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After working for someone else for eight years, I do believe that the way forward for me is being my own boss, or at least working in a family business where my boss is someone I share the same bloodline with.
I do find the challenge of a start-up exciting, especially when it’s something you love to do. But it’s not easy, especially if you’re not blessed with buckets of money. Balancing the love of what you do and trying to make money from it can be a challenge. More so when you have to go to banks who only want to look at your financial statements to ensure you’re worth investing in.
I know the bottom line is the bottom line in your business, but understanding the vision and people behind a brand is just as important. I get excited when I talk about the work that I do and the opportunities for growth. But most of the financial institutions I was talking to weren’t interested in hearing about that. After awhile I thought, hold up, I might need the capital injection right now, but equally I need a bank or financial institution that believes in what we’re doing and wants to be there supporting our growth.
Too often SMEs, that is small and medium enterprises, are treated as unimportant, because their annual turnover is less than (by the standards of the banks I saw) $500,000. Though in a market where the majority of people live on less than $1 a day, I don’t think a turnover of $500,000 a year is not too bad. Plus there are so many examples of companies that were SMEs and are now the biggest companies in the world – pretty much all the biggest companies in the world!
The challenge of resource mobilisation can put a dampner on your mood and the mood of your staff in the office – if they ever get wind of what you’re going through. And that low feeling can suck the soul out of you. Yet your soul is exactly what you need to keep pushing forward.
Entrepreneurs can help stimulate the economy, not only because they are willing to take risks and innovate in markets that might not be stable, but they can also create jobs and new technologies to develop markets. This is something that the west is more comfortable pushing, but in Africa, where we didn’t even have the bulk of the economic recession, we’re still of the mindset that entrepreneurs are too risky to invest in.
In a market with limited job opportunities and a defunct welfare system and virtually no pension plan, what is there for the mass market to do if not to create their own employment? And if that employment can create more employment and stimulate the economy, the government should be investing in that. And the smart, creative and risk-taking banks should also be driving that opportunity.
It’s funny that even now, when there is more competition among banks, with European, American, Zambian, South African, and Nigerian banks in the market, they still act like there is nothing to compete for – like they are the only players in the market. I’m big on loyalty, so if I find a bank that is good to me now when I’m in need, I’ll be loyal and stay true to them. But that requires working with a bank that is like-minded, and preferably one that can make decisions locally. It doesn’t help me if your bank makes its decisions from the UK, where they only care about businesses with an annual turnover of $1 million.
So I’m trying to stop getting frustrated with the banks, but rather re-think my strategy, I’m not looking for a bank who can help me, I’m looking for a bank who I can work with to grow my company, and therefore their business too.
I may ‘only’ be an SME today, but as Chris Bridges said, here’s a binoculars and look out for me!
I’m addicted to watching Brandy and Ray J’s reality show “A Family Business”, not only because I like Brandy as an artist, but because there is so much to it that I can relate to. The fights, the love, the tears, the laughter, the support, the division. Running a family business is a reality show on it’s own!
I have always liked the thought of being part of a family business, because I am so family oriented and I like working for myself, and why shouldn’t the money be kept in the family? But I didn’t realise how hard it would be, especially after you’ve been apart for so long.
Families are still made up of individuals. These individuals might have different values, work ethics and perspectives from each other, which obviously can cause challenges and friction within the business.
As a family we’ve never been good with confrontation, we shy away from it and hope that the problem with resolve itself, without us having to do anything. But like with any conflict, resentment and frustration is bound to build. The good thing about a family is that you can overcome these feelings, because your love for each other usually is the over-riding factor.
However, from my experience over the last 11 months I’ve been in the company, I’ve also come to realise that the things people love about a family business can also be it’s downside. There are certain things you allow people to do because they are family, whereas if that was done in a public owned corporation for example, they’d be fired for. I always remember one episode in A Family Business, when Ray J rocks up for a management meeting late, drunk (or possibly hungover) and completely derails the meeting by either falling asleep or strumming on a guitar (I can’t remember which). We haven’t had exactly the same experience but similar…
I think for any start up to flourish – family owned or otherwise all the business partners must be committed and have a shared goal or vision (more than to just make money) and have to put the time and effort to realise that vision. If you don’t all do it, then that’s when the resentment starts to build and you have to nip it in the bud before it overcomes you.
