Dennis Asiema is the Managing Director of Infotech Africa, an Independent Software Vendor (ISV) that specializes in tailor-made payroll management software.
How I build my business: I didn’t have any tools or office when I started out. I relied on small IT hustles to get by. Five years after getting started, I got a capital injection from my father that helped me set up a proper office and get the right tools. Since then, I have been able to fly the business out of the nest and develop applications that are employed by several large organizations across the country. This hasn’t been easy. I initially took time to understand the gaps and the needs in the market, and then came up with products that could address those needs through trial and error, and improvisation. I was also patient. It took me 14 months before I got my first client. Never be afraid to execute or at least try out an idea. Get used to failure and criticism, from which you’ll learn what to correct or improve on.
On saving: I never saved anything when I was under 30. I used everything. I’d always be paying for a business debt, an overhead, a loan, or throwing my cash into unnecessary expenditure. The software business is quite lucrative, and this can be ensnaring. A lot of us in this business get carried away in spendthrift once the money starts coming in. Today, though, I have made some investments in other business ventures, and there are some great ideas of which I am currently using my savings to develop. The rewards look promising.
Biggest mistake: One of my biggest money mistakes was hiring a sales executive who earned a pretty good salary and commissions, yet he never delivered. At the time, the company was very tiny and there was no cash flow. In fact, I barely had a reputable office premise and was sharing a virtual office. I realized that I was spending too much effort and money on using the wrong approach to attract customers. I needed a good marketing strategy before I hired a marketer expecting them to perform miracles for the company.
Making in the corporate world: The secret is absolute resilience. You have to be ready to identify needs, trends, and changes and be able to adapt. Many people go wrong because they are not dynamic. They never adapt to changes and adversity. Once they have a good idea, they never refine it, and instead they will ride on it until it dies. Many, too, prefer to move on to other ventures rather than reinvent or refine their ideas once they have made money from them.
Biggest loss: Sometime back, I lost a very large and important client because my initial product was too rigid and never quite addressed the core needs of the client. I realized that you can spend so much money, time and effort looking for the best clients even though having a product or service that will truly satisfy your targeted clients is more paramount. After this loss, I recalled my product from the market and went back to the drawing board. I spent six months refining it to ensure that all its functionalities were updated, user-friendly, available and working fast and easy.
If I could start all over again: I would manage my cash flow better by avoiding the unnecessary costs and expenses that I have incurred and paid for dearly. I would avoid copying what is already in the market. Over time, I have learned that much as you may sell products that are in the market or that have existed for a long time, there must be some uniqueness in your product or service and the solutions it provides.
On side hustles: I would not advocate for side hustles because I believe in total commitment at work, whether in employment or entrepreneurship. If you want to make the jump from employment to business, go right ahead and commit yourself to it rather than do it under wraps.