Katiso: Seek challenges and opportunities to grow as a leader

Lilian Katiso says one ought to separate business and personal finances. PHOTO/ ESTHER BRIDGET NAKALYA

What you need to know:

  • Lilian Katiso, the co-founder and managing director at Zaddock Associates and proprietor of Maua and More is passionate about supporting SMEs grow to become sustainable ventures. She talks about how women entrepreneurs can build sustainable financial management.

Tell us who Lilian Katiso is.
I am the MD of Zaddock Associates, a financial management and consultancy firm, and CEO of Maua and More, a garden centre business borne out of my childhood gardening hobby. Gardening is a hobby I started from at the age of nine. I enjoyed potting plants using emptied containers of Blueband and Kimbo and seeing them grow. It was my joy nurturing plants. After my MBA, I turned it into a business.

My late father was a banker and sometimes while we passed by his workplace, I would admire how the ladies dressed professionally in suits. Whenever I was going to school, my father demanded that we draw a budget for shopping. If something was not on the list, you simply did not get it. I learnt that even though he was working in a bank, sometimes he would tell me how he did not have money and I understood that the bank money is not his money but for his work. I am also a financial management consultant and QuickBooks trainer, a certified entrepreneur trainer and consultant. I hold an MBA from Edinburgh Business school of Heriot-Watt University and I am a Fellow of the Association of Chartered Certified Accountant, and a member Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Uganda with a Bachelor of Commerce-Accounting degree from Daystar University, Kenya. I am also board member of Kampala Music School, board member and treasurer Business and Professional Women Association. 

What does Zaddock Associates do?
Zaddock was founded in 2005 and initially started out as a publishing firm. We publish the annual Uganda Healthcare Directory, been doing it for 18 years. We also used to publish the Uganda Professionals Guide but then we stopped  in 2018. When I left employment in 2016, I decided to increase my involvement in the firm and took on role of MD in order to steer it forward. I had a lot of consultancy pipeline that I built while in employment. I, therefore used the same firm to add more products such as financial management consultancy and trainings, CFO on-call services and accountancy software.

What  decisions have you made in creating a good work environment for women?
When I started Maua and More, most of my employees were women, actually 100%. The percentage has since reduced due to the nature of projects that we get. The first time I had one of my staff get pregnant they were not familiar with formal employment so they were surprised that I gave them 60 days of paid maternity leave as required by the employment law. This helped them nurture their baby and be able to resume work. I pay my female staff even when away on maternity leave which is not applicable in some workplaces. We have flexibility where a staff is free to take sick leave or their child to hospital and also allow them to carry their nannies along to take care of their babies during staff retreats.

What are the common mistakes women do while managing businesses and how can they avoid such?
Lack of systems which deprives business of growth. If you have a big opportunity to supply and you do not have the requisite compliance documents or because you are operating small and unregistered, you are likely to fail to grow from operating a small cottage business to a substantial business. Some women also fear to grow businesses because they feel like it requires too much to invest. They are therefore hesitant to take up opportunities because they are risk averse. Women have to be willing to seize the opportunities even if it means approaching banks for finances to grow their businesses.

Who are the mentors in your life and how have they shaped your resilience on the job? Are you mentoring other women ,if so how?
I admire my mother for her resilience in business. After she dropped out of school, she mastered tailoring and established her own business and then pivoted into hospitality and she now runs a hotel and a restaurant. Some of women I admire and have interacted with are Mrs. Dorothy Kisaka, the ED of KCCA and Mrs. Priscilla Serukka, the current chairperson of Uganda Airlines. I am inspired by their passion towards spirituality, leadership and family and how they juggle everything honourably.

At Zaddock Associates, we nurture women to excel in their accounting and their CFO roles through a programme called Accountancy 360 which mentors mostly women accountants. We also train the new staff at Maua and More on plant care and maintenance, selling, social media and basic computer skills. As a leader, I am also invited to speak to women at church and different forums on personal and business financial management, work- life balance, finding purpose and among others.

Which virtues make a person a good leader?
One virtue I hold so dear  is integrity because I have to lead by example so that my staff know that it is not negotiable. I ensure I show discipline to follow the set guidelines and  resilience in order to give hope to the team when things are tough. I recognise different skill sets of people and where they thrive best as well as try to align their skill sets with the roles in the organisation.

What have been some of the toughest decisions you have had to make? 
Firing people because of integrity issues. If I find that you have stolen, that is not negotiable I can stand anything else except that. Also, closing my first outlet  Maua and More Kensington, Kyanja. Being my first outlet, I had sentimental attachment to it. But, it was too small and I took rather long to make the decision to close it.

Two achievements  you are proud of...
I was given an ACCA Uganda Outstanding Contribution to the Accountancy and Finance Profession award 2016 for my pro bono work on various blogs and articles. I was also humbled to have featured among the Top 40 under 40 Most Elite, Inspirational and Influential Women of 2017 in Uganda. These wins made me realise that I was making a difference in a small way and encouraged me to do more. It gave me boldness to mentor others in accountancy.

Advice for women that want to become leaders...
Women are uniquely created and we need to discover our worth by finding that unique thing that we can give to the world by seeking to be a person of value. Women should identify their God-given gift, nurture it and deliver it to the world. Do not be afraid to take on leadership roles even when you feel unprepared. Then nurture skills needed. Women should pursue excellence in business. To become better leaders, women should also seek challenging roles, do continuous professional and skills development, and read widely. Constantly seek to be a better version of you every year.

Quick fun questions

What would you not want to still do in 10 years? 
Driving myself.

Favourite gadget…
Cell phone.

Which of your character traits is not liked by most people around you?
Being orderly and paying attention to detail.

You would like to meet…
Inventors such as Elon Musk.

Farthest distance you have walked…
10km walk

Which leadership role do you see yourself take on 10 years from today and how are you working towards achieving that?
I would want to be in mostly board roles that are international because right now it’s mostly local. I am nurturing my leadership skills constantly but also networking in spaces that are providing different opportunities.