In October 2009, Rwanda was ranked the world’s top reformer in the 2010 ‘Doing Business Report.’ Summing it up, Rwanda rose from the 143rd to the 67th place on the ease of doing business, after the country introduced reforms in 7 out of the 10 categories.
However, one challenge remained in helping various businesses around the country to reach their goals-- the management capacity to grow beyond the start-up stage to become firmly established Small and Medium Enterprises (SME’s).
According to the Managing Director of African Development Consultants, Rebecca Ruzibuka, many Rwandan business people are hard working but have been hampered by limited managerial skills in marketing, record keeping and accounting.
“The need for expertise to develop business plans and convince people to set up board of governors with the right people will enable enterprises to find value for their money,” said Ruzibuka.
The solution for these businesses comes with Karisimbi Business Partners, an enterprise that consists of high level expatriates and leaders, Carter Crockett, Dano Jukanovich and Greg Urquhart.
These high achievers, all under 40 years old, were inspired by Rwanda’s vision, so they moved with their families from the USA to Rwanda.
They target established and ambitious SME’s one at a time. In this way, they direct them towards capacity building in management in order to grow, attract and make use of investment capital.
The idea of doing business in Rwanda was first proposed in December, 2008, while still living in the USA. Together, the three partners shared the concept with friends and donors who helped them raise the support for relocating to Kigali with their families beginning August, 2009.
Crockett’s background includes over 17 years of business experience, six as a scholar in the area of business management.
He has held strategic-level marketing responsibility for a number of innovative companies in the following industries: automotive, consumer media, premium coffee, and information technology.
Before he earned his PhD in entrepreneurship and taught as a university professor in management, Crockett had established his own company, a marketplace for wholesale vehicles.
Crockett resigned from these positions because he wanted to do business where the need was greater.
Recently, Crockett became a member of the newly formed Ethics Committee, responsible for crafting and implementing a national Code of Business Ethics & Excellence under the auspices of Rwanda’s Private Sector Federation (PSF).
Crockett first heard special things about Rwanda from Dano Jukanovich and his wife, Jennifer, who had recently toured East Africa and visited Rwanda briefly.
At the time the concept of Karisimbi Partners began to develop, Dano Jukanovich was in the process of passing on a family construction business to new leaders.
Prior to holding the role of CEO for Lifestyle Homes & Construction, Jukanovich was responsible for business development and finance for start-ups and established companies in the sectors of: military intelligence, satellite communication, information technology and wireless communication.
Jukanovich’s credentials include five years as an Army Airborne Ranger and Intelligence Officer (where he learned Mandarin Chinese), a Wharton MBA, and a MA degree in International Economics from Johns Hopkins.
The third member of this team is Greg Urquhart. Having served as a senior executive at Microsoft Corporation, Urquhart contributes the most multinational corporate experience of the three partners.
Over the last 16 years, Urquhart has held responsibility for sales leadership, people development and business results while developing Microsoft’s partners and customer segments in Europe, Middle East and Africa.
As Microsoft’s Director for Mid-size Enterprises based in Paris, Urquhart developed a high proficiency in French.
Crockett said, the three partners had a dream of “taking the 17 years of top management expertise and credentials and translating them into something that could make a big impact, socially and financially, in a place where the need is great but the hope is greater.”
They formed a partnership and established KBP; thanks to the one-stop-shop at Rwanda Development Board (RDB) that got them registered in two days in August this year.
Just like the name of Mount Karisimbi suggests, Karisimbi Business Partners are intent on taking Rwanda’s SME businesses to the highest point.
They are building the management capacity of promising SME’s so that they can reach their full potential and become leaders in their industries.
“Our initial challenge has been to build strong relationships with good people, learn and adapt quickly to local conditions, and work hard enough to build a ‘platinum standard’ reputation,” Crockett said.
KBP believe that management capacity cannot be built quickly, from a distance, or by writing reports, rather, such work requires extended time working with managers.
“We are serious about working alongside managers for years at a time, helping them solve problems and seize opportunities,” added this Karisimbi Partner.
The benefits are already manifesting within companies working with KBP. Eric Kacou, the Managing Director of OTF Group, cited the need to embed Rwandan businesses with managerial skills.
“It’s clear that many companies start with plans and targets to achieve, but what matters is that you are able to execute these plans. Institutions like Karisimbi Partners enable Rwanda’s CEO’s to get on top of their skill,” Kacou said.
According to Crockett, KBP begins by “assisting businesses in setting a strategy for the future, but our greatest value is in partnering with clients to implement that strategy.”
“We are keen to make a practical impact in companies, but given the time and deep involvement this requires, we must be very selective and focus on only a few clients at a time,” said Crockett.
Among their clients is businessman Robert Bayigamba, the Chairman of PSF and Managing Director of Manumetal.
In Rwanda, more than 90 percent of the economy consists of micro-enterprises, some 70,000 in total.
In order to develop small companies into mid-sized enterprises, it is hard to underestimate the importance of improving management skills.
“Karisimbi Partners are bringing know-how to SME’s and this will add value to their companies, create more jobs and improve the value of the industry; as a result more competitiveness and better services will be realized,” said Bayigamba.
To date, Karisimbi Partners has focused on sectors that have not received much attention but are within Vision 2020 targets.
Pipien Hakizabera, the Director General of Enterprise and Export Development for RDB, said that Vision 2020 is about growth, which involves enterprising, increasing revenue and profits, adding value to businesses and job creation.
“Basically they are contributing to this vision and we are happy with the concept. We wish to get more of such expertise for Rwanda because business development services should also be viewed as business opportunities,” Hakizabera said.
Crockett also emphasized the motivation of their venture; “Because we are socially-motivated, we have moved with our families to make a difference in Rwanda. Because we are business-minded, we have crafted this model to sustain itself,” he said.
“We are committed to serving mid-sized companies in Rwanda without unduly burdening them financially, so we have pioneered a ‘pay for performance’ compensation model to allow us to sustain ourselves over time and serve more clients,” Crockett affirmed.
Rebecca Ruzibuka said that she was impressed by Karisimbi Partners’ self-sustainable strategy. “With their diverse skills, they charge a nominal fee upfront, knowing as they professionalize enterprises to graduate into higher levels, companies will later pay back depending on the magnitude of growth achieved.”
On a lighter note, KBP have been struck by the beauty of Rwanda and her people and the Karisimbi Partners team is planning an adventurous trip hiking up Mount Karisimbi.
“We are planning on summiting our namesake (Mount Karisimbi) next year. Some clients have asked to join us, so we figure it will give us the opportunity to actually help Rwandan entrepreneurs reach the top, as well as figuratively in our work!”
These men are daily inspired by the magnitude of Rwanda’s Vision and the hope that this country may become a symbol of hope and a model for development.
“Our goal is to be able to point to a few companies a few years from now and say we played some role in helping them reach their full potential,” Crockett said.