5 Ways To Build A Positive Corporate Culture In Your Business

I’ve been rather terrible with my content scheduling since last month I will admit, (due to a busier schedule ^_^) and so I’ve decided to follow my own advice – plan ahead and stick to the plan! Today’s post is motivated by three different business cultures that I’ve encountered over the last two months that have highlighted the need for a deliberate organizational culture in any setting; whether an NGO, Church organization, Government organization or business.
I’ve encountered two negative corporate cultures; in a festival setting that I was involved in and a church organization I’m consulting for that’s in transition from one leader to another. I’ve also encountered a very positive and open culture with a vendor I deal with that is very inspiring. This made me realize that whether a business or organization leader chooses to cultivate a culture deliberately or not; a culture forms anyway. If a leader or leaders of a business or organization cultivate a positive culture deliberately, they build a very positive, happy culture and staff that extends to their clients or customers as well. If a leader does not actively promote positive attitudes and perpetuates a negative attitude and actions as well, the organization’s culture becomes a very negative one that also extends to clients, customers and even interns (if such a program exists within the organization). This should motivate any entrepreneur to cultivate a positive business/corporate culture in his/her business for long-term success in the business. Success will be achieved because you will have highly productive employees who are happy and have a positive attitude. This positive attitude will shine through in daily operations to vendors, clients, interns and this will lead to people being satisfied with your business and staying loyal to your brand. Here are a few ways you can build a deliberate positive corporate or organizational culture in your business.

1. Show your employees respect at all times
Many company or organization leaders, especially here in Kenya, don’t show respect to their employees. They like to treat them like lowly servants and show them they are of a lower class, by addressing and treating them in negative ways. This is a colonial and out-dated way of thinking and it’s becoming increasingly ineffective in the management of companies. Many successful companies in the world these days have very positive cultures and focus on ensuring the satisfaction of their work force e.g. Virgin or Hubspot. They realize that happy employees are highly productive and will help you build a successful business. No matter what your position as a leader is in an organization or a business; respect your subordinates, whether you are a manager, department head or even the CEO or founder.

Respect each other

Respect each other

Bottom Line: Treat your employees with respect and dignity as you would treat any other human being and you would like to be treated in kind. Listen to them and do not put them down verbally or otherwise. This will earn the respect of your employees and they will work hard for the company to make it successful.

2. Keep an open line of communication in your business
Are employees afraid to speak up in meetings? Are they afraid to answer honestly when you ask any question? Is it difficult for employees to reach you when they want to discuss a sensitive matter with you? If you answered yes to any of these questions, you need to change the way you communicate with your employees or subordinates. Have brief meetings weekly with your staff to get their opinions on the way the business is running and any challenges they are dealing with daily. Encourage honest feedback on operations and any other issues that concern the business. Employees may share important information on challenges being faced and ways to overcome them in your organization.
Bottom Line: Whether you are a small startup where your staff report directly to you or a larger company where they report to unit or department managers; ensure there is always an open line of communication. This will cultivate a culture of happy employees who feel they are listened to and their opinions are important to the company. They will work hard to make sure your company is a success.

3. Trust your team
If you have hired a team to help you run your business e.g. an accountant, a human resource manager, head of operations, a secretary etc. You have chosen them due to their qualifications, experience and they have showed they work well with minimal supervision and deliver positive results. Don’t micro-manage them, trust them to do their jobs without having to call them or stand over their shoulder every minute to inquire on the progress.

Trust your team (Image: mashable.com)

Trust your team (Image: mashable.com)

Bottom Line: Trust your team to work well and efficiently; monitor them periodically by putting systems in place to check the progress on all operations. Don’t micro-manage.

4. Show accountability
Company leaders are always asking their employees to be accountable for their actions and their work. A good leader leads by action; if you want your staff to be accountable, you should do the same. If you set goals that involve your employees or make any promises in the work place; make sure to work hard and achieve the goals, as well as fulfill your promises. If you’re not able to, communicate the reasons why to your staff and how you intend to deal with the situation effectively.
Bottom Line: Be accountable in your company or small business. Employees feel motivated to be accountable in their work if their leaders are accountable as well.

