Whether it’s energy firms like M-Kopa, delivery businesses like Sendy, or fintech start-ups like AZA Finance, there’s an exciting boom in fast-growing small and medium enterprises (SME) across Kenya right now. But these firms only tell part of the story – because for every successful high-growth SME, there are many more that fall by the wayside.

In fact, 70% of SMEs in Kenya fail within their first three years – which is roughly in line with the global average. This is not an easy statistic to read, but it is important to be aware of the realities of managing a high-growth business.

So, why do SME’s fail, and how can technology help improve your company’s chances of success?

Challenges facing high growth SMEs in Kenya

If you have a growing customer base and are attracting funding, it seems logical to expect that the business will simply keep growing naturally. However, when businesses grow fast, certain common problems can crop up and undermine their success:

  • Losing track of finances: Fast-growing firms can end up spending much more than they realise. Monitoring cash flow is vital, but this gets tricky when you’re investing lots of capital in your growth. If spending exceeds income for too long, you’ll be unable to pay staff or creditors.
  • Management mistakes: Small business owners are used to controlling every aspect of the company. And that means they struggle to delegate as the business grows. Unfortunately, this can lead to slow and inefficient decision-making which undermines growth.
  • Staff shortages: If you are growing very fast, you may not have enough staff to meet all customer orders. Disappointed customers will then take their business elsewhere.
  • Failing to adapt culture and operations: When your business was just a handful of people, it was easy to manage the team. Yet running a company with 20, 50 or even 100 people requires massively different processes. Failing to adapt means that the workplace starts to feel unprofessional and disorganised.
  • Not enough marketing: If you take on more staff for individual projects but are not fostering enough new leads, your pipeline could dry up – which can lead to a financial crunch.
  • Wrong technology: With the wrong IT in place, your business is unable to respond to changing customer expectations and employee needs.

3 ways information technology supports high growth SMEs

Tackling the kinds of challenges described above requires big-picture thinking – there’s no simple solution to any of these problems. That said, one of the ‘low hanging fruits’ which will help any business grow sustainably is its IT infrastructure. Let’s see how information technology supports high-growth SMEs.

1.      Efficiency

Good quality business technology can make a huge difference to fast-growing SMEs by making them more efficient.

As you grow, your employees will need to rapidly access information, share files, collaborate with colleagues and serve customers. Modern cloud-based IT platforms support your teams and allows them to get more work done, in less time. Cloud-based IT means:

  • Staff can access files remotely
  • Employees collaborate in real-time on files and other content
  • Sharing and sending information is possible instantly
  • You can manage customer relationships more efficiently
  • You can automate many processes

Related: How Microsoft Teams enables the business strategy


2.      Scalable

If your company is growing fast, you need to ensure that your IT infrastructure grows in tandem with the business. You will be rapidly adding many new employees to your payroll, and they all need a place to log in, have a company email address and access software that lets them get work done.

Once again, modern technology makes it much easier to scale your business. Cloud-based platforms like Microsoft 365 let you cost-effectively add new users to your IT environment for just a few thousand shillings per month. Licences can be created at the click of a button, and each new employee gets a huge amount of storage, as well as apps for email, video calls, office tasks and everything else they need to be productive.

3.      Security

Fast-growing businesses are often a target for malicious actors hoping to extort money or steal intellectual property (IP). If an SME gets breached, it can be highly damaging – or even cause it to fail outright.

Again, modern cloud-based platforms are much more effective than traditional IT when it comes to protecting your company’s content and IP. They come with multi-factor authentication, which makes it very difficult for outsiders to hack into your systems. The technology also actively seeks out suspicious activity, alerting you to possible threats.

eBook: Introduction to business IT security


Learn more about IT for high growth SMEs in Kenya

If your business is growing fast, this is fantastic news – it is testament to the uniqueness of your business idea and the hard work you have put in. But to ensure this growth is sustainable in the long term, it is important to adjust your processes and activities so that the business can continue growing sustainably.

Speak to our East African Team today to discuss how business technology can be used to support your fast-growing SME.