The relationship between an entrepreneur and a provider of professional services is supposed to be symbiotic. However, that is hardly the case. Even when they have to work together, it’s always a difficult situation for both the provider and the entrepreneurs (buyer). To be competitive, SMEs need to professionalize and very seriously so. While the long term approach to this would be employing professional sta, the gap can initially be closed by hiring those staff from outside on short term assignment as and when needed. These professional services will fall under the technical disciplines like law, accounting, marketing, PR etc. We have previously highlighted on how this can happen. The challenge however is that it is not happening already. So now we ask ourselves, why are entrepreneurs in Kenya not patronizing the services of the professional service providers?
While entrepreneurs are good at sniffing and seizing opportunity, they may not have complete view of what is required to entrench their idea in the market place all by themselves. There are many things that the entrepreneurs don’t do simply because they don’t know about them. Have you secured the intellectual property of your idea? Uh! Can we see your biz plan? Eti whaat! What is your valuation and how did you reach that figure? Mwathan! What are your current actualized revenues? Cheso! Have you got all the necessary paperwork done? Nini hiyo sasa!. Let’s face it, no one knows everything. Just know what you have to. What you don’t know can easily be procured from others who know. Critically though, you’ve got to keep that open mind of embracing such markets and not limiting your biz to only your own capabilities.
Let’s accept it, entrepreneurs are a special breed and quite rightly so. They are quick to jump to risk. Sometimes they burn but many others they thrive. So the service provider will likely meet them when they are on their growth phase. Here, the entrepreneur will likely wonder where you were when he had to battle all the uncertainty to emerge. If he survived without you before, why would he doubt that he will also survive without you in the future? Coincidentally also, the professional service provider will be a highly educated hustling guy who may have not even professionalized and entreprenurilized his hustle. Picture an entrepreneur snorting wewe na masomo yako you still have nothing, what do you think you can tell me? It happens even to the employed professionals working for established service providers who won’t gain any respect from entrepreneurs. An auditor shared his experience with a certain entrepreneur which got ugly until he had to tell the entrepreneur that if he doesn’t take his opinion its fine. However, 2 years from now, he would be employed but the entrepreneur’s biz will be very dead” Does it happen? Entrepreneurs need to tone down their ego, accept that while they are good at seizing opportunity and all, others are trained and capable of stabilizing the ship.
3. Idea Poachers
Kenyans have perfected the habit of copying ideas and replicating them. This has led to cannibalism and also stolen IP. Market espionage and new market entrants are a real risk for most. You will therefore appreciate that entrepreneurs will try very much to guard information about their trade so that they don’t lose it to poachers. Now those poachers also come clothed as professional service providers. They might be so, but operating in spaces without professional ethics or even bodies to regulate them. This makes the work for the other genuine service providers a little tricky. We want the entrepreneurs to trust professionals and open up to the core so we can help them appropriately. It’s primarily the collective responsibility of the good professionals to ensure that the lemons aren’t allowed to spoil the market for oranges.
The entrepreneur you see today hasn’t gotten there by happenstance. Its because they have learned to save. Some entrepreneurs have saved themselves away from lunch or even ‘decent’ dressing. Sometimes this savings goes to the extent of them wanting to either get services for free or pay the most minimum possible. This has led to the classic problem we have in Kenya of poor quality goods and services out of guys saving on inputs. Such saving crazy entrepreneurs will see professional services as a cost they can avoid. They work so hard to get their coin, so they don’t understand how to pay some 30k to a lawyer. Wacha ikae. In the situations they have to use the service then they want to spent the bare minimum and in the process risking dealing with quacks. Failure to spend some little money has led to the death of some very good dreams. We all have the collective responsibility to ensure that every single biz survives and thrives. Any failure is just too painful for all of us.
5. Short – termism
Entrepreneurship is driven by opportunity hence the emergence of opportunistic entrepreneurial class. They are there because they got an opening on a tender somewhere, a chance to sell at a kill maybe. The others are doing this biz as they look for a job or the next big break. Such guys are very well aware that they aren’t here to build an empire. They are here for the now. Spending money on professional services is the last way they want to lose money. Who wants to invest in accounting when they aren’t sure the biz will be there next year? Who wants to undertake a market research when their relative works in a department where tenders flow without much need for marketing or selling?
6. Low Quality Services
How many times has it been said that our colleges are producing half-baked graduates? Now look around? Do you see a university graduate near you? How would you really like them to work for you? Maybe not that much. That is the unfortunate the situation of our system of education. Our culture (or lack of it) hasn’t helped matters. We take so many short cuts mwakenya and all just to get the papers. It’s also been in the news of even leaders having fake degree certificates from colleges they don’t even know where they are located. Very rampant and supremely unfortunate. Then there are the well trained among us. But even they are trained to be employed by big corporates. Very well qualified guys who either can’t work themselves (hence can only be employed) or have no idea how to customize their BIG knowledge to fit the needs of startups and SME entrepreneurs. We also have general consultants ala Quacks. Guys who posture like experts, get an assignment when they have not the capability then do such a bad job and spoil the job for everyone else. Stick to the lanes you can drive in.
Well, now that we know some of the reasons in the Kenyan context, we need to stress that it is the responsibility of the service providers to stimulate the demand for their services. The service providers largely work on templates, they will need to be adaptable and capable of customizing their services to fit the needs, your vision and a road map of a small entrepreneur.
Let’s keep talking