Common Mistakes You May Be Making as a Businessowner & How to Avoid Them

Small business owners have great ideas and solutions – after all, that’s probably what led you to launch a business; but sometimes, these ideas lack the proper execution that lead to success. While there may be several reasons a small business is underperforming, here are some common and avoidable mistakes small business owners make, along with tips for overcoming them.

  • Not Taking the Time to Plan: Lack of planning leads to the production of lower-quality work. Here, you are trying to do everything at the last minute without clear targets or a path to those targets. Take some time to prepare a detailed business plan, and ensure it brings out what your products or services are, how will you earn income, how you will finance business costs, and many other details critical to its success. Having a business plan will provide you with a road map for your business, identify potential challenges, and outline what resources you will need to run your business. Learn more about how to prepare a business plan by clicking here.
  • Trying to Do It All by Yourself: It is helpful to include people in your thought process as you are bringing your idea to life and choosing solutions to challenges that might arise. One mind provides the same range of answers and can keep an entrepreneur from gaining more knowledge that would better support the business. Rely on a team of diverse individuals, depending on the needs of your business for human resources, and delegate tasks according to their expertise.
  • Overspending or Underspending: Overspending often leads to the accumulation of debt, and underspending overlooks essential factors that would need to be carried out for business success. These two factors hinder the idea’s viability and can lead to closing a business or never seeing it fully off the ground. Create a budget to project your business expenses and income for a given period, for example, the upcoming year or quarter. Review that budget against actual expenses to understand where you might have overspent or underspent on your business, giving you a solution to the problem.
  • Forgetting About Financing: No matter how good an idea is, we need to think about where funds will come from to get that idea up and running and what will be required from us as business owners to access them. A business plan should outline how much start-up capital or financing you’ll need to launch or grow your business. Before approaching funders, make sure your business plan is clear and well-structured and that you have a short pitch prepared addressing why your business is a great investment to make. Seek formal financing wherever possible, such as loans from reputable institutions, government funds, or donor funds, to avoid high or unclear costs, unfair collection practices, and potential safety risks.
  • Not Marketing or Advertising: The world learns about what we are doing through marketing and advertising. When your business is not advertised or marketed well, it loses out on potential clients. Depending on your target market, use a marketing channel that guarantees a wider reach and engagement from your target market. With increased digitalization around the globe, consider using online platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, which are popular in East Africa, to put your business products or services out there. Create a content plan for the week or month to ensure your target market is always informed of new products or services your business is providing. If you have enough capital, consider paid advertising for platforms that are most popular to your target marketing such as Facebook. Ensure you include your business contact information and address in your marketing materials to make it easy for your potential clients to find you.
  • Losing Focus: Losing focus is the same as losing the heart of the idea. Most small business owners lose focus when they do not have a proper schedule for their daily, weekly, or monthly tasks for their business. Create a calendar with scheduled tasks, each with a start and end date. Having a calendar with scheduled tasks will help you to balance high-effort and high-priority tasks while tracking your progress against set deadlines for tasks.

For an idea or solution to excel, it needs proper planning and greater emphasis on all the points mentioned above. Putting all of them into practice will add more life to the idea and open more significant opportunities for the solution and its viability.


successful entrepreneur

What does it take to be a successful entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur is both rewarding and challenging. There is no sure secret to what makes an entrepreneur successful, but there are certain characteristics entrepreneurs can cultivate to have the best chances of building a long-lasting and lucrative business. Learn more below.

Self-motivation: While having a good community to support you is important, successful entrepreneurs are usually self-motivated and do not need encouragement to take steps toward building a better business. They start the day with a defined set of tasks and goals, always keeping in mind their main business objectives. They view challenges as opportunities to learn and grow rather than as reasons to quit.

Build your strength in this area by regularly defining tasks and goals for yourself and your team – each day or week. Think about how you can take your business to the next level rather than waiting for an opportunity to present itself. Reframe challenges as opportunities to deliver better products or services and meet customer needs.

Strong work ethic: Successful entrepreneurs tend to have a strong work ethic, and this drives how they manage their time. They are driven by a passion to work towards stated goals, even if it means working beyond regular working hours.

