    Customer is the king, hence a lot of professionalism must be cultivated during customer service delivery. Internal customers mainly employees must always be motivated to provide positive services. Since they represent your business to external customers, consider working on those motivational factors such as renumeration,training and development, condusive working environment, appraisals to the business advantage.Positive interactions and engagement with external customers is paramount,always have a listening ear to customer needs and promptly provide market demands, timely response to customer’s queries and needs, always be on lower tone even when communication is fired up to atleast calm down a client for sober engagement.Being submissive to mistakes and minimising shifting blames and working diligently to prevent reoccurrence of mistakes shows the might  of professionalism in business.  


    Poor bookkeeping is derailing many SMEs,we have to get it right. 

    Unsustainability of SMEs is  one of the economic challenges many countries are still grappling with. The current state has been attributed to lots of complaints from financial issues, hostile business environment, insufficient mentorship and empowerment among other many sensible reasons. All these are mostly directed to the authorities of the day to address and come up with effective road map to uplift the “the future business leaders/companies”. This talent of shifting blames is what is even hurting lots of SMEs who awaits everything to be provided, some have been in better position that could have ensured massive and smooth take off but aren’t being sincere about their  seriousness as well as professionalism in running effective business.
    I was once hired together with other great team of consultants to develop a viable business plan for an expansion of a certain SME which was on the verge of acquiring expansion grant, when we requested for all book keeping records for the past 5 years the business has been in operation, we got a shock of the year as some 30 pages exercise book  was presented to us  with unclear records, many inconsistencies, unrecorded transactions atleast for the current financial year the business was in operation. Other records for the previous financial years were mostly not found. The efforts by the owner to contact previous accountants for more records all proved futile, we were left only with option of using the business transactions records available such as bank statements, receipts, credit notes, sales receipts, purchases receipts among other documents which were luckily available to atleast trace the operation pattern of business to allow us make the realistic financial  projections. This key business component of book keeping was really suffocating the business denying it the opportunity to grow, how could it be able to monitor its performance for necessary adjustments without proper records? The business was operating on hand to mouth by the owner and its timely demise was just few steps away despite having innovative and viable products. 
    This is the same story script that is killing many viable SMEs thanks to ignorance, laziness, lack of knowledge and skills on bookkeeping. We must change the game to save these crop of SMEs from crumbling down and realize their full potentials.     

    Let’s explore some of the avoidable bookkeeping mistakes that startups and SMEs must learn to fight. 

    Procrastination – many keep piling up work until it becomes too late, it’s always wise to do every bit of accounting everyday to avoid bulk and threatening accuracy plus consistency of the records. 

    Mixing business account and personal account – this complicates everything and doesn’t give space for analysis of the true picture of business performance. Greatest impact here also befalls Cashflow management as you can’t properly monitor and manage operational requirements. Business and the owner must be treated as different entities. 

    Disorganization and not updating  records – every transaction must be properly filed and promptly recorded to ensure zero information is lost so as to have easier analysis, evaluation and control of business score card. 

    Zero backup system – precautions must be designed incase of risk occurance in form of secure backup system to ensure no critical information is lost. Risk management must be treated with a lot of seriousness to avoid crippling down a business, in this case, computerised accounting software offers genuine solution with its  data backup cloud system. 

      What makes bookkeeping critical for SMEs;     

    Cashflow management :maintance of day to day transaction records is paramount for keeping up to operational requirements such as purchases, overheads etc. With the proper records close evaluation of cash in flow and outflow is easier so that your business don’t suffer cashflow issues ,debt and credit imbalances that frustrates working operations. 

    Gauge business performance :records provides true picture in regards to business profitability as well as productivity. It allows room for adjustments, gap identification to advance better strategy as per the reports. Financial instruments such as income statements, balance sheet, return on investment, stock turnover, makeup, margins helps in constant measuring and evaluation of business abilities.

    Tool for planning : with the records, budgeting and forecasting is made easier in advance for  purchases,production level,costing, resource management in regards to business  factors. Effective management of overheads plus other costs and expenses are properly planned for so that business operations isn’t interrupted by all means.                      

    Control :Changes in costs, expenses, debtors, creditors can be closely monitored through clearly kept records and proper decisions put in place such that your business isn’t negatively impacted from bad debts,poor Cashflow, pricing and minimise wastage from internal theft, fraud. Proper and consistent record keeping will as well provide transparency through avenues for tracking errors, inconsistencies of transactions in time and in future for more accountability.          

    Decision making : Information from the records  allows for determination of trends, to forecast, set goals, strategies, resource management to the benefit of the business in various avenues from sales, purchases, pricing, marketing, production all towards the productivity and profitability of the business.                             

