Business lessons from the Expo 2019

Kigali International trade fair is in its third week and a walk through the Gikondo Expo grounds gives one a lot of business lessons and experiences to either avoid or learn from.

The trade fair presents an opportunity for many young people that could be job hunting, to make a quick buck. For between Rwf3, 000-10,000 a day or Rwf50, 000-100,000 for the entire period some people are hired to give out flyers as some sell within the stands or do demonstrations.

At the expo you see welcoming smiles, happy workers and at times people who will never lift their heads to acknowledge you. The difference between a business owner or the child of the business owner and these people hired on part time basis is huge. It is clear to any show goer that the part timer is content with their Rwf3, 000 and is not interested in making extra money for the business. There are stands we bypassed severally and would not find even one person making an inquiry. If this is an exhibitor who has paid 15M francs for space then hopes of recovering that amount or even a fraction, they are dashed. Then there are organizations that seemed to have picked permanent but disgruntled staff and sent them to the expo, this lot too is not different from the part timing one, they are not bothered about making extra cash for the company because after all their salary is not pegged on what they are able to sell at the expo.

It is a sad place for any business person to be at; an investment has been made and people hired to help the business owner sell even the little they can but no, it’s not happening. One of my colleagues managed to sell radio mentions to a company by calling the main office instead of talking to the team at the expo, when the deal went through she was referred to the stand to collect money but the person in charge bragged around and asked her whom she called and why she didn’t talk to him; he hang up the phone. Luckily the boss showed up and got wind of the other person’s behavior. He called his phone number, had him come to the stand in the shortest time possible and made him apologize. What was witnessed here was a humble business owner catching an employee trying to destroy the image of the organisation. How many people have visited stands or left office buildings cursing the entire establishment because of one man or woman’s behavior? 

The greatest lesson I left the grounds with was that the best way to run a business is by being there physically, especially small businesses and the greatest gift an employee whether part time or full time can give their employer is that sense of ownership. I sympathize with a lot of business people that will leave the expo the same way they walked in. They will be told people have not been coming or buying yet they came but the assistant was too busy chatting on phone.