Last Updated on 29 September 2021 by Gertrude
A business that runs itself? That sounds too good to be true, I’d love that. We will divide the businesses that run themselves into two: those that are simple to operate and run without your active involvement and the complex businesses that have employees running the business.
For example, a laundromat is a perfect example of a self-run business without an owner’s active involvement while a bakery is a complex business requiring the help of employees.
Characteristics or Factors of Businesses Running Themselves
- Some businesses that run themselves are simple operations.
A blog for example is a simple operation business that has the following characteristics:
there’s no inventory,
no physical location,
there’s no customer interaction unless you have a blog’s shop,
there are no complex marketing strategies and plans confusing entrepreneurs,
you can choose not to have an employee,
and there are no specialised skills needed like a doctor, lawyer, accountant, the engineer would require.
2. Another characteristic of a business running itself is an established business with strong management.
It takes years to make your business reach this level. Think of a business running itself that has strong management like Amazon or franchises like McDonald’s.
3. Businesses with detailed processes and procedures
For example, these businesses have operation manuals that owners or managers read and implement the strategies including marketing plans outlined in the manuals.
Think of franchises like McDonald’s, Dominos, Starbucks. These user manuals save time in terms of the marketing plans and enable these businesses to become consistent no matter their location in the world.
Tips for Starting a Business That Runs Itself in Kenya
The following are tips for starting a business that runs itself and they include:
- Learn your business
A furniture store owner sat like a boss on his chair, every time customers went into the furniture store, they approached Joseph, the sweaty man.
And customers kept calling Joseph for side hustles or for fixtures and told Joseph, ‘If that man is your boss, don’t tell him I gave you this work today.
Joseph asked, ‘But why? I need to inform him so that we share the profit’. The customer, shocked, said,
‘That man is too lazy and doesn’t seem to know anything that happens in a furniture store. Do you know, the customer went on, when I walked into the store he said, let me call the carpenter he can explain to you what you want.
A business cannot run itself if you’re like Joseph’s boss. Why? You know nothing about your business.
How do you expect customers to put faith in you with their goods? I cannot talk about making money as a freelance writer or blogger if I don’t know what a blog is or how to use WordPress.
If buying a business that runs itself, take your time to learn how the business works.
Customers trust brands/business owners that know what they sell in their shops.
2. Even though the business is self-running or operating, you cannot let others do it for you
A lot of business owners, like the furniture store above, a true story, by the way, want others to help them run their businesses.
An entrepreneur is an obsessed person in a good way.
You want to run the processes of your business, what works and what needs to go.
You cannot let your employees run for you your business. After all, the business wasn’t their idea but yours.
When employees run your business, they become rude, don’t pay attention to customers and will chew gum and spit at the customer. Why? Because the boss is never there or never shows up.
When running my tailoring shop, because of writing commitment, I let an employee-run for me my shop.
What happened, she told customers, ‘I have NEVER SEEN my boss since January’. It was in June!
The customers ended up calling me and advising me to close my shop. A few months later, I fired the employee and closed my shop to sew as a side hustle.
Showing up means you care for your business and care for your employees. Plus, you get to know what customers want by listening to their complaints or compliments.
READ MORE: How to Delegate Your Small Business Without Micromanaging in Kenya [How Apple Works]
3. Start hiring when you’re familiar with the business and hiring
Since starting my freelance writing business, I have hired over 20 writers to help write this blog.
I paid some of them good money for bullshit work.
I didn’t understand how the hiring process for a blog works. What happened?
The blog ended up staying in the back-burner with haphazard content that I wrote after working 120/hr work weeks developing another boss’ blogs and writing books for them.
Looking back, it wasn’t the bullshit articles I paid for, I never understood how the hiring process worked. I’m still learning.
As time went on and after talking to other freelance writers and bloggers, I realised, hiring is a slow process.
Don’t promise your employees anything if you don’t understand how your employee helps you.
After all, you hire because you want to solve a problem and an employee applies for a role because they need money.
Don’t pay money because you don’t want to get labelled ‘con’, pay money for the absolute best work produced by the employed.
Teach yourself by asking, what tasks do I want to get completed? Who do I want to employ to complete the tasks and why?
If you’re like me, write the characteristics of the person down. Then, list the responsibilities/tasks you want to be completed.
Now ask, if I’m hiring a writer, for example, how will this go down and the most important question, why. Why are you hiring them?
Understand the role/responsibilities; become the hired person then look for the ideal candidate.
You will learn as you go and don’t get afraid of letting your employees know all that you do. The more you teach them, the more effective they become and the smoother your business runs.