    Tool for seeking financing :loan financiers, investors look at financial instruments such as  balance sheet, profit and loss account, Cashflow statement, projections to engage in deals to assess business performance for fruitful business engagements. Proper bookkeeping shows seriousness of the owner to both internal and external partners for any productive negotiations. From the financial instrument, you are able to derive business plan for internal and external use such as seeking funds for expansion,working capital etc          

    Tax obligation : for you to determine proper tax obligation, book of accounts helps you when they are accurately and consistently maintained. It’s also legal requirement to be on fair side with authorities in regards to tax issues whenever there is call for scrutiny of the books of accounts.             

    Most of transformation have been evident in the accounting industry for the good. All the undertakings have largely been paper-based accounting but so far computerised systems have been developed making it easier  for business owners to closely track, monitor, evaluate, analyze, control their  business transactions with much ease in a more secure nature and faster.  

     Why computer – based accounting systems are necessary for SMEs,      

       Saves money- It’s very cost friendly in terms of subscription rate and return on investment, work is similarly done faster and with reduced errors that may be costly when using paper-based accounting system. For similar price on paper – based accounting system, you get more quality and presentable work when properly used and less “donkey” work from accountant.      

    Auto updates – Accounts automatically updates  as per transaction,bank feeds, expenses, receipts, reports. All the calculations and the entries are done in line with accounting principles incorporated in the software thus eliminating time wasting and errors in case of manual entries. 

    Secure – It brings about multiple location data backup system free from any kind of disaster or manipulation either man-made or natural. 

    Easier access to data – Owner and other parties of the business can quickly and easily access all the data just by a simple click anywhere, it makes it effective for close monitoring and control  of business performance by the owner. 

    Improved accuracy and reliability – every bit of accounting from calculations, entries, error detection are adequately handled by the software to the minutest detail. 

    There are different categories of accounting softwares in the market with various features to satisfy particular business needs. As an SME, it is wise to consider series of aspects from security, compatibility, easy usability, flexibility, cost among other convenient features.                                                                                           If you are one of the SMEs already using this new concept then you will testify that you are step ahead but those entrepreneurs who are considering adoption of accounting softwares, I got you covered in this article and I will help you with some insights on some of the most viable accounting softwares that are proving fruitful to several SMEs, this is just an eye opener to improve your record management and it’s even more wiser to research and engage a consultant in order to push this agenda in your venture. Now let’s get down to business, take your time to consider these:

    Quickbooks online – with over 2 million trusted and satisfied subscribers already, it takes care of SMEs needs with its scalable functions and reputable structure for exclusively managing accounting operations. All its package is equally effective to beginners as well as veteran accountants. This system does automatic update of business transactions which are accessible to all users in a single dashboard outlining business finance profile as well as other accounts. This software also comes with excess of 40 automatic financial report features such as balance sheet, Cashflow statement, income statement among others which can be derived on a quarterly basis across the business financial year. 

    Freshbooks – this is mostly ideal for SMEs and freelancers due to its well -structured features, pricing and support. It’s inexpensive and effective for time tracking not forgetting expense management as well as growing in line with business needs. Its  mobile app is as well compatible to iPhone, Android and mobile Web users. Customer support is a priority here as there exists video tutorials, customer engagement and interactions with with vendors to boost customer satisfaction. Security features ranges from HTTPS and triple location data backups. 

    Wave – this accounting software is ideal for SMEs with number of  employees below 9. It effectively handles daily miscellaneous processes and reporting such as balance sheet, invoicing, payroll management, receipts. But just to note, it lacks Cashflow management or traceability feature of bills and payment. 

    Xero – It’s a perfect new home for quickbook users in need of new accounting software solution due to its Mac integration feature, integrated payroll module, bank reconciliation, expense claims, financial reporting. 

    Zoho Books – It has standing out features such as automatic payment notification and bank feeds, invoice tracking, time tracking, automatic work flows, online customer collaboration. It has native integration with over 25 Zoho apps. It also offer customer support same as Freshbooks. 

    What you need to know towards sustainable online marketing 

    Marketing is a key business component that oils and propels the prosperity of any business,strong marketing plan always works to the advantage of business both in the short run and long run. This component has always been initiated through the traditional techniques but modern technology through Internet is a God’s timely answered prayer to many businesses especially SMEs who have been struggling to adequately compete giants in the industry. Any SME that want  to guarantee its untimely extinction should just avoid digital marketing. 
    Many businesses have welcomed this and have diverted their energy towards online presence as well as accommodating other e-commerce platforms for better business efficiency. Most of the strategies have proved fruitful despite series of manageable challenges, some have been stuck with little or no knowledge on how to go about all this fresh  concept and are still several strides short their venture’s potential. In this article I will explore effective strategies that you need to consider to strengthen some of the weaknesses and inabilities towards efficient online marketing.