Know each other’s strengths and respect it, but make decisions based on what is best for the business and not what is best for the individual, there might be an m and an e in team, but there really isn’t an I. Sometimes as the ‘team leader’ these decisions seem hard but you can’t afford to bury your head in the sand, not if you want your business to grow. And other times you have to let go of the business, because it might be the right thing to do for your health and your sanity. Find like-minded people to work with, who will want to succeed as much as you and put in the effort to do so.
These are my learnings from my own family business – there are so many successful ones out there so it’s best to learn from those to really grow and be sustainable. But always remember that the business should be before the family – unless the business is just a hobby for the entire family!
Demarco’s song I Love My Life is definitely my new theme song. And it’s fitting that I’m listening to it right now, on Zambia’s 47th Independence Day.
The last few months have been full of learnings, both good and bad, but on this day, I feel like I have a lot to appreciate, I’ve learnt a lot and I still have so much to look forward to.
Today, we had some family friends over to visit my dad, and I was so happy when I heard him tell them that he had accepted that he has cancer.
I think the cancer diagnosis was hard on all of us, but even though it’s still early days as he still does more and more tests to figure out the best treatment options for him, I’m happy that he isn’t letting him get down.
At his age (70 something), he has lost a good number of his friends and he says he is grateful to have lived as long as he has. Which is such a great and positive attitude to have, but I hope it doesn’t meant that he won’t fight his disease anyway. As annoying as he sometimes can be, I’m definitely grateful to spend these days with him, especially now as he opens up to his life during Kaunda days and before independence – he actually is enjoying having a captive audience these days. Though sometimes I worry about him giving his opinion willy nilly. Right now the country seems to be split – you’re either PF or you’re not. The point of an opposition hasn’t fully sunk in to everyone – but that’s a side bar.
I digress. My father’s illness has been one challenge. The other challenge has been running our business Media 365. I don’t think there is anything more rewarding than owning your own business, especially if it’s something you are passionate about (though can be equally rewarding to work for a company that is unlike anything else ). But it is no easy feat! It comes with all sorts of challenges and sometimes I feel like I’m out of my depth – my almost complete MBA did not prepare me for this! Just when you think you can’t swim any longer and it might be time to sink, something comes up that makes it all worth it.
I’m so excited about the new opportunities that have come our way and that in the next few months will really test us but will be the beginning of a very exciting path for us. The thing that stands out to me about our business is that we don’t just care about the money (though we do want to make it) but we truly love what we do. We have been blessed with the ability to follow our dreams, and now it’s just about putting in the hard work to make it reality. And boy is it hardwork!
I’m also learning to put myself first now, for real, I know I say it all the time, but I do think I’m getting there. Slowly but I’m definitely getting there. It’s about learning to prioritise your needs and getting people to work around that – no more guilt trips for me! The reality is that I’ve been able to work this hard and get to where I am in just over eight years, then why haven’t you? We all have the same opportunities – in different forms, but opportunities nonetheless – so what have you done with them? We’re all born with some talent or another, how have you used them to your advantage? Only you can determine how you shape your life, don’t think the world owes you anything, because it doesn’t. And frankly, neither do I. I just made the decision that other people’s problems are not my priorities, as adults you make the decisions in your life and you must live with the consequences of those decisions.
I’ve also learnt when it comes to family that perhaps not everyone’s priorities are the same, and I can’t blame people for doing their own thing, but I’m also not going to be the glue to hold it together. You either want to do it, or you don’t. That’s just how I see it. Anyone with a (large) family will know what I’m talking about, whether it’s emotional support, financial support, or just communicating with your family.
