Sometime ago, my sister and were discussing the effect of elections on business in Kenya.

We were partners in a business that was negatively affected by post-election violence in 2008. So we know up close and personal just how bad things can get!

This being an election year in Kenya, I’m sure you too are wondering about the wisdom of setting up or expanding your business.

In this article, I’ll look at some common challenges that face small business owners when it comes to elections.

The article concludes by examining how your personal political views (and actions) can affect your business.

Are elections holding your business back?

When you read the news, you’ll notice that there’s been huge investment in Kenya by foreign companies.

What does that tell us?

I’m not an economist but I can guess that these companies have done a comprehensive SWOT analysis and come up with plans to address the threat of elections.

Note that these companies probably don’t expect to make massive profits in the first 2-3 years of business. And they’ve addressed that in their short and long-term plans.

But, what about you…with a small business? Does it mean that you shelve your ideas until after elections?

Not necessarily.

There are businesses that thrive in election years. These include taxis, printing, graphic design, telecoms, event management, MCs, clothing, and catering, among others.

Your SWOT analysis will help you determine whether to set up or expand your business now or do background work while waiting for election results.

Whatever the case, don’t let elections be an excuse for not starting or growing your business. There’s still a lot you can do in the interim.

Actions

Evaluate your business using the following resources and then make a plan for addressing the election period in future years.

1. SWOT Analysis

Use this SWOT analysis template to understand your personal and business Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats.

This will prepare you for planning the way forward as you’ll have a clearer view of your business, industry and the market.

2. Business Startup Checklist

Did you cover all the bases when setting up your business?

This checklist will help you check off the steps as you complete them. It’s also useful if you feel as if you started your business on the wrong foot.

The checklist is free to download and works as the perfect accompaniment to the 12 Weeks to Startup book if you’re starting your business.

There is business before, during, and after elections

One of the things people are talking about this year is the fact that the country is on pause. This may be the reality until we have a sworn in president.

Elections are here with us, but this doesn’t mean that business has to grind to a halt.

I do acknowledge that a lot of businesses have been affected negatively during the election period.

If this is you, what can you do?

For one, you can work on your business and marketing strategies. This is what I recommend for all my business coaching clients during this season.

Actions

Here are some you can work on during the election period.

1. Increase your social media marketing

Everyone is on social media during this period. At the same time, most of the information being passed on is about elections and politics.

Just drop in something different and people will see you like a breath of fresh air. Some will take action because they have nothing else to do now.

2: Give a discount offer or do a promotion

Big companies are doing powerful promos and contests at this time.

For example Coca Cola has a promo now and I’m sure sodas are drunk more than if they hadn’t done the promo.

I’ve also offered a 52% discount for Strategy Coaching Sessions for my newsletter readers and people are picking it up. This is something you can pick up even after the elections.

3: Evaluate and update your business and marketing strategies

Many business owners don’t have time to update their strategies during the year. This is a great time to do so and you can even prepare a plan for the rest of the year.

What if you don’t have plan in place? Here’s an article that will help you create your business strategy fast.

Beef that up with these annual planning tips if you need to evaluate your business before creating a new strategy.

Life happens and elections will come and go. Will your business survive elections if you don’t do something different this time? Try out one of the 3 actions above and grow your business this year.

Have your political views spilled over into business?

This year, I have seen some very nasty characteristics emerge from people I admired.

Family members, friends, colleagues, business relationships… no one was spared.

The characteristics had everything to do with political views.

Now it doesn’t help that our leaders whipped us up into a mass of emotions.

Both sides of our political divide came up fighting. And we got caught up in the middle.

Here’s one thing you need to keep in mind: It’s OK to have political views and opinions.

However, when it comes to business, you need to be very careful about what you say or do. This is more so when it comes to your online presence.

You may not be aware of it but people check you out online. Funders, potential clients, potential employers, people you’ve asked to Friend or Connect with you…

The serious ones go out and check your Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter profiles (at the very least).

What have you been posting in your social media profiles over this year, and especially when it’s linked to elections?

Looking back retrospectively (since hindsight is 20/20), what do you think potential and real customers will think of you when they read your posts?

Note that even people who are on the same political side as you are will sideline you based on how you have carried yourself online and offline.

Business is neutral, but your personal brand plays a huge role in how people view you as a business person.

Actions

1. Clean up your social media profiles

Evaluate your social media posts and check whether you have boosted or damaged your business reputation.

Ask a few trusted friends or family members to evaluate you too. Include people from both sides of the political divide and ask them for their open evaluations.

If you’ve damaged your reputation, acknowledge it publicly. This is the easiest way to win back public support.

Some people may bash you when you open but, but overall, you will have positive support from all over the place.

You will also be surprised at how this will build your business credibility because people are more drawn to those who can admit their mistakes and learn from them.

2. If you can’t clean up…

Sometimes the damage done is too great to clean up or even own up to. Or maybe you still hold onto some of the opinions you aired publicly.

In this case, evaluate the lessons learnt and move on. Life doesn’t end because you did something that worked against you.

You’re entitled to your political opinions. Just be careful about how, when, and where you express yourself. Have your political views, but conduct yourself in a balanced way.

Conclusion

As we move to the next phase in our election calendar, it’s time to slow down and make sure that our businesses survive beyond elections.

Elections and politicians will come and go. Will your business survive your political opinions and actions?

I leave that decision to you.

As you make your decision, remember that we are all in one ship – Kenya. That doesn’t change no matter who is in power.

What do you think?

I’d love to hear about your experience during this or past election periods. How has your business been affected (positive and negative effects)? What are your plans for after the elections? Let’s hear from you in the Comments.

(Image credit Stuart Miles at Free Digital Photos


Caroline Gikonyo
Caroline Gikonyo

Caroline Gikonyo created her dream business and ran it as a solopreneur for 6 years. She then teamed up with 4 other coaches and formed Biashara 360 where she is now the Head of Coaching. As a Business Coach, she’s been helping professionals and grow successful businesses while reducing the time they spend working. You can find out more about her work at www.biasharathreesixty.com.