Does the 21st Century Kenyan Graduate have what it takes to work in a start up?

By / April 21, 2015 | 6:54 am




Entrepreneurs have diverse challenges and one of those that touch on the integrity of their start ups is the issue of credible and able employees.

As a budding entrepreneur, I have worked hard, constantly with daily mistakes to set up a start up in media and research. My biggest challenge wasn’t capital. Neither was it lack of packaged ideas of who we are but employees. Through my intense mistakes, I have come to appreciate an employee who has a particular set of qualities.

As @kenyanpundit once put it, it’s never about lack of capital. Most of us always blame the lack of capital as a hindrance to our growth when in essence it’s either lack of ideas or lack of competent employees.

For me at @SokoDirectory it’s been lack of competence because when you pitch to clients and investors, they expect you to deliver and the biggest challenge that entrepreneurs have is a team that can be able to envision the deliverables as espoused by the entrepreneur and deliver.

The last one year has been painful, has been full of unnecessary drama, has been full of incompetence, has been full of failure. The lessons scattered across 2014 would last any entrepreneur a lifetime. My pain, my lessons have made me come up with nine characteristics that a 21st Kenyan Graduate needs to be able to work in a Start-Up. I say start up because 76% of jobs created in our economy are made possible by SMES. Inasmuch as we all would love to work with big brands, the truth is, jobs created are by SMES. The first key aspect that a modern day employee needs is being able to be a problem solver. SMES have a million and one issues and you need employees who can be able to solve the challenges that they face without putting at risk any of the business available. Employees who can’t solve any issue, other than be on social media and fan subarus do not deserve to be employed.

One challenge I faced and one that made me broke was having employees who weren’t committed. Commitment is a key aspect that any employee must have. 99% of employees in start up always want to work in big brands. They forget that these big brands were start-ups at some point. Commitment is the key ingredient that drives an SME to success. A high turn over of employees is not good for any Star-up because the Start-Up will spend it time and Capital just training new staff all through. Graduates of degrees/diplomas/certificates must appreciate that SMES play a key role in creating employment and of they get that chance to work their, they must grow the brand.

Character trumps talent, it trumps creativity and it trumps experience. Start-Ups need employees who have the character and temerity to ensure that the interests of the SMES are protected and supported. Most graduate employees of whatever calibre think talent or creativity is all it takes to land a jobs, unfortunately , it doesn’t, character does. The important aspect of an SME is growth. This is courtesy of marketing and research. The two components that feed growth. In return, the ingredient that feeds growth is critical thinking. Employees who can’t think to be able to take the SME to the next level do not deserve to be employed. They do not even deserve to be graduates of any education system.

Information technology application is key for any employee in a start-up. Being savvy and being able to appreciate, apply and leverage the ICT platforms is critical as it will. Save the SMES the little capital it has for it to re-channel the funds to critical departments. Employees who can’t leverage this in today’s work place akin to an employee who can’t eat fish when it’s the only meal.

A start-up means trouble. Means the entrepreneur will be broke half the time. Means you will go for months without business. Means you will delay salaries and other critical bills. This means you need employees who understand what they are getting into. It means getting employees who understand what loyalty is all about. Loyalty is the name of the game. An entrepreneur running an SME needs loyalty to be able to grow from challenge to challenge to success. Failure to have employees who have this trait means the issue of the start-up will be open secret and this is not a good trend in a world where word of mouth has been digitised. Loyalty is everything.Qualities of a good employee

The one trait that an employee must have in order to ensure that a start-up is able to grow and become a reputable brand is the trait of professionalism. Most graduates of the 21st lack this. How they do their jobs, how they talk to clients, how they manage projects. It’s like the degree/diploma/certificate was bribed to be delivered. The cluelessness is to toxic that any start-up with such employees does not survive.

Professionalism is what keeps clients around. Without this, clients will not stay, this means imminent closure. Professionalism is not taught in campus or college but through constant training. Most employees of this generation are lazy and would not bother to attend professional training and most start-ups would not be able to afford such training to employees who are not loyal nor committed. Every SME must grow. It must meet its vision and mission and be able to meet the ROI on its venture. This means, all the employees must have leadership qualifications that can be able to oversee such a transition.

Leadership defines the stages of the lifeline of the SME. It shows employees who are keen to see the firm grow from one level to the next. Leadership is a quality that every employee must aspire to have.







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