    Most business have been putting more emphasis on short term strategies with nearly instant return on investment but remains to be unsustainable over time. In order to have competitive advantage over the intensive online business competition,several strategies must be considered to ensure long-term sustainability of the business. Here are several insights you can count on to sharpen your digital marketing :

    1. Drive website traffic – Having many more people accessing your site gives room for potential leads that can be optimized to loyal customers. Consider adopting various online marketing tools to generate more traffic such as;   
    • Pay-per-click – here your agents get to click on the shared links for pay thus increasing the number site traffic within a short run as well as brand promotion and awareness not forgetting lead generation. 
    • Affiliate marketing –  this basically involves using people who believes in your products & services  as agents and referrals to promote the business on basis of commission, this multiples the traffic depending on the Web chain of your affiliates.
    • SEO – a strategy to improve search engine rankings so as to boost brand reliability and traffic on the site whenever people searches for products you provide. 
    • Offline marketing – broadcast media commercials , trade fair helps build an integrated outlook to boost digital efforts in terms of lead generation. 

    Some website may be outdated and the set lead generation programs are increasingly stagnant requiring some overhaul to boost online presence and drive website traffic. It’s necessary to consider different dimensions so as to realize desired results:

    • Diagnose and understand the problem – to solve a problem you need to understand it first, previous website may be cluttered with information pieces, lack of clear calls-to-actions for visitors. The general design being outdated making it hard for subscribers to access information. Accessibility by visitors using various mediums may be an issue here limiting the traffic. After evaluation, proper redesigning should capture the gaps identified and clearly outline the brand story, values, trust, efficiency and reliability. Interaction plus constant connection with customers is key to generate extra leads. 
    • Master your audiencestudy and understand your target audience with their segmentation in the industry so as to have better connection with people served and provision of high quality content in a reliable and accessible medium. 

    2. Vibrant social media account – Increasing online presence in various social media networking platforms such as twitter, facebook, Instagram, whatsapp, LinkedIn etc gives opportunity for constant engagement with potential audience leading to loyal customers and sales. Most of these avenues are crowded with competition and as entrepreneur building positive reputation and brand provides that needed edge in combination with quality up-to-date contents. 

    3.  Avoid over reliance on rented platforms for exposing your content, blogs – strive to manage your own online platforms as it provides you with the opportunity to build your own brand, customer base and evaluations on your product performance from the engagement with the audience to allow necessary adjustments. This also helps you evade the troubles whenever the rented sites make drastic changes or even shut down. 

    4. Search Engine optimization (SEO) –  be consistent to have your site more visible on search engines and possibly among the top thus driving more traffic on your site by people in search of product or services offered. The ranking depends entirely on site technical structure as well as strategy on content continous development. Investment here is to regularly create new quality content so as to index accordingly in the search engine. 

    5. Info graphics – Avail critical information for customers across online platforms, this works in capturing attention such as banners, digital instructional images, graphics designs and sharing your content in a quality manner in the crowded online platforms full of competitors. 

    6. Invest on engagements – Have in place online platforms that allows constant interactions with the customers from blogs, email, live chats, social media accounts and website. As you interact and share information,being honest as well as  genuineness matters a lot as it boost your brand and reliability. Constant communication, commenting and engaging audience in blogs are small things that can’t be ignored. 

    7. Affiliate marketing – You don’t have to do every bit of  marketing only by yourself,get people who understand and believes in your products to provide information and increase market base on basis of commission. Referrals are the best marketers a company should ever have, necessary investment and strategies should be incorporated to boost online market domination. 

    8. Sustainable competitive advantage 

    • Leading command – work smart to have more influence and being dependable for information plus content shared. This translates to remarkable visibility in the industry on continous basis and also more market mentions and links in relation to the contents. More links helps you create that unique link killer profile providing competitive gap that will take your digital competitors longer time and effort to bridge. 
    • Superior content – make it hard for competitors to replicate what you provide in relation to investing in good content, drive positive engagement with your audience and quality reviews as a key differentiator. Expert opinions and user contribution helps build quality content. 
    • Killer presence on new social media platforms that are less dominated before others – this lays foundation building for vibrant brand and platform domination as others are still stuck in uncertainties, this provides upper hand whenever competitors attempts replication in the future. 
    • Superior user experience – Do testing & usability gauging for site and services in order to make necessary refinements. Superfast access to the site by users of various platforms works in boosting service experience to the business advantage. 
    • Maintain blogs and posts – keeping your audience always updated improves engagements and interactions translating to sales leads and customer loyalty. 

