Monthly Archives: June 2015

Entrepreneurship shouldn’t be a ‘Retirement’ activity

He is one of the few old time friends I have found, still actively employed but with a very clear plan for his future. While most 30 to 40 something employees are clueless about their next steps, he is very clear about the academic achievements he wants to notch up in the next six years and when he plans to retire.

As a strong believer in retirement, he plans to retire at 55 years and then maybe become an entrepreneur. This is the point at which we diverted in thought.

First and foremost, I don’t believe in retirement as most people view it i.e. stop working and start spending your savings till you die. Secondly, I don’t believe entrepreneurship is best kept for ‘retirement.’

Why don’t I believe in retirement?

Dictionary.com defines retirement as “the act of retiring or of leaving one’s job, career, or occupation permanently, usually because of age.” We have been brought up to believe that in life, you have to be one thing and remain defined by that. Someone who studied engineering and practices it will always be regarded as an engineer all his life and if he came up and introduced himself as a Poet or Farmer, eyebrows would be raised.

Why should one leave their profession permanently only to do nothing? This is one of the reasons many retirees die early. I have seen a number of retired elderly people whose bodies turn into customers of all nature of diseases due to being idle after years of having a steady regime of programmed activity. A move towards engaging them physically and mentally tends to reduce the ailments they suffer from.

I also believe that retirement from one profession should be heralded by entry into another. This is what lifelong learning and working is all about. It encourages re-invention and pursuit of passions that one could have put on hold earlier. I for one do have a passion for astronomy. While I never had a chance to study it in detail in my yester years, I have promised myself to one day engage in full scale astronomy. As to whether I’ll go to class to achieve this or be a self taught astronomer, I don’t really care, but I will, one day. I have already been able to acquire a Telescope and a few books on the subject matter and I believe that am on my way to re-igniting that passion at the right point in time. So, when you meet me ten years from now and I introduce myself as Astronomer James Wire, don’t fret. Now you know am working on it.

So, in my vocabulary, retirement as defined by the dictionary doesn’t exist.

Entrepreneurship isn’t merely a retirement package

I have met many whose fuzzy idea of their retirement is ‘doing business‘ or conveniently referred to as ‘entrepreneurship.’ While I mentioned in this post that you can make it at any age of life, there are usually a couple of challenges in business that get magnified as you grow older. Some of them could be;

  • Diminishing range of business opportunities. As one grows older, the kind of businesses they can engage in tend to become limited. Those that usually require physical aggression and mobility tend to be a No Go for them. Even when they may try to employ others to do the donkey work, the level of involvement of the visionary in a start-up is such that you cant avoid these intricacies at least during the first year or two.

  • Technology allergy. Most times elderly entrepreneurs tend to be averse to newer technologies and that could be the game changer in their business. Imagine trying to do global business today without email, it’s a disaster. For people who grew up without much exposure to the new technologies, trying to embrace them at this late stage may prove a challenge and hence lead to failed business.

  • All-Round Knowledge. You have had a 30 year career in the Production Department of that company. Grew up in the ranks till you probably headed the department or even became a director in the company. The time has come to be off loaded and you are attempting your first ever start-up. Chances are, you’re likely to draw onto your corporate world experiences to run the new outfit. While some ideas may work outright, others are likely to fail due to the unique nature of start-ups. A number of start-up ventures do require one to have all-round knowledge of business operations. So, if you were in production and never took time to understand how company finances run, marketing and sales, human resource among others, you are likely to face a very rough time ahead. Figuring out these issues at an advanced age may require a lot more effort than when you’re still relatively younger.

  • Being flexible. As we grow older, our ability to be flexible tends to diminish. Business tends to require a flexible mindset considering that markets can be quite fickle. What you prepared in a business plan may have to change overnight due to a sudden event affecting your intended market. Let’s take the example of someone who had just gone into Chilli farming in Uganda as a result of the vast European Union market that had been promised by the exporters. A few weeks ago, the Government of Uganda had to come up with a self imposed ban on such produce to the EU due to quality control challenges among the exporters. As a new farmer who was banking on Chilli, you definitely needed to change tact immediately.