5. Have fun at work
As a business leader, CEO or founder of your business; you spend 90% (or more) of your time at work. Your employees also spend most of their week at the work place as well. It therefore makes sense to make the working place an easy and fun environment to work at for any individual who works there. It’s alright to loosen up and have some fun while working. You can even plan monthly team building or sports activities that are fun for your employees and will create a bonding experience for the whole company.

keep calm - work hard and have fun poster
Bottom Line: Ensure your employees are having fun at work, but not at the expense of professionalism or your company’s business goals.

These are just a few ways of creating a positive corporate/organizational culture for your business in order to ensure success for your company as well as your employees.
If you have any other suggestions feel free to comment below.

If you find this post helpful and would like to share – please do so below.
Spread the word ^_^!

Interview with Pauline Twala of Affordable Eats, Kisumu

I’ve recently been meeting great people and also connecting with amazing people online. I’ve decided to start a segment where I’ll be sharing some interviews with inspiring entrepreneurs who have built a successful business or are in the process of doing so. I will have them share their insight on what they do and a bit of entrepreneurial advice for all of us start up entrepreneurs out there.

Pauline Twala of Affordable Eats

Pauline Twala of Affordable Eats

I recently connected online with an amazing lady (we bakers gravitate towards each other ^_^) called Pauline Twala; she’s the owner of Affordable Eats – Kisumu’s Boutique Catering. Affordable Eats is a catering business that serves events as well as a bakery that makes cakes for occasions and weddings. Pauline is also a baking instructor who teaches students how to bake and decorate amazing cake creations in Kisumu. Pauline is not originally a pastry chef or culinary artist; she has a background of political science and public administration. She is however a self-taught baker and cake decorator who followed her passion and started her own business about two years ago in Kisumu. To learn more about her story, please click on this link.

Pauline in the Daily Nation - she's the next big thing!

Pauline in the Daily Nation – she’s the next big thing!

Here is our online interview; very insightful responses.

1.) Why did you start a business? Why in this industry?

My passion for baking and cooking developed when I was very young. I remember I was a member of the cooking club back when I was in St.Georges’ Primary School – Nairobi at the age of 9 and I’d always go back home to try out recipes we had learnt. Then life took over I did a degree in Political Science and Public Administration at Moi University. I have worked as a market researcher and an office administrator with a number of organizations but I just couldn’t settle and felt so unfulfilled. After my contract ended with Italian Embassy – development co-operation in December 2011, I thought it was about time I change careers and do something that I enjoyed doing.Initially when I started in 2012, my main focus was outside catering but the demand for catering services tends to fluctuate primarily because catering services reach peak demand for special occasions i.e. wedding and end year corporate parties. I later added the cake section in the same year in response to market demands and after a lot of research. You don’t need an occasion to celebrate cake and it was the best decision I made. I have fallen in love more with cakes as I really love the creative elements of cake designing.

 2.) What’s your niche in your business? What problem do you solve?

A niche is basically “find a hole and fill it” So the hole I fill is creating a cake that tells a story as well as push limits with cake and create things that look so real that someone may have to ask “is that cake”

3.) How do you market your business? Is it effective?

I figured early online the importance of having an online presence and took a DIY approach to build my website as well as a Facebook page to grow the business and drive customer growth and this has greatly opened doors for us not only with clients but with media coverage as well.

 4.) What is your motivation? How do you get inspired?

Cakes make people smile. I get delighted when I make others excited with unbelievable cakes and it keeps me motivated to get better at what am doing.

5.) Favorite inspirational quote?

My favourite quote and one that I also live by is “Never give up” This quote has kept me going. I am where I am right now because I believe in my dreams and I am inspired to make them a reality. God has blessed me with a talent so I will be acting ungrateful if I didn’t use it. So sometimes when things get hard and I want to stop, I remind myself that He would not have given it to me if I could not bear it so “never give up”

6.) What is your morning routine? When do you wake up?