    9. Consider super remarketing Due to the prevailing online marketing landscape getting your content noticed is harder due to the fierce competition. To prevail this turbulent, use of social media remarketing helps double engagement and visibility, this remarketing is beneficial if done in consideration of demographics, behaviours and engaging quality contents. 

     10. Republishing on various medium- increasing exposure of existing content through promoting the posts in other platforms to reach wider target audience,interact with all who engage the content to create atmosphere for optimizing leads to loyal customers and sales. 

    11. Social ads – create positive impression via influencers and opinion sharpers through tags, brand awareness by engaging in brand related campaigns, trends atleast for pennies. This promotion ensure the content get to larger targeted audience and also guarantee of reliability, positive perception of the contents. 

    12. Content marketing – This exists in many forms and proper selection should be done for realization of goals with the set strategies. e-books, on-site – blogs can be used to generate traffic, attraction of sign-ups, engagements and interactions. Contents should be versatile, informative and reliable by consumers. 

    13. Email marketing –   Obtain  subscribers from content engagement, social media followers, customer base, and available new opportunities. This is effective with resounding return on investment with close to zero cost incurred. You are able to share current information newsletters or any piece and get high chances of engagements with your targeted audience while also improving the site traffic. 

    14. Engaging digital marketing consultants/coaches – working closely with experts to bring out professionalism where you’re incapacitated is wise, the consultants understand the digital marketing dynamics and are in better position to offer guidance for return on investment. 

    To be successful and grow your business and revenues, you must match the way you market your products with your prospects learn about and shop for your products”-Brian Halligan, CEO – HubSpot 

    What it takes to be a vibrant online entrepreneur 

    World has recently been defined as a global village connecting people, ideas, regions just from the comfort of your abode, all this made possible with the rapid revolution in the technology industry. These positive moves have come along with series of opportunities that people are continously tapping to advance their livelihood with the biggest beneficiary being the business sector. Barriers accompanied with international trade has been largely contained with minimal expenses incurred. Business communication has become even more efficient ranging from B2B,B2C,C2B,G2B,G2G among others, all this translating to better service delivery and productivity. 
    The significant strides that has been brought by these advancements are overwhelming but let me focus on some of the entrepreneural opportunities that are continously opening up and are positively changing lives as well as dreams, many have confused these entrepreneural opportunities with job opportunities(get to know why in my next article), maybe it’s because many still doesn’t understand the whole concept about entrepreneurship. Majority defines and understands entrepreneurship in their own terms but what is common about all is that it’s about risk-taking, viewing challenges /complains/gaps as opportunity, creativity&innovation, resilience, determination, effective coordination of resources to start and run a business. 
    For an online entrepreneur, the desired attributes are interestingly unique that you need to learn and adopt as part of your venture success, below are key highlights :

    1. Focus – Knowing your ultimate goal gives you what to direct all your energy and action towards its achievement. You can’t just afford to lose your eyes off the ultimate price,keep moving despite any kind of distractions faced, and always be in flexible position to be creative and make quick informed that will achieve the set goal. Being able to set balance between job and other engagements such as family, friends, social interactions among other activities that may divert your attention in regards to achieving set targets must be adequately planned for. 
    2. Courage – From the start, many people including family and friends won’t take you seriously when you make a decision to work from the comfort of your home and always being busy on your phone or computer, infact many will throw all nasty names towards you as  being lazy, idle, foolish…. It takes high level of courage to overcome all these and get out and work towards the idea which you strongly believe in and let the results of your move silence the critics. There are many success stories of online entrepreneurs who exited well paying jobs among other lucrative engagements to further their passion and ideas online and the results are just amazing despite set of challenges faced. Many businesses who have defied all odds and set their foot towards online presence mostly have success stories to narrate. In summary, trust your idea and instinct not forgetting to treat the word impossible as nothing more than a motivation. 
    3. Hardwork- There is no shortcut in the journey of success and if you are among those who easily subscribe to quick and easy cash which by the way don’t last for long then online entrepreneurship isn’t your thing, just stay away. Here you must  have the strong will to work, learn everyday from your own experiences as well as education and mentorship from others. To get it straight away, your income will be directly proportional to the kind of effort and sacrifice you are willing and ready to offer.
    4. High level of organisation – Organization plus planning are some of the important ingredient to efficiency and success for an online entrepreneur. Every resources, information, security passwords among other important folders must be within reach whenever need of use arises so as to save time. Proper planning on how to adequately execute your tasks must be properly determined for efficiency. 
    5. Effective business planning – main ingredient of success is proper planning, as an online entrepreneur having in place clearly outlined business plan touching on the key objectives of the business and proper strategy to achieve them is very key. This will ensure key aspects of the business ranging from the finances, management, product & services, organisation and marketing are properly designed in reference with the business vision for more efficiency.
    6. Risk management – just like any other entrepreneur, risk taking is inevitable. Ensure the risks of business you are venturing into can be manageable on your side. Having risk management techniques in place will enable you minimize losses and unnecessary expenses that your business might incur.  