One of the proprietors of Rena Beverages is a Medical Doctor who found his passion in Food Processing.

One of the proprietors of Rena Beverages is a practising Medical Doctor who found his passion in Food Processing. This, he says is his retirement package.

My advice first and foremost therefore is for one to cease having the retirement mindset as it is known today and instead consider the ability to professionally mutate as they navigate through life. You can be something different tomorrow for as long as it’s one that you are passionate about.

On entrepreneurship, I do advise that one start NOW and not wait till they have been retired from work. There is a level of maturity you are likely to attain under the safety net of your current employment thereby preparing you better for the after ’employment’ entrepreneurship terrain.

Finally, Entrepreneurs never retire.

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Ugandans – Most Entrepreneurial in the World

The Observer newspaper made a facebook post on Uganda’s entrepreneurship ranking based on a report by a UK based business Networking Group, Approved Index which placed Uganda as the most entrepreneurial country in the world.

The comments that followed rendered me momentarily numb. Here I was seeing Ugandans diss their country like it’s worse than any trash one could ever come across. Some of the notable comments I read are pasted below verbatim;

Lukoda Ibrahim: thus rather embarrassing than interesting to read coz am sure whoever did the study doesnt know Uganda properly

Edward Ssalin: Its The Fact But Selling Sugar Canes And Tomatoes On The Road Sides Is That Really Enterprenuership?! Be Serious For Once Guys!

Odwee Sam: Uganda Bureau of Statistics is the only credible entity to come up with a conclusive statistics on this data,basing on the National Household Survey 2013,this ranking is a hoax!

Kyazze James: I daught if It’s true , but what kind of business do they run just hawk g nuts and tomato stalls? Capital of 10000 and you call that business.

Yosa Braxton John: World Econ Forum How Much Bribe Did U Take So As To Come Out With Such A Broad Dayilte Lie?

K Vian Neutron: well i guess opening up a MOBILE MONEY stall is that entreprenual….why dint i think dat at 1st?..Oh Gosh!!!

Samson Muwanga: It maybe true bt what are de returns? Majority are small businesses bt taxed heavily leaving de proprietors with nothing to take home.

Timothy Champion Atwiine: Chapati, hawking nsenene, hawking boiled eggs, bicycle bodaboda, digging people’s gardens…etc…we’re indeed entrepreneurial

Denis Rinda: I’m not sure if I should be happy. Highest ranked entrepreneur but Poorest nation.. No need to get high

Not only did I sense an attitude of lack of self belief but quickly realised that some Ugandans are still trapped in an elitist vacuum that tends to denigrate certain work activities thereby identifying them with failures. Take the example of a sarcastic statement like this, “Chapati, hawking nsenene (grass hoppers), hawking boiled eggs, bicycle bodaboda, digging people’s gardens…etc…we’re indeed entrepreneurial.”

My favourite Rolex guy, based in Buikwe Town Council

My favourite Rolex guy, based in Buikwe Town Council

I wonder what century such a character is living in. As an educated person who has time to schmooze with facebook, doesn’t he have the least appreciation that one can start off by having a roadside Chapati stall and later operate a chain of such stalls all over the city offering a much sought after brand?

To avoid engaging in pedestrian commentary, I decided to download the report and flip through it. Based on the criteria used and findings got, indeed without doubt Uganda deserves the position. However, to avoid being distracted by mere semantics of being considered Number One in the world, I tried to dig deeper into what the various metrics evaluated mean to us and what we can draw from the findings as individuals and Government of Uganda.

The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor survey monitors entrepreneurial attributes and activities both individually and globally. It tracks business dynamics by capturing the rate of established businesses among the adult population and the rate of discontinuation of business.

Uganda was classified among the Factor-driven economies.’ This is where countries compete primarily on the use of unskilled labour and natural resources and companies compete on the basis of price as they buy and sell products or commodities.

