Mr Josphat Mwaura is the Senior Partner and CEO, KPMG East Africa.
On Friday 9 October 2015, we once again gathered for an evening of pomp and celebration of the 2015 Kenya Top 100 mid-sized businesses. Since the inception of the Survey in 2008, the Gala Dinner is deliberately styled as a glamorous formal event complete with black tie or cultural wear.
The intention is to prepare the businesses being feted to begin to present themselves in the high level events that their success will bring them globally. We want every one of these business to ready themselves to stand on stage in London, Tokyo, Paris, New York and Beijing to receive the recognition they deserve.
And the Gala dinner never fails to excite. Nearly 1,000 people gather for the evening and the excitement is almost palpable. Every single business represented at the dinner is a winner no matter what position they end up being ranked. It is for this reason that many of them come with their employees, their relatives and business partners to receive their awards and bask in the moment of glory when they are called on stage.
It is especially gratifying to see the diversity of those present, of all ages, of all extractions and involved in a wide cross-section of businesses. This is what business is about – hardwork and success being celebrated by all of us, without consideration of whatever else separates us.
Now in its eighth year in Kenya, the Top100 Survey is a voluntary, selfnominating process for mid-sized businesses that have a turnover of between Sh70 million and Sh1 billion. Each business must present audited financial statements for the last three years.
It is from those financial statements, audited by a professional accountant in good standing with the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Kenya (ICPAK), that we extract various ratios to assess and rank growth, profitability, and an indicator of liquidity. The process is predicated on the confidence that each participant has in the way they run their operation, and the performance that they have delivered.
Those who choose to participate in the Top100 Survey, here in Kenya or in Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda, whether they end up being ranked amongst the Top100 for that year or not, are sending a strong message to the market that: “we know we are running our business right and that our performance is worthy of recognition and celebration.” Governance and performance go hand in hand in facilitating a business to transition from a small owner- managed entity, to a national, regional, continental and ultimately global organisation.
To facilitate the sharing of knowledge, the Top100 Survey process includes a conference the day before the gala dinner where all businesses that participated in the survey are invited to send their chief executive and head of finance.
The conference is a forum to present detailed survey findings, share lessons from keynote speakers and other Top100 businesses, engage with policy makers and regulators, and create linkages between Top100 businesses to enable them to trade and share lessons amongst themselves.
In this year’s conference, Mr. Ali Mufuruki, himself an accomplished entrepreneur and regional leader, generously shared his time and lessons with participants and emphasized the need to invest in human capital, both at a national/ regional level, and in the individual businesses. He singled out this as the
limiting factor that separated East Africa from the Asian Tigers, and limits the growth of businesses and by extension employment and economic transformation. He warned that, if we do not address the issues that are causing unemployment and poverty, our region will not realize the enormous potential that is attracting businesses from everywhere else in the world.
We also had occasion to listen to lessons on growth and upscaling of mid-sized businesses from those who have walked that path. And once again, the issues of the character and skills of your teams came to the fore.
In addition to investing in systems and leveraging technology, each business, and the business leader in particular, must invest their time in bringing the quality of people at every level, that they can trust to run the business as it if was their own – expansion and growth are limited by founders holding on to too many roles and not having faith in their teams.
Choose your people wisely and then delegate and trust them to perform. If you have put in place appropriate governance systems, these will enable you to hold them to account and to arrest any wickedness that you may have missed out in the appointment process.
These mid-sized businesses bring energy, vibrancy and resilience to any economy. They deliver growth, wealth, employment, foreign exchange earnings, and above all, national revenue in the taxes they pay.
Every policy maker and regulator must make it their business to make it possible for these businesses to grow more, to earn more and to employ more people. We were pleased to hear the undertakings by the Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) to re-orient their approach to these businesses to one of facilitation rather than undue scrutiny. The Kenya Private Sector Alliance (KEPSA) has also prioritized initiatives targeted at facilitating small and mid-sized businesses. We have reason to look forward to next year and hope to recognize and celebrate even more businesses.
I am deeply grateful to our partners in this initiative, the Nation Media Group (NMG) through the Business Daily. Every week, we see stories carried in the paper about individual Top100 businesses. There are so many stories to tell, so many lessons to pick that I am confident that there are more stories to be told through other channels.
Through these stories, NMG can re-orient the national conversation to focus on value creation and not the endless political noise we hear. I look forward to the evolution of that space.