Gold Nuggets on Managing A Successful Business in the Pacific featuring Semi Tukana

Write up by Salanieta Tamanikaiwaimaro

On Sunday 3rd November, 2019, Semi Tukana Founder of Software Factory Limited and CloudApp Laboratories (PNG) Limited, gave a 30 minute presentation on “Biblical Principles in the running of a successful business” to youth at the Christian Mission Fellowship’s World Harvest Centre. Whilst the context was a Christian gathering, there are lessons and principles that anyone can learn from regardless of religious disposition, that is whether they are atheists, agnostics or whether they subscribe to other religions. Many Pacific island nations share similar backgrounds and can relate his story. To watch the Facebook video, which was live-streamed, click here.

Semi has been building his businesses for the last 30 years. Over the years, Semi has encountered numerous challenges. In spite of the challenges, Semi’s businesses have become a success and they are well known for building customized software for his clients’ that include licensed financial institutions within the South Pacific. Through his journey, he has accumulated values such as perseverance, consistency and a tenacity to forge ahead and building teams that innovate.

He is a gentle soft-spoken visionary. I was privileged to serve on a Board with him and in other circles in Fiji. Semi’s faith defines him and his operations but what not many people know is that he grew up in abject poverty. As a child, he lived in a squatter settlement (akin to a refugee camp or even worse) from extreme poverty, was a C grade student but today runs the largest homegrown Pacific Software development company that has built platforms for Banks, Companies, Statutory organisations in the Pacific. 

The World Harvest Center’s Youth Pastor Kolinio Boila  who is also the Executive Financial Director of The University of the South Pacific had invited Semi to speak to the youth. 

Semi shared his journey and some biblical principles of running a successful business. These were some of the principles he shared:

  1. Put God first and align your business to God, and God’s values and principles.
  2. There are many entrepreneurs in the Bible who were people grounded in the word. Discover them as you read the Bible.
  3. You are not a slave to your environment and circumstances. Choose to be defined by who God says you are.
  4. The journey is filled with highs and lows and numerous challenges. It is not without struggle but within it you learn perseverance, endurance and tenacity.
  5. The journey is not for the weak and you have to learn to deal with failure as it is part of the journey but you learn from it. The journey is not without struggle. If you can’t take challenges then reconsider whether running a business is for you.
  6. Build your brand. Your brand includes your reputation in running your business affects your name, your family name. Flee corruption. This includes “integrity and your values”.
  7. When starting a business, get your financial systems right from the outset. When building his business, he hired and engaged KPMG from the beginning and worked towards compliance.
  8. He was a C grade student but did not let that stop him from growing and learning. Your academic qualification does not limit you. When God calls you, He equips and empowers you. (For students, that does not mean you don’t work hard).
  9. Do not start your business with a loan because borrowers are slaves to debtors. He started with $1200 in his pocket, which is $600US, which he used to reinvest into the business. If you do get a loan, make sure you have already secured contracts and there is a deposit in the bank from income that is generated.
  10. On compliance, make it your business to know what the rules and regulations are end engage in compliance.
  11. Surround yourself with people who can offer Godly counsel and who are wise. If you hang out with the wise, you become wise.
  12. Your business must engage in Tithe and offering. A tithe is one tenth of gross income that belongs to God. An offering is anything above that. Give to God what is God’s.
  13. Remember that your environment does not determine who you are. You can be in the islands but be global. We are a global people.
  14. As you build your business, credibility and are testing your products do not get your family members or friends to validate you because they will always give you positive feedback. Go to people who are ethnically and culturally different, who speak a different language and who can honestly critique your work so you can improve. To be stagnant is to stop innovating. You cannot be big in your own head. Be humble to learn!
  15. Over time, as you establish your business, you will need to turn away potential clients as you have more than enough work.
  16. Do not be afraid to start a business.
  17. Each person on the planet has been given unique skills and talents. God has equipped you with unique skills and a set of talents. For Semi Tukana, his skills are software development and financial competency. Find what unique skills that God has gifted you.
  18. As you grow your business, find your niche market and identify your boundaries. Software Factory works specifically on developing financial s Work within your boundaries and excel.
  19. Whatever you do, do it from your heart with tender loving care. It will show in the products and services, whether this is developing systems or baking scones.
  20. On the issue of recruitment, Attitude is key. People can have qualifications but if their attitude sucks, you will find training them is like training a stubbourn horse or donkey.
  21. Money is not the only key factor but it is the environment. Identify the environment you wish to have in your business.
  22. When building your business culture, it is critical to communicate your vision. The vision needs to be simple and clear for you and your people.
  23. Pacific people are notorious for not saving and it is common that when people know that someone has money that people gather to ask for money. Break the status quo and develop good habits of saving.
  24. It is important to keep records, correspondence, financial records and hire specialists where necessary.
  25. Discipline and waking up early is critical.
  26. Get out there and do it! Start small and start with what God has revealed to you.
  27. Honour your father and mother. Do not engage in rebelling against your parents. If you start a business but you dishonour your parents, get it right before God and start honouring your parents.
  28. Get your business vision aligned with God’s vision. The right starting point is the spiritual foundation.
  29. Daily pray for your business.
  30. Last but not least, align your business to God’s intent, vision and purpose.
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