ENTREPRENEURIAL MUSEVENISM: Surviving The Fateful First Five Years Of Startup Businesses! ENTREPRENEURIAL MUSEVENISM: Surviving The Fateful First Five Years Of Startup Businesses!
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“Leave Issues Of Generals To Generals” so the saying rightfully goes. However, considering that as human beings our mortality catches up with us at certain points, it therefore follows that the world continuously has generals because the upcoming generations learn from the reigning generals and either adopt or perfect the approaches used by the generals who came before them, learning their ways from when they were amateurs to when and how they advanced and sustained their places. Our major purpose in this exposition is to determine how Startups can apply the same approaches to enable them survive beyond the death dealing first five years. In other words, we want to answer the question: Is it possible to apply the approaches of a general in ensuring one’s business lasts past the death dealing first five years that experts say many Startup companies die out within?

His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni of the Republic of Uganda ascended to power in 1986; at the time, many of the officials (staff) in his current government structure were either little infants, in nursery and primary schools or were not yet born. In essence therefore, from 1986 through to 1991 his leadership was a STARTUP within the death dealing first five years so to say. He has run the show for over 35 years to date (2021). What Startup Survival Strategies did his team use that has seen them go on for over three decades and still is pushing on? What can a person starting a business or within the first five deadly years learn from his NRM party approaches? Can a firm that has survived past the risk filled first five years learn from Entrepreneurial Musevenism to stay on course? Let us find some clues from deductions stemming from observing the Museveni governance approach since 1986 and prior.

a) Clear Identification Of One’s Intended Destiny: When you start a business, it is wise to figure out what exactly you desire it to be and how it will bring you a sense of fulfillment in the broader spectrum of your existence in relation to serving your target community or market. If your goal is purely money and 'a good life', chances are high that when tough times come, you will change course and move into something else or just abandon ship. In other words, it is best when your chosen path resonates with your inner self.

How does Entrepreneurial Musevenism come in here? As a student at Dar es salaam university, Museveni apparently already knew what he wanted as a certainty for his life, his inner call, and stuck to that path through all odds. In his book co-authored by two others entitled “Development as Rebellion A Biography Of Julius Nyerere” Professor Issa G. Shivji shows us that Museveni has since youth till now, been doing what he loves because it is him, not just something others are doing too. As a student, Museveni was already involved in the formation of radical movements, Shivji says

“A group of militant East African students…formed the University Students African Revolutionary Front (USARF) headed by a young militant Ugandan student, Yoweri Museveni, who was later to become his country’s president…” (p.88)

This goes to indicate that for your Startup to survive the odds of the first five years and live into decades, one pillar is that it should be in a field that you genuinely believe in, that you do not need to be pushed to do but push yourself to accomplish, something you belief in. In this way, when tough times come, you will even get support from those who believe you believe in what you are doing like Museveni got both direct and indirect support from not within Uganda alone, but from outsiders too in the tough times towards the realization of his Startup dream business of government.

b) Learning From The Generals And Perfecting The Trade: Just jumping into a trade because you have secured the capital or have some opening is a recipe for being a victim of the first five years. But having a detailed knowledge of the particular trade you desire to Startup in helps you avoid pitfalls, helps you identify your strategies appropriately, helps you pick your opportunities right, helps you know the lows and highs without quitting, helps you in come back stunts when failure seems to have hit.

How Does Entrepreneurial Musevenism Come In? Men who saw the young man Museveni who today is known as Mzei (Mzee) among his support circles and nation reveal that he was an avid reader of revolutionary leadership publications. In an interview with a journalist, Mzee Byanyima who saw Museveni grow up as a young lad revealed that the young man led a life of some solitude burying himself in such books. This claim finds support in similar revelations by scholars who bring to light Gen. Museveni’s involvement in the aforementioned university students club where he organized public lectures with his colleagues such as Walter Rodney in which they invited leaders of liberation movements, Marxists and black power advocates; in these lectures, they themselves learned a lot from the 'Generals' as it were besides their own researching culture. Is it a wonder that he has withered the tides for over thirty years and going on? Yes as one Starting Up and intending to stay the course in your business, learn as much as you can from the ‘Generals’ in your chosen line of trade and follow their path, perfecting it as you gain more experience.

c) Choosing Your Team Appropriately No Matter How Small: The history of the NRA/NRM indicates that Museveni started with ‘Limited Capital’ but the human capital was of dare devil minds like his own, men who were willing to take all necessary risks to achieve their ultimate goal of capturing state power and controlling the economy. Just over 20 people and a handful of guns has today become the Uganda People’s Defense Forces and a whole government under the NRM party for over three decades, actually running their fourth decade!

Where does Entrepreneurial Musevenism come in? This calls for appropriate choice of the men and women you keep in your team as a Startup business. It is a warning that people who are bent on just what they will gain fast in terms of remunerations like salaries, allowances, etc will stress you to Startup Death if they constitute a key part of your team.

It is not easy to find such good men and women as he might have had but the fact that others find them means there are there. What have such generals done to find such team members? One thing is that they have clearly articulated goals and objectives that attract the right people with similar orientations. When your team has similar orientations as you, they take ownership of the process and move along in good and tough times. In his bestselling book, entitled ‘GOOD TO GREAT’, Jim Collins states a fact that survivor Startup companies need to note as apparently did Gen. Museveni right from the start, he says

“If we get the right people on the bus, the right people in the right seats, and the wrong people off the bus, then we’ll figure out how to take it someplace great.” (p.41)

If you choose mediocre staff just to avoid costs and or to gain “wapambe” (Kiswahili for people who make you feel great and good even if they are not adding value to you), if these incompatibles are part of your team, your chances of surviving the first five death dealing years are very narrow; private sector business is neither a school nor a church education center, it is a commercial battle field and those who learn this fact early choose their soldiers appropriately, they apply Entrepreneurial Musevenism early enough and throughout, sorting along the way as the next factor elaborates.

d) Dealing With Distractions Decisively At The Foundation And Always: There are times when we stick to the wrong cadres in our teams too long, these are times when our human goodness side take the better part of us in a field that serves humanity well but in a highly competitive manner. So when your team members begin to slack and metamorphose into silent and or overt/ open critics of approaches that work for your business and goals, what do you do? Others keep them for so long in the hope that they will change. The mistake with keeping them too long is that you allow the seed of dissent to spread to a level that will take more effort and sacrifice at greater loses to deal with, a mistake that Dr. Apollo Milton Obote who was a contemporary of the admirable Mwalimu Nyerere of Tanzania seem to have committed more than once. The list of men and women whom Mr. Museveni dropped off his list, some coming as a shock  even to his close allies is long if one starts counting from his Startup days. This strategy always has left him with adherents or followers who criticize for improvement not destructively and who deliver to the broader achievement of his long term goals for his government, his people and of course himself with his ideologies.

Yes having the right people consistently reduces your burden of having to constantly motivate them, you do not have to tightly manage them, and they will be self-driven in being part of achieving something great. Yes, like Entrepreneurial Musevenism seems to suggest, you need to heed Jim Collin’s caution that

“…If you have the wrong people, it doesn’t matter whether you discover the right direction; you still won’t have a great company. Great Vision without great people is irrelevant "

e) Tactful Inclusivity or Absorption Of Objective Critics: Having ruled for over three decades, it is easy for someone with the discerning mind and interest in African politics who chooses to delve into an inquiry of East African politics to acknowledge that Museveni has over the years worked with his perceived toughest critics apparently by choice, in other words, he included them in his core team at one point or another. Men like Alhaj Akbar Adoko Nekyon of the D.P and UPC alternately, Paul Kawanga Ssemogere who was then D.P party president among others. Why did and does he do that?

In a 1986 interview with the ‘Weekly topic’ as quoted in the book “Independent Uganda, The First Fifty Years 1962-2012” H.E Mr. Museveni says

“…a united front …means you unite with people you are not entirely in harmony with as long as certain minimum conditions are met”

The personal question then is, do you only look for people who absolutely agree with you or do you look for those who challenge you too? People who challenge you open your mind to other alternatives and hidden weaknesses within you and your systems. They also bring in talents and mindsets that are necessary in the competitive business world that might otherwise be lacking in your likely very like-minded founding team.

As the saying goes, ‘birds of the same feather flock together’ but unfortunately, the business world where Startups operate has all birds of all feathers one can think of, all flocking together as they compete for the same business spaces. Entrepreneurial Musevenism therefore calls for tactful inclusivity, bring in and assimilate the cream of competitive talents so that you may strengthen your team’s ability to withstand the market forces and work against the competition for lasting survival of your company or firm. You may not be able to assimilate all but you still learn from those who come and go!

f) Rewarding Core Cadres: Where do the people who constitute your core or value staff find themselves as your Startup business progresses along the success timeline? If they find themselves growing in various aspects of their lives and that of the organization, then you are destined to have the backup in good and bad times. In our analysis of this East African leadership that has lasted second only to the Chama Cha Mapinduzi – CCM of Tanzania’s Mwalimu Julius Kambarage Nyerere, we can pick the lesson that everyone willing and able to grow will grow but your core concentration should be on your value adding, obedient and devoted cadres. The training centers for the military cadres, the Kyankwanzi training arena for its leadership and selected cadres, the trainings abroad in different expertise, the promotions in officers and military ranks of selected key productive and relied on cadres, and the monetary, material and other honorary gifts and recognitions all go to indicate why some have remained defensive of the system irrespective of any alternative opinions at anyone time; where I grew up there is a saying that when translated means “ a dog never gets excited with the milk in its neighbor’s stomach”.

Yes, keep giving those who cultivate and pollinate your field for better lasting yields the reason to keep doing their best; even in tough times, they will work hard along you to restore any deteriorating productivity if any, and yes this state always appears at one stage or another. Yes, know whom to reward, as the greatest leader ever in human body Jesus Christ said in Mathew 7:6;

“Do not give dogs what is holy; and do not throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them under foot and turn to attack you.” (revised standard version)

Of course, how to reward them also matters.

g) Our Seventh But Not Least Is ‘Protecting Your Realm At All Cost Feasible But Reasonably So’: I once read a book entitled “Trade Is War” By Yash Tandon. In this book, this professor who is well versed with the East African and world trade trends says

“In preparing for war, one does not build ones strategies on illusions…one builds them on the reality on the ground.” (p.27)

The business world like the political one has become extremely competitive, so much so that one needs to be vigilant to any threats to their business interests. The vigilance includes aggressive research to understand current trends and to do all you can to profitably fit in, to understand competitors and their goings on then develop coping methods, and where need be, to fight your battles both legal and otherwise as hard as you can because in today’s business world and as was, the big fish eat the small fish just as it is the fittest that survive.

Entrepreneurial Musevenism means not toying around or laughing around with men and women who want to destroy your business and take over your field, you only are good friends when nothing major is at stake. Some of his former friends have been dropped from the team over the years; others received different forms of hard tackles like imprisonment or house arrests if they went too far to threaten what the system believes is best, by its experiential definition of what is best for everyone and their own continuity into several other five year periods.

Caution: This does not mean using crude unorthodox business competition methods but it means being smart. Being smart comes with good knowledge of your particular field and that knowledge comes with constant study and presence on the ground.

IN OUR CONCLUSION for now at least, there are Kiswahili expressions which include the expression “…sio lele mama” meaning “…it is not an easy thing”, making it befitting for us to conclude for now with: yes, surviving the first five years into the distant future SIO LELE MAMA but, Oh Yes Dear, IT IS POSSIBLE if we learn from the ‘generals’, the generals being symbolic of those who have started projects and businesses and seen them through the times beyond the death dealing first five years that registers so many company deaths.


This two pictures are both of H.E Gen. Yoweri Kaguta T. Museveni in two separate phases of his life; one as a ‘Startup’ in the bush, fighting to bring his dreams to life. A Startup should not see and expect to enjoy the luxuries, ambience and glory that time tested businesses are currently enjoying, Startups should remember that these came from far and had to make sacrifices to get to where they are. Trying to compare yourself to them is a recipe for disaster and or complete Startup destruction.

The other colored picture is him as his country’s current president (2021); his new official portrait, having withered the storms successfully and , you might say seen his dream ‘Startup’ as it were come to its full cycle; yes from bush war through military rule to electoral politics, from freedom of his country’s citizens and himself to move around as they please to COVID19 lock-down which makes him and his team practically taste a bit of what it might have been for the likes of Cuba under Fidel Castro or Mugabe when they were “locked-down” but in different ways, a full governing circle of a kind for him. Whatever unfolds will unfold, the future is not ours to tell but the knowledge remains that his approaches have worked for his team and you can discretely borrow them in business!

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Nelson Ebong
Written by

Nelson Ebong

Being Of Effective Service by sharing knowledge and skills both experiential, which is most impacting, and learned, which can be hypothetical but all the same essential in the journey towards the mastery of living that is fulfilling and positively contributory to improving our world

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