Tuesday, March 14, 2017

MY FAVOURITE BUSINESSMAN

It is the stuff of legend.

The story goes that on Saturday’s Charles Lubega would mount his speakers on his window which faced into the quadrangle at Livingstone Hall and set his player to play. He would then climb down the stairs basin and clothes in hand to do his laundry as he listened.

After not so long Saturday morning at “Stone” was a heaving mass of activity as other students stopped by to sample Charlie’s latest hits.

As his popularity grew he set up at the Guild Canteen, playing on Friday’s, Saturdays and sometimes due to public demand, on Sundays as well.

He did not stop there. Buying an additional set of machines to open his mobile disco. No party was with it, without the sound of Soul.

And then Patrick Bitature, wanted out of Ange Noir. And the rest as they say is history.

This is more than a quarter century ago, but Ange Noir – now Guvnor, still lives on, dominating Kampala’s night life, after all comers have come and gone.

This is not gospel truth, Charlie just does not tell his own story. But we shall not let the facts get in the way of a good story.

"Entering a market that was almost non-existent, raising standards incrementally, building the barriers to entry unilaterally, to the point now that there are many revelers who will not settle for less, at home or abroad...

Ange Noir has not only maintained a loyal crowd from the 1990s but has added subsequent generations of merrymakers and all without being tempted into race-to-the-bottom marketing gimmicks. This has ensured that standards have remained high – be it in the quality of the playlists, the ambiance or service.

So popular is the industrial area hangout that attempts to create some price discrimination and stratify the clientele by pocket size have fallen flat.

For a long time he has been my favourite businessman, but more and more I am liking what Lawrence Mulindwa is doing off Entebbe road.

Mulindwa last week unveiled a new coach, Portuguese Jorge Miguel Da Costa Duarte for his Vipers Football Club.  This came fast on the heels of an announcement of a sh500m Roofings Ltd sponsorship deal. Only days before his brand new 20,000 seater stadium at Kitende was cleared by the sport's African football authority, CAF, to host continental matches.

But what we are seeing is the finished product, or at least the rough outline of not only a great sporting establishment but a first class business too.

Initially there was the school St Mary’s Kitende, which has not only taken over domination of school soccer from Kibuli and Old Kampala, but has gone on to dominate the East African regional school competitions as well.

But he didn’t stop there buying and converting stragglers Bunamwaya FC into Vipers FC as a preliminary destination for his school talent to settle.

"The last part has already paid dividends as at least a dozen players are already plying their trade abroad, with the most prominent of them being Farouk Miya, Lwanga Kizito and Yunus Sentamu who are playing professional football in Europe...

The stadium, the biggest stadium built in this country in 20 years, is just icing on the cake.

In a sporting business the main asset class is the intangible assets, where players would lie. 

Manchester United in 2016 reporter total assets of about $1.95b of which intangible assets accounted for about half the total assets at about $900m. Fixed assets which include Old Trafford, the stadium, came in at about $300m

Looking at the whole Mulindwa operation from this perspective he not only has a top team but has a rich pipeline of talent coming through from his school, which for all intents and purposes is the equivalent of a soccer academy in the Europe.

The beauty of this is that not only are the players developed from an early age, but when they are sold off the sell price is almost all profit.

Of course there is a lot of work to do moving the operation away from one driven by its founder and chief backer, to a fully-fledged corporate organisation, which hopefully will outlive Mulindwa.

The lessons from my two favourite businessmen are many but a few stand out.

One, think long term. Don’t clamour for the quick gains. Be willing to forgo the good for the better and be willing to do the time and put in the work.  And relatedly don’t be content to being a big fish in our little, small pond. A few million shillings is plenty in Uganda but with a million-dollar or even billion-dollar vision will make a world of difference. A business can only grow as big as its promoters dream, the bigger dream the bigger the company.

"These heroes are important if only because when everyone is hemming and hawing, whining how it is difficult to make it in Uganda, they are keeping their noses to the grinding stone and showing how it can be done. In the process serving as inspiration for hundreds of thousands of businessmen in urgent need of local champions...


Charlie remains atop the Busharizi honours list, but only just.

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