    Give the youths empowerment and mentorship on entrepreneurship in order to sail 

    With the current economic climate: skyrocketing unemployment rate, retrenchments as companies closes down one after the other with few having the courage to face the conditions head – on and establish new opportunities for the job hungry citizens. These are the true terms on the ground that atleast here in Kenya we are getting used to hoping that liberation will soon descent upon its people. But wait, did you know that Kenyan youths are increasingly overeducated and unemployed with high influx of thousands of them to the job market annually with micro-employment opportunities especially for those in dire need of the white collar jobs? Unfortunately some are even becoming unemployable as they focus a lot of effort to acquiring the academic papers with little or no work experience to satisfy the employers whose job demands are rising day by day. With various partners having diagnosed the notable problem at hand, attention  have been directed to entrepreneurship to save the day so as to give youths income opportunities as well as employment, this has been a wise move ever as positive outcomes can now be evident. But looking on the other side of the coin, several start-ups in Kenya are just becoming unsustainable with several suffering premature deaths shuttering  many young entrepreneural dreams, that’s the realistic reason  to weigh in again to the subject entrepreneurship so as to unlock several inconsistencies experienced so far in the effort of ensuring successful entrepreneurship.

    Many are leaning towards entrepreneurship with each person having his/her own driving factor, unfortunately some have the inner drive but are seriously stuck on the way to approach the whole subject and get started hence are getting trapped to serious enemy of success in the name of procrastination. Issues like sources of financing, profitable business ventures, knowledge and skills in running successful business, unfavorable business environment continues to challenge several aspiring and start-up entrepreneurs. With all this in play, it’s openly evident that series of  support of all kinds must be accorded to the youths who are increasingly responding to the call of entrepreneurship for the sustainability of their dreams.

    Let’s first look at empowerment as source of hope to our young entrepreneurs :

    If you ask any aspiring or start-up entrepreneur the major obstacle they face in their quest for entrepreneurship, then the definite answer would be lack of financing. But it’s very encouraging that these young entrepreneurs are being won over by the fact that as an entrepreneur it’s key to come up with creative and viable business ideas offering variety of societal solutions, and financiers especially venture capitalists will be at disposal to pour in life to many of the ideas. Renowned corporates, entrepreneurs, governments have come to the rescue but the youths still need more to satisfy increasing demand. The bureaucracies involved in the issuance of government grants needs to be harmonized so as to attract and fairly allocate funds to genuine applicants. Funds are ending up in the wrong people’s pockets in the name of misappropriation. 

    These young entrepreneurs are more blindfolded with traditional bank financing as the mainly source of financing, more internal financiers such as family and friends should come in to support viable dreams rather than advocating for job seeking all the time, that support is very key as it reprieves the entrepreneurs from frustrations that may be accompanied with seeking external financing. 

    Knowledge and information is also another key element of empowerment that needs a lot of attention by relevant authorities to ensure some of the entrepreneurs with little knowledge on business management as well as other various business aspects get that desired enlightenment through education and trainings so as to be well placed to properly tackle business issues at hand. 

    Growth and development  is a journey that requires a lot of guidance and offering of helping hands to realize perceived destination. This is the absolute reason why mentorship programs must come in place to offer part of the solution to the business unsustainability in the country. Business environment is very dynamic with rapid changes requiring rapid responses from various quarters such as technology, competition, political and economic aspects, government policies etc. The young entrepreneurs should be offered direction atleast from professionals and experts in terms of business counseling and consulting so as to courageously tackle the dynamics for their survival. On a very positive note, several corporates such as financial institutions, colleges as well as government agencies and successful entrepreneurs have continously given intention of supporting this worthy course by investing in business incubation centres and programs not forgetting various foundation programs to support the youths, as earlier stated the step made so far is still little but promising that’s why an appeal for more partners to join hand to offer support for our young entrepreneurs through various social entrepreneurship programs will definitely do good our economies to the joy of everyone.

