A few months ago some friends came to visit me from Europe. I was happy to have them see this great country but happier to show them how our roads are not what the world seems to think they are.
So, I took them on a long drive and made sure to use the newly constructed Thika Superhighway. I was gleaming with pride explaining to them how it used to be some years back and the significant change this road has made to Kenya and our goal to achieve business success through infrastructure. They were impressed.
Last Saturday, I was on the same road after 10pm and it was raining heavily. It was hard to see and I had to drive slowly for my own and other motorists’ safety.
Most of the highway did not have working lights. At one point I drove for a stretch of more than three kilometres without seeing a light post with a bulb on.
One of the reasons most businesses fail is that the entrepreneurs have not fully understood and embraced the concept of sustainability.
For many ventures, you’ll find that the business idea is great, the execution impeccable, the resources used massive, but sustainability has not been factored in.
From my first drive on Thika road, it was evident that there was good planning and excellent execution well above the standards of most roads in Kenya. A few months later, 90 per cent of the light bulbs are not working and the lamp posts seem to have been put there for aesthetic value.
For many businesses everything is in place to drive and achieve profit. But the management, business owners and employees do not have the skill set, business sense or capability to sustain a great concept.
Business concepts remain the same universally but execution and sustainability differ depending on how one individualises them, the environment and market.
My night journey left me wondering — who is in charge of the Thika Superhighway, and do they even use or visit it regularly to see how it is maintained?
Were the workers charged with the road’s maintenance asked these questions during hiring:
Are they a good boss with a sustained vision? Do the judgments they make in life regularly turn out well? Do they have an ability to conceptualise the whole of a business and its continuity?
Do they possess the high level of energy, sustainable over long hours, to make a venture successful? Do they have significant specialised business experience?
I quickly did simple business math and the joke “how many officers would it take to change a light bulb?” came to mind.
A light bulb at my local kiosk costs Sh60. The cost it took to construct the highway runs into millions and motorists in addition pay their dues for highway maintenance.
What fraction of that money would it take to ensure the highway is well lit at night, not only for safety, but also to preserve the daylight aesthetic value of driving on that road?
Sustainability is important because it recognises the importance of business continuity and provides a great foundation for success.
If you do not plan for the sustainability of your business, your business venture and concept shall surely fail.
Ms Munywoki is the Executive MBA programme co-ordinator at Inoorero University.