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Friday, August 29, 2014

Longevity in business: The Aren Software way

Every business strives to cross the one year mark given as a rite of passage to success. Most businesses wind up within one or two years of inception. However, statisticians and researchers would be well-placed to give data on timeline and the specifics of business failure.

This article is a tribute to one of my most favourite bosses, a man I hold in high esteem, and one who is virtuous in his business dealings. Ndiritu Muriithi is the owner of Aren Software Ltd, a company that specializes in programming and selling off-the-shelf payroll to the East African market. I am honoured to have worked for him because he taught me the true value of entrepreneurship, dedication and acquiring a thick skin. 

The reason I choose to write about him and his business is because he has run the same business for more than 15 years now. The company has retained most of its clients from the very beginning while gaining an impressive number of new ones. But what is the secret to this man's fortitude and perseverance in business.
From years of experience as an employee and an entrepreneur I would say:

1. Specialization: We Kenyans are guilty of being doers of everything and masters at none. Aren Software Ltd had specialized in producing the payroll software and the owner has spent years fine-tuning and perfecting it to keep it up-to-date with technological changes. This focus has made it possible for clients to trust the product and thus ensured a steady flow of clients.

2. Excellent customer service: The company has invested most of its resources in retaining its most valuable existing clients. The goal of the company is to make sure the company satisfies those it has through on-line support, on-site support and telephone support. Clients sometimes do not pay for the services as the company waives the charges if the problem results from the programming of the software. This has gone a long way in entrenching the ideals of a 'customer first' approach which has gone ahead to win more clients without excessive marketing.

3. 'The employee is king': The company treats the employees with the respect they deserve which is the reason why staff turnover levels are low. The average length of service for an employee at the company is five years. In this era of staff turnover, this is pretty amazing. The employees take care of the company as it takes care of them. The owner himself lives the principles he endears to entrench in the organization by taking sides with an employee when there is a protracted dispute with a client. This helps the employee to feel valued. According to him it is easier to get a client with the right employees than to get a good employee with difficult clients.

4. Sticking it out: Even when times were hard and business was not good I do not remember going without a salary. I also do not remember being threatened to be sacked. The hallmark of a good business is sticking it out through the hard times and believing that it can and will get better. And so it is that most big businesses are always down-sizing, right-sizing and retrenching so as to retain a lean work-force and then go back and hire (the actual motive being to get staff with the skill sets required instead of training the existing staff). The one thing I have been witness to is that most staff who leave the company always come back to say thank you.

Dr Muriithi...Thank you.