For the readers that don’t know, Wainaina is the brains behind Corporate Staffing Services, an innovative recruitment agency that delivers! He is also one of the partners behind the massively popular Career Point Kenya. The really interesting bit, though, is the fact that Wainaina uses the power of the internet extensively in his work. A good number of his clients are as a result of his savvy internet marketing efforts.
Q. You’re quite an achiever, tell us about you
My background is in finance and HR. I am a certified public accountant and hold a higher diploma in HR. I attended my undergraduate studies at University of Nairobi six years ago. I began my career at a local bank rising from a teller to a finance officer but all along I knew finance was not my thing. While working at the bank I realized how much potential was out there. I interacted with young folk who were making it despite not have a graduate education. That’s when it hit me that college education in Kenya can sometimes be a hindrance to achieving your life goals, especially when you look upon yourself as privileged simply because you are a Bcom,CPA,CFA or whatever. I remember a friend from high school who was a client of the bank and I could see how profitable his computer business was. And here I was earning less than 35K a month with little or no chances of career progression. There and then I decided to learn all I could about self employment as I look for capital. While still at the bank I started consulting on HR on part time basis. Later I partnered with a colleague and the firm has two directors.
Q. How did you start?
I started with one client at a time. I would say my contacts at the bank came in handy. Actually I would advise anyone wishing to go into business to try this route. Obviously without antagonizing your current employer you can use the contacts you have gotten at your workplace as a launching pad. These are the chaps who know you and as long as you have a solid reputation it is very easy to make inroads. I also chose an industry which I understood – I didn’t need much training in HR, I knew the do and don’ts and, most importantly, I had a workable business model in mind.
Q. What challenges did you face and how did you overcome them?
Money was and has always been an issue. To establish yourself as a credible brand you have to splash a few thousands by way of advertisements or engage a PR firm to put a good word out there. To achieve recognition we have endeavored to provide exceptional service and this way word of mouth and referral is the main source of business. There is also the issue of ethics. Recruitment firms in Kenya have been known to charge candidates for services even when they don’t deliver. We did away with some charges i.e. CV placement and this way we have established ourselves a credible firm that keeps it word. We have also utilized ICT a lot and as earlier stated most of our clients find us through this method. We noticed having a website and a functional one at that matter would greatly reduce our cost. Most jobseekers are online on facebook or using google search engine to look for latest jobs in Kenya. By having a website where we post vacancies we didn’t need to pay exorbitant cost to advertise in the mainstream media.
Q. What are the challenges of being an entrepreneur in Kenya?
There is little support from the public. A lot of people will look down upon what you are doing preferring to deal with recognized brands. Big does not necessary mean better results. Remember Nakumatt started as a small supermarket somewhere in Nakuru and two decades later they have expanded to the whole of East Africa. It is high time we started rooting for the underdogs so long as there are delivering. Funds are also an issue. I may have this computer idea but if I don’t have sufficient capital my idea will remain grounded. That’s why I advice one to start small and choose an area which is not capital intensive.
Q. What was critical to your success?
Not giving up. I left the secure world of employment to chart a new course. On several occasions I have come to the verge of going back to employment but then when I look back and see how far we have come I encourage myself that the future is bright. I have a strong network of friends who all happen to be in biashara and this way I get support and ideas on how to make it. It has also been a trial and error thing. We have lost money on ideas that didn’t take off. Some ideas have been successful beyond expectation. We have also utilized the power of internet and consulted with experts like Nickel Pro who have been instrumental in our internet marketing efforts. All in one we have allowed ourselves to grow a step at a time and looking for creative ways to solve most problems that afflict start ups.
Q. What about the competition and marketing, do you need to advertise, print flyers participate to conferences or is it mostly word of mouth?
We tried putting adverts in the main stream media and this was a cropper. Those things don’t work! We haven’t tried print flyers but with our earlier experience with newspapers, I wouldn’t put much hope here. Conferences do work especially if you target the right market and also inform the attendees in ample time. The best marketing method so far is a satisfied client. You don’t need to pay someone to put a good word out there. Just perform the task or duty procured to the best of your ability exceeding expectations where you can and the clients will go spreading the great news about your service. For an SME this is the only tool you have in dealing with competition from the big boys who as we know in Kenya offer awful service.
Q. Do you think that in order to “make it big” online you have to live in a Western country? Or does Kenya offer more or less the same opportunities?
Kenya does offer more. I am extremely lucky to be in this moment. Many business owners large and small in Kenya haven’t realized the power of internet as a competitive advantage. Anyone who has recognized this is already doing good business. The internet world doesn’t recognize how large you are on the ground. Provided you are able to articulate your message well online and your services are impeccable customers will troop to your door. Many Kenyans are now researching for opinions on anything over internet and if you have positioned yourself well the future is bright.
Q. Where do you see yourself and your business (es) in the next 5 years?
We will be one of the most recognized brands in HR consulting offering a wide range of services. We still want to concentrate on the mid sized firms and SME’s. With the success of our online HR campaign I am also looking out for another business model that can utilize the presence of the improved internet services now that the fibre cable is here.
Q. If you had to do it all over again, what would you do differently?
Much of what I know in internet marketing is self taught. The disadvantage of this is that you might take years cracking it up. Myself I took a cool three years from the time I took it seriously and I am still learning! However if we had outsourced this service earlier maybe we could be far. I am a firm believer in engaging experts and Nickel Pro have been instrumental in our internet marketing efforts. Always consult the experts and you will save yourself money and valuable time.
Q. What advice do you have for internet business entrepreneurs in Kenya?
Learn continuously and be patient. Internet marketing and SEO is not a magic pill that will work instantly upon implementation. We have done a lot of work, toiling daily and engaging experts. Lastly, internet business is it’s infancy stage and the market is waiting for any bold entrepreneur.
Corporate Staffing Services offers HR consultancy services to medium sized firms in the areas of recruitment and training. They also offer soft skills training for job candidates in the area of CV writing, Interview preparation and career coaching. They know their candidates personally and vet who they are, ensuring there are no surprises. Talk to them and let them run your HR docket freeing you important time to concentrate on your business. Email them at jobs[at]staff-kenya.com