Every day is different and since I’m a “night owl” my mornings do not all begin at the same time. However currently am in between routines, trying to come up with something I could fit in an hour or less that still has all the elements that nourish me on the physical, mental and emotional level.

7.) How do you de-stress? Relieve business stress?

In no apparent order: I take deep breaths, take a walk, listen to my favourite music and sing it out loud, laugh out loud, watch a movie, call a friend or family to vent out if need be

8.) Top 3 favorite websites? and why?

I bookmark any site that has great decorating advice and tutorials as well as forums to connect with others to talk about baking and decorating

9.) Any advice for any youth who have started a business in Kenya & facing challenges?

I would just say this – if you have the desire and inspiration and eagerness then do it and never despair the rest will happen along the way. There are many people out there who will tell you that you can’t. What you’ve got to do is turn around and say ‘Watch me.’”  It is also so important that you have fun and treat it as a joyful experience. Also make sure you have a good support system around you, whether it be a spouse, family or friends.

10.) Your current favorite song?

I have loved still love and will always love “so close I believe” by Hillsong this song is so inspirational and will get me into tears just being amazed at God’s faithfulness.

11.) What’s the best part of your business? Worst/Annoying part?

My highlights: Firstly it’s finding myself through this journey of cakes. Now I can’t imagine my life without Affordable Eats. I live it, talk about it and most times bake and decorate cakes in my dreams. Secondly without a doubt, seeing the smiles on my client’s face, the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment. When they take the time to write feedback and say thank you for the inspiration or for a great cake. That for me is the most rewarding feeling. The same applies to my students whom I teach cake baking and decorating it’s so nice to see a student’s face when they realize they can and giving them skills at a shot at making it a career…Lastly I have made so many virtual friends through Affordable Eats although I’ve never met them in real life, I do consider them friends, bound by a common interest. It’s Amazing the kind of support I have received from fellow “cakers”! Who knew cake could do that?!

For challenges: Firstly there’s no universal cake language – you can refrigerate fondant covered cake/you cannot refrigerate fondant covered cake, fondant should be used up immediately it’s made/fondant should rest at least 8 hours or overnight before use, you should use straws to dowel/only use wooden dowels………….it’s a long list of this is the way/that is not the way. Secondly the time investment can be pretty tough and I mean REALLY TOUGH. Most of the cakes take 20 to 30 hours each.  I’ve had some that took more than 50 hours and all this in between meeting clients, making deliveries, book keeping, social media marketing and advertising, answering calls and emails, classes etc. It’s physically demanding. Cake decorators are really a special breed – to make cakes we can stay up until wee hours of the morning and then still manage to function during the day, as if we were sleeping well all night long.

12.) Who are your key influences/ role models?

You can learn so many things from so many people around you but my favourite role model has to be my late mother. No word can encompass her but she was simply the best

13.) Five words that describe you?

Determined, Fighter,Spontaneous,Generous,Reliable

14.) How do you deal with financial crisis in your business? or any other crisis?

By taking actions that will cut on spending as much as possible and focusing on increasing cash flow or generating more income and saving that income even if it means extra hours.

Amazing cake by Affordable Eats.

Amazing cake by Affordable Eats.

Great interview! Amazing Kenyan female entrepreneur to watch out for, I wish her all the best!

