Building on our most recent article that covered some questions that will guide your choice of setting up a business, we scheduled a meeting with Dickson Mushabe of Hostalite to give us a breakdown of a few key points one should consider when setting up a business. Incase you have no heard about Dickson, he is a thirty-something man who studied Quantitative Economics at the University and recently finished his Master’s Degree in Management from the Uganda Management Institute. But getting two degrees is not what he is known primarily for. He has been a businessman from his teenage years. When I met him at Ntare School, he was dabbling in photography and when we met again at the University, he had a barber shop and a video rental business that he used to tend to while the rest of us were trying to expand our horizons with the young lasses on campus.
Fast forward a decade later and Dickson has set up a web hosting company. Sorry, I meant to write, Dickson set up a successful webhosting company aptly named Hostalite. Initially beginning with only two staff and few clients, the company has over twelve thousand (12,000) clients hosted on their servers and is growing from strength to strength.
Along this journey to having over 12,000 clients, Dickson has gone through more than his share, and mine too no doubt, of challenges, trials and yes tribulations about business and in our chat he mentioned to me that he was tasked to share these by numerous people asking him about setting up a (their) business. The mammoth chats, emails, formal and informal discussions have culminated into an interesting sharing of experiences detailing his mistakes in business. The book is titled: I am not sorry for my mistakes: My reflections and lessons on Business, Money & People – Volume 1. If you have not gotten a copy, look for it at any of your bookstores or on Amazon (see ^^ link).
Back to the informal meeting with Dickson:
When I asked him to share a few key points to note when beginning your business, he said business is a relationship. It is a situation whereby someone owes you something and you build a unique level of trust. This trust can be broken or it can be cemented with clear actions and communication. The weirdest part is that no one comes with a silver lining on whether or not he or she can or cannot be trusted. You must test that trust and hope it gets better with each passing day.
His point – Build relationships based on trust
He also said that in one of his first business ventures, he attempted to plant tomatoes in the dry season. He learned how hard it was filling a 20-litre jerrycan to water the tomato plants more than thrice a day. This was no easy assignment, but towards the end of the dry season, his efforts paid off and at the start of the planting season, he was the only person with tomatoes in the market and made a killing.
His point – Timing is key for any business. Though difficult to plan for, start now and not tomorrow or next week
Dickson also intimated to me how when starting a business, no one has the courage to tell you their mistakes unless you have also made a mistake or three. He said many people were quick to tell you the good stuff about starting a business. Sentences like “if I had started this business a few years earlier, I would be aiming for retirement sooner than I thought” always encourage you to want to quit your job and try out your business. Words like “passion will get you through many things” have been said many a time. But in all honesty, it would be much more refreshing to hear the hard parts first because they are the ones that come through first before the good times.
His point – Be prepared for the tough times mentally because you will be tested!
When we were chatting, Dickson asked me about opportunities and how to both recognize them and follow through on them. The challenge he learnt to overcome was assuming that every opportunity is yours. He mentioned how he lost some money about 5 years ago by chasing as many opportunities as he could during the tough times to get out of the tough times and his poor time management caused an on-going assignment to drag and therefore make losses.
His point – Learn to choose and leave what you cannot get to others who can
His final point concerned disruption. For this Dickson mentioned to me that when he was running his video rental business and barber shop, he was offered a position at a global microfinance company named FINCA as a loans officer in a rural branch. The opportunity was ripe for him as he felt he needed a structured environment. But when they offered him the potential pay-cheque for that position, he told the panel that he already earns that money from his current occupation of cutting hair and renting videos and DVDs. He declined, but they came with a better offer a month later. This tested his resolve because sometimes earnings would be both low and slow.
His point – Stick to one master and focus hard enough on it to return its focus on you.
Starting a business is an interesting process.
Getting your hands dirty and building a reputation is harder.
Above all, let it be known that being afraid is normal as it reminds you that you are human.
By Edmund Kamugisha
Edmund is the Engagement Director at BLEGSCOPE®, and has 10+ years of management consultancy experience notably in MSMEs, FMCG companies and in the service industry. You can follow him on twitter: @edmokmg