I’ve also learnt to let go and just relax, not always analysis everything or need a definitive plan for where my life and areas in my life are going. This is really working well with Mr Mature, 4 months strong and I couldn’t be happier. It’s a huge learning curve, but like he says, we’re both learning, so we take each day as it comes and just see where it leads. I can honestly say, I’ve never been in a relationship like this before and that’s a good thing. For now, I’m just going with the flow.
On this independence day I also vowed to myself that I will get my financial goals in check and really begin to work on them. Paying off my debt and building my house will be my biggest priorities. I’ve already got some plans in mind for my house – it’s not going to be my dream house just yet – maybe if I ever get married that will be my project with my man – but for now, it will be something that I can call my own – and that Mr Mature can spend the night at, because sneaking him into my parents house would not be cool! My worry is that the rainy season is coming soon, so I have to work fast – at least get the foundation done. So fingers crossed I get all my cash in hand in the next few weeks (hope springs eternal!).
Right now, I feel like I’m in a good place. I might not be in the best place financially but emotionally, I think I am. And sooner or later, the finances will come together too! For now, I’m enjoying the moment and living in the present – it is the gift of today!
Have a great week ahead and don’t feel bad to put yourself first. You do matter!
My headline is a bit misleading. I don’t mean to suggest that the Pope and the Catholic church are right in their lack of support for people using condoms, but then again, can we blame them?
The Catholic church, like all religions, is founded upon a core set of values and principles. Some of those principles and values are deeply entrenched in Bibilical beliefs: no sex before marriage, natural family planning (or by God’s wish) etc. In essence the condom goes against this.
If something – man made no less (though if God gives man the ability to make these things, surely that’s proof that it’s not a bad thing?) – brings into question all those values, don’t you have a flawed product? So the Catholic church find itself in a weird predicament.
Millions of people are dying as a result of AIDS, that is true. But millions more are seemingly healthy but have lost their way and their faith or any form of relationship with God. The Church is in the business of selling hope, salvation and all that good stuff. If they openly support condoms, even as a method of prevention then they have to admit that their core competence, isn’t a competence at all.
And if one value is questioned or slightly flexible, then what else is? What other ‘sin’ is debatable? I mean think about the reputation of the brand that is the Catholic church?
The brand will have to be repositioned, or maybe even find new markets to enter – they could try China?
Seriously though, to be fair to the Catholic church, they are also one of the few organisations that focus on palliative care of people living with HIV, especially across Africa where so many people living with HIV often aren’t cared for by family and friends. This is in no way to excuse the Pope or the Catholic church, but is testament of their brand values.
The Pope and the Church may have a problem with condoms, and it’s their prerogative – whether we like it or not – but it is extremely irresponsible of them to continously promote negative messages about condoms. That isn’t their line of business nor is it the business they want to go into, and since they aren’t a for-profit organisation, there is no harm in them keeping quiet about it. We all have opinions, but when those opinions harm people, it’s best to keep them to yourself.
I’m actually surprised no one has taken a class action suit against the Pope and the Catholic church as a whole, isn’t it cause enough for mass murder? Because unfortunately, whether we like it or not, people actually listen to what their religious leaders say. (Though the Pope looks kinda scary, why would people listen to him?)
But that being said, I still believe that faith and religion can be such a great healer that if they were to admit that some of what they’re selling isn’t well, authentic, it puts everything the peddle into question, so they still have to look at their numbers and see which will cause more damage I suppose.
And seeing that so many people in Africa are religious, they still turn to the Church for comfort and support when they are diagnosed. The Pope and the Church can survive this, unfortunately.
Of course that’s just my thoughts – as disconnected as they seem. But what do you think? Apart from the obvious, the church and pope are terrible and killing people comments. Just saying…
Bono has been championing the Red campaign for a few years now. Like most initiatives it has its critics and it has its supporters. I’m not sure where I sit on this one. On one hand it’s a great example of innovative financing – allowing consumers to contribute to the fight against HIV/AIDS. But I’m not a fan of the message.
I get that HIV/AIDS is having devastating effects across Africa, but to have the tagline of Buy Red, Save Lives (in Africa)?
