Enterprise

How staff can bring down your startup

OFFICE (1)

Summary

  • Cases abound where some employees start business ventures whose sole catchment of customers is the people who visit their workplace.
  • They do this in total disregard of their contractual agreement with the employer and commonsense decorum.
  • They lack integrity that ought to be natural to any self-respecting individual.

I was having coffee with friends when a lady recounted how she went to see an ophthalmologist in one of the major hospitals in Nairobi. After a thorough checkup the eye specialist prescribed treatment that included expensive eye glasses.

When she exclaimed at the cost, a young man in his early thirties fished out a business card from his breast pocket and handed it her saying, “You can get the same at my clinic at 40 percent less. Call to book appointment if you wish to save.”

As we delved into the discussion, it occurred that all of us had a story to tell – a similar experience in different firms both public and private, both small and large.

One of us narrated how one rogue employee in a multinational company told him whether he contracted him directly through his private side hustle to service his machine or through his employer, he will be the one to service the machine. The only different is the money he will pay.

Frankly speaking, this is not news to many of us. We all have experienced or partaken this vice in our market place. It is uncouth situations where employees operating in employer’s premises and using the latter’s resources shamelessly tries to lure customers to their own side-businesses.

Cases abound where some employees start business ventures whose sole catchment of customers is the people who visit their workplace. They do this in total disregard of their contractual agreement with the employer and commonsense decorum. They lack integrity that ought to be natural to any self-respecting individual. They only resign when they have milked their employer dry, have been caught and fired.

Sadly, some customers lured by the attractive deal take shortcut to save money. But in essence they contribute to killing the business if it happens to be a startup.

Cases of employees clandestinely operating businesses that compete with their employers or directing customers to other firms are a major cause of small business failure that is hardly reported or acknowledged.

Whereas big corporations with established brands, marketing machinery and big market can survive this onslaught, most startup cannot. Novice entrepreneurs who are not lucky to get good employees with decorum and integrity end up concluding that doing business is hard and risky.

Thus getting the right employee and being in control of your firm is the single most important determinant of success in your business.

As one entrepreneur said, try to understand and be in charge of your business. Don’t put absolute trust in your employees.

When hiring employees look for people who have the right attitude, are trainable and walk with them with your eyes wide open and hears on the ground.

Don’t look for angels because they are very rare. And in any case, even with angels you are not safe - Lucifer was once a loyal angel of the Almighty God.

Mr Kiunga is author of ‘The Art of Entrepreneurship: Strategies to Succeed in a Competitive Market