Make sure you check out her business website as well as her Facebook page for Affordable Eats – Kisumu’s Boutique Catering. If you’re in Kisumu please order some cake for any occasion as well as catering services ^_^

7 Reasons Why Small Businesses Fail Within The First Year

We hear many statistics about small businesses often, especially about their failure rate within the first three years. Those statistics have become very personal to me due to the fact that my small business struggled a lot last year and almost closed. I have also encountered at least three young entrepreneurs that I know, who have closed their businesses over the last year – and their businesses were less than a year old. Today I want to focus on seven main reasons why small businesses fail within the first year. I believe that knowing the reason why, will help small business owners avoid most of these pitfalls and keep their small businesses going, and it time, successful.Business closed sign

1.Underestimating capital requirements

A lot of small business start-ups don’t think that having a business plan is necessary, however; it’s imperative to write one, especially when starting your small business. A business plan not only helps you put down your business idea on paper and how it will be executed; it also helps you know the capital requirements required to start and run your business for at least six months. Some start-up owners get so excited about starting their small business that they don’t sit down to write the actual required cost of starting their business. They tend to find out when it’s too late and the business is failing already. Make sure you have a business plan for your small business if you don’t already have one or if you want to start your business.

Budget for your start-up accurately

Budget for your start-up accurately

2. Poor business store location

This is one reason I can testify to personally; especially when it comes to researching whether a specific location will match the products or services that you offer. It can be a great high traffic area, but your business may not do well because you do not offer what the customers in that area want or require. It’s necessary to always do product and market research in the area you want to start your business to see if your business has a fighting chance. If it does not, don’t start your business in that location; no matter how good the shop or area looks. Just be patient and keep looking for a better location for your business.

3. Poor Management of Business

This is a major cause of small business closure in Kenya; a small business owner may be very motivated and have qualities of an entrepreneur; however, you also need to have management skills to run your business as well. The day to day operations of a small business require knowledge on how to manage different aspects of your business e.g. cash flow management, how to hire employees, how to choose vendors, etc. It’s necessary for small business owners to either acquire basic management skills or to either partner or hire a  person who has the management skills required. This might not seem necessary to a start-up owner at the beginning; but trust me, it’s very necessary for your business to stay open in the long run. A great website for resources on running your small business is Kuza Biashara, they have blog posts and ‘How-To’ videos that assist small business owners in Kenya.

4. Lack of Creativity and Innovation

Whatever product or service your business offers, make sure you’re always innovating it. Every successful company has gotten there because they are constantly being creative and innovating in their business. A great example of innovation and creativity is a Kenyan company that manufactures energy saving jikos – Cookswell. They originally just sold jikos and charcoal ovens; but in time, they added barbeques to their product list. They then started creating barbeques in animal shapes such as boars or ostriches. This kind of creativity and innovation keeps your customers coming back and loyal to your brand since they’re curious as to what you will do next.

The Cookswell Animal BBQs - Great creativity & innovation!

The Cookswell Animal BBQs – Great creativity & innovation!

5. Poor Control of Expenditure

This is another major reason for small business closure, especially in Kenya. A small business could be bringing in revenue but if the owner does not have control over the expenditure of the business cash; the business could close in time. A major problem for the small businesses is also the mixing up of personal and business finances. It’s good to ensure that as a small business owner you separate your personal finances from your business finances. It’s also necessary for a small business owner to ensure that they are tracking all their business expenditures by keeping all the necessary accounting records necessary.

6. Theft, Fraud, Fire and Natural Disasters

Unfortunately for a small business other factors that may be beyond your control can lead to the closure of your business. The best way to avoid such factors or at least to survive them is by getting small business insurance. Insurance can cover you when either theft, fraud, fire and natural disaster strikes. Make sure you understand your small business insurance policy very well, get the insurance agent to explain to you what it really covers and what it doesn’t to avoid any misunderstanding. Small business owners tend to think that they don’t need insurance since they have small business; however, since there are things you cannot have control over; it’s better to be prepared instead.

Theft can occur in your small busines (Image: uca.org)

Theft can occur in your small business (Image: uca.org)

7. Poor or no marketing plan

This may seem obvious but I have noticed some small business owners seem to ignore this aspect of their business. Marketing is an activity that never stops as long as your business is open – I mean, look at Coca Cola, they have never stopped marketing and they are such a large international company. Marketing is what brings in sales into your small business; therefore, you should always ensure you have a marketing plan in place. Other small businesses also have a marketing plan, but it’s either very weak or not effective. In this day and age of social media and online search; you need to make sure that your business’ presence is felt. It is a very competitive business market out there in any industry and your competitor is probably still marketing to your target market whether you are or not.