Build your strength in this area by developing a disciplined routine, embracing responsibility, and developing a mindset that demonstrates hard work through sacrifice and focus.

Creativity: Because of stiff competition in the entrepreneurship ecosystem, successful entrepreneurs are typically either creative themselves or good at hiring creative employees. The need for entrepreneurs to create unique ideas and provide user-friendly solutions for customers demands out-of-the-box thinking in everything from marketing to service delivery to product design.

Build your strength in this area by developing a curiosity mindset in your daily life, and networking with likely minded people in your field. Networking can help you discover new ideas and also get valuable feedback on your existing ones.

Robust leadership qualities: Most successful entrepreneurs are usually cited by their employees and communities as strong, compassionate leaders. Leadership skills help an entrepreneur develop talents in their team, drive efficiency, and ensure quality products and services delivery.

Build your strength in this area by regularly engaging with your employees to understand their challenges, successes, weaknesses, and strengths. This will enable you to know what actions to take to make them more productive.

Being a successful entrepreneur means being a dynamic individual with strengths across different areas. Assess yourself along the above-mentioned characteristics and identify where you can build your strengths. Click here for a quick entrepreneurial self-assessment and see where you can improve as an entrepreneur.


Unique Selling Proposition 

Four Steps to Defining Your Unique Selling Proposition 

Four Steps to Defining Your Unique Selling Proposition 

A unique selling proposition, also known as a USP, is a specific thing that gives your business an edge over the competition.  

Like many of us, customers are overwhelmed by choice, and they want to quickly figure out what makes one product or brand different from the rest. Finding out how to position your product or service so that it stands out rather than simply blends in is key. So, it’s crucial for entrepreneurs to identify a unique selling point that can be used to guide your branding and marketing decisions. 

Here are four steps to keep in mind when defining your USP: 

  1. Understand your target market: Having a unique feature has no value if your customers are not concerned about or interested in it. This means that you need to understand your customers. What do they need? Why do they buy your products? Is it because it is cheaper, saves them time, or because they trust you? Interview clients, and friends and make a list of the reasons they buy your products. Identify what comes up most frequently.  
  2. Analyze your competition: Now that you have a list of what benefits your products or service brings to your clients, make a list of your competitors and identify the needs they are meeting. This will help you understand what characteristic distinguishes your products from those of your competition. 
  3. Communicate your USP: Once you identify what reasons clients buy your products over those of your competitors, come up with a message that communicates your USP. This message needs to be clear, concise, and straightforward.  Make sure you can communicate it easily, that your customers can understand it, and that it is easy to remember. Ask yourself if your reputation in the market and your branding (logo) clearly demonstrate the benefit you are providing.  
  4. Test and revise: Once you develop language to communicate your USP, talk to customers to get their thoughts. These interviews should help you decide on the best way to market your business.  

Your unique selling proposition shouldn’t change too often, but it’s essential to keep it up to date. Any changes in trends or competitors could affect your USP, so keep an eye on what is happening in the market and adjust accordingly. 

 

 


Five Tips to Make Better Financial Decisions 

Five Tips to Make Better Financial Decisions 

Business owners generally need to purchase assets or inventory or make other purchases to help their businesses grow. But resources are often scarce, so it is important, therefore, to ensure you’re making the best financial decisions you can.  

If you manage resources appropriately, you will be able to better accomplish your goals and improve your company’s overall performance. Here are five tips to make better financial decisions.  

  1. Pause: Before making a purchase for your business, the first thing you should do is pause and think about what your goals are for your business. Will the item you are purchasing support those goals or deter from them? Don’t pressure yourself or let other people pressure you. 
  2. Ask: Ask questions about the costs and risks associated with a purchase. Keep asking more questions until you understand what you’re paying for and what you are receiving. Don’t be shy about asking many questions. Here are some ideas: What will happen if it doesn’t work out? Can I stop the transaction and get my money back? Are there fees, taxes, penalties, or other charges? What exactly am I receiving in return for the amount I am paying? What warranty or guarantee does this come with? 
  3. Compare: Compare prices to make sure you are paying a fair price. Keep an eye out for anything that seems too good to be true. Ensure that the people and businesses with whom you are working are properly registered. 
  4. Estimate: Estimate the costs associated with your purchase and make sure you are getting value for your money.You can find online tools and calculators to compare financial products or services. Compare the total cost, including fees and chargers, to the value you are receiving. 
  5. Decide: If you thought about how a purchase will contribute toward your goals, asked all your questions, compared prices, and estimated your total costs, make a decision whether to move forward with the transaction or not. Write down all of the above and look at it objectively to help you decide.  