    Learning from failure stories than lots of success rhetorics gives the young people better ground on how to overcome challenges which is a daily encounter of entrepreneurs. It brings about the spirit of resilience and patience that has been missing in many, all this can be advanced  by the veterans as a coaching support to the young dreams as well as specialist support in the various avenues they difficulties are faced as a way of consultancy and counseling. 

    We made the bravest step of embracing and advocating for entrepreneurship let’s again work towards the sustainability so as to realize the mission and fruits of entrepreneurship especially among the youths. 

    Do you have a succession plan for your family business? The time is now to secure the future of your business. 

    Taking a close look at several businesses operated  in a country, the true picture of the result is that they are mostly family owned involving either nuclear or extended families. This clearly shows that these businesses are the country’s  economic powerhouses that to greater percentage controls local, national to global economies.

    With all that said, there are several studies  done on family businesses that is raising  redflag.  According to Conway Center for family business research, more than 30% of all family – owned businesses survive into the second generation. Twelve percent will still be viable into the third generation, with 3% of all family businesses operating at the fourth generation level and beyond. These findings requires a lot of close attention inorder to tackle the many arising issues from these businesses in terms of challenges faced, succession planning to ensure development and survival of family businesses from generation to generation.
    Family businesses has its own set of unique setbacks they face in the journey of growth and development from stage to stage, below are some highlights of the challenges faced:

    • Sibling /family rivalry – discomforts and misunderstandings  between family members either sibling/sibling or sibling /parents or in-laws always create a diverse political situations that works to the downfall of most family businesses. 
    • Overlapping of roles- In most cases roles and responsibilities are not clearly outlined according to abilities, this causes overstepping on others duties and inconsistencies in undertakings. 
    • Lack of talents – most of family members are always involved in the management& running  of the business even without emphasis on particular abilities and skills required  to perform assigned task, they rarely hire external employees with the talents to fill various position as they feel threatened by them.This has consistently threatened survival and development of many family businesses. 
    • No succession plan- Some owners of the family businesses find it very  unnecessary to think that at one time they would die, retire or encounter some disabilities relieving them from management of the business, many  owners fails to train, mentor or prepare successors  for the next generation of the business hence most of them rarely survive beyond third generation.  
    • Resistance to change- The older generation who are mainly the founders of the family business always feel comfortable with  maintainance of status quo on style of operation of the business and mostly frustrate efforts by the younger generation to bring about new spirit of change on how business affairs are handled.  
    • No clear exit strategy – Plans on how to close down the business or sale it when situation arises is always not considered by most owners of the family businesses.  
    • Controlled opinion and vision- Running of most of these businesses are always entirely family affairs and external skills and opinions of employees are rarely considered. This always excludes diversification of opinions that might grow the family business. 
    • Separation of family and business – The balancing act of family and business affairs has always been daunting task for several family business. 
    • No clear employment policies – Proper guidelines  on how to hire employees to various management positions remains to be an issue as most family members are always engaged in some key positions even without proper academic qualifications, skills and expertise required thus offering less interms of their role performance. 
    • Lack of long-run strategic plan – Designing business model and mechanisms that  adopt changes for  improvement has proved to be difficult as various generations remains comfortable with what is successful to them without consideration of the next generation. 
    • Lack of training –there is still laxity on training and development of employees to fit  various rapidly changing roles and tasks  thus  hindering space for business growth. 
    • High-turnover of “outsiders” employees – employees who aren’t family members always feel greater opportunities favors family members only thus making them sidelined in most of management roles and decisions forcing most of them to bolt out of the business due to frustrations and sidelining.  

    Overcoming the challenges 

    • Unwavering mutual trust – family business must uphold spirit of trust just like any other partnership business, everyone should be given space to perform his/her duties in line with  agreements to reduce possibilities of conflicts. 
    • Consider external perspective – Accommodating external views from advisors or even non-family staffs brings fresher and unique outlook in addressing several issues in running the business. 
    • Effective communication boundaries – proper communication structures  minimizes conflicts and provide appropriate avenues for addressing issues. 
    • Eradication of nepotism – Opportunities should be offered fairly to everyone and every household based on merits and abilities so as to create sense of ownership of the business and lower  political temperatures. 
    • Employment policies- Appropriate guidelines should be established  so that  anyone  involved in running the business affairs must meet requirements ranging  from academic qualifications, talents and expertise before joining the team, this will boost competence in the business. Being family member shouldn’t be considered as automatic qualification even without being eligible to set guidelines.  
    • Succession planning – It’s never too early to start succession planning, family businesses can involve experts and advisors to see them through as well as engaging family members in the same for smoother transition and future survival of the business in the next generation. 
    • Operation agreement – understanding should be set outlining duties and responsibilities in line with the abilities of an individual in the business to reduce overlapping of roles and conflicts. 

