Maybe one of my strengths is that I’m not that precious. I mean the type of person who is a diva about everything. I can take criticism, I might not like, I might go to the toilets and cry (not really), but I won’t throw a strop and need my employers or anyone else (except maybe my boyfriend) to come and throw a pity party for me or coddle me to get what they hired me to do.

Sadly, I’m coming to the reality that maybe in Zambia this is what we need to do for employees here. I don’t know whether it’s because in the west – certainly the US and the UK is becoming like this too – there is such a huge push for excellence, and being the best of the best. Slacking isn’t an option, well it is, but it’s looked down on.

In Zambia, maybe because we weren’t a capitalist society and we were on the everyone is equal tip etc we don’t really encourage people to aspire for greatness and more importantly, to actually work hard to make it happen.
That’s the struggle I’ve been having. Media 365 have recently been commissioned to conceive and produce a 26 part drama series around women and AIDS. I’m so excited about it. We needed to put together the team to work on the production, as we don’t have all those internal resources. Our plan was that the team was going to be the best of the best, people we could work with on a long term basis and they would understand how we work. I have to be honest, it’s a year later but the current team we have at Media 365 are among the hardest working you can find in Lusaka. But it wasn’t always like this. As the leaders, as managers, you set the example for how you want to work and how you want work to be done. And now they are a pretty reliable, professional and efficient team. I trust them to get the work done.

This new team… well it’s been a challenge. Simple things like showing up to work on time, adhering to their confidentiality agreements and presenting their work as their best quality work. Sometimes it’s like pulling teeth.
And the demands! I laugh when I think about what production companies in the UK used to go through, working in TV is not a glamourous thing, certainly not behind the camera, yet here people want to be treated with kid gloves and like they are the stars.

I have spent long hours in the office, here as early as 7am and leaving past midnight, yet some of the hired crew rock up at 9am (their contracted hours are 7.30-6) and stress about leaving at 8pm. But I realised that the more I shouted, pulled my hair out, cried (for real this time), and lectured about attitude (ok that was Jeff Sitali the director, but I agreed with it), and my own (stolen from Freddy) verses on the power of greatness within all of us, the pride of delivering a high quality show like never before seen on Zambian TV, I realised as it continued to fall on deaf ears that I was the only one who was stressing. To be fair not everyone is like this but you know what they say about a few rotten apples.

I have come to realise that in Zambia it’s the exception rather than the rule that provides those people that do want to be better than good, that do stuff for the passion and recognition rather than the money, but I’m still hopeful that we’ll bring up generations after us that will be the rule rather than the exception. Our country can’t possibly develop until that happens. I’m learning to exercise patience – if you know me, you’ll know that’s really hard for me – and I’m making a note of who will be people I’ll continue to work with, bring them into the Media 365 family, and who won’t step foot on any of my productions again. In life there aren’t second chances so why should I do that in business?
Maybe it’s also because we’ve chosen to work largely with a production team of young people. I am passionate about giving young people an opportunity, partly because I am still a young person, but partly because I have faith in young people. As a young person who was given an opportunity to live out my dreams, and been a success (if I must say so myself), I’m a firm believer in bringing up those behind you – specifically young people. But sometimes young people think they know it all, or can’t see an opportunity when it’s right in front of them. But you can’t get mad at them, at the end of the day it’s their career, they need to decide where they want to go in life.

It could also be an issue we have with long term planning and long term goals – for whatever reason we seem to be a short sighted bunch of people. I don’t know if that’s just young people, or people in Zambia as a whole. When we got the contract to do this drama series – and like Shuga, it’s been about two years in the making, we didn’t jump for joy thinking let me do a cheap job on this, do a one man shoot and pocket enough money for me to buy a new car. Nope, we did jump for joy, but because we realised that this was the opportunity for us to make the production we’ve all wanted to make for years. One that was going to be of high production value but also tell the kind of story we’d want to watch on TV (ok don’t buy into that myth, unless you pay for it yourself, it will never be the story you really want to tell!). But it was also an opportunity for us to improve our product offering by reinvesting into the company.

I love everything about TV, I live, sleep and breath it. Other than having my own shoe store, I couldn’t see myself doing anything else but TV… ok maybe I could consider designing clothes and handbags, oh and running my own restaurant/cocktail bar…Ok, so maybe I could do other things. But I truly love TV. I love how you can create something that can impact millions of people, I like the power of TV to change your way of thinking. Really TV can do a lot more good if harnessed correctly. So while Media 365 doesn’t only do TV production, we do print, radio, digital, research etc, my passion has and will always be TV. And all us co-founding directors knew one thing, we did not want to be a here today, gone tomorrow business. But to ensure longevity you have to have the right systems in place, and the equipment and technology to do it. In Zambia it’s all about chasing the money, even at the detriment of repeat business – people don’t understand that it’s cheaper to retain clients than get new ones.

The last couple of weeks have been a real challenge for me and been a rollercoaster of emotions, but at least I know for sure that playtime is over. Doing business in Zambia is by no means easy, the rewards are there, but to reap them, you need tenacity, resilience and faith. And be prepared to work damn hard. Bring it on I say.

And watch out for our new shows coming to local TV soon!

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