The #HustleTales of Francis Otim, CEO Smart Business Intelligence & MMINDZS LTD

MYPOS LogoBrief Bio:

Just another chap, really.

Current Location:

Kampala, Uganda

Current gig(s):

CEO Smart Business Intelligence, a subsidiary of MMINDZS LTD (CEO of that as well)

Current computer(s):

Surface Pro 3

Current mobile device(s):

Nexus 6P Huwaei

One word that best describes how you work:

Relentlessly

How did you end up at your current gig?

A drive to do something that really means something.

Are there any career decisions/life choices/failures’ that were fundamental in making you the person you are now, doing what you are doing now?

Quitting my really good job at a global bank to start business in 2009. Watching my initial plans fail miserably after that. Starting and failing with 3 different businesses from then till now.

MYPOS POS Android solution
MYPOS POS Android solution

What are the 3 business that failed and what do you think are the reasons why each of them failed? What lessons did you pick from these failures that have helped Smart Business Intelligence LTD become what it is now?

First one was an accountancy firm that started well but we soon realized scaling was an issue with the model we had adopted. Second was a technology company which also started well but the directors chose different paths for the future. Third was a brand/communications agency that never really kicked off save for a couple of deals here and there. Heart wasn’t really into that at the time.
The lessons I’ve learned from all this is to try and learn whatever I can through whatever experience I go through. Sometimes things happen to prepare us for the next level I guess.

Is your startup (or whatever applies here) able to fully support you or do you have side gigs to sustain you as it grows? Any stories of some of the struggles/sacrifices you’ve had to make to see this dream come to life?

Yes, it is now. But that only happened in 2014/2015. A good three or so years after starting out. I only started taking a salary in October 2014. This is what a friend called Yusuf calls ‘Social Suicide’. This means my social life died and I became a hermit of sorts. At some point I found myself making websites for people (I taught myself), printing business cards, brokering house and car sales and all sorts of odd gigs to survive while the dream was coming to life. Sigh.

What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?

MYAccounts/Excel/PowerBI/Fruity Loops/Twitter/Fantasy Football Manager

What’s your workspace like?

My desk is always clear of clutter. Don’t ask anyone from office to confirm that.

How big is the team of people you work with and what’s your formula for managing them?

Currently, we work with 12 people directly and indirectly. Our formula is to work with the best. We also adopted an interesting model with our core technical team whereby instead of employing them, we contract them. This means we have a b2b model which is more fulfilling for them, and we only spend as and when necessary. This has also allowed them to grow professionally which a 9-5 doesn’t necessarily guarantee.

The team.
The team.

What’s your best time-saving trick/life hack?

Focus on the ultimate objective. There’s lots of distractions in business. Every other day something comes up that can lead you down strange unproductive paths. I try to stay focused. This means sometimes we have to turn down work or opportunities that aren’t aligned to our objectives.

What’s your favorite to-do list manager?

Been using traditional pen and paper for a while but recently moved to One Note after our project manager recommended I move out of the Stone Age.

Besides your phone and computer, what gadget can’t you live without and why?

My Bose Soundlink II portable speaker. I love music and quality sound. It gives me both whenever wherever I am.

What everyday thing are you better at than most?

Bouncing back. Business if full of challenges and setbacks. It’s important to bounce back. I think by God’s grace I am really good at recovering from bad news and failure.

How do you recharge?

I read the Bible and pray.

‘But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary; and they shall walk, and not faint’. Isaiah40:31

What do you listen to while you work?

Radiohead. Beethoven. Ruyonga. The Combinations.

What are you currently reading? What usually leads you to buy a book? Books you’ve read recently that have impacted on you deeply? What kind of impact did they have?

I don’t really read books much. I think I’ve read a total of 10 books since I was born. I am too impatient for long winding stories. The only book I can say I read is the Bible. The Bible gives me perspective, peace and hope. 

Francis showcasing MYAccounts to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in Nairobi last year
Francis showcasing MYAccounts to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in Nairobi last year

Any mentors/role models that you are working with/have inspired you and what lessons have you managed to learn from them?

Kamarebe Olivia, Managing Partner at Damascus Capital (http://damascuscapital.com/). Kim has supported our business from the word go before we even had a product, customer or employee. Kim has a wealth of academic and industry experience (Princeton, Harvard, Goldman Sachs, HSBC) in business and has shared remarkable insights with us over the years. I have learned to stay humble, focused and relentless from Kim. Kim has also helped me and others realize that it is possible to achieve great things regardless of the challenges and odds against us.

Are you more of an introvert or an extrovert?

An introvert would call me an introvert.

What’s your sleep routine like?

I am really trying to develop a regular sleep pattern but I struggle to sleep before 2 am. I moved out of town recently and the intense traffic in and out of town is helping me adjust to a regular sleep pattern. Lately I am up by 5am to beat the morning traffic, which means I’m sleeping earlier as well. Trying to find consistency now.

How do you strike a balance between work, family, friends and other social obligations?

I am trying to fit work into a 7am-5pm schedule so I can have time for other things. I don’t work Saturdays. Sundays are reserved for family.

Who woul youd love to see answer these same questions?

Kamarebe Olivia, Managing Partner at Damascus Capital

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

‘Start NOW’.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I think development of our country (Uganda) and our continent (Africa) isn’t going to come from donors, our governments, politicians or witchdoctors. I think our rise is going to come from hard working entrepreneurs and SMEs surviving, thriving and contributing to our growth and development. We have made it our mission to support the African SME to achieve this. Our primary tool for this is MYAccounts (myaccounts.ug).

Follow us on twitter @myaccountsug and facebook (facebook (sbintell)) for more information. Contact us on [email protected]. Phone is +256392000258

MYAccounts (myaccounts.ug) web interface.
MYAccounts (myaccounts.ug) web interface.

If you have any additional questions for Francis, feel free to drop them in the comment section below. He will try and answer those he can. Click here to read other Hustle Tales


The Hustle Tales (adapted from LifeHackers, How I Work series) asks people that are doing epic things how they go through their daily routines to make sure whatever is needed to get the job accomplished is done. If you are interested in doing one these interviews or know someone you think should do one, inbox us with the details and we’ll see if we can make it happen.

Written by Hustle Tales

The Hustle Tales (adapted from LifeHackers, How I Work series) asks people that are doing epic things how they go through their daily routines to make sure whatever is needed to get the job accomplished is done.

If you are interested in doing one these interviews or know someone you think should do one, inbox us with their details and we'll see if we can make it happen.

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