Yaya Centre Foreign Exchange Bureau’s CEO, Joe Mutungi speaks of the bureau’s customer oriented culture on which it thrives.
BY CAROLINE MWENDWA
Trust is the soul of every business. All strategy works around trust, and when it crumbles, nothing can salvage the business, except rebuilding the trust. The Yaya Centre Foreign Exchange Bureau, was the first bureau to be licensed in Kenya, in the year 1995. Despite many other occupants entering the market, this forex bureau, has remained a desired service provider. Capt. Joe Mutungi, the co-founder and CEO, takes us back to how it came to be and why the business has weathered all storms and maintained long-lasting relationships with its customers and continues to draw new clientele day in day out. “When I used to fly,” says the former Kenya Airways captain, “I noticed that every time passengers arrived at some destinations, they would first check into these cubicles, and I got interested in finding out what used to happen there,” says Mutungi, recalling how he discovered the foreign exchange business in London and Karachi, Pakistan. “I watched them closely, and realised this is something I would like to try back home. When the opportunity arose, and the government gazetted a notice calling for foreign exchange businesses to be established, and along with my wife we seized the opportunity,” he said.
A cordial relationship with customers and staff
Mutungi vouches for honesty. “Whatever you do with honesty can never fail,” he affirms.
There is something about making customers feel valued in a business that cannot be feigned, and this comes naturally at this bureau. Flowing from the leader, it is felt as a business culture that was adopted right from the beginning and has been ingrained in the attitudes of the staff. Despite the business being risky in nature, Mutungi emphasises that there is need to apply PR skills even when questioning the customer, which is part of the procedure in money transactions. Also, showing concern for the elderly or the people with special needs by giving them priority of service. “Often, we get elderly customers, who have received foreign currency from their children abroad, seeking our services, and they feel comfortable transacting with us because of this culture,” he says.
The only way to keep the customer this close is by keeping the employee happy. While many firms struggle with employee retention, Yaya Centre Foreign Exchange Bureau, is a close knit unit of professionals who were part of its establishment. “Employers go wrong when they think that all employees need is money, but fail to connect with their needs,” says Mutungi, whose appreciation and care for the staff constitutes part of his drive to keep the business running. “Running such a venture requires people who are knowledgeable about money, most of the staff here, came from established banks, and others straight from university, and we have journeyed together, since the budding stages of the business. I always have them in mind whenever I make decisions that are likely to affect them,” he says.
Staying ahead of the game
One of the factors customers consider when looking for a forex bureau, is security and the physical location of the bureau assures security to its customers. “Being housed in a mall provides security to customers as compared to dealing in an open space, where no one knows who’s around the corner in waiting.”
When it comes to staff’s knowledgeability, one has to ensure that they have skill especially in understanding currencies. “If the staff is not keen enough, there lies a danger of the business losing everything to fraudsters who trade with fake currencies.” Another way, the bureau has remained to be a leader in the trade is by consistency. “Since we began, we have always dealt in spot dealing, and not chasing competition as in this trade, you never know what your competitor’s approach is,” says Mutungi.
As part of the effort to curb money laundering in the country, the government has issued guidelines to forex bureaus on how to nab culprits in process of exchanging currencies or doing money transfers. Part of this involves asking questions to the customers as pertains the source of the money. “There is also a limit to the amount an individual can transact in a day USD10, 000 and any amount above this, documentation is required. The CBK keeps tabs on these transactions, through collecting regular reports from forex bureaus,” he says.
Constant training is also paramount for the staff to keep abreast with the dynamics in the trade that may affect the way business is done. CBK has been on the fore with this as it offers training sessions to staff on a regular basis. As the government presses on war against corruption especially through the introduction of the new currency, Mutungi observes that the new initiative will help curtail this ill.
Advice to entrepreneurs
“To succeed in business, one must be personally motivated and have an inner drive to achieve. Key to note is that quality of service or product is the most significant ingredient of a successful venture,” he concludes.
Caroline Mwendwa is the Editor Management Magazine. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org