Whether your idea is still in an abstract form, or already running as a business, you need to learn from Mary Mwangi, the CEO of Data Integrated, a Kenyan ICT company that offers financial solutions to SMEs. In an exclusive inter Mary explained the challenges her business faced and how they were about moving ahead of the challenges through partnership and networking.
The Kenyan entrepreneur confirmed that every business will need both to scale at some point in their journey to success.
Read the excerpt of her interview below.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
When I had to decide whether to continue to work with a bank in [a] partnership that had not kept its side of an agreed contract, or find a different partner bank. I walked out of the deal because I felt it would not be reliable working in such a partnership since they did not keep their obligations right from the onset. It cost us time and, therefore, delays in project delivery, but I will say I am happy with that decision.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
Work we have done with the team and the milestones we have accomplished in the public transport space. We have been able to streamline revenue management in public transport, thus sealing cash leakages, loopholes and allowing for transparency and efficiency in how the business is run.
Matatu Owners and the Savings and Credit Co-operative Organisations have reported that our system has increased their revenue up to 40%. This gives us the motivation to work more on the solutions.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
I care a lot about people’s welfare and, sometimes, you need to distance yourself to be able to make tough decisions – like letting an employee go because they are no longer performing, and their goals are not aligned with those of the company.
I have found this to be really taxing since they might influence other employees negatively towards the company. I have learned that, as the CEO, what is best for the company should be the main focus when making these types of decisions – no matter how tough they are.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
The thought that experience is an indication of performance. I have found that character is a better indicator of how employees perform. If someone is qualified for the job, has a good attitude, good work ethic and a willingness to learn – hire them; as they will perform better than a person with a lot of experience but has certain set ways of working.
Since we are a startup, flexibility is important. Without discounting experience, If I have to choose I would take the character traits versus experience any day.
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
Yes, that it is harder than it looks. The partnerships and networks are tough but necessary to get ahead.
6. Name a business opportunity you would still like to pursue.
I think there are several untapped business opportunities. If I am to name one, it would be in product offerings such as outdoor entertainment, fashion and clothing for young adults and teenagers.
The journey so far’ series is edited by Wilhelmina Maboja, with copy editing by Xolisa Phillip, and content production by Justin Probyn and Nelly Murungi.