Since touching down back in Kenya in late August there have been some developments on the work front.

After a year or so of doing freelance consulting, and nurturing different business ideas it got to the stage where I fancied shaking things up and actually cracking on with some of the opportunities I’d been telling everyone that I was seeing.

The final four were

  1. A food one (i.e. mango salsa)
  2. ‎A finance one (i.e. laptop leasing)
  3. ‎A consulting one (i.e. double down on current work)
  4. ‎A business training one (i.e. teaching businesses in Excel)

and after a month catching up with people back in the UK, I was keen to get rubber to the road in one of these.

Paying the rent

An important aspect for me was to still be in a position where I can sustain myself.

Going through the legalities of incorporating a Kenyan company, and the associated work permit had somewhat drained the bank balance, and I didn’t really fancy going out trying to raise money for an idea that I had yet to adequately validate.

As such, I was looking at options which could generate revenue more or less immediately.

Which leaves us with 3. and 4.

Juggling a consultancy

There are many aspects to building a successful business.

There’s finding a market need, developing a solution, and then getting money from paying customers for said solution.

In my previous roles, I’ve worked a lot on the previous two, and less so on the latter.

When looking at how my time would be spent on 3. and 4., it seemed that in order to grow a data analytics consultancy, I would still need to spend a lot of time executing on the work. In short, I’d be both trying to sell the services, and also be the one doing the analysis.

What’s more, for the clients that I’d worked with to date, it’s a pretty convoluted process involving a lot of time discussing solutions (both strategic and technical), even once you get to the position of sitting down in a meeting with them.

As such, when I projected what my lifestyle might be, it seemed fairly scatty – lots of time trying to build up momentum in new projects whilst at the same time delivering on existing ones.

Of course I’d look to train others in how to do the delivery, but that in itself is not the easiest tasks with finite head space.

My attention then turned to the realm of training.

Scalability

The times I’d done Excel training with teams in Nairobi, it’d been great bang for buck.

This is partly to do with the nature of creating a lot of value for multiple people in one go.

The approach I’d done was to deliver a 2-4 hour Microsoft Excel masterclass to a room of 8-20 people.

This meant 8-20 people saw ways they could improve their productivity at work, which translated to tangible value for the organisations concerned.

The delivery can be fairly uniform, which means it’s much more replicable (i.e. scalable) than consulting which by its nature involves a high level of customisation for each client.

The two routes to scale a training business are broadly

1. In person training (train more people to be trainers)
2. ‎Online content (build compelling videos for people to learn from)

My feeling was that if trying to sell in person training, at the back of mind I’d always be thinking that online actually delivers more benefits, and what’s more (at least at the beginning) I would still not escape the dynamic of being personally responsible for the delivery of the service.

With that, I began to muse on online training.

Online piggybacking

With this mindset I soon realised that I wasn’t particularly interested in adding to the existing canon of Excel tutorial videos that exist online.

I signed up to a few Udemy courses to then contact the tutor about using their content out in Africa as part of a broader package around “working smarter”.

The idea was to get some existing online material, combine with some original content I’d produce about how to be more productive at work, and then take it to companies to see who bites.

At the same time, I got in conversation with a few existing online Excel training companies (rather than one-man-shows on YouTube) to enquire what their Africa presence looked like.

Enter the Kubicle

One conversation in particular was fruitful.

I got speaking to the CEO of an organisation called Kubicle who, as luck would have it, was in Kenya at the time.

Over breakfast we spoke about the market for Excel training, and how his current set up meant he was lacking the manpower to reach the potential the business had.

It soon emerged that we had a fairly aligned goals in terms of wanting to build out a business in a new territory, and that there was a market for this type of service.

After some back and forth, and ironing out some particulars we settled on an agreement where growing the Kubicle business would be my primary focus which was good outcome for both parties.

Where we’re at

The result of all this is that I now have an answer to tell people what I’m doing, namely: “building out a business analytics training company”.

Interestingly, despite living in Kenya the work itself is not bound to the country, or indeed the continent.

In the weeks I’ve spent so far I’ve been setting up arrangements with organisations in the UK, and am likely heading out to the Middle East before too long.

Nevertheless, I hope that the experience will teach me some of what is necessary to build a business (i.e. generate revenue) in this part of the world.

In the meantime, I’m a big advocate in enabling people to work more efficiently and effectively, and in a world where data is playing an evermore prevalent role this is something which feels particularly relevant.

We’ll see how it all goes from here…