The study reveals that in factor-driven economies especially African ones, starting an entrepreneurial venture is seen as a good career choice, it offers successful entrepreneurs a high status and there is a lot of media attention for entrepreneurship. Just look at the New Vision’s Pakasa initiative and the multitudes of followers it commands.

A study of individual attributes among Ugandans pre-determined matrix revealed the following scores;

Perceived Opportunities; This is the percentage of individuals aged 18-64 involved in any stage of entrepreneurial activity who see good opportunities to start a business in the area where they live. A score of 76.9% was achieved putting Uganda in the lead of all countries involved in the study. Sweden follows at 70.1%.

The learning point from here is that the Ugandan mindset is one that has been driven over the years towards opportunity identification. This could have been caused among others by the high unemployment rate, poor job security and perceived lack of Government interest in addressing the joblessness situation. Essentially amidst all these challenges, the society is indirectly benefitting by readjusting itself towards being solution oriented.

What can Government do? Ride on this mindset, publicise and create more opportunities targeted for the local audience. The same effort being put into selling the country to international investors should be directed towards local investors.

Perceived Capabilities; This is the percentage of individuals aged 18-64 involved in any stage of entrepreneurial activity who believe they have the required skills and knowledge to start a business. At 84.9%, Uganda is the runaway leader in this category again followed by Jamaica at 81.2%.

Lesson learnt from here is the self belief many Ugandans have. They may not have the advanced degrees that the small elitist workforce seeks comfort in but they know that they can do something for themselves and survive for starters.

What can Government do? Carry out a study on the skills gaps across the entire spectrum of our populace and make efforts to impart those skills to the interested public through specialised trainings or integration into academic curricula.

Fear of Failure; Is the percentage of individuals aged 18-64 involved in any stage of entrepreneurial activity who report that fear of failure would prevent them from setting up a business. Once again, Uganda scores the lowest rate of 12.6% closely followed by Panama at 14.6%.

This implies that the majority of Ugandans are less fearful about engaging in a business venture. While they may not have the guarantee of success, they still are willing to give it a shot. Could this be driven by social factors like the media publicity around entrepreneurship, likely respect to be attained or the seeming lack of alternatives that leaves one with only bold choices to make? Another silent factor could be our family setup where most people have a family setting to fall back to. In case you bungled up, you are likely to fall back to your parents or uncles or aunties for salvage. I have been to India and seen people who have practically no where to turn to in case things went sour. This reduces their innate ability to take risks and leads them to prefer predictable stability even when it comes at the cost of pursuing their passion.

Entrepreneurial Intentions; This is the percentage of individuals aged 18-64 involved in any stage of entrepreneurial activity who are latent entrepreneurs and who intend to start a business within three years. Uganda again scores highest at 60.2%.

These intentions are highest among factor driven economies like that of Uganda and lowest in Innovation driven economies like those of the EU and North America thereby reinforcing a pattern that has been observed that starting an own business is dominant where other options to provide income for living are limited.

From just these matrix alone, it is evident that there is a trend in Uganda towards being an entrepreneurial society and despite the level of operations or type of businesses we may boast of, the fact remains they are business ventures.

A further analysis was done on the motivation for Early Stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA). This was defined as the “percentage of individuals aged 18-64 who are either a nascent entrepreneur or owner-manager of a new business.”

35.5% of Uganda’s adult population is involved in TEA coming only second to Cameroon at 37.4%. However, of more interest is the actual composition of this grouping. Of these Ugandans involved in TEA, their motivations for joining are broken down as follows;

Necessity Driven; Is the percentage of individuals involved in early stage entrepreneurship who claim to be driven by necessity (having no better choice for work) as opposed to opportunity. An obvious example could be that lady who chooses to sell groundnuts and assorted snacks by the roadside having failed to get employed by any one. Another vivid one that is common lately is the university graduate who decides to hawk merchandise after having failed to get a job and yet needs to look after himself or even younger siblings.

18.9% or people involved in Early Stage Entrepreneurial activities in Uganda fall in this category. I actually thought it as much higher but then again, here we are faced with researched statistics.