    Now that succession planning is proving to be an ideal issue for several aspiring and existing family business entrepreneurs, it’s very much necessary to learn and get insights on the same. Succession planning presents best chance  for maximization of opportunities and creation of multi-generational entity that embryoids family values and vision from generation to generation. According to Family Business Institute, 88% of current family business owners believes the same family or families will control their business in 5 years, but this is contrary to most of the succession statistics as survival of family businesses from generation to generation is glowingly becoming  unachievable due to unproper succession planning  element. Infact the clear state of succession is summarised in a statement  “The founder works and builds a business, the son take it over and is poorly prepared to manage and make it grow but enjoys the wealth, and grandson inherits a dead business and empty bank account”  

    Many disregard succession as they fix their minds not to think of retirement, death or even disability. Why is succession planning paramount in family business?

    Smooth transition of ownership – having all structures in place addressing management, estate taxes, liquidation will guarantee more professional and efficient change of control  in running the business from generation to generation with minimal setbacks. 

    Guidelines for succession planning 

    1. Create viable goals and objectives- Review current succession plan and make adjustments where possible so as to accommodate the desired goals. Consider creating joint vision, mission, goals and objectives for generation to generation, having everyone in the family business involved in  developing the goals brings out the sense of ownership. Family business owners can as well incorporate external professionals/advisors  and experts to sharpen its ambitions in right direction. 
    2. Structure decision-making process –Every decision made should be inclusive and informed in line with the business structures, dispute resolution mechanisms should be in place to tackle any arising conflicts. Every decision made should be formal and documented as part of the succession plan and every details of any step  made must be communicated to everyone in the family business.

      Establish succession plan-

      clearly identify  who are the successors thats those who will be owners and management team, all roles and responsibilities of each person in the business needs to be clearly articulated and understood by all. 

    4. Create a business and owner estate plan – buying or selling agreement should be fair resonating the value of the business, this can be done by the help of financial experts in valuing the business. All the tax issues need to be addressed  upon transfer of ownership, sale of the business or death of the owner so that the business isn’t negatively impacted during succession. Review owner estate plan to reduce taxes and inconsistencies during  transfer of assets to remaining owners. 
    5. Create the transition plan – timeline for implementing the succession plan must clearly stated, purchasing options either internal or external financing should be determined for efficiency. 

    Tips for consideration on  succession planning 

    •  It’s never too early to start planning – succession planning should start as soon as possible due to uneventful nature  life of business and ownership, starting at even 10 years before next generation is prudent as it provides adequate room for putting everything in order.Exit strategy remains important and should be predetermined, all these boosts smooth transition. 
    • Incorporate all stakeholders in the planning process – every member of the family business should be involved in every decision making process  and entire succession plan for creation of common vision and sense of ownership of the plan and business. 
    • Realistic outlook at family – owners must focus at the strengths and weaknesses of his /her siblings so as to ensure duties and responsibilities are realistically mandated, incases where there’s  lack of required talent or ability internally, family businesses should as well outsource without frustrating productivity of the business. 
    • Train and mentor successor – succession is a process and successors should be involved in the activities of the family business learning all aspects of operations, training and mentorship  as key to their development inorder to adequately fit in future roles. 
    • Engage external advisors with the planning – owners can seek support from attorney, financial experts or even consulting companies specialised in family business affairs to take them through all dynamics of succession planning. 

    Family business remains to be key pillar for many households even as many aspiring and established entrepreneurs have the inspiration to involve their kids to the entrepreneural culture as early as possible a move that some see as the answer to unemployment crisis in many countries. By understanding the basics of family business especially on succession planning highlighted above,  this  should be an eye opener to ensure their sustainability these powerhouses,ACT NOW. 

    “succession planning helps build the bench strength of an organization to ensure the long-term health, growth and stability” – Taela Wilson 

    Debt collection is a major headache to SMEs, it’s time we talk the way forward. 

    Cash flow is a key element towards business growth, this can be easily influenced by several factors holding up much of the cash that the business could be using to spearhead its survival and advancement. In this article major emphasis will be on debt management issues affecting several SMEs, It’s  very evident that business owners continue to suffer in the hands of bad debts, customers that “don’t want to pay”, customers that are “very forgetful” when it comes to making payments, friends and family members who still find it hard to understand that business is completely a different entity from  their relationship,the list may still go on and on according to your own experience as an entrepreneur. It’s very much in order to tackle  this issue and make insights that will renew  hope to many  falling entrepreneural dreams on debt management.

