An Interview with Kencall’s Nicholas Nesbitt – Part 2
In the first part of the Interview with Nicholas Nesbitt, he talked about where Kencall has come from, from a vision and to realities and challenges of setting up. In the second part of the Interview, Nicholas talks about the key factors that have made Kencall a success, and what keeps them going. From his role as a leader, to having the right team, and their plans for the future:
Did Kenya’s post election violence (PEV) last year affect Kencall?
Yes, indeed. It made it very difficult for us to get genuine business and destabilized our process to get foreign clients as well. And then, just as we were beginning to recover from that, the global credit crunch happened, spelling travel bans for a lot of people out there; leading to staff cuts and the lots of businesses to consolidating with existing vendors. So thatâ€™s what affected our business towards the end of last year and even in the beginning of this year. Then there was the promise of the soon-to-land fiber technology. It was then that we decided to put our plans on hold for additional satellite bandwidth acquisition in January/February 2009, and wait for the cables to in April/May 2009. This led to many clients holding their contracts as they waited for this to happen. For the last 15/18 months, itâ€™s been a very difficult time for us compared to 2007, when we grew and gained lots of new accounts.
What kind of goals do you set for yourselves at Kencall? Is there a specific mindset?
From a entrepreneur’s standpoint my overall perspective is to always be unstoppable – thatâ€™s where it has to start.Â At Kencall, we have this absolute belief in our abilities and a pragmatic approach to thriving and surviving. We have almost had to close down business several times over the last 4/5 years due to those issues I mentioned earlier but the attitude now is that even if we hired 100 people and they all trickled down to 2, that would not be enough reason to close down.Â The only option would be to go out, source the money and start all over again. We have had that experience before and thatâ€™s our guiding spirit, especially for those who have been at Kencall since we started. For us, Itâ€™s not really about setting up specific targets and objectives, its the opportunity to take the positive and negative elements of business and learn from them for continuous improvement.
So, firstly, what is really important in our business is passion, energy and positivity to get things done. Secondly, itâ€™s all about the processes and the professionalism. All our processes are documented and every procedureÂ updated. We adhere to strict guidelines and we do everything from recruiting to training and managing our human resource. As a result ourÂ a business performsÂ efficiently which gives us the ability to be very flexible and opportunistic.Â At Kencall we set our targets on how we want to grow and we definitely hit them. This is one of those unique businesses where you can grow 100% a year very easily if you have the right ingredients – weâ€™ve been growing for the last five years.
What unique qualities make you a successful business leader?
From an early age, I have always been a high achiever. I am very competitive and have always had a belief in my capabilities. I am also very detail oriented. I encourage the same qualities in my team and this is instilled in them from the moment they join the company and grow into senior managers. I often give a brief on my expectations and leave it to them to deliver through initiative.
What accomplishments are you most proud of at Kencall?
That would have to be the recognition of Kencall as the top Non-European call center for 2008 by Contact Centre Focus (CCF). We won a global award where we beat competitors from all over the world. We have already have nomination as finalists for the same award this year. I would also say that our successfully handling Telkom Kenyaâ€™s customer service function and growing their Orange account to over 350 staff in under a year is significant.
What do you think will be the key business impacts of the high speed under-sea cables?
For Kencall, its definitely going enable us get better business, as well as more complex work from clients because they will now trust the technology we use. Secondly, it will allow us to charge higher prices than we are able to charge currently, as well as reduce costs and invest more on our business processes and technology. Lastly, the cables will enable us to expand in East Africa.
Kenya is relatively unknown internationally for outsourcing, what are you doing about this?
We are opening hub offices in America and the UK so as to raise our profile in terms of how much publicity we are getting via all different forms of media, including the Internet.
2 to 3 years down the line, where do you see Kencall?
I see a happy and satisfied team, living a dream that they helped to build and foster – Kencall everywhere! I see operations across East Africa and running satellite offices in different countries doing a lot of call center work, back office work and knowledge processing work. We plan on being involved in plenty of Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) activities such assisting in famine relief rapid transition, HIV/Aids and youth targeted campaigns.
What kind of clients do you handle, and from which markets?
We source business from the U.S, the UK and across East Africa. Itâ€™s pretty much split unevenly among these three, depending on whatâ€™s happening, whoâ€™s growing, whoâ€™s shrinking. The market segments we focus on are telecommunications, financial, retail and a little bit of CSR.
How do you go about looking for Kencall’s talent?
Most of our new talent comes from referrals. Other than that we advertise in the newspapers once a year and once in a while we go out to colleges and universities for recruitment drives.
What key points would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs in Kenya?
- Do something that you are good at.
- Become a student of your industry.
- Pick your business partners wisely.
- Make more money than you expect to spend.
- Focus on really performing well for your first clients.