Three friends who had made money in different ways came together to create a new business with surplus money they had. They sat down, identified a need, drew a business plan raised funds and set out to launch the new business. They held several meetings in exclusive hotels to thrash out the concept. Deep inside their heads, they had the perfect business idea. They wanted a lifestyle pub in the suburbs of Westlands Nairobi that could rival and even overtake all the others.
They actually got space on the ground floor of one of the most prestigious buildings. This was going to be the best in the region. No expense was spared to create the desired image. The got their staff trained and kitted with the right dress code. They had a catering department serving exotic menu. Today, as we write this, the guys are selling Ugali and Managu – a local vegetable to the touts and the taxi guys around that place having abandoned the lofty business idea that targeted diplomats and other foreign embassy staff.
In another episode, a lady made good money in selling second hand clothes. With good money came lofty ideas. Having witnessed Simba Saloon-Carnivore, a restaurant in Nairobi make a killing selling food to tourists, this was her target group. To tap into this lucrative market, they built an exclusive outlet next to the airport. Everything was just right.
The building although modern captured the African theme. Tourists didn’t have to go all the way to Carnivore to experience the African wild food experience or so, they thought. As we write, this is just another restaurant selling the basic tea, Mandazi and roast meat to the locals. The idea of rivaling Carnivore is now a far fetched dream.
You could have had similar experience. A case where your business concept veers off to something totally different. You rent a space for consultancy but end up selling sodas to survive. You start selling fish but end up selling clothes. You start a computer hardware business but end up selling cars. You rent a big space for business and only end up using a tiny friction of the space. There is a huge gap between concept design and execution.
The word concept must have been derived from conception. To conceive an idea is like conceiving a pregnancy. There has to be a meeting male and female at the right time.
Similarly, a business concept can only be positively conceived where there is a successful meeting of both the conception of the idea and the timing of the execution. Mistimed lofty ideas based in wishful thinking, hearsay and greed never see the light of day.
Remember the story of an egg and a bacon on the breakfast table. For you to get your bacon, the pig has to die. Its not the case with the egg. You can have your eggs without the chicken dying. Chickens do not have to die to lay eggs. One is committed while the other is just engaged.
There must be an irrevocable commitment to the business idea by the founders. Its never enough for the vision carriers to just state their vision and dump it with their staff. They must live that vision. This is one key reason why most business concepts designed as a side hustle with those still in employment rarely succeed. Commitment.
Thinking is a beauty. You can envisage heaven from your bedroom. Likewise, you can create wonderful illusions on your mind about your business idea. Not until the rubber meets the road. You are most likely to discover that the deviation is too wide to reconcile. A friend went out to build fish ponds but ended up with see weeds and frogs as the product.
Concept testing is critical. It looks and sounds good? Great. Go out and try it in the real world. You may be forced to adjust so many variables in the process. An untested concept is just that—an experiment. You don’t have a business until you test it for a good duration of time.
For along time I wondered why people call their businesses Enterprises with an (s) at the end. It can be very strategic. Giving a name to your business before testing the concept is like naming a child before birth. You can be way off the mark. The best time to give a name to your business is when you have tested it and found it working.
If you must give it a name before testing, then choosing such a generic name like Enterprises is advisable. Imagine, you called your business Total IT solutions and end up supplying sanitary towels to schools! That would be ridiculous. The point is, if not sure, go with a general name that can be used in many fronts without raising eyebrows.
Most small businesses are not small because of lack of capital. They are small for want of a big concept. No amount of money can explode a small concept into big business. Just like no amount of food can explode a housefly into an elephant. One is either born an elephant or a housefly.
The size of the business is in the conceptualisation. If conceived as a small business, it will remain so. It is possible to conceive a big business but start it in a small way.
I recently had a look at the business space occupied by Ranalo foods. That place is massive. They indeed have a big food concept that fills up that space and give him profits. Left to small thinkers, that place would likely be subdivide into tiny exhibition stalls.
This is closely related to the above. There are concepts that can be scaled into big corporations while others are born small. Find out if your concept is scalable in our next series.
African Market Media.