Dear Entrepreneur, these are the top KEY lessons you need to learn by heart to succeed. I learned them the hard way; I have the scars to prove it

By Steve Biko Wafula / February 7, 2018


I recall my dad trying to teach me how to ride a bike and he was an impatient man because he had other more important things to do and he instructed the farmhand to show me how. The catch with the farmhand was that I had to go with him to look after the cattle if I needed to learn how to ride the bike. This I believed was not fair and I had to choose between learning how to ride and minding my own.

Day 1 I thought I could teach myself how to ride and I got hurt, ruined the bike and ended up in hospital. My dad was furious and after I left the hospital, I was canned for ruining his bike. I realized in hindsight that it would have been fun to have farmhand teach me how and I look after the cattle with him but my pride couldn’t let.

Looking back to that time, the farmhand was my mentor in knowing how to ride. Fast forward, starting a business and running it well requires that one seeks the help of others better qualified and normally this comes at a cost. A cost most of us are unwilling to pay.

My entrepreneurship journey has always reminded me of how I learned to ride my bike and the pain I went through, through the accident and the beating. With time, you appreciate what happened and as someone once said, a great mind learns from their mistakes and they never repeat them.  Unfortunately, I have repeated the same mistake over and over and with time, I have embraced my weakness and opted to share my lessons. I guess my pride and ego have something to do with it.

Entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted.  It’s not for the mentally weak.  It’s not for the emotionally unstable. It’s for those who know what grit is.  For those who can walk through hell without running to social media to complain. This has been my hardest lesson. This particular bike has taken almost 10 years just learning how to balance it.

I think the idea of entrepreneurship is highly misunderstood. It’s not meant for everyone, if you don’t have it then you don’t have it. Not everyone knows how to ride a bike and life goes on.

On my journey, I have had people who have held my hand throughout and God has been faithful. Staying with my lessons aren’t helping me and hence the need to share why I have the scars that I do.

Employees are the cog in the brand. Without them, you are nothing. I have learned to hire people who need the job more, who can’t afford to lose it. Not based on their papers but passion and the need. I have learned to hire them young, I have learned to hire talent, and then grow them, value them, mentor them and watch them grow the brand and this is my advice to all of us creating employment opportunities. I learned that I take care of the employees who take care of the customer who takes care of you. That it’s the best idea to empower your employees enough to make decisions. When they feel they own it, they’ll act like it and grow the brand.

Growth comes with its own labor pains. The pains are different for each of us. One thing that has helped me go through the growth curve is collaborations, network, referral, relationship. Everything is about relationships. It’s how you manage the relationships that matter most.

I learned that having a personal touch on what one does creates the needed bond between your business and the target market.

On clients, I have learned to listen this is because they are always assessing YOU. Yes, they’re watching your body language. They listen to the words you don’t use. They listen to the commas you miss out and to the promises you don’t say. They listen in a way that totally exposes you.

On the entrepreneurial journey, I learned that the easiest way just starts, enter the bus, you’ll be well on your journey, it’s lonely, have your social support with you (family, friends, partners). Don’t doubt yourself. Start and learn.

On my business I learned that to receive blessings and miracles, it’s easier when one is prepared, solve a problem, meet a need, be open to learn, tap/find your hidden motivation. Be ready to learn from others.

On key support system for the business, I learned that it’s easier, safer and cheaper in the long run if you pay your accountant; HR and lawyer well and create the needed bond of trust to deliver on the business.

In November I had a heart attack scare and it’s changed my life for good. I learned that taking time off is as good as change and that it’s key to have structures and processes that can handle your absence from the business. I learned that it’s safer to teach them to your employees and trust them to run the show when you are not there. I learned that life goes on, with or without you.

On customers, I learned that you must offer an experience that will ensure they come back for more. The moment you Nakumatt, Carrefour happens. I learned that humility is key. What are you offering your clients? Clarity, direction, savings, success, support, extra value. This is what will make them stay.

I learned that you’re not expected to please everyone. And if you are, you’re paying the price of compromise/ integrity

I learned that we are here to learn and to Share what you know. This way, you’re not emptying yourself, you’re multiplying and that you learn too. I learned that you either Go global or go home

I have learned a lot and am still learning. Some lessons are constantly on repeat, but if one can wear these lessons around their neck, their entrepreneurial journey would be easier.

About Steve Biko Wafula

Steve Biko is the CEO OF Soko Directory and the founder of Hidalgo Group of Companies. Steve is currently developing his career in law, finance, entrepreneurship and digital consultancy; and has been implementing consultancy assignments for client organizations comprising of trainings besides capacity building in entrepreneurial matters. He can be reached on: +254 20 510 1124 or Email: [email protected]

View other posts by Steve Biko Wafula