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“If you are considering starting your own business, don’t let the naysayers dissuade you. Plan it out and decide’’ says the managing Partner of Davita & Associates.

Running a private consulting firm is challenging, as it comes with a package of difficulties.

Everything rests on the shoulders of one person-the owner. You’ve to pay rent, salaries and other costs as they fall due. Separating family issues from those of the business is another major challenge even for accountant entrepreneurs. Above all, one must leave the comfort of the office and look for clients-it is more of being in the field than ‘warming’ the office chair, that is key.

It takes integrity, bravery, focus and hard work to succeed in this market where consulting firms are everywhere. Davita Nabimanya is one such brave person competing in this male dominated business. An Accountant by profession, Davita holds a Bachelor of Commerce Degree of Makerere University and an MBA (ESAMI/Maastricht) and she is a fellow of the Association of Certified Charted accountants (FCCA). Like other successful consultants, Davita worked for a big audit firm, NGOs and Government before deciding to venture on her own as a consultant.

In response to requests from some of our readers on how to manage a private firm SB met with Davita Nabimanya of Davita & Associates, an audit and consulting firm, on how she manages to cope up with the day-to-day job challenges, and whether she regrets the decision of being on her own. Whether you run a law firm or a private business, you’ll find the following insights helpful.

SUMMIT BUSINESS

What were the reasons for your decision to become self employed? Which challenges do you encounter and how do you overcome them?

DAVITA NABIMANYA

Independence. Being self employed gives one the freedom to plan your work and ultimately your life. When you’re self employed, you are your boss but this also comes with many challenges because you have to provide answers for every thing since there is no one to rely on. In a nut shell, when you are self employed, you take charge of your future and live on your efforts. I have read a number of inspirational books on self employment and that has had an impact on my view of different situations.

There is no job that is permanent. At one point, one has to get out of employment i.e retire. Therefore, employment can not be a person’s life long solution to survival. The challenges with self employment especially in consultancy are that you have to look for work yourself i.e you have to look for the bread. I work hard to overcome these challenges.

There are very few accountancy firms set up by women in Uganda. What prompted you to set up your own firm and how do you manage the business?

Don’t quit your day job! This phrase has been heard by countless would-be entrepreneurs. If you are considering starting your own business, don’t let the naysayers dissuade you. You just have to do your homework and then make an informed decision.

I like business. I did a thesis on entrepreneur in the accountancy profession by female accountants. There are many audit firms in Uganda and only 3%(2006) were owned by women, despite the fact that women are very hard working, professional etc but somehow they never make to the top as Partners in the industry, including big firms. My firms were amazing. Fear of risk took the centre stage as many female accountants would rather settle for assured salaried work than risk to start something that might not work.

I decided to disprove such altitude and started my own firm. I had all it takes including the professionalism and the experience to run a practice and ever since, I have never looked back. The most important thing in any business is having focus and determination. Once you set your goals right, just pursue your dream.

As a business consultant, what would you say are the risks of doing business in Uganda and why?

The risks of doing business in Uganda vary with the type of business someone wants to engage in. Uganda is predominantly an agro based economy. If one wants to invests in agriculture e.g. tea, coffee and horticultural products, the risks associated with that industry include vulnerability to weather related risks like droughts and flooding, quality issues vs. world price standards and trends.

The country’s landlocked position and infrastructure that is not so well developed would increase the production costs and therefore reduce the competiveness of her products and services.

Other risks of doing business in Uganda include the energy bottlenecks which have resulted into companies in Uganda incurring high costs of production. The power costs in Uganda are high and this combined with rationing compounds the risks. Some companies have been shut down due to power problems, the most recent being the tea factory in the west.

There are other key business environment issues in Uganda that indirectly impinge and pose as risks of doing business. Uganda has one of the highest interest levels in East Africa and this implies high cost of capital, hence failure for home produced goods to compete favorably on a regional basis.

Other risks may include corruption or at least the perceived high level of corruption as indicated by the Transparency International (PI) corruption Perception Index (CPI) which ranks Uganda as very corrupt, undue bureaucracies and related consequences.

Although political stability has improved, instability in the Great lakes region has been one of the risks of doing business in Uganda. Nevertheless, the country has strong policy fundamentals for growth and these risks can be mitigated. The incentives given to investors can outweigh the political risks.

There are other risks of doing business in Uganda stemming from a lax regulatory framework which has led to saturation of counterfeits on our markets rendering our factories making genuine products uncompetitive. This is evident in plastics, clothing and footwear and other household items. The list is endless, but as Ugandans, we are doing our best to contribute to Government’s effort of minimizing the risks in our own small way.