    Tacts to improve your debts collection efforts 
    Always take a positive move – When making credit sale it’s prudent to issue an invoice after which  you follow it with a reminder to  customer on terms of payment. Whenever a customer fails to pay within the stipulated time frame, try to be human enough and get to engage the client to understand why the payment was not made as this will allow room for negotiations and better grounds for debt recovery. 

    Do much of follow-ups – Always ensure you get in touch with your customers after making credit sales, have all their contact information and make effort of communicating with them through messages, emails, phone calls just to ensure they are reminded. Your tone during the communication should be positive as much as possible so that the message passed down to the recipient is in the right manner. 

    Diversify debt collection channels – have several alternative channels that can lead towards debt recovery in the event of failure of one, emulate the technological development by having in place debt management softwares, better communication channels, debt collection agents among others that may work well  within your capability. 

    Assign a staff for debt collection – Having an employee specifically in charge with debt recovery within the business will undoubtedly prove fruitful . Ensure that the employee is properly motivated and work closely with them providing any necessary support needed towards the success of their roles. 

    Debt collection agents – always be more than ready to work hand in hand with external debt collection agents to spearhead debt recovery in a very professional way. You need to do the background check of the agent to ensure its legality towards the task and elements involved.

    Background check of debtors –critical information about debtors needs to be known even before writing an invoice, you need to know their  credit worthiness,capacity to payback, conduct as it helps in making informed decision. Information from other institutions such as banks on credit worthiness can help avoid bad debts. 

    Clearly stated payment terms to be observed – Ensure your payments terms are properly stated in brochures, website and other available flatforms  that can be assessed by customers to easen payments.The  procedure should be simple to use as well as the  language so as to favour every client. 

    Have agreement with the  debtor properly written down – this move portrays seriousness of the contract that calls for adherence from the debtor within the stated terms. You will be able to get critical information from the client that will easen your task towards debt management at any avenue whenever there is breach of the contract. 

    Be ready to take legal action – whenever your other debt collection tacts fails, be more than willing to seek legal intervention to show seriousness of the matter to the debtor. You need to know that the life of your business depends on the recovery of your cash hence any legal effort towards the same is so much inorder. 

    Always keep on hold all the services and goods enjoyed by the debtor until previous payments are made – policy in place stopping the debtor from enjoying credit services before making previous payments as per the agreement will expedite debt collection so as to continue enjoying other business services by the client. 

    Write a demand letter – You need to understand that what you seek from the client is actually your money, after trying other polite avenues to seek payments without success, it’s necessary to pen down a note that will actually compel the debtor to honour the deal. 

    Give negotiation a room – some of these issues are best sorted out by bringing your debtor on table and get to understand his/her current situation limiting the payment agreement. You can settle down on a certain percentage waiver or restructuring of the payments agreement  to accommodate the current changes. Legal route that at some point  you may opt to seek might be much expensive than the amount you need to recover hence negotiation can work well to save the day. 

    Ways of avoiding future bad debts 

    • Design properly structured payment guidelines – ensure that the language used in the payment policy is simple and understandable by the customer for efficient use. The guideline needs to encourage prompt payment for quicker cash recovery. Upfront payment of atleast 50%of the cost of the product should be emphasized in the guideline to ascertain seriousness of the debtor towards payback. 
    • State due date for every payment – stipulated time frame will confine the debtors efforts towards adherence to payment guidelines so as to avoid any penalties that may be in place. 
    • Bank on persistent reminder – with the updated information records of debtors, be consistent in communication with them to keep them informed on payment requirement. The continous reminders will work to your benefit to avoid bad debts. 
    • Have proper customer information, contacts, addresses – key information about the customers such as history of credit worthness,conduct, capability of payback helps in making informed decision before writing an invoice that may result to bad debts. Always ensure contact information and addresses of your debtors are up to date for effective follow ups and communication for debt recovery. In cases where the debtor changes contact information as well as  addresses and threatens debt recovery capacity, always involve any institutions or agency that may have links towards getting to them.   

    “cash flow in business  is like gasoline during a road trip. You don’t want to run out on your trip, but you’re not doing a tour of gas station ”

    Thank you for reading my blog,let’s keep interactions going on as we share entrepreneurship issues for business developments. See you next time as I shall tackle different topic and issues. 

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