The third edition of Barclay’s SME in Conversation, an initiative which engages small business owners in talks on what affects them and how to go about pushing through, was held in Eldoret on Thursday.
The event, which was held at Boma Inn saw various SME owners from the tech, manufacturing, farming, hotel and hospitality industry among others raise questions on how to deal with challenges like funding, how to retain employees, how to tackle theft in the workplace as well as making the right decisions for the perfect drive.
Held in conjunction with Barclay’s partners in the program; ShapeAfrika, Lan-x International, Passion Profits, and Wylde International, those in attendance had a lot to learn from the industry professionals as well as from testimonies from others who have been members of Barclay’s Business Club long enough.
After welcome remarks from Peter Kimotho, Regional Manager of Barclay’s Bank Kenya, it was down to business to which the first question posed; why is branding so important to an SME?
“People buy people. Maintaining good relations is mandatory for the progress of a company and if customers have the wrong perception of you, there won’t be much growth,” answered Frida Owinga of Passion Profits.
Apart from branding issues, what the business owners wanted to know more about was how Barclay’s Bank Kenya and the support team could help them. The whole forum voiced why the bank sometimes declines to offer them finances.
According to Susan Situma, Head of SME Banking for Barclay’s, some business owners aren’t committed to what they do. They have no viable plans that constitute growth and profitability.
“We look at several things, but the first one is your commitment. If you understand your business and you have the right drive, Barclay’s Bank will be more than happy to see you prosper,” she said.
Her words were seconded by testimonies from some of the members of the Business Club who have successfully visited other countries, mostly China for benchmarking purposes. To them, the bank has been there all through and it has always extended the much-needed help even for new entrepreneurs starting out.
Chris Odongo, of Wylde International, noted that the drive comes if measures for success and growth indicators in the business are implemented. What he meant was that for one to grow, one has to be prepared and anticipate change.
“Disruptions are everywhere, and planning ahead, keeping up with the market, putting the right systems in places such as accounting and security software, enhancing and offering employees the right skills, as well as welcoming change, are some of the key areas that need to be addressed if your business is to grow exponentially,” Chris said.
However, members of the forum challenged the sentiments wanting to know, especially with regards to employees, how to retain them and how to” keep them from stealing” as they identified it as one of the biggest challenges.
The question was gladly answered by one of the longtime members of Barclay’s Business Club, a tech entrepreneur owning Kificom Computers in Eldoret. He said that the best way to deal with theft is by installing security systems like CCTV cameras. Citing an example from the help he gave another business owner in Eldoret, he noted that after installing the cameras, the owner realized that some of his employees were stealing from him. But after the installation, nobody would even pick up a 500-shilling note if he left it on the floor all night.
According to a representative from Lan-x Africa Ltd, on top of security systems, accounting software comes in handy in dealing with money issues in the business.
The members were advised on involving employees in every step of the way, mentoring them and giving them the support they need including training if they should avoid business stagnation.
Notably, the SME owners were encouraged to undergo programs that prepare them to be emotionally intelligent to avoid outbursts and unnecessary temper that could affect the growth of the business. They were urged to maintain good relationships with Barclay’s Bank, liaise with the support partners, and treat customers and suppliers right, alongside other entities involved to foster growth.
“When you feel that your business is great but isn’t growing, consider your capacity. Re-engineer your mind and expose it to new approaches that will open up doors. Outline programs for growth and follow them through,” said a representative from one of the partners, Shape Afrika.
The SME owners had a lot to learn and toward the end of the program, they help to look forward to the next SME in Conversation alongside being members of Barclay’s Business Club.
Those looking to start or further the prosperity of the businesses can utilize the bank’s support and the mentorship of the partners to strategies and make wise decisions.
“Remember, it isn’t about where you are but what you have that’ll get you going,” concluded Frida Owinga of Passion Profits during the forum.