READ MORE: How to Hire Your First Employee and the Best in a Kenyan Business: Understanding the Hiring Process
4. Take your time to train the employees
Training, I hate training another person.
I love it when I explain to someone in simple sentences what they must do then they get on with the tasks. I should have paid attention to my Education lectures at the Uni.
To have employees that work like you or almost as you want, train them in the simplest best way possible.
If possible, write or have a manual ready like what franchises do. A list of everything.
But in order not to overwhelm new workers, start with the simplest tasks you want to solve.
For example, there’s a whole lot to blogging as a business so you went on to hire a writer.
Begin by asking them for samples or writing portfolios. Does their writing please you? Does it come close?
Now, ask for a paid sample.
If you love the sample, teach the writer your writing style. Teaching another person to sound like you is the hardest job ever no wonder there are editors.
Ask the new writer to read your work. You have to exercise patience here. Adapting your voice is critical if you’re to hire a ghostwriter for a romantic book, for example.
If you don’t train your employees to write, market, design or take care of customers as you do, you will close shop.
Remember, it takes years to train the best.
You may take time to train then the employees leave. Remember, don’t focus on what the employees will do but what they do now to help move your business to the next level.
READ MORE: How to Train and Retain Employees in Kenya [Getting Employees to Stay]
5. Position your business for success before hiring or considering to operate a business running itself
Before you begin talking or a business running itself like Amazon or Nike or Apple or McDonalds, Walmart, you must go all out to ensure the business is a success.
A business where managers, CEOs, employees/workers understand their roles in order to ensure the smooth running of your business.
You must also take your time in hiring/scouting for the best talents available. Then, like Jeff Bezos, you can rest your tools and operate from afar to pursue other ambitions or like TikTok’s founder, ‘to daydream and read books’.
If you can leave your business to run itself, it means allowing others to grow or explore the opportunities you never thought possible. Of course, it takes years to reach the level where a business doesn’t need you.
Picture this, if you travel for five seconds and your employees travel with you, it’s time to get back to business. Ask yourself, are you going to use employees or systems/online tools to help your business run itself or are you going to operate from far?
Consider The Following If Buying a Business Running Itself
- Has the business you want to buy experienced setbacks?
Before buying a business that runs itself, ask, what are the setbacks experienced by this or in this business or industry in the last decade?
For example, as an entrepreneur or investor, would you buy into the hotel or the hospitality industry?
A business that hasn’t seen the pandemic won’t be easy to predict the downfalls that might happen in the future.
Or you won’t know how to deal with setbacks that arise.
2. Do you have experienced managers?
There’s nothing like the headache of hiring or having managers that don’t know their work.
Rude, ignorant managers that keep bragging about the number of years they worked in an industry without proper knowledge are the worst.
Ask the seller of a business running itself, ‘do your managers know what they are doing?’.
Can they teach the concepts or knowledge of this business to a newborn baby?
3. Do you have experience running the business or managing people?
Don’t be like the managers that talk about the number of years they worked with nothing to show for.
There’s nothing to show for because there’s nothing new they learnt but how to mistreat ‘other workers’.
Have you studied this new business running itself long enough to understand how it works?
Do you know the changes to effect or what to get rid of after you take over?
Experience is about innovation, making changes, accepting and moving forward, learning from last year/month and taking action to ensure you provide the best service.
Experience is not allowing you to compete with others but providing the best service or products in your industry/niche.
It takes years to gain experience and even in the years, you have to open yourself to absorbing new ideas to keep progressing/growing.
4. What does the owner of the business do? What are his daily roles in the business?
You cannot buy a business running itself because you heard the business does nothing but receives money at the end of the day.
If that’s your idea of buying an existing business, don’t bother. Ask the seller, what does the owner of the business do to ensure the business runs well.
Does the owner visit locations to check if employees cleaned the premises or if the suppliers brought the supplies, in the case of a laundromat or vending machine?
Knowing what you must do for and in your business enables you to run your business without headaches or without running from location to location prompting customer complaints.
Also, when you know what happens in the business, you know the solutions to problems arising or how to handle problems that customers talk about.
5. Do you have the skills required to run the business running itself?
Someone asked me how did you and do you keep writing despite writing for a decade?
I answered, in the early years when I earned nothing but peanuts, I wanted to learn what makes a good freelance writer.
I keep learning to this day even after declaring I quit working as a freelance writer.
I now learn how to work on this blog or how to succeed as a blogger because I realised my purpose with my gift of words.