Opportunity Driven; Is the percentage of individuals involved in early-stage entrepreneurial activity who claim to be purely or partly driven by opportunity as opposed to finding no other option for work. This includes taking advantage of a business opportunity or having a job but seeking better opportunity. Of obvious significance here are the various people you find who have quit their jobs to pursue a business venture in an area they perceive to have potential.

This category is the largest among early stage entrepreneurs in Uganda at 80.8%. Coupled with the low fear factor of 12.6% more Ugandans are likely to pursue opportunities once they identify them.

Improvement Driven Opportunity; Is Percentage of individuals involved in early-stage entrepreneurial activity who (1) claim to be driven by opportunity as opposed to finding no other option for work; and (2) who indicate that the main driver for being involved in this opportunity is being independent or increasing their income, rather than just maintaining their income.

This category ropes in most of those employed people who have a business on the side. Lately there is a craze for farming and many corporate leaning employees are purchasing land and investing in crop and animal husbandry. 54.3% of early stage entrepreneurs are in this category.

The study however went ahead to come up with a Motivational Index which is a ratio between the necessity driven entrepreneurs and improvement driven entrepreneurs to help understand better the entrepreneurial capacity of a country. A high motivational index indicates a high share of improvement driven entrepreneurs that brings more long term and ambitious expectations related to the venture. Uganda’s score of 2.9 is midway the range and puts us out of the bracket of countries where businesses are mainly started out of necessity. Countries like India, Cameroon, Philippines, South Africa, Iran, Croatia, Jamaica are tending towards the motivational index of 1.0 or even lower hence pointing to some challenges that need to be addressed in their economies.

To the doubters out there, Uganda is actually faring well in the entrepreneurial space and there is still alot more to be achieved. Cease criticising blindly and start making an effort to become one of the entrepreneurs who want to have a piece of a pie.

Imagine this, by the end of this decade, ours will be a nation of 40 Million mouths to feed and the East African region will likely have more than 100 million mouths to feed. If you processed just one of the many foods we have richly growing and targeted only One Dollar from only 10% of that population by 2020, how rich do you think you can be?

Start that business.

Additional information form the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2014 Global Report.

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Earning More won’t save you if …..

Today, precisely the 25th of June 2015 was the first time I heard about a one Mr. Scott Spencer Storch. Apparently he was a big name producer who at his peak was involved in 50 Cent’s album “Candy Shop”, Fat Joe’s “Lean Back”, Jadakiss’ “U Make Me Wanna”, Chris Brown’s “Run It”, G-Unit’s “Poppin’ Them Thangs” among others. The brother had amassed a fortune of 70 Million dollars by 2006 according to Wikipedia. In 2006, he took “a month off” to vacation in Hollywood having been a wonderful year for him. What followed next is interesting, he withdrew from producing, focused on partying hard, with friends at a 10 Million dollar mansion he owned. He purchased a private jet, a 117 foot yatch, bought nearly twenty luxury cars, half of which he believes he purchased while high on cocaine. He abandoned clients like Janet Jackson in the studio making them wait for hours without end. In 2006 alone, he blew 30 Million dollars within six months and begun the downhill descent. Fast forward, in 2014, he is said to have earned a paltry Ten Thousand dollars and is reported to be filing for bankruptcy with his assets totalling to a measly Three Thousand Six Hundred dollars. His music companies are said not to be worth a penny.

Am sure you’re surprised why I have come with a showbiz related story this time round. Am not the type to follow show business news because I tend to believe that it negatively impacts on my grey matter. However, I had to share this story. Many times I come across people who believe that their runaway success is in amassing more money. A long time acquaintance met me a few days back and as we discussed he told me how he is planning to re-invent himself. He’s spent most of his time since December 2014 trying to chart out a new path for his professional life. Eventually he admitted to me that he considers his first priority being getting a job that earns him not less than Thirty Thousand dollars and apparently he was on his way to actualising that, with a move to South Africa being imminent. While I respect his aspirations, I felt that he was being a little too focused on what he earns as opposed to how he spends what he earns. We all need to keep earning and growing our income, however what happens when the money starts rolling in uncontrollably is what determines our destiny. Issues like;

  • Does more money mean increased spending?

