The entrepreneur’s toughest call

The entrepreneur’s toughest call

On 11th October 2016, Mustapha B. Mugisa, CEO Summit Consulting Ltd was invited by Uganda Development Bank to give a talk about business sustainability during the bank’s customer engagement forum. Many bank customers had expressed serious concerns of business failure following the prevailing harsh economic conditions in the country. Mustapha had been tasked to give insights explaining why most entrepreneurs fail businesses and how to sustain them in the wake of economic volatility.

When he walked onto the podium, Mustapha told a story of a bus company. In the early 200o, transport means from Hoima to Kampala was a challenge. One local entrepreneur saw an opportunity and started a bus company, Hoima Bus Services.  The business succeeded so much faster that by 2002, the company owned 12 buses from four. It was a modal service bus business. The company expanded operations into the Kampala – Nairobi routes. The business was at its highest peak. Five years down the road, the business was no more.

“So, why do you think many businesses are struggling to survive?” asked Mustapha. As entrepreneurs, we have our own tyres which burst at the time we do not expect. When you face this kind of burst, do you stay down or you have plan B that can help you recover. In most cases, businesses do not understand their desired future. They do not have clear plans.

In his keynote speech, Mustapha emphasized the P.L.A.N.T model for business sustainability. P stands for plan that supports the strategy. Many entrepreneurs have learnt planning but from a wrong perspective. Businesses instead have a research paper of the plan. If you ask any entrepreneur what their strategy is in the strategic plan, it is a tough call. Someone will open and open pages, the best thing they will show you is key areas of focus. But is that the strategy in your plan?

What do you understand by strategy? Many leaders have clarity of what they are now. The biggest challenge is how to get the desired future. When you just extrapolate your current condition to the desired future, have a step by step action, what you would a business plan? That is not strategy. A plan should implement the strategy. The strategy begins by asking where do we want to go. What changes do we have to make now to get there?

This introduces entrepreneurs to the most important aspect. Strategy is about making choices of the things you will do and will not do. The biggest challenge is the leadership problem. How do we move from where we are?

If you a leader and you have been challenged to construct a road to Kasese. As an engineer, do you recommend excavating directly through Mountain Rwenzori rock, or constructing on the sides of the rock? Or you recommend the three options?

When it comes to our businesses, these are the kinds of decisions we must make. If you look into your business, how have you chosen to win? The biggest setback is how do you navigate the rock? Many businesses are struggling to survive because they do not want to choose. When you remain everything to everybody, you remain a mediocre. You do not have a foot print in the market. Until you are able to decide in these four areas, you are likely not to sustain business.

The first decision is who my target customers is. Because is about bringing money on the table. The other part is protecting it. Our first call as entrepreneurs is bring money into the business. A strategy is not complete until you clearly define your niche!

The other is what channels you use to reach your customers and what products will you sell to them. And lastly what is the geography of your business operation. Strategy is in these four areas.

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