If you don’t have the skills or aren’t willing to put in the effort to learn, keep learning, implementing what you learnt about a business running itself, don’t buy one. Why? You will run the business down and blame everyone and the seller.
You will accuse people of theft and how the money you got from the bank is bewitched.
If you’re not a self-motivated person; one that drives themselves no matter the hurdles of the business, you won’t make it far.
Look at Beyonce or Mejja/Nonini, for decades now, they stayed in the music industry when others came and went.
Realising your purpose, why you’re doing what you do helps you keep the passion burning after others gave up.
6. What are the challenges the owner experienced in the last decade?
For the past decade as a freelance writer, I experienced broke, lack, tears, sweat, working for free, researching, joy and swimming in money. Are you still going to buy my business?
I witnessed my clients getting told to pay millions of dollars in taxes in their respective countries leaving me with nothing but the words I wrote for them. What happened? I went into debt trying to maintain my lifestyle.
I knew I needed to have 20 side hustles but I thought, ‘’I arrived, I can do with my salary as a freelance writer’.
So, you’re buying a business with such obstacles, how do you deal with this? Plan how to overcome or escape because this business isn’t for you?
Before buying a business that runs itself, ask the owner of the challenges they met in the course of running their business.
Most owners will tell the truth.
7. Research the seller of the business
Be wary be careful of buying a business running itself.
Ask the owner, why are you selling? Did you meet an obstacle along the way?
Was it fraud and the FBI/IRS/ Kenya’s KRA chasing the owner for due taxes or frauds or underground business dealings like money laundering.
If you hear hesitation about why the owner wants to sell the business, run away.
Every blame on them will be yours. Refusing to read the fine print means you cannot tell the judge, ‘I thought, I knew, I trusted’. Remember ignorance is culpable in the court of law in Kenya.
8. How many years has the business been in operation?
If the business reports closing year profits of 10 billion and the business has been in operation for decades, well, good.
But if in decades the business made losses, ask why.
The number of years can prevent you from buying a buying running itself. Why? You get to predict the happenings of the next decade or the coming years.
Some entrepreneurs want to understand how the business makes a profit, ever watched an episode on Shark Tank when the Sharks register shock on new businesses with high turnover and they end up grilling the inventor and some get confused?
You can gauge fraud, money laundering issues, a strategy issue when you find out the number of years a business got started.
You also get to understand where the business needs to go in the next few years by reinventing or introducing new inventions.
9. Why do you want to purchase a business running itself?
Your why? Why do you want to run a business that runs itself?
Is it because you saw the potential income?
Or is it because you are busy with other commitments or want to try your hand at something new?
Whatever the reason, don’t jump. It’s about the Kipchoge Effect (concentration and mindset), slow down. Finding your why helps you not get conned, you research about the business and if it’s a business that ran for years, you get to ask, what makes this model runs for long?
Can we change it or lose it?
10. Understand the profit and loss
Whenever I travel anywhere in the world and see an abandoned building, I ask myself, why build that then run away?
You get to hear lots of stories about abandoned buildings then there are house flippers. People that buy abandoned buildings.
If you’re buying a business running itself, ask, is it the profit that attracted you or the loss? Come, people, lov losses because they have master plans for reviving dying businesses.
11. Is the owner willing to train you before making a sale?
If a business owner selling their business is unwilling to help you understand how to run a business, don’t buy or look for another business.
The concept of a business running itself sounds complicated, how does it work? Why did the owner choose such a business model and what lessons did the owner learn over the years?
Top 10 Best Businesses That Run Themselves
The following are the top 10 best businesses running themselves and they include the following:
A laundromat is a facility/establishment with coin-operated washing machines and dryers for public use otherwise called a laundrette according to Dictionary.com
Laundromats appeal to entrepreneurs and investors because of their ability to run themselves and there are profitable. The expenses in a laundromat include utility bills (water and electricity.
Laundromats in good locations and extra services like vending machines for getting drinks, free wifi or wash, fold and delivery can make upwards of 1.5 Million in profits per year or 30 M.
A laundromat may be a self-operating business but will need you to attend to the security of the place, customer complaints or refilling detergents and other products in the vending machines if you have any.
Your presence is minimal if you hire a staff to deal with daily operations like operating hours, bookkeeper and security personnel to help maintain the laundromat smooth operations.
READ MORE: How to Start a Laundromat Business From Home in Kenya Making Kshs.1.5 Million+/Year in Profits
2. Automatic Car Wash
Clean your car in 3 minutes without the worry of theft using an automatic car wash.
An automatic car wash business is a touchless car wash where a sensor guides you to drive forward and position your car.