  • Does more money mean increased luxury?

  • Does more money mean less work?

  • Does more money mean new friends?

  • Does more money mean more women?

  • Does more money mean more arrogance?

  • Does more money mean less attention to detail in your business?

As we fulfill our desire for more money to come into our possession, we need to be careful about our habits with it.

Fruit Seller on Tirinyi Rd. Eastern Uganda.

Fruit Seller on Tirinyi Rd. Eastern Uganda.

Consumption lifestyles will never enable one to thrive in wealth irrespective of how much money is thrown at you. You need to take great care to mind the pennies and cents afterall a small leak can sink a great ship. No amount of net worth however much can never get down to zero. When you want to spend your money, there are always people around ready to help you spend it and with very compelling propositions.

Scott’s story is one of a rough childhood and he went through a lot that you would expect him having acquired such a fortune to balance it out well and guard it all the days of his life. He is now 41, flat broke and filing for bankruptcy. Am not writing him off yet afterall Donald Fisher, the founder of Gap Store (a big retail outlet for clothes in the USA) started it at 40 years, Samuel L Jackson the celebrated Hollywood actor got his breakthrough at 43 years, Sam Walton founded Wal-Mart at 44 years, Henry Ford was 45 years when he created the revolutionary Model T car in 1908, Anna Mary Robertson (Grandma Moses) began her painting career at the age of 78 and in 2006 one of her paintings sold for 1.2 Million dollars.

What do we learn from Scott’s experience?

Mind the Minutest; This was a quote popularised by Brother Kalungi Martin (RIP) of the Brothers of Christian Instruction during my school days. Essentially he always urged us to pay attention to the smallest of things. Failure to do so, could very easily turn that small thing into your nemesis. Jerry Rawlings a one time president of Ghana attempted a coup at 32 years and was unsuccessful. General Fred Akuffo who was the president then had him go on trial and he faced a death sentence. However, due to the light handed manner in which he handled the then young soldier, Rawlings with the help of some sympathisers was able to escape detention and thus survive the hangman’s noose. A short while later, Rawlings organised another coup and overthrew General Akuffo whom he later executed with other leaders. So, even in business, that competitor you are underrating could become your nemesis a few months down the road. Whoever knew that WhatsApp, Viber and a host of other phone applications could literally bring SMS services down to their knees?

Neglect Nothing; When Scott had the money, his thirst was quenched. He had arrived afterall. Big names were literally begging for his services. A story is told of how he had Janet Jackson wait in his studio for five hours. Janet Jackson? If he did that to such an icon, then how many upcoming stars did he ignore? Maybe they would have given him a new lease of hope. In the business space, it helps to always scan the environment and look out for the unusual. One of the biggest investors in the entertainment business in Uganda is a one Charles Lubega. Stories are told of how he practically visits nearly all discotheques within his area of coverage weekly to establish what the competition is upto. Its no wonder that his Angenoir empire has been around for over 20 years and has extended its tentacles as far as London.

How much do you save and/or re-invest? Yes, you may earn all that the world has to offer, but how much of it do you multiply (re-invest for profit) or save for the future? This is one of the reason gamblers hardly ever sustain their won earnings. He will win a million dollars today but file for bankruptcy within three months. The culture of expecting windfalls and consuming what is earned can never allow us to sustain wealth.

If you thought you needed a higher pay from your employer and had designs of renting a better house, buying a bigger car or sending your children to a more expensive school, you have your priorities wrong. Like Scott, you’ll end up a corporate pauper whose worth is that job contract document. Look at your current earnings, figure out how to structure them better to cater for consumption and re-investment. Once you have been able to achieve that, only then can you start wishing for greater income because you will precisely know better how to utilise it.

