Kathy and I landed at Entebbe Airport in Uganda on a beautiful summer day. A few soft clouds in an otherwise crystal clear 78° day. The Ugandan people, even the national officials at the airport, were friendly and helpful. We made our way through customs and on to claim our bags for the ride to the hotel. As we exited departures, there were 100 people there to greet us. They even had signs welcoming us to Uganda and thanking us for coming. After lots of hugs, hellos and thanks, we made it to the Toyota Forerunner which whisked us away to Kampala, the capital city.
Welcome to Uganda
The ride is about an hour. There is always heavy traffic due to the single lane roads and the dozens of motor bikes all around our vehicle. They are inexpensive transportation and apparently have only one motor vehicle rule they must follow: don’t get killed.
We passed a particularly ladened motor bike which caught my eye. It carried two young men, and corded to the front of the bike were dead chickens. There were so many I couldn’t count them all. The bike was going about 30 miles an hour and throwing feathers here and there as it traveled. This was apparently part of the advertising for the fresh chicken business.
As we passed through the small communities outside of Kampala, I was struck by the number of small businesses. Just off the road there was a row, maybe a half mile long, which contained ten by ten shacks. These were the community businesses. They were selling fruit, furniture, dresses, hairstyling, car and motor bike repair and included butcher shops with their sides of beef displayed in the open air, taxi services, and bakeries to name a few.
Real Business in Action
I thought how each one of these businesses is supporting a family. These businessmen and woman must strive to make a profit daily. They have this discipline because if they don’t make money that day, they don’t eat. This is real, on-the-ground business management principle of sustainability in action.
These people did not start in business incubators or startup accelerators. They didn’t read The Lean Startup by Eric Reis. They never heard of an MVP. What they do is promote their businesses to their neighbors and the cars passing by so they can sell something, eat and pay the electric bill. They are interested first and foremost in profit. Simple practice but highly effective and too often forgotten in our high tech world.
Entrepreneurs need to have this same drive for revenue and profit. They need to start businesses which are focused on the simple business principle of profit, sooner rather than later. When starting your business, think like a small businessman. This means planning and executing for today’s revenue and not tomorrow’s exit.
If you string enough profitable today’s together, you’ll have a business worth owning. And if you chose a growth market, you may even be fortunate enough to sell the business one day for millions. But right now, today, sell something to create revenue and profit.