Editor’s Note: Through this series dubbed, Daily Grind Founder360° CEO and Head of Content Vallency F. Otieno chats with Young Successful entrepreneurs and front runners on various themes including actionable steps on driving sales, exceptionable leadership strategies and staying afloat through the obstacles among others issues.
As your business gets bigger, it is important to enhance and build strong and solid relationships with the community around your product or service. Having a bad reputation in business will affect the sales which in turn affect the overall business. Good PR is vital to the success of any business. And this is why major establishments will appoint specialists to manage their communication and enhance relations between them and their stakeholders. And this is one niche Kevin Otiende has mastered and perfected over the last 8 years being rooted deeply in the industry.
After a 3 year stint at one of the top PR and Communication firms in the region as the Head of PR, Kevin Otiende decided it was time to forge ahead and build his own path by starting Calla PR, a strategic communications firm operating in Kenya that helps organizations manage perceptions and drive their own narrative in an ever increasingly complex, fast-paced and interconnected world.
Equipped with valuable networks and the urge to reconceptualise public relations and strategic communication from the orthodox status as it is, Kevin Otiende has built Calla PR into one of the most sought-after communication firms in the region in less than 2 years by leading a strong team of content creators, researchers and crisis communications experts who have the ability to craft insightful and winning strategies and helping their clients meet their business objectives in record time.
The Journalism and Mass Communication graduate from The University of Nairobi is not just an admirable communicator but he has also developed and amassed exceptional writing skills which he has used to build up vital social capital central to his profession.
Kevin Otiende shares his insights about driving sales and staying afloat among in the midst of a storm.
Tell us about your background; i.e. family, education, work experience before starting Calla PR etc.
My name is Kevin Otiende. I am the last born in a very large family of ten children. I was born and raised in the Eastlands part of Nairobi. Growing up in that part of the city was in and of itself an insurmountable challenge. All around us was crime, despair, hopelessness and we all believed there was no chance in the future. I always say when one makes it not necessarily out of that setting but out of the mindset, you have to give them respect. I managed to get to University and earn a degree in communication, before getting into the media where I worked for about five years, and later entered the PR world in an agency. I am currently the Managing Director of my own strategic communications firm CALLA PR.
What in particular drove you to venture into entrepreneurship / starting your own business/company?
There are a number of factors that led me to venture out. The first is I got to that point in life where I was beyond employment and I had a burning desire to start my own PR firm to offer what I felt was not being offered. I am in the process of implementing all the services I consider differentiators in the industry. Secondly, I wanted to be fully in charge and take credit for my campaigns. Lastly, Africa is now breaking the barriers of trade, enabling intra-Africa trade and creating the conducive environment for multinationals to set up. This in itself is providing entrepreneurs with the opportunity to expand and I am seeking to tap into that.
What are some of the actionable steps one can use to make their personal and company profile be heard/known?
I have had the advantage of creating a name for myself in the industry, having worked for major clients and campaigns including multinationals, Government ministries and departments and the private sector. When I started out, I already had the name so it was easy for me to transfer my experience to that of my new outfit. This, of course, could only be achieved if I was doing a good job and that’s the emphasis and advice I can give; always strive to deliver solutions that work for clients in a timely, unique, flexible and measurable manner. Your work will speak for you. This is an industry where word spreads very fast.
The quote “Sales Cures All” is true for any business to thrive. What are some of the sales techniques /strategies do you use when hunting for new clients?
Our business is quite a niche. You rarely employ mass-market techniques to attract clients. And in a niche market like ours, word of mouth is more impactful so as I have mentioned, you first must create a name for yourself in terms of delivery and execution. You then position yourselves and send your credentials to your target audience. You must have a hit list and start making advances towards getting to the clients and closing the deals.
What kind of strategies do you use to move forward when you experience a setback? How do you stay afloat?
Set-backs in any business are like milk and white. You can never go without a hitch. They will be both internal and external. But the most important thing is learning from your mistakes, picking up as soon as possible and implementing the shock arresters.
What do you think are some of the mistakes that young people do when they venture into entrepreneurship?
I am glad that many young people these days get into entrepreneurship. These actions spread all across the country will create more jobs for our people. Expecting quick results is usually one of the factors that cause many people to fail and end up frustrated. I strongly believe you should get into this without any rush. Be measured, be calculated, and strike where it makes the most sense. I also have an issue with duplication. Many people are starting businesses, not because of any gap or research, but simply because they have seen someone else doing it and doing it well and they think they can make it. Business is not just about making it, it’s not about the money, it is the purpose and the passion.
As a CEO with a team under you, what are some of the leadership blind spots you have faced and how do (did) you overcome them?
First I took a while to understand that I am now the owner of the business. When you are employed, you tend to overlook many things. When you are the CEO, you don’t leave anything to chance. I made the mistake of employing my friends and that did not turn out too well. Too much familiarity breeds contempt as they say.
How do you manage to keep being competitive in your industry (niche)?
We are always alert, constantly evolving with the changing needs of our clients and innovating new solutions. We like to be different in all that we do.