The robotic system then wets, rinses off the dirt on your car, applies cleaning agents and liquid wax or tire foam.
Some automatic car washes use manual drying.
Automatic car washes don’t need your presence in the business because they use robots and systems to ensure cars get cleaned.
You need to choose a location, check the competition. Have a business plan outlining when your attendance at the car wash gets required.
READ MORE: How to Start an Automatic Car Wash Business in Kenya
3. An Existing Blog
Starting a blog from scratch is one of the hardest things to do because you will find yourself working for more than 120hrs/week.
If you want a blog that doesn’t require your attendance, buy an existing blog.
Buy a niche like a tech, fashion, or other blogging profitable niches. Why?
To enable you to keep making profits faster.
Your initial investment for buying an existing blog means spending over a million shillings depending on the traffic of the blog, the niche.
Even though buying an existing blog means having a blog business running itself, it doesn’t mean you cannot produce content.
In fact, to have a return on investment, you must come up with a strategy to produce more content.
Your readers and Google, if you use Google for search want new and fresh content.
READ MORE: Make Over $1M/Kshs.100M With a One-Year Blog in Kenya [Blogging Riches]
4. Vending Machines
Ever bought something at a vending machine and thought, how cool is this?
Or ever got stranded trying to make the vending machine work.
Vending machines are self-running businesses; they don’t require your attendance.
A vending machine is a wise investment because of its steady growth. People love the convenience of vending machines and time-saving options.
You can grab a meal (bread and water or soda) to go.
The start-up costs for vending machines are low.
You are going to have flexible schedules where you can restock and collect money whenever you want.
You can also choose to change your product selection.
READ MORE: Make 40k+ With a Vending Machine Business in Kenya
5. ATM Machine
I always thought all ATMs are bank-owned until a friend of mine working at the bank told me, no, you can own an ATM business, all profits and you don’t need to be present at the machine.
The only problem with ATM business is the vandalism, so choose a location and ensure to have security around, my friend went on.
You don’t need a storefront with an ATM machine or rental spaces and the start-up costs are low plus you can manage an ATM from the comfort of your home.
Choose a good location by researching, research the foot traffic of the chosen location and have a business plan.
READ MORE: Start an ATM Machine Business With 100k and Make 75k+ Profits Per Month in Kenya
6. Billboard Rental
I love reading advertisements on billboards because they’re interesting and I get ideas on how to write effective headlines.
If you have a piece of land near the road, you can lease the land or build billboards then lease to companies.
Billboards are good advertisements tools because they connect with customers all day long and they are awesome because you can change the message on them as you want.
If you want a billboard rental business running itself, you must make the ads short, sweet and legible.
Stick to a message or idea; that’s what ads are about.
If you don’t have or own a piece of land, remember you can rent from owners but negotiate with them, by signing a lease/contract about the kinds of ads you want to display.
On the lease include clauses like your right to access, maintain and change the ad according to a business needs.
READ MORE: Riches in Billboard Rental in Kenya [Start a Billboard Rental Business]
Become a Millionaire With Your Idle Piece of Land in Kenya ( Ideas for Kenyan Land Owners)
7. Bounce House
Adults and kids enjoy bounce houses.
Bounce houses are a fun way of allowing yourself and others have fun.
Operating a bounce house can go two ways, you either find a location to have bounce houses and hire your bounce houses to events or booking yourself events to attend.
Whichever way you choose, a bounce house doesn’t require your active presence at locations.
You can hire others to ensure the smooth running of your bounce houses and collect money when the day ends.
To make more money with bounce houses, add extra services like face painting, network with event planners, attend corporate events.
A bounce house business is an excellent example of a part-time or weekend business.
READ MORE: Making 100k With a Bounce House in a Day in Kenya
I baked some cookies from home in 2012 while struggling to make money online as a freelance writer. I earned profits of 3000-10k a day, yes, I sold the cookies together with the mandazis.
I supplied to over 100 local kiosks and convenience stores, the effort to supply to these places was my mum’s sales nature. I did all the baking of the cookies and mandazi frying which means I worked almost 24 hours a day.
To make a bakery self-running, you have to get hired hands.
Teach them the recipes, which means, selling some of your secret recipes, we know bakery owners have secret recipes or making the dough yourself in advance.
To make profits with your bakery business, begin from home then supply to the local shops as I did.
Or better yet, sell online on Facebook Marketplace or Facebook sellers pages.
READ MORE: What I Did to Make 10k a Day in Profits Selling Cookies and Mandazis in Kenya
Do you love renting things out to people?