Baking Class Poster - Never stop marketing your biz

Baking Class Poster – Never stop marketing your biz

I hope this seven points have helped you, as a small business owner, realize where your problem points could be and avoid business closure or failure in the future. If you have any other points you would like to share that can also cause business failure; please feel free to comment below.

If you like this post and found it helpful, please share it to your social networks below so you can help someone else. Sharing is caring ^_^

3 Very Important Tips Self-publishing Authorpeneurs Should Never Forget

As an authorpreneur in Kenya, you might decide that you would like to self-publish your book. A few years ago the thought would have seemed impossible but these days, international self-published authors such as E.L.James of ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ or Guy Kawasaki who self-published ‘APE: Author, Publisher, Entrepreneur’, have books that have gained popularity and sold millions. After hearing that, a fiction writer might think that it’s very easy to publish a book and make a lot of money online; however, it is not that easy. Self-published authors still work very hard to not only write, but create their product (the book they’ve authored) and sell it to the market in an effective way in order to achieve success. It’s not an easy road since unlike signed authors who have a publishing house backing them up, you might have to do a lot of work yourself instead. However if you are an author who is ready to take on the challenge of being an entrepreneur, you can achieve success.
There are three important aspects of self-publishing your book that you should never take lightly and should tackle in the most professional of ways. These three aspects are imperative to the success of your book.APE with lady

1. Getting a professional editor to edit your book
You might be a very good and talented writer, however; even the best make mistakes. You need to get someone to read your book and edit for any grammatical errors or to check for good writing. It is therefore important to find at least one editor who is skilled and seasoned in editing books professionally for writers. You can have 2 to 5 other people read your draft in order to assist with editing, such as your friends or family who are well versed in editing; but it’s always important to make sure one of the people who is editing your book before you publish it has some professional experience or background. You can decide to find an editor and hire them for their services. If you are a new authorpreneur and do not have a large budget; there are ways you can look for editing services for very low costs or for free. Websites such as Writer.ly or Writing.com have people who offer editing services for authors looking to self-publish. They have their rules on how they go about it, but you can check two or three sites to see which one’s the best fit for you.

2. Getting a professional and well-designed cover page for your book

Save my heart cover page - elly kamari

Elly Kamari E-book Cover page

It’s very important to get a well-designed cover page for your book before you self-publish. The cover page should be able to attract the correct target audience for your book as well as portray the ‘face’ of your book effectively. In business, presentation is very important, therefore; you book is no different. If you are not talented or well-versed at graphic design or cover page design, you need to get someone who is. If you have a family member or friend who has such skills, then approach them and have them do a professional cover page for your book. If you do not know anyone near you who does graphic design, you can choose to look for a professional graphic designer or photographer (if you require a professional photograph done for your book cover) and hire their services. If you have a small budget; you can look for sites that have artists who offer cover page design services at a lower cost or for free to get referrals or gain experience and exposure. Try out sites such as Deviant art or Writer.ly, they also offer design services; where you can network with these individuals and find out how they offer their services. You can also inquire on fiction writing sites since they may also have or know of individuals who offer those services as well.

3. Writing a descriptive and stellar ‘blurb’ for your book
A ‘blurb’ is the little paragraph that is at the back of every book which describes the story in short and lets the potential reader know what the book is about. It’s very important since it’s what helps you ‘close’ the sale on your potential reader. It has to be engaging and compelling enough to leave the potential reader wanting more – enough to buy your book. This is similar in business to a product description. You have to ensure you entice the target reader with just enough information to pique his/her interest. This requires the writer’s talent in writing and summarizing a story in a few sentences, so make sure you are up to the challenge. Have one or two people read the blurb, especially those who haven’t read your book yet and get their reaction on whether it piques their interest.

