I have started a new blog series called A cup of Chai where we sit down with inspiring influencers and get to ask them personal questions and hear the stories and just learn from the best. If you know someone whom we should feature here, send me an email on email@example.com and we will try get them here. We just want to learn from the best.
This week, I sat down with Job K. Muriuki, the CEO of Momentum Credit, a private micro-financing company. I met Job at a networking event in Nairobi. He is as lively as he is inspiring. He has previously worked at Centum, a listed Kenyan investment company. Momentum credit was launched in 2017 and now serves around 1000 clients by offering them alternative lending services including factoring.
What are your views on the Kenyan credit market?
Kenyan banks are some of the most profitable banks around the world and have gotten there by being conservative in their business model and practices. They have stuck to the traditional way of doing business: Take deposits and give loans without taking much risk. The challenge is that the economy and the world is evolving at a pace faster than they can keep up. Banks are not evolving at a fast enough pace to provide solutions. And that is where the opportunity lies for companies like ours which provide alternative lending without taking up deposits from customers. Some of the companies we deal with would not have been able to access loans in the traditional way from banks.
What do you look for when you want to hire someone?
The challenge presently is to get the right person to do the right thing. The unemployment rate in Kenya may be very high but getting high quality individuals who are a great fit to the company is very difficult. Therefore, we have invested a lot in the interview process. Apart from the standard aptitude tests, we give you a real case study that mirror tasks you will do in the job you applied for. We give you a weekend to go thrash it out and present the results to us on Monday morning. We are a small company and cannot afford to get hiring wrong so our interview process is rigorous. We look for people high on cognitive ability and who can be a great fit in our young, vibrant organisational culture.
If you were to sit down with a younger you, what advice would you give him?
Two things. One, that reading and learning is key. The biggest asset one can possess currently is knowledge. A superior knowledge base is an advantage in the modern workplace. Two, create consistent good habits like waking up early, beating deadlines and committing to excellence. The opportunity cost of failing to create a good habit is very high.
Who inspires you?
I am most inspired by family. My wife and my son of 16 months are a great source of inspiration. The other source of inspiration has been my single mother. I owe everything, literally everything, to her. She got divorced at a young age and we had to move to a single room where we lived four of us. Getting food to eat was a tough thing. She did not have a job back then but she joined East African industries (now Unilever) as a graduate trainee and worked her way up the ladder. That was when our fortunes changed. I have learnt from my mum to be focused and driven.
What motivates you?
I am motivated by enjoyment. I enjoy what I do and the day it stops being fun, I will know it is time to move on.
What books have inspired you most and why?
- Anything by or on Warren Buffett. He taught me how a combination of discipline and humility is a good recipe for success. He wasn’t the best in his high school years but the disciplined commitment to his goals has made him a successful investor. (Recommendations include Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist by Roger Lowenstein)
- Rich dad, poor dad: It talks about how many people lack aspirations and end up living an average life. Those who purpose to be great end up being great.
(Some other books he mentioned in the interview: Outliers by Malcom Gladwell, Richest man in Babylon by George Clason and One Up On Wall Street by Peter Lynch)
A mistake you made that you have learnt a great deal from?
I thought I knew how to do selling. I had created this great product and was ready to launch it but I realised I did not know how to sell it. I therefore hired a consultant. It took a lot of humility to realise I wasn’t good at it. The results have been phenomenal: Within 2 months of hiring the consultant the sales had risen 4 times and as of now the sales are up 20–30 times.
How do you counter the challenge of corruption in business?
You counter such a culture by living out the values and principles you cherish such as integrity. I try to live out my values and principles underpinned mostly by my faith. I am a Christian and faith is everything for me. I would not compromise on these values and principles for anything.
There is an optimal time to do something. Find out what that optimal thing is right now and do it. Also, hard work is not enough. Being a bit of a badass sometimes by being aggressive sometimes and having a loud bark helps.