As an African I hate it – again I get that you’ve got to portray an extreme picture to pull on the heart-strings – and therefore the purse-strings – but for the millions of people who’ve never been to Africa, it only tells one story. And that story is that us poor, starving, disease ridden Africans can’t do anything for ourselves and always need the West to bail us out.
I can see how this story can help raise cash for Africa – and I’m not saying we don’t need it – but isn’t there a way we can do this so the world can see that Africa does do some things on its own too? And this is what should be supported?
And now Bono’s the mouthpiece for Africa? I know I should be happy that someone as important as Bono has made it his mission to do something for the world’s poor (in Africa), but I just hate that it also perpetuates this air of hoplessness of Africa. But maybe that’s Africa’s fault too.
In most place – bar Rwanda and Liberia and a handful of other countries – we need new leadership. Not the old guards who are from the independence days, but younger, people with fresh perspectives – we need our Obamas. Young Africans also need to take up the challenge, with social media sites there is no reason why the work and advancement they are doing can’t be communicated and spread.
For now, I hope that campaigns such as OneLove Kwasila – though paid for by the US government – but implemented by young Africans can be one of many examples of the not so futile situation in Africa.
Maybe I’m just cynical or patriotic to a fault. (Oh, I forgot to mention the ridiculous ad spend to support Red products as well – in 2007 alone it was $100 million and guess how much they raised? $18million. I’m sure that ratio is better now…) Ok maybe I’m just a little bit mad at my own foolishness of getting a Red credit card and despite the money spent on it, I’ve only contributed about £50 to the global fund – I should have just given them the money instead – hell, I should have donated to a charity in Africa directly!
One of a series of animations from the OneLove Kwasila campaign
Final day of our strategy for the staying alive campaign and i’m shattered. It was good, but i’m beat. Not even sure if today was a productive as the other days. We re-did our mission statement and set goals/objectives for this year. We even managed to think up some ideas for our on-air programme this year. It wasn’t easy.
TV trends are changing. There is scripted reality, drama, documentary, all sorts of formats you can use, but which one really works the best? I know we should probably get more research on this issue, but discussing it among ourselves was a useful first step.
Next week i’ll pull together the full strategy and hopefully we can get our workplans together and start looking for funding. i think this is going to be a good year.
We figured it out – we now know who our clients are! It seems like an easy enough task, but when you think about what we do – produce content, funded by different organisations, and then distributed to broadcasters to air, for young people to watch – well any of those could be our clients. Then you break up what we do, how we do it and who it serves and then you figure out who the clients are. It was a really interesting process and the debates led to even more understanding.
From there we’ve done (or will do by tomorrow) three half days of strategic planning. It’s been really interesting as we’ve done a SWOT analysis – both internal, and external, identified our competitors and even our core competence (you can see i’m putting my MBA training into good use). The good thing was getting the input of the whole team and not just leaving it to ‘management’. And it’s a pretty good team – they get along, they’re passionate about the issue, they’re ambitious and they’re constantly striving to be better!
The candid discussions made us all think that as a campaign we’ve lost our edge a little bit and now we’ve got some distance to go to get back to being the absolute best – which is of course what we always strive to be.
Hmmm what will tomorrow bring?
Happy New Year everyone! It’s exciting to be in the new year. It’s another opportunity for us to reflect on the previous year and attempt to do better and not make the same mistakes. It really is a lot harder than it sounds.
The year in my team begins with planning what we want to do and accomplish this year. I’m doing it a little bit differently this year, but it’s led us into a debate about who our clients are. I’m tempted to say it’s the audience who watch our programming that are our clients, but we don’t get our money from them – we get it from our funding partners who want to reach our audience, so are they the clients?
It really is a crucial question that needs answering because it ultimately affect the products we produce. If you have any insights into how we identify this I’d be more than happy to hear it.
In the meantime – as I promised in one of my blogs way back, here is the first episode of Club Risky Business – the now award winning series, created and produced by Media 365 in Zambia (a company I am one of the directors of).