I learned the hard way never to mix business with friendship

George Gathoni is the co-founder and managing director of Nunua Hub, an e-commerce start-up targeting the Kenyan market.

The secret to making it: You will never get anywhere if you do not have strong self-discipline. It is self-discipline that pushes you to meet your deadlines, that turns hard work into a routine, and that fuels you to achieve goals that you wouldn’t otherwise come close to fulfilling. I strongly believe that once self-discipline becomes your daily habit, you will be keener to ensure that things are done accordingly, whether in employment or entrepreneurship. And once things start to fall into place, success will inevitably follow. I have also learned that it is important to believe in the viability of your business idea. Develop a workable and relevant idea, and channel your strengths and finances towards making it a profitable venture. Don’t be the kind that is always coming up with ideas that never leave the paper they are written on.

Saving method: Currently, I save through my business, which runs on a money-in money-out model. Since my field of business is in the e-commerce sector, I have prioritized reinvestment of profits and earnings back into the business. I particularly channel these profits and earnings towards the importation of high on-demand products. Nonetheless, I also have savings tucked away in government bonds for a rainy day.

Biggest career loss: This came as a result of mixing friendship and business. I was developing a software solutions package for a client who also happened to be a colleague of my close friend. On the basis of this friendship, I failed to pay attention to getting a contract and a memorandum of understanding written down. I trusted that as my close friend had indicated, the payment would come through without any hitches. But once I installed the software on the client’s system and acquired its license, the client vanished without paying a single cent for work done. I took this bitter experience as a referral that regardless of who I am doing business with, I must have all the requisite business contracts signed, and all terms and conditions of the job adhered to.

Biggest money loss: Sometime back, I invested heavily in dead stock. This occurred after I imported products without conducting thorough market research. Since then, I have learned to back up any product that I import with market needs and trends. Over and above, I have realized that in business, risk is a day to day affair. You will not go too far before you make a mistake. The difference, though, is in the way you juggle between your mistakes, and your decisions and priorities.

If I could go back in time: I would not hire my friends in my business. Instead, I would focus on building a more proactive team rather than rewarding friendships. Over the time that I have been in business, I have learned that building an enterprise requires a thick skin and the ability to say no to friends. This means that as the business grows, it will be necessary for you to lose some friends. Today, I no longer hire friends. I have also become more aware of where friendship ends and business starts.

Biggest milestone: Being a specialist in the field of information technology, my proudest moments have been seeing my IT solutions go on to change the way business is conducted, create jobs, and solve problems. Business is defined in such a way that your problems will be a business for others and vice versa. Always try before you quit.

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