Kenya's general election is around the corner (8 August), and everyone is getting ready for the big day. But even as the government and the
public prepare for elections, we don't hear much about what Small & Medium Businesses are doing to protect themselves against any slowdown in
business or potential disruptions to their day-to-day operations.
We're living in exciting times of change, challenge and opportunity, with high GDP growth, rising interest rates and an evolving social and
business environment. Given that Small & Medium
Businesses make up 98% of business in Kenya and contribute 30% of jobs, the conversation about how business owners can safeguard their
businesses for continuity is an important one.
There is little doubt that the elections have added some uncertainty to the economic outlook, even if most economists are still predicting a GDP
growth of 5-6% for the year. Some companies have halted spending and investment, and of course, there is high inflation, even without factoring in
the impact of the election.
Cutting costs and chasing up debtors
This is a good time to look at business discipline and to ask whether you have any opportunities to reduce costs or chase up outstanding
payments from your debtors. If you anticipate that you'll need capital to grow or access to credit you could start looking at the available
options whether from your bank, Micro Finance Institutions, or a Savings and Credit Cooperative Organisation (SACCO).
One idea is to look for ways to reduce wastage and inefficiency. For example, do you really need expensive offices if your team spends most of
the time at client sites, or if you do most of your work on a computer? Or are you spending too much money on running costs like printing and
running costs? A robust accounting system can help you better understand your expenses so that you can find ways to cut costs.
The current environment is also an opportune time for business owners to ask how technology can support their business goals. Unlike big
corporations that will be running on skeleton staff, each with a clear allocation of tasks, Small & Medium Businesses do not have the luxury
of delegating and might benefit from using technology to improve efficiency.
Looking to the cloud
With increased penetration of smartphones and improved broadband connectivity, some Small & Medium Businesses are looking to the cloud to run
operations when their owners and employees are travelling upcountry or when core team members are unable to get to work. With cloud (or online)
solutions, employees can prepare quotes place orders, and issue invoices from nearly any Internet-connected PC or smartphone.
The cloud gives people access to information and functionality on the go-whether they are trying to remain productive while commuting to work
or working from a client site. Managers can approve workflows on the go, for example, so that work doesn't stop because a purchase order needs
to be signed off.
Operating a business can be a difficult task - even in difficult times, you need to keep searching for business, manage existing clients and
fulfil statutory obligations, while managing your team. Whatever is happening in the world, every business needs to keep billing customers
and paying its employees.
Investing in the right software that integrates these functions not only lessens the paperwork, but also accelerates business processes.
With cloud enabling functionality on the go, Small & Medium Businesses now have access to significant productivity, cost savings and the
benefit of safeguarding critical business data come what may.