Big companies were once small

By Vision Reporter

THE <i>New Vision</i>’s “Pakasa Youth Awards” never ceases to inspire. The series of articles that have been running since July highlights mainly youth taking their destiny into their own hands by setting up businesses to survive.

By Paul Busharizi

THE New Vision’s “Pakasa Youth Awards” never ceases to inspire. The series of articles that have been running since July highlights mainly youth taking their destiny into their own hands by setting up businesses to survive.

The businesses span from real estate development to mandazi making, earning hundreds of millions a year to a few thousand shillings a month. But despite their varied experiences and the challenges they have faced, the common denominator seems to be the sense of hope ringing in their narration. A quality they do not teach you in business school.

About five years ago, a World Bank survey conducted with the help of Makerere University Business School determined that Uganda was the most entrepreneurial country in the world. A subsequent survey showed us to be second only to Chile.

The question was asked, that if we were the most entrepreneurial country in the world, even ahead of the US and Europe, how come we are not in the league of bigger economies?

There are basically two types of entrepreneurship – necessity and opportunity. In the first instance, enterprises are set up to meet subsistence needs, while in the second, businesses are set up to take advantage of market gaps.

The study and the Pakasa Youth Awards illustrated that the overwhelming number of Ugandan business are set up to meet daily requirements.
It also showed that the challenge is for Ugandan businessmen to transition into opportunity entrepreneurs.

This is a challenge that the likes of Enterprise Uganda grapple with every day. To illustrate the issue, according to Enterprise Uganda’s research, there is only one indigenous Ugandan business that has been handed down from one generation to the next.

Handing down a business goes beyond handing over the physical infrastructure and staff. There are the softer issues of the vision and mission, which form the culture and work ethic of the business. I think this is where our businessmen and women trip up.

It cannot be easy to develop a thriving business that will outlive you if your attitude is one of subsistence – that you will eat everything before you die.
Which brings us to an interesting presentation made last week by one of our leading businessmen.

In a presentation to the Institute of Chartered Public Accountants of Uganda, “An entrepreneur’s journey to business growth and development and personal development,” Mohan Kiwanuka, a proprietor of Oscar Industries, outlined what it takes to be an entrepreneur.

He made very many telling points, and the nominees of Pakasa would be well served if they went away with two lessons.
The first, that growth is imperative to survival. Because good ideas are copied Kiwanuka counselled: “Growth is not an option. It is a survival imperative. It raises the bar to block or disadvantage potential competitors.”

A business’ growth can be managed by expanding existing capacity, supplying additional market needs, expanding your product range or supplying yourself, he said.

He went on to say that the entrepreneur is the most important part of the business and it, the business, will fail or succeed depending on three questions the business owner must answer – Do You know yourself? Do you understand your environment? And are you committed100%?

He rounded off his presentation by saying, “The future is in your hands oh sorry in your heads.”

In a 20-page presentation, Kiwanuka, who should know, spared no space on profit and losses, cash flows and all those technical accounting terms. His presentation dealt on the mind of the entrepreneur.

The point is that for the Ugandan businessman to rise to the next level of his craft, he has to work more on his mind than on the external environment.

The Pakasa youth will be well served to heed Kiwanuka’s advice. They need to dream beyond feeding, housing and clothing themselves and make serving more and more people wherever demand for their mandazis, saucepans or bushera can find a market.

A business can only grow as big as the vision of its founders, and all big businesses started as small businesses.

Big companies were once small