Embrace Change or Perish!

Dr. Martin M. Lwanga

Entrepreneurs are people known to spot opportunities and without wasting take advantage of them. Early one Monday, Nakku, who was a migrant worker based in Swaziland, lost a colleague while at work. Almost immediately Nakku started preparing to attend the funeral of her Swazi friend. However, after a couple of days, she noticed there was no movement. So she went up to the Manager to inquire about funeral plans. “I wanted to go to attend the funeral of our colleague,” she asked.

“But it is not yet Saturday,” said the Manager of the supermarket where she worked as a cashier. “Funerals here take place only on weekends to avoid minimal disruption at work.”

“That is interesting!” Nakku thought to herself. And, the Saturday that followed, Nakku drove up country for the funeral. While there she took note of the terrazzo that was used to finish all the graves she found at the cemetery. Back home she recalled it was plain cement used. Here she noticed graves had even portraits of the deceased. She drove back to work lost in deep thought. “Can’t I go back home and start a grave finishing business?” She wondered.

With this idea firm in her mind Nakku packed up and went back to her country. As she had long observed there was no business that was specializing in grave finishing. She decided to locate her business at a popular road juncture, where she displayed her terrazzo graves, with mock pictures of the deceased, to entice customers. But this took most people by surprise. One day the LC chairman visited her business. “Why do you display graves and with pictures in a public place?” he asked. “Are you a witch?”

“No,” Nakku said. “I picked up this from Swaziland just want to offer services to those who need professional grave finishing.”

One by one, customers started calling on her. Soon her business took off. Almost every other day she was on the road tidying up graves, all over the country. The business was doing so well that when one day Nakku noticed there was someone starting a funeral services business specializing in offering mortuary homes, she simply chuckled. “Where will these people get a market,” she hissed. “I had to struggle to start just the business of finishing graves.”

Just as was her case the funeral business was resisted. However, after sometime it was embraced. In fact within a few years a dozen companies had entered the field. These, starting with running mortuaries, moved also into other service lines. Whenever a funeral service could secure a customer, it would be quick to offer additional services, like grave finishing, among others.

All this time Nakku carried on normally, ignoring, if not despising her competitors. However, as time rolled, she started noticing fewer customers dropping by her business. Nakku’s immediate suspicion was that her workers were doing a bad job. So she fired her staff and brought in a new crew. But still there was no improvement. “What could be wrong!” she wondered.

What jolted Nakku was when one day she learnt one of her old clients had secured a funeral service company to do the job of grave finishing. “But I thought these people had come to run only mortuary homes,” Nakku exclaimed. “There are now taking over my territory!” She steamed.

However, Nakku was a practical business woman. After getting over her anger, she reasoned the best way to match the new competition was also to upgrade her business into a fully-fledged funeral services company, with grave finishing, as well. “To sit still is to wait for the shirks to eat me up as a small finish,” she muttered to herself.

Using her cash flow statement, Jane went to her commercial bank and took out a loan. The money was all invested for business upgrade. She moved into a house with more space, bought a couple of vans, and started engaging a dozen staff on free- lance basis to serve as cortege handlers. She went out contacting her old customers that she was available to offer funeral services as well. Since her work was well known, the market responded well, and her business that could have closed easily prospered.

A perennial cause of why certain business that used to dominate their sectors fail is when they fail to read the market well and come up with survival strategies. Some are so certain of their dominance that they are indifferent to changes in the environment. Instead of upgrading or investing in new business lines, they stick to business as usual, only one day to wake up with all customers having fled to new ones with better services or products. Enduring business and organizations must learn to change and modernize with the times or else risk being eaten up by the shirks!

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