Susan Kaitanny, CEO of the high-end beauty parlour, ‘Posh Palace’, shares six tough lessons she has learnt in business management over the years.
1. When starting out, you will make mistakes, but learn fast
Have a business plan
When starting out, try to have at least one thing going right; a solid business plan.
Set up systems
When I started my first business, I did not have structures and systems. I was printing out invoice books as needed. I lost a lot of money to theft as a result.
Don’t trust easily
I trusted people too much too fast. When you are starting out, you aren’t really aware that there are people who can take advantage of you and steal from you. Always let people earn your trust.
You don’t need a million employees to begin with. You don’t need a fancy office. All that will come with time. I started my first business in a tiny room and I was the sole employee. Later, when business grew, I brought on three employees.
Surround yourself with inspiring people
Entrepreneurship is a journey, so I have to keep learning new things every single day. People need to add to your life and give you invaluable knowledge; great insights that you would have never been able to have on your own. So, network widely and surround yourself with people who will motivate you.
2. Be a leader your people can follow
Human resource is the hardest thing for all businesses across the world. It is still my greatest challenge today and overcoming it is still a work in progress. You can have a good product and systems in place, but if your people are not happy, there is nothing much you are doing. If you are the leader, everyone is looking up to you so the bar is high. You cannot speak one thing and live something else. You have to be a leader who follows through. It starts with you and your actions. Are you putting in the work yourself? Are you leading by example? It is your actions that matter most. When your staff look at you and your life, they should be able to say, “Yes, I want to be like my boss. I like the way she carries herself. I like the way she lives her life. She is a focused person.”People will only follow you when you give them a reason to. You have to motivate them daily. As much as you have to drive sales, don’t forget they are also human. Be approachable and reachable. Have an open-door policy. They need to be comfortable with you.
3. Succeeding in a competitive market takes work
It took a lot for me to succeed in Eldoret. I was a Nairobi kid who had moved upcountry. All my clients were older. I had to tone down my dressing and grow up fast. I did door-to-door marketing, and sometimes I would trudge back to my campus hostel in tears. Eventually, I learned that the biggest and best way of marketing your work is actually through your work. It speaks for itself. Your clientele is always going to be your number one seller. Over the years, I have tried to market in different ways – newspapers, radio, billboards – but I have found that the thing that will always speak for me is my work. If you have done a good job, your clients will tell other clients. My service delivery has been my main marketing tool.
4. Make the bank your friend
Cash flow is the heart of a business. Not having good cash flow is like not having enough blood in your body. Cash flow is what keeps the business going. And in tough spots, you will need your bank. Thus, you need to have a decent relationship with your bank. You cannot depend on other people to bail you out because many times, they will disappoint you. At the end of the day, it is just you and your banker, who most times will try not to fail you if you have maintained a decent account with them over time. There have been times when I have asked my branch manager to allow me to overdraw my account and they do it because they can look at the account and see that there has been reasonable cash flow. Identify a good bank and stick with it.
5. There is always room, even in a crowded market
It does not matter what business you get into. The question is whether you can differentiate yourself. We could all be selling toothbrushes, but my toothbrushes will be different. I don’t allow myself to be the norm. I purpose to be different. The truth is that there is enough for everyone. If you are opening something, put in a bit of yourself in it. When you think about Posh Palace, for instance, you can see me in it. It has a personal touch to it. If the customers can feel you and feel your passion and can see what your vision is, then you will be different for sure. It is different from someone who just wakes up and copy-pastes someone else’s business. My business is founded on the things that make me happy. When I go to a beauty parlour, I want to go to a place where I can enjoy the music, I can have some tea, some wine and sit at a bar. I want to be able to relax. When I am getting my hair done, I want to feel like I am in a hotel room. Life is generally hard so you just want one hour where you take some time out, and you want to have that in a nice place. I am the test customer for my own businesses – I make it what I would like to experience.
6. Stick to the timeless truths of succeeding in business
Consistency is key
Doing the same thing over and over again with finesse is what a successful business is about. Also, if you fail, get up. Again and again. You can’t give up. It’s dreaming up ideas to better your business, over and over again. You can’t be complacent; improve consistently.
If you are not excited about your business, there is very little you can do for it. When you are passionate, you are driven. Running a business takes a big chunk of your life; you need to be excited about it or close shop.
You can never underestimate the power of work. The hustle is the grease to life. It keeps the business going. Plus, when you hustle, you feel good. Any time you win, it gives you a high. Even when you try but fail, the rush is worth it. It is like skydiving every single time. Enjoy the process.