You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Business’ category.

At the end of 2015 I decided I was going to live life to its fullest potential and start really following my dreams, because up until then, I realized I’d spent a lot of my time pleasing people. My work was not what I considered my best because I was constantly compromising and conforming to meet what the client wanted. I had become all about ‘if they pay, they say’ and stopped arguing with them over ‘ugly’ products. Though don’t get me wrong, if they pay, they still say, I’m just more wary of which clients I take on – if they’re not ready to excel, or innovative, I’m not about that life.

But before I made that decision, it ate at me. I looked at some of my past work and remembered the high I got from being true to my inner spirit – the spirit that some times runs wild but appreciates nice looking things!

2016 was going to be about me, and doing things that I wanted to do, throwing caution to the wind! Or so I thought.

Herstory bts

January 2016 I decided to embark on a passion project. Before I could even get started, we suddenly had more work than expected – Q1 is usually very slow, with things only really picking up around April/May.

While I was counting our blessings, I was also wondering what would happen to my passion project, pushing it to the back of my mind, ‘we’re too busy’, I told myself.

And then a friend of mine said ‘you’re scared.’ I was going to protest, instead I walked away annoyed by the comment – do I look like I get scared?! But deep down, I knew she was right.

I had minor panic attacks worrying about whether it would work or not, I reached out to several friends and people I knew in the industry who I felt had more experience than me for advise. Some came back, most didn’t. I focused on that. If I couldn’t get the help from these people, how on earth did I expect to make this work, what would I do?

But I also had so many supportive people in my corner – people I didn’t even know where there, including some incredible women who I am beginning to believe God brought us together for a reason.

Yet there was still a lot of back and forth on my part. First I was scared it would be lame – I’m not about mediocre. That thought was spoken by someone in my inner circle – ‘you are not the type of person to allow mediocrity, why would it be now?’

Of course I could point to many a times I thought I was involved in mediocrity, though it wasn’t of my doing so, fair point.

I had a1001 excuses not to do it. After awhile I realized that my fear was not of just being mediocre but actually of doing a good job. It seems weird to have such a fear but there is just a much pressure with being good and maintaining or exceeding!

And on my mum’s birthday I decided to bite the bullet and just do it! It seemed fitting to do it on her birthday – she is an extraordinary woman to me, so good time to ‘jump’.

It was a great experience! Ok it was running late – another story. But when it was done, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t freaked out, only messed up my lines once. It was awesome.

I might not use it – despite me appreciating I don’t have to be fantastic all the time, it can be better so why not do better?

The important thing for me was to let go of the fear and listen to my truth, and follow that truth – good things await those who are true to themselves!

It may not be the dream exactly, but it’s a step closer, without doing this, I would have been so much further from all I imagine for my life. And that’s what’s the most important thing.

Coming soon…

after the show

I feel I’m constantly behind in updating my blog. Every time there is an issue I feel passionate about, I get bogged down in work – that thing that helps pay my bills.

Bright_red_tomato_and_cross_section02

So I might be late on the tomato issue – even though I did share thoughts on social media – I still want to talk about it in more detail, because it is something I felt very strongly about when the issue first came up.

Unless you’re not Zambia, or you have been living under a rock, you would have heard about Stella Sata’s tomato comment. In case of the above exception, let me recount it for you. University of Zambia graduates were protesting against the government’s failure to create jobs for educated Zambias – basically the premise of the students got educated, graduated and now can’t find employment and this is the government’s fault.

UNZA-Students job protest

Stella Sata, daughter of the late President Michael Sata took to her social media profile to condemn the protests and suggested that the students could create their own employment by selling tomatoes (I’m sure I’m paraphrasing).

This of course enraged students (not only the protesting ones), saying that Stella was entitled and what did she know of unemployment as the privilege of her name could open many doors and get her a job if she wanted. And other assertions to do with her perceived wealth etc. Soon after Stella bowed to the pressure and apologized.

Personally I didn’t see why she apologized. If anyone is entitled in this scenario, it’s the UNZA graduates. I won’t generalize all UNZA graduates but a lot of them believe they should be given a job simply on the merit of being the cream of the crop because they were fortunate enough to surpass all their classmates to gain enough points to get into UNZA. But that’s about it.

Some UNZA graduates who I have interviewed or who have even worked with us don’t do much to justify them having a long-term position with us. They might know the theory but they can’t do the work and find that the work is not as easy as they thought. Or because they are UNZA graduates they don’t believe they should intern or work their way up but instead should be given a managerial position simply because they have a degree from UNZA but nothing else.  Besides, it’s a very narrow minded person (and I would hope not the educated ones) that believe that going to university is about getting a job.  The very essence of education is to help you in life, develop you as a person, so why should you be bitter if you got educated but didn’t get a job, acting like your time at university was a waste?

Anyway, I’m digressing and don’t want to focus on the entitled attitude but rather on the tomatoes. I didn’t see why people were offended at being told to sell tomatoes but realized that it’s because of our myopic view of the world, and the fact that we still look to the government to solve our problems.

For me what Stella was talking about was about being an entrepreneur and creating jobs and wealth for yourself. Selling tomatoes didn’t necessarily mean at Soweto market (though why not? Elias Chimipo Jnr in his book talks about selling tomatoes at Soweto and later on eggs and cakes – he is now a presidential candidate after starting and running a very successful legal practice), but in fact, if you thought about it, why not sell tomatoes?

Everybody buys tomatoes so it’s a guaranteed market – albeit a crowded market. But I know people who grow acres and acres of tomatoes and make a killing. And then diversify – from ordinary tomatoes, to tomato juice, tomato sauce, sundried tomatoes – all sorts!

tomato field

The fact of the matter is while governments role to create jobs should be to create an enabling environment for private sector to create jobs, government itself can not create jobs – we already have a bloated public sector that the small tax base can not afford.

But more than this, it is time for us to look past government being the solution to our problems, but us solving our own problems. We have to move past the stage of relying on government because they have proved, time and time again, that they aren’t the public servants that we hoped for, but really are here to serve themselves. So as citizens we need to empower ourselves and then demand better from our government.

This is one of the reasons I’m supporting the Nyamuka business plan competition because it’s using the concept of entrepreneurship to take people out of poverty. For many years we have had donor agencies pour money into government programmes or NGO programmes to alleviate poverty and that hasn’t done much. Don’t get me wrong, there have been some achievements but not enough for the amount of money put in (yes I am in the anti-aid as it’s been done in the past camp).

logo-bpc

But if you can empower people with their own businesses, give them skills to ensure their businesses are sustainable and can grