‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
Alex Nyaga, founder, Parapet Cleaning Services (Kenya)
1. What was your first job?
I was painting Christmas trees on windows in Nairobi in 1993. I was in high school and they were paying me $55 for every window. That was a lot of money.
2. Who had the biggest impact on your career and why?
My board of directors have mentored me and walked with me throughout this journey. I owe it to them for being able to build a very successful business. Their support – whether financial or technical, and through mentorship – has been priceless.
3. The parts of your job that keep you awake at night?
Ensuring my 3,500 employees have a regular salary. I stay up at night thinking about the next big thing that will sustain and create employment.
4. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I think I am visionary, and I have a passion to do things that will have a greater impact in our society: such as creating jobs.
5. What are the best things about your country, Kenya?
It is a beautiful country with beautiful people and wonderful weather. People here also have a good attitude towards work. I have been to many parts of the world and it is rare to see the work culture that is instilled in Kenyans. We have a very unique DNA about how we look at work and business. You will find Kenyans working everywhere in the world, and they do all types of work.
6. And the worst?
We are a divided nation. We think ‘me’ as opposed to ‘we’. If we get to thinking as one nation with one purpose we will grow exponentially. I envy the kind of unity and patriotism I see in other countries such as the US and Nigeria. They are very passionate about themselves, they are proud of their identity and they are very patriotic. Unfortunately, that patriotism is what we lack.
7. Your future career plans?
I am currently mentoring six young entrepreneurs and am a trustee of the Kenya Youth Business Trust (KYBT), an organisation that provides training, funding and advisory support to young entrepreneurs in their first three years of business. Moving forward I want to do more mentorship and help other people grow their businesses. I also want to increase my involvement in philanthropic work.
8. How do you relax?
I love to swim. It takes my mind away from work. I also love to travel. The best place I have been to is Paris.
9. What is your message to our young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
They should first find a purpose. Why do they exist? Once you identify your purpose you then work to bring that purpose to fruition. I believe purpose brings out the passion, the resilience. And in turn that gives you the drive to accomplish your goals.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
We need to remove these borders and work as one Africa. If countries worked together I believe the synergies that would come out of that integration would make Africa a formidable economy.
Alex Nyaga is the CEO of Parapet Group, which encompasses two companies: Parapet Cleaning Services and Parapet Hospitality and Business Institute. Nyaga started the company in 1997. It has grown to become a leading player in the industry employing 3,500 people and offering cleaning solutions for both domestic and commercial customers. Its clients include airports, hospitals, shopping malls, office buildings, hotels and private residences.