We hope that by applying this method, you will be able to make better financial decisions to support your business. 

 


Compassionate Leadership for Entrepreneurs Series: Leading with Heart

ConsumerCentriX, in partnership with Stanbic Bank Uganda Limited (Stanbic Bank), kicked off the first webinar in its Compassionate Leadership for Entrepreneurs Series on November 4th, 2021, under the theme “Leading with Heart: Adapting to a New Normal in a Tough Business Environment.” The webinar explored how the bank and other key businesses in the market adapted to the current business climate given the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of using compassionate leadership as a business strategy.

The webinar was moderated by Maurice Mugisha, a Ugandan journalist and Managing Director of Uganda Broadcasting Corporation, and the panel included Emma Mugisha, Executive Director and Head of Business Banking at Stanbic Bank, Dr. Peter Kimbowa, Chairman of the Board of Directors at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), Thadeus Musoke Nagenda, Ag. Chairman of Kampala City Traders Association (KACITA), and Isaac Nsereko, Managing Director of RI Distributors Ltd.

Leading with compassion in a crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic in Uganda has led to waves of lockdowns and business closures, making it impossible for businesses to continue day-to-day operations as usual. The disruptions have heavily affected decision-making, employee management, and the bottom line for businesses. All of the panelists agreed that leading with compassion during these extraordinary times has been essential. For them, this has meant listening to their employees and the concerns of their customer base, challenging the assumptions behind their convictions, and being ready to adapt to a constantly changing environment.

In the case of Stanbic Bank, leaders needed to adapt quickly to the crisis. When public transportation shut down, they had to find ways to transport their staff to branches. The bank had to adjust working hours to better fit customer and employee needs and implement changes so staff could work from home comfortably.  For branch staff who may have been exposed to the virus, the bank created isolation centers to help employees protect their family members from potential exposure.  As the pandemic dragged on, Emma Mugisha explained that Stanbic Bank has started to see an increase in customers defaulting on their loan payments. The bank has “put in place repayment extensions to relieve the customers who were affected by the pandemic,” said Mrs. Mugisha. Compassionate leadership teaches leaders to be empathetic and understand the challenges faced by their community. Loan repayment extensions not only benefit the bank’s customers, but also help the bank avoid mass default.

Dr. Kimbowa highlighted that at NSSF, the largest social security fund in Uganda, it was key to have a store of reserves, respond quickly to customer needs, and preserve the company’s workforce. NSSF launched a leadership ‘Think Box’ in order to tackle the biggest challenges, particularly how to avoid layoffs and keep employees fulfilled while working from home. Dr. Kimbowa is proud of the results of these efforts – NSFF largely retained its staff and reminds others that “firing people during hard times is in itself an admission of failed imagination [for leadership].”

RI Distributors, one of the largest logistics trading companies in Uganda, has had to make significant changes to its supply chains as a result of the pandemic. Mr. Nsereko explained that a key priority for the business was keeping its drivers healthy, happy, and employed. First, RI Distributors divested long-term projects and focused on ramping up COVID-19 testing stations for their drivers. The business also hired more drivers so to ensure adherence to safer social distancing policies through a more flexible driver rotation schedule. Mr. Nsereko said; “I think it’s compassionate leadership that knows the business will [have the opportunity to focus on making] money in the future and chooses to look after their people now, in a sustainable way, in order to stay in business.”

