1. What was your first job?
My first job was working at a hospital during my school holidays. I think I grew my passion for the service industry from then. However, my first paid job was installing wireless broadband internet working at a small start-up. I was involved in laying fibre optic cables within Nairobi. It was quite labour intensive work but I learnt a lot about attention to detail and professionalism.
2. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
Our business is a very time sensitive and I’ve learnt to time my sleep as well. Being in a very fast changing environment, what worries me depends on what we’re currently working on. For example, we are currently working on doubling our inventory as well as significantly increasing our delivery coverage in Nairobi and Mombasa. I’m focusing my energy on this at the moment.
3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
Several people I’ve worked with have had a great influence on me. I believe my parents and mentors have played a critical role in encouraging and guiding me to where I am today. My parents have been very supportive in my choices along the way.
4. What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
If you’re given a coffee cup to wash, wash it better than any other coffee cup has ever been washed in the world. I was given this piece of advice many years ago while in high school. This has greatly influenced my attitude and desire to exceed expectations and attain top performance in my professional career.
5. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I believe it’s the ability to take risks and the motivation to innovate and share learnings with my team. When this becomes the culture in an organisation, a great team is able to keep well ahead of the curve in a competitive and dynamic business environment.
6. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?
It has to be on the job. Business school is great to build your networks with future leaders. It gives you a theoretical foundation and definitely opens doors. However, what you learn on the job is much more valuable and practical.
7. How do you relax?
I enjoy being outdoors. I play golf and go hiking. I also like to travel and eat out.
8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?
I like to be awake by 5am. After that, it depends on where I’m working from – but I’m ready for my team by 9am.
9. Your favourite job interview question?
I ask candidates what their motivation is to join our organisation. I also always ask them to act out a sales pitch, regardless of the role they are applying for.
10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?
Hard work cannot be compromised in business and entrepreneurship. Be willing to take risks, innovate, and most importantly learn fast. If you have an idea, start now and do something every day towards fulfilling your goal.
Duncan Muchangi is managing director of Hellofood Kenya, an online platform that enables users to order food from popular restaurants. Hellofood is one of several e-commerce platforms owned by the Africa Internet Group (AIG). Muchangi previously headed Hellofood’s operations in Rwanda.