Uganda’s 2015/16 Budget – The Agriculture Perspective

The Government of Uganda released the budget for the new financial year and for anyone with interest in the Agriculture sector, here’s my analysis.

Ox_Plough

Of Uganda’s Corporate Class and Pavlov’s Conditioning

Ivan Pavlov, a Russian Physiologist discovered Classic Conditioning accidentally. He learnt that there are some things that a dog doesn’t need to learn, like salivating whenever food is presented. Such a hardwired reflex in the dog is referred to as an unconditioned response.

He however also later discovered that objects or events that dogs associated with food triggered a similar response. Which is why after ringing a bell a number of times while feeding dogs, he tried ringing the bell without presenting the food and the dogs responded with the same intensity of salivation.

John Mungwako (name not real) has been working with a top tier company for over ten years. His was a dream come true when barely two years after graduating he was taken on in one of Uganda’s most prestigious companies. Life changed in an instant as the high salary and benefits he got automatically catapulted him into a new lifestyle and circle of people. Whatever he had earlier merely dreamt of was now at his finger tips. Training opportunities, travel, access to bank loans, corporate parties, subscription to exclusive clubs among others were things he begun contending with on a daily basis. Life indeed was good.

Borrowing from Pavlov’s dog findings, the corporate masters know too well the kind of stimuli needed to trigger the unconditioned stimuli called Work from the employees. By making their lives seemingly comfortable through; above average salaries that are incidentally eventually used to supplement their newly found high life, guaranteeing them loan applications for purchasing basics like iPads to personal cars and homes, strategically getting the employees to brand themselves as the company over self, they have succeeded in creating modern day Pavlov Pets that are ready to dance to every tune that is played by the employer for as long as the salary and benefits are dispensed.

This Pavlov approach in our corporate world has led most employees to believe that the honeymoon will last forever thereby making many throw all caution to the wind. Talk of investing in post employment business opportunities to many is akin to playing 1950’s Blues music to a Justin Bieber fan. The few that have considered such investment opportunities largely engage in them from a hobbyist’s perspective. Others are blinded by the belief that a large bank balance is the best guarantee to survival when the job opportunity vanishes. So, amidst their current lifestyle demands, they are waiting for that day when they will hopefully have amassed those large sums.

It was therefore not much of a surprise when the decisions by MTN Uganda and Africell to downsize their staff caused a lot of uproar with Africell being accused of racist practices and MTN Uganda of not being transparent with the process of transferring a section of its staff to ZTE, a Chinese technology company.

While these staff members may have had some legitimate concerns over the moves going on, my hunch tells me that the uncertainty that lay ahead is what bothered them most. Will the MTN staff keep getting the same benefits under the new employer? If yes, for how long? What kind of job security should they expect?

As for Africell, many must have been shell shocked with the short notice availed to them and had no idea what next they are likely to do. Imagine someone who is servicing a bank loan with two years to go, has to annually pay for GYM, Golf and other memberships allover the city, is educating his/her children in a very high end International school and probably rents an apartment in an upscale neighborhood of the city. What next? Where can they quickly find a new job that can maintain the status-quo?

The plight of these employees is symptomatic of victims of the Pavlov conditioning. While it suited their employers when it mattered, it has come back to haunt them now that they are parting ways. The fate that befell the MTN and Africell employees may not seem to bother you but if you are in the IT industry, you better watch the space carefully because it’s either time to re-invent yourself or be left by the roadside too just like it’s happening in India whose IT party is over.

Its therefore important for those who see themselves in a similar trend to wake up and smell the coffee. Dedication to one’s job is very good BUT you shouldn’t forget to always have a plan B in place considering that your employer will most likely be selfish in any situation that may see the two of you parting ways. If you have no ‘side hussle‘ or ‘side business’ as others call it, do not rest on your laurels until you have something up and running however basic. Your future in an environment that is more of political than professional (like most companies out there are) and over which you have no control is as uncertain as that of a cow in a lion infested game park.

IMG-20150607-WA0002

Put your fears aside, chill the procrastination and start that something, even from your home. You can do it.