I know I love the idea of renting a house to travellers from around the world with my Airbnb business turned guesthouse.
The only presence required of you when renting your home to Airbnb is if you don’t have a smart lock and other digital tools to enable the smooth transitioning of your guests.
You don’t have to invest in any digital tools, simple, hire others to help with the checking of your guests.
If you don’t have a house to rent, you can rent farm tools, books, wedding dresses, other speciality tools to others.
I keep saying because I love everything DIY, I wish there could be places or people renting out their hand drills or plumbing tools in Kenya. The headache with renting is getting your tools or clothes secure.
Most people renting aren’t thieves or aren’t in the business of taking things that don’t belong to them.
But there are a few that don’t respect this, secure yourself by either overcharging or have serial numbers or taking some form of identification before renting out your tools or house.
If you’re renting your house, of course, remove any valuables like unique art pieces and replace them with ‘fakes’.
READ MORE: How to Start an Airbnb Business in Kenya in 2021 [Make Money With Your House]
10. Self Storage Facility
So, do you have a piece of land lying idle and are wondering what to do with it?
Build storage facilities like how PO boxes do, then allow customers to pay subscription money to rent out the facility.
Some people can use the facility as a place for storing safe information, ensure to have the best security or others to store their goods when travelling.
If you’re wondering if a self-storage facility is profitable imagine Kenyans travelling from place to place, digital nomads, like myself that want to store their belongings for a year or 6 months at a time.
A self-storage facility doesn’t need your presence, digitise your payment methods, ensure you have extreme security at the facility and choose a good location accessible by your clients.
Also, build your facility to accommodate people with furniture or customers with as little belongings as a letter.
READ MORE: Make Money With a Self-Storage Facility in Kenya
11. Information Marketing
Information marketing is becoming my most favourite way of making money from the comfort of my home.
If you create an ebook, readers don’t need your presence when purchasing your ebooks.
You can run a business selling all kinds of information from the comfort of your home.
The information products you can sell include digital products like ebooks, WordPress templates, templates, greeting cards, wall arts.
You create these products then give customers all the download information possible and they purchase. You also need to keep updating your products if you want to keep making money.
READ MORE: How I Make Over 100k Selling Digital Downloads (Printables)as a Side Hustle in Kenya
Best-Selling Digital Downloads for Graphic Designers in Kenya
12. Amazon FBA
FAQs About Businesses That Run Themselves
What’s the best business to own?
Online businesses are the best businesses to own. You get to test your idea on social media, get a free community to help you run your business on social media. These businesses include digital downloads (printables), social media marketing, digital marketing, blogging, freelance writing.
What business can I start with 100k or less?
Graphic design business
What is it called when a business runs itself?
A business running itself is still called a business because we concluded, there’s no business that can run itself without your presence or automated systems/tools in place.
What’s the cheapest franchise to buy?
There are no cheap franchise businesses to buy in Kenya but you can invest in some from the U.S like McDonald’s.
READ MORE: Best and Affordable Franchises Kenyan Investors Can Buy
What do you call someone that owns a business?
A business owner, entrepreneur.
Most of these businesses running themselves are for the introverted bosses. The bosses requiring minimal contact or get exhausted quickly after laughing or talking for over an hour.
A business cannot run itself. A business needs owners to check up, like a research scientist examining the growth of the guinea pig. For a business to run on its own, it takes years of work, trial and error.
Don’t get in the rush of making money without attending to your business, you will get disappointed. No employee in this world runs a business like a founder.
You will find the best employees but without your presence, the quality of your business suffers.
You are the source of the direction, and failing to show up means your employees will show up, only to make money without the motivation to take your business forward.
Gear to understand your business before it runs itself. Don’t rush to hire staff before understanding what your staff will do.
Ever seen businesses where the staff group is in a corner gossiping and if you ask them what they woke up to do, they have nothing to say?
You want a productive staff not a waste of time rumour mongers staff. If you want a business to run itself remember it’s the marathon, the Kipchoge spirit and not the Usain one you want to cultivate within you.
Rushing your business to become Jeff Bezos or ByteDance’s (TikTok) boss where you retire to read or gaze at nature will frustrate you; they built, took their time to understand before moving on.
Remember the joy of beginning any business is not to begin thinking of how you will rush out. A business is a lifetime commitment and you should get committed before venturing into any business.
Do you want to start a business that runs itself? Are you interested in the business because it runs itself or because of the profits you see?
What business that runs itself are you interested in the beginning?
Follow the links (READ MORE) to read on every business running itself to get an idea on how to get started and building a successful/profitable business.