Steered by passion and ambition, Beatrice Wababu has built a brand that transcends her
By Caroline Mwendwa
When motive and opportunity converge, there is definitely going to be fulfillment. Beatrice Wababu’s journey is one that spells out this scenario. Passionate and goal driven, she quit her corporate communications job at the National Social Security Fund (NSSF), to found Wabcom Ventures, a firm that deals in training and business management consultancy.
“I always had a dream of starting my own consultation firm and when our family business needed someone to handle the human resource role, I knew it was time for me to quit the public sector and give this need the attention it deserved.” On resigning from NSSF, Wababu started serving at the family business as an executive director and immediately grabbed the opportunity to establish the consultancy firm she had long desired.
Wabcom Ventures has since grown from strength to strength under her tutelage given her solid background in both education and practice. Wababu is a masters degree holder in communication studies from Daystar University and is currently pursuing a PHD in leadership and management from the same institution.
Wabcom Technologies is a family business, a partner with Safaricom in distributing products and services. Its rapid growth called for structures and systems to ensure that the right human resource was being hired and there was continuity in all its 200 branches located around the country. When Wababu left NSSF to occupy the position of a director at this firm, her main role therefore became working with supervisors in various branches in coordinating the human resource function.
“I realised that I was already handling a lot of the firm’s work while still an employee as a civil servant, and for me to do this role in a more fulfilling way, I had to be present for closer monitoring.” Wababu admits that her personality differs highly with that of her husband and this difference is actually complementary. “I have more proclivity to listen to people and give guidance especially on human resource (HR) matters and settling disputes,” she points out.
However, just like all family businesses, there was need for a strategy to ensure that professionalism was maintained. “Having a husband for a partner can sometimes lead to unprofessionalism which can actually be a major undoing for any business,” she advises. Therefore, Wababu and her husband had to set up rules by which to operate. “We would do a lot of research from the internet, read books on case studies of family businesses that have weathered the storms and this has gone a long way in ensuring that we don’t cross the lines of business.”
As Wababu explains, setting rules of operation is critical for any family business. “You must agree on not bringing home to work and not taking work home,” she quips. She also says that work relations should not be mingled with the familial bond, otherwise there will be no subordination and decision making is likely to be subjective. However, so far so good. Her presence at the company has been of great impact, even fulfilling. “I am glad I quit full time employment to do this because not only was I able to fill a gap in the company, I also had time to pursue my dream of establishing a consultancy firm (Wabcom Ventures) to help employees deliver efficiently.”
At the time of founding Wabcom Ventures, Wababu did not have money set aside for establishing a business. Therefore, she hired an office at Westlands in Nairobi and started operations as a sole proprietor. She was the only employee. However, after sometime, she hired an administrative assistant and eight months down the line, she secured business from the first client. Since then, Wabcom Ventures has been acquiring both corporate and individual clients.
“We have been getting clients through referrals, tendering and partnerships.” From one employee, Wabcom Ventures has grown to seven employees among them marketers and administrators. In addition, it has employed 33 consultants who offer training to its clients.
Currently located in the busy Upper Hill district of Nairobi, the establishment has training rooms where sessions take place. “We have modern facilities where we offer the training sessions, however, the venue of the training depends on the preference of the client,” says Wababu further adding that the environment of training can greatly influence the end result. “Clients need to be trained in an environment where they are not easily disrupted. It has to be conducive,” she asserts.
Wabcom Ventures is today a National Industrial Training Authority (NITA) accredited company with a highly impressive portfolio. “We have provided services to county governments, several corporate brands among them banks, supermarkets, telecommunication firms, insurance companies and other privately owned companies,” she observes.
Individuals also enroll for training. “We have professionals whose work requires proper communication skills such as lecturers and doctors coming for training. Communication is highly essential in any line of career and that is why such sessions are slowly becoming a trend.” At Wabcom Ventures, training of trainers is also a mainstay. Very few people are born trainers and most of those who wish to be trainers require training. As Wababu points out, the most important element in training situation is the trainer. The firm focuses on producing the most effective trainers who are capable of evoking the greatest response from the trainees.
Having solidified the base, the next aspiration for Wabcom Ventures is to become an international centre for training professionals.
Apart from running the businesses, Wababu is a mother of five children four of whom are young adults between the age of nineteen and twenty four. “Juggling motherhood, education and business is no easy task, but somehow being in all these worlds helps in exposing children to relevant skills of life.” Together with her husband, she mentors her children to be entrepreneurs all of whom have worked in an M-Pesa agency at some point during their education.
The first born (a lawyer by profession) is the legal consultant for the family business, while the second born runs an event management company as the CEO. “We try the best we can to make them responsible and open their minds to entrepreneurial opportunities.”
While succession in family businesses can present a challenge, Wababu explains that it is important to expose her children to the business, so that they can learn its ropes. “Sometimes, we throw a challenge the business is facing at them so as to trigger their minds and make them problem solvers at an early age.” Wababu however warns that it is not wise to push the business down their guts if they don’t want future engagements. “They have already shown interest in other areas of business and we are offering them the support they require.”
The leadership role
Wababu believes in transformative leadership. “I am driven by the desire to see people grow in their professions. I believe that by impacting positively on other people’s growth, I also grow in the process and there is nothing as rewarding as such an achievement.”