Write a stellar blurb for your book

Write a stellar blurb for your book

I hope those three pointers have helped any of you authorpreneurs out there, now get to work and get that book of yours ready for selling!

If you have any other pointers on how to get your book ready for the market before selling it, feel free to share below ^_^.

This post appeared originally on the Storymoja Hay Festival Blog

How Authorpreneurs in Kenya Can Connect and Gain Loyal Followers

As an authorpreneur in Kenya, you may be wondering how to connect your brand (you as an author) to your target audience in order to gain loyal followers who will not only purchase your books; but also share your fiction works with their friends and networks as well. You will need to apply a kind of marketing called inbound marketing in which you attract, convert, sell and delight your target audience. There are various ways of engaging with your target audience and achieving those four goals. Today I want to share four effective ways in which an authorpreneur can do so.

Authorpreneur 101 pic

1. Create a blog and post on it consistently
As a fiction writer if you don’t already have a blog, you need to create one right away. There are many reasons why any brand should have a blog, and for a fiction writer such as yourself – this applies to your brand as well. It is a very effective way of connecting with your audience; as well as sharing your sample fiction works and updates about your brand or any other interests you would like to share. You can write short stories in your blog which your audience can read to get a better understanding of your talent and style of writing as well as the genre in which you write in. A great example is this blog on Romance in Nairobi. You can also choose to share helpful and relevant information in any topic; whether it is geographical information about locations you write about, or helpful tips to writers who are beginning to write fiction stories. This is your own space online that will attract your target audience and let them know more about yourself and possibly convert them to become your loyal followers.

2. Create social media pages and engage with your audience
Once you attract your audience, it’s very important to engage and interact with them. The best way to do this is on social media since that’s where most of them are as well. If you don’t already have accounts, create pages for your brand in which you will connect and engage with your audience. You can choose two or three social sites that you feel comfortable to start with, instead of opening numerous accounts that you cannot keep up with. Examples are; creating a Facebook page for your brand image, opening a Twitter account and then you can add another social media site such as Pinterest or LinkedIn depending on whether you want a visual based social site or you want to network with other authors. You don’t have to get a third social media account, if you are comfortable with only two, stick with that. Make sure you post consistently on your social media sites and use the 80/20 rule; 80% helpful and engaging material and 20% promotion on your brand products i.e. Fiction books.

Elly Kamari - Author FB page

Elly Kamari – Author FB page

3. Create accounts on self-publishing sites
As a writer, you need to be available in sites that are used in your industry because that is where majority of your target audience will be as well. Two main examples of these sites are Smashwords and Amazon. They are important since they sell fiction books to their customers and this is a ready market for you to attract. This is very important especially if you are a self-publishing fiction writer. If you don’t already have accounts in these sites, make sure you open them as soon as possible. You will be able to create a profile for your brand as well as share your writing to your target audience as well.

Self publish on smashwords.com

Self publish on smashwords.com

4. Visit industry-related events and festivals
As a fiction writer, it is necessary to connect with other writers in your genre and area; as well as readers who have a major interest in your industry. Great places to connect with such people are poetry and spoken word events, festivals such as the Storymoja Hay Festival which offers a chance to meet great authorpreneurs in various genres and master-classes that offer insightful discussions and information on various industry-related topics. These kinds of events will be visited by both your potential target audiences – avid readers interested in meeting authors and learning more about their interests. You will also meet and network with other authors; those who have been in the industry for long or new fiction writers beginning to write seriously such as yourself. Therefore ensure you are always on the look out for such events; so make sure you attend the Storymoja Hay Festival in the Nairobi Museum starting on the 17th of September this month.

Come to the Storymoja Hay Festival in Sept. 2014

Come to the Storymoja Hay Festival in Sept. 2014

Get started on doing the above things and you will be on your way to creating a strong and loyal following for your brand as an authorpreneur in Kenya.

Do you have any other sites or tips for authorpreneurs to visit or follow? Please feel free to share below.

This post appeared originally on the Storymoja Hay Festival Blog