Sir John Bjelker advices: “Always make yourself essential, that’s been my golden rule.” How do you make yourself essential, and how would you advice others to make themselves essential?

Your firm/company doesn’t have to be on the brink of collapse for you to start taking steps to make yourself essential. There are some books by some gurus that could help them stay on the corporate ladder while everyone else is falling off.

What I do to make myself essential and what I would advise other consultants is to always “be visible” i.e. to ensure clients see you and notice the work you are doing.

Another golden rule is be “be easy and useful”; stop whining and complaining and take challenges as they come, always be positive and dependable. Consultancy work calls for flexibility, coming up with new initiatives and ensuring you add value to your client.

The third rule is “be ready” i.e. innumerable things happen and any consultant must be in position to adapt to changing circumstances. It’s imperative that consultants keep a breast with developments in their respective profession and be able to offer quality. Ensure your clients are satisfied and happy with your work. Do not look for short term profits at the expense of long term relationships. The same rules can work in other professions.

Alan Weiss, PhD., one of the world’s finest consultants in one of his Best Sellers-Million Dollar Consultant, says “Partnership is not about equal opportunity employment. It is about a soul mate.” To what extent do you agree or disagree?

I have one partner, sizeable staff and a number of business Associates specialized in various disciplines like Behavioral Scientists, Economists, Bankers, IT, Gender and M&A Specialists. We also associate with consultants from diverse areas e.g. Scientists to collect synergies that enable us to compete favorably in multi discipline assignments.

It is true that choosing a partner is about choosing as soul mate and not merely equal opportunity employment. If you choose a business partner whom you do connect with, the partnership might not last long. You have to assess whether his/her personality as well as temperament will mesh yours.

Every one has a working style-you have to assess whether your working style is compatible with the prospective partner’s and ensure your expectations for the partnership are aligned. You have to evaluate how the person responds and relates when a problem presents itself and how he/she reacts to constructive criticism. The question to ask yourself is whether your proposed partnership will allow for plenty of smiles, laughs and fun. If not, then maybe this is not the partner for you.

The most important factors I would consider before choosing a partner are:

Character-must be someone with good character.

A friend-must be someone I know well.

Competence, skills and experience

-Qualifications and membership to professional bodies.-this is a critical factor especially when choosing professional partners. This aspect however varies with the nature of business.

Reputation-Quality and track record of the prospective partner is critical for keeping the image of the business. The business partner should be trustworthy

Dependable-a good business partner should be dependable enough to carry on partnership work in your absence so that clients don’t feel the gap.

Vision and value for work-A good business partner should value work, have a great vision and should be able to add value to the business.

Contrary to what some analysts had predicted, the goal credit crisis is affecting Uganda negatively. How would you advise government to intervene?

The global financial crisis that has so taken the attention of the world in the past months is also affecting our economy. Virtually no country, developing or developed, has escaped the impact of the widening crisis. Developing countries are harmed through slower export growth, reduced remittances, depreciated currency against the dollar and lower commodity prices and hence reduced incomes for exporters and farmers.

The crisis has also led to reduction in Growth in developing countries which had been expected to reach 6.4% in 2009 but has been marked down to 4.5 percent. With this decline, millions of people in developing countries have been driven into poverty as a result of high foods and fuel prices. Uganda has two main macro economic tools for responding to this negative shock i.e. the monetary and the fiscal policies.

Policy makers need to address these challenges for example through extensive tax reductions to offset higher prices e.g. on fuel and also increase subsidies in the critical sectors. The central bank should continue to make interventions through provision of liquidity to mitigate further depreciation of the shilling.

The challenge is with policy makers who should look beyond balance of payments and immediate liquidity financing for the country as ways to support recovery, but take steps to prevent the escalation of the crisis. This can be done through prudent countercyclical lending that will invest in the future and fiscal stimulus packages that can support social development and infrastructure that will build a platform for growth. Policy makers should enable accessing cheap credit to small and medium sized enterprises through micro finance and SME lending to help boost jobs.

A further intervention by Government is to safeguard investment in long term development to reactivate economic expansion i.e. gear progress towards the millennium Development Goals. The fact that our products are exported unprocessed is hurting the economy more. Government’s response to subside local capable Ugandans to process agricultural produce is highly needed. There may be more interventions needed after a thorough understanding of why and how Uganda is affected by the crisis. It is good that Government has responded accordingly.

Any other thing you would like to tell SB magazine readers?

Last but not least, I would want to tell SB magazine readers especially prospective entrepreneurs that “Getting Things Done.” Ultimately is not about …PASSION, IMAGINATION and PERSISTENCE… says Tom Peters.

And to women out there who would like to become self-employed, “YES WE CAN.”

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