KEPSA CEO speaks at the ELNET Business Leaders Forum

On Wednesday 19th April 2017, KEPSA CEO Carole Kariuki was invited at Nairobi Club to speak at the Executive Leadership Network Business Forum which takes place once every month and seeks to bring together leaders in the market place to discuss ways in which they can make greater contribution to the welfare of the society.

The forum which aims at discussing the challenges in the market place and how they can be tackled, also encourages leaders to share their stories on how they have dealt with corruption while still remaining ethical in the most challenging situations and setting an example for others to follow.

CEO ELNET

Carole noted that the macro-economic and political environment has been stable over the last 5 years and the business environment has been supportive to the growth of the Private Sector and industry. “Consequently, Kenya has become a key investment destination attracting more than double the FDI in 2015 at $ 1437 million from $ 514 million in 2013. Despite this trend, there have been certain challenges hindering the growth of businesses in the country, particularly the Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises, and constraining their ability to scale up. From the Kenya CEOs Confidence Survey 2017 conducted by KEPSA in partnership with TIFA in Nairobi, the main challenges to doing business in the country include political anxiety towards the upcoming general elections, bureaucracy, competition and challenges in accessing capital.”

She also stated that the World Bank’s Enterprise Survey 2013, identified practices of the informal sector, corruption and political Instability as the Top Business Environment Obstacles for firms in Kenya; while the Global Competitiveness Index identifies corruption as the most problematic factor to doing business in Kenya.

She further emphasized that as the Voice of the Private Sector in Kenya, KEPSA remains committed to bring these challenges down to levels that have minimal effect to businesses and maintain investor confidence by working closely with the government, development partners and all relevant stakeholders. “We urge all businesses to ensure their business strategies are right to ensure continued growth and to scale up.”

How to strategize for Business Growth in Uncertain Times

  1. Focus on retaining and expanding the market share: The biggest risk to any business is losing its existing market. During uncertain times, it is advisable to diversify one’s products, and increase contact with the consumers through regular surveys. The feedback is crucial to improve customer satisfaction to ensure the core market remains intact before expanding to other markets. Additionally, consumer preferences keep changing especially with the youthful generation.
  2. Adjust to the fast changing trends in the market especially modern technology and production procedures to remain competitive. This also means improving the capacity for the business to innovate and explore new ideas. Technology is fast changing the way we do business. Nowadays, every process of doing business is going digital; from sourcing for market information and marketing, to accessing government services, including application and renewal of licenses, tenders, procurement, etc. It is paramount for any business that wants to remain competitive to adjust.
  3. Formalize the business: The benefits of formalizing a business range from easy access to credit from formal financial service providers and insurance services thus enabling the businesses to avoid uncertainties.

Formal businesses are better placed to benefit from partnerships with potential investors, as well as access tenders and other opportunities from the government, big companies, and even regional and global players.

  1. Smart decisions – These should be based on market research as well as SWOT analysis to make decisions informed by facts on the progress of the business, its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats.
  2. Take advantage of available opportunities in the local market, government procurement opportunities, regional and preferential markets.

The opportunities in the public sector include:

  1. The preferential procurement opportunities guaranteed under the PPAD Act (AGPO) which mandates 30% of all public procurement opportunities to be set aside exclusively for women, youth and people with disabilities owned enterprises;
  2. Opportunities under the Local Content Policy which provides for 40% local content in all public projects. These include the ongoing multibillion shilling projects in the country at present.

There are also plenty of opportunities in the regional markets especially the EAC, as well as other preferential trade markets including the US under AGOA, among others.

  1. Having a unique perspective: Seeing opportunities during the uncertain times when others only see risk. This is the heart of a true entrepreneur – be bold when no one is trying and make lemonade out of those lemons.
  2. Have SMART goals: Setting Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time bound (SMART) goals enables a business to have a clear progression path that is less likely to be affected by short-term fluctuations and risks in the market. The long term goals of the business have to be big enough, aiming for scale up and targeting the global markets. This is what it means to dream big.
  3. Invest in growing the right team – weed out the sick (i.e. the unfit who may eventually spread the disease of dishonesty, unethical practices and misplaced priorities to the rest of your team), feed and treat the weak and empower the strong. A strong team will get you through the times of uncertainty but a weak/wrong one will siphon your businesses “blood” to the last drop.
  4. Diversify products, markets, and strategies. If Strategy A fails, draw lessons from it to make strategy B.
  5. Form strong business Networks and linkages – This network is important for sharing ideas, expertise, mentorship, as well as investment and market opportunities. The various business forums, conferences other events that we, at KEPSA, our partners and associates organize are excellent platforms for business to business interactions, with possibility of creating both local and foreign linkages and partnerships. I urge all businesses to take advantage of them.
  6. Finally, let’s paint the best image of our country out there. Let foreigners also see what is good about our country. This good image is what draws investors, tourists and traders to a country. You will never hear a foreign investor especially from the Europe or west talk anything negative about their country. They always tell us how great their countries are such that we all want to go work and do business there. Why not tell them how great Kenya is? What story do you tell about Kenya?