business and innovation

Lessons in business

Abraham runs a video library and one of Busolwe’s ‘cinemas’. (By cinema we mean a garage-sized room with a large TV in the corner, an even bigger PA system turned up to full volume so the sound it completely distorted, both connected to a petrol powered generator that is located a few metres outside.)

Charles is a local council chief who owns a shop in Busolwe Town. The shop not only earns additional income for him and his family, but creates employment for others.

Mary also owns a shop in Busolwe Town. She is a nurse, but like many government employees is also a business owner. It enables her to top-up her small (and sometimes irregular) salary, providing her family with more security. And like Charles, creating employment for others.

They were three of the 24 small business owners who took part in the latest four-day long business training course organised by a little bit of HOPE (Uganda).

The trainer, Livingstone is business advisor for The Africa Trust, and established his organisation, ‘Living Business Education’ because he passionately believes that the formation and growth of sustainable businesses is the most effective way to end global poverty. Since 2010 he has trained about 5000 people.

Like Livingstone, we strongly believe that equipping business people is one of the most effective solutions to the problem of poverty. Over 50 people have now been on business training organised by a little bit of HOPE (Uganda) and we plan to monitor those who have received training to see if the training enables them to build sustainable and growing businesses, that enables them to not only support themselves and their families but to create employment for others.

But as this week of training came to an end the participants were quick to highlight the valuable lessons they had learnt.

Abraham learnt about the importance of generating new ideas that will set his business a part from the other video libraries and cinemas in Busolwe, and how he needs to develop a carefully thought through growth plan.

Charles is going to try to expand his business through saving, rather than through loans. He is also hoping to use his position in the community to pass on what he has learnt to other business people.

Mary learnt about the importance of keeping tabs of the money coming in and going out of her business – particularly that it’s important to separate her business money from her personal money.

These might seem to be very basic lessons in business. However, I can remember speaking to a successful businessman when I was in Uganda in 2011 and he gave me a list of reasons why businesses often fail. As I’ve just re-read the list of lessons learnt by Abraham, Charles and Mary, it struck me that they address the majority of reasons he gave for why businesses fail!