KACITA is the largest trader block in Kampala, and during the lockdowns most of the arcades, shopping malls, its businesses operate out of were closed. “When COVID hit, many of the members of the business community started selling their goods out of the back of their cars,” said Mr. Nagenda. KACITA has provided supplies, food, and funding for business owners, but more importantly, asked for a moratorium on rent for business owners. They also approached the government and advocated for reopening of arcades so that its business owners could continue doing business and making a living. KACITA focused on alleviating the monetary stresses that its small business owners faced. KACITA was successful in negotiations with some landlords, who eventually allowed traders to defer rent payments.

Lessons learned

To close out the webinar, panelists were asked to share lessons learned through their use of compassionate leadership during the COVID-19 pandemic. A few key themes emerged from the discussion:

  • Work together. As business leaders, it’s important to share best practices and ask others to join in utilizing compassionate leadership. If more business leaders share their knowledge on how to listen to employees and customers, challenge assumptions, and adapt quickly in a changing environment like adjusting work hours to better fit customer needs or creating a “Think Box” for leaders to tackle the biggest challenges, then institutions will improve, and the economy will be strengthened. It’s essential to work together to solve challenges and find sustainable solutions. In the case of KACITA, Mr. Nagenda said that “most of the [arcade] landlords are also traders and part of KACITA. We realized as the business community that we can work together to find solutions.”
  • Adapting to change is imperative. Leaders should approach challenges as opportunities to shift their ways of working. The pandemic forced many sectors to embrace change through digitization, whether that included investing in ways for their staff to work from home or making loans available to more customers through mobile banking. Mrs. Mugisha mentioned that “it should be normal to have your video on and hold your baby,” stressing the importance of embracing flexible work structures for parents. Focusing on the mission of the business instead of the structure allows businesses to adapt to a new normal.
  • Trust is essential. The most valuable component of an institution is its people. A leader must build and maintain trust with employees in order to make compassionate leadership sustainable. When suppliers cut off credit lines, RI Distributors focused on preserving the business through adapting their supply chain lines and establishing trust with their truck drivers by launching a number of key safety measures – which helped retain our drivers to stay on track and mitigate business loss. Businesses that build trust with their employees, customer base, and suppliers are resilient.
  • Continue to Innovate. As institutions and leaders’ transition, adjust and recover from the shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s important to remain curious and willing to adapt to new business innovative solutions. Continued disruption can make it really difficult to make a concrete plan for the future, but it can lead a company to develop better practices. Continue to assess your beliefs and processes and make sure not to revert back to ineffective ways of working.

Compassionate leadership is essential in building resilient companies that survive in the face of adversity. The health and wellbeing of employees and clients should continue to be a priority for leaders in order to build a stronger and brighter future. Join Stanbic Bank for the next installment of the series that is expected to return in the first quarter of 2021.

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Tips for virtual onboarding of new remote staff

The pandemic has taught us that geography is no longer an obstacle when hiring staff. Employers are now more open than ever to virtually onboard new staff. Onboarding is the process of introducing a newly hired employee into an organization. It provides people with technical information about their roles, and also builds the connections needed to set them up for the length of their career. Whether your business has just started working remotely or has already been operating remotely, a well-planned virtual onboarding process is essential. Now, let’s look at five tips your business can implement to make the virtual onboarding process seamless and efficient for the new staff.

 

Prepare thoroughly: For successful virtual onboarding, preparation is critical. Some of the core considerations in your planning process include setting up your computers and sharing access accounts in advance. You also need to identify someone to take charge of each person’s onboarding process.

 

Make expectations clear: Taking the time to show new employees their tasks and setting expectations is important. After the initial welcome team calls, utilize video and screen shares to walk new hires through guidelines to help them do their job well. Discuss work times and availability, response time, and productivity expectations.

 

Communicate regularly: Since there is no such thing as over-communicating with remote employees, establish open communication with them. Onboarding shouldn’t end after the first week. Instead, regular and ongoing cultural touchpoints are essential to building and reinforcing the remote working culture.

 

Get ahead of any remote work hurdle: There will be challenges with virtual onboarding, such as Wi-Fi connectivity issues or dealing with noisy neighbours. Having open communication across your team, especially with a new hire, can help reduce the impact of those challenges. Ask people what their specific issues are and how they like to communicate.

 

Don’t forget team bonding: To ensure that the new staff bond with the rest of the team, informal video hangouts at the end of the week can be helpful depending on the company culture. Or, consider sending out “welcome boxes” with some physical company merch when they come onboard.

 

These virtual onboarding tips can offer a good starting point on engaging with your new remote staff. Please let us know how they work for you via this email covid19businessinfohub@gmail.com.


Interested in Advertising Your Business on Social Media? Start Here!

A common mistake many business owners make when delving into the world of social media for the first time is failing to define clear goals. With COVID-19 pushing more businesses online and platforms being flooded with other brands, it’s more important than ever to identify what you want to achieve so that you can take the needed steps to see your brand thrive online!

Social media platforms popular among businesses include Instagram, WhatsApp, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. They can be used to drive business growth by increasing brand awareness (the number of people who know about your business), enhancing your brand reputation (improving their view of what you offer) and growing your revenue (by leading to new sales).

Your objectives for promoting your business on social media should be SMART:

  • Specific: Setting a specific and clear goal to ‘reach 200 new followers’ is more useful than having a goal of ‘increasing followers’ and can help you track your progress.
  • Measurable: ‘Increase revenue’ is not a goal unless you have a metric to measure your success. Some social media metrics include the number of likes, followers, and shares you reach on a particular platform (see below for more on these).
  • Attainable: Your goals should be challenging but be within reach. If you currently have 500 followers, a realistic target would be to reach 600 followers within two months, not 2000.
  • Relevant: Understand how your goal will benefit your business and make sure it meets your needs. If your business is targeting professionals, it may make more sense to advertise on a platform like LinkedIn. If it targets everyday consumers, Facebook and Instagram may be more appropriate.
  • Timely: Include a deadline for your goals so that you keep motivated and know when to see your success.

 

Once you have set objectives, the next step is to begin posting! Once you do that, you’ll want to measure the success of your social media performance. This will help you understand what kinds of posts are most popular and on which platforms.

Some common metrics you’ll want to track include:

  • Social Sharing: When a user reposts or sends your content/post to their networks and connections.
  • Impressions:Impressions are the number of times a post from your page is displayed.
  • Post Reach:the number of people who saw your post in their newsfeed.

You may want to think about using social media platforms not only to advertise but also to understand where you can do better. A few ideas include asking social media users to rate from 0 to 10 how likely they are to recommend your product or service or to ask about their level of satisfaction with a particular product or service (such as whether they are “Very unsatisfied”, “Unsatisfied”, “Neutral”, “Satisfied” or “Very Satisfied”). This kind of information can help you make tweaks that can bring your business to the next level.


Streamlining the Invoicing Process

Streamlining the Invoicing Process

While invoicing may not be the most enjoyable part of running a business, it is crucial to keep any company running. With the pandemic creating many challenges in cash flow management, it is now more important than ever to have a strong invoicing system. Here are three tips to improve your invoice management.

 

  1. Establish clear payment terms

Before entering into a contract or payment agreement with a client, make sure to explain your payment terms and policies to them. For example, if your terms are to receive payment within 15 days of issuance, let them know that up front. This allows your clients to avoid unwelcome surprises and fees when they receive invoices. Establishing this level of transparency also helps to build a stronger relationship with your clients.

 

  1. Know your clients

To ensure you receive payments in a timely and convenient manner, it is important to understand how your client behaves and their concerns and needs. Do they have a particular time of the week or month when they receive payment from an employer or their own clients? Do they prefer paying via cash or mobile money? Having a brief conversation with your clients can allow you to tailor payment terms to their cash flows and preferred methods of payment, which will make it easier for you to collect what is due. This can also help you understand when clients might require new deliveries of your product or services.

 

  1. Go digital

As businesses start shifting online, many companies expect digital payment solutions that allow them to make payments at any time from anywhere. Providing an online payment solution can save time in the invoicing process, allowing you to focus more on other important tasks. Digital solutions can also help you increase savings by reducing your expenses on delivery fees, paper costs, or additional staff or programs to handle the invoicing process.

Some useful online invoicing platforms include Zoho Invoice, Paypal, Pesapal and Easypay digital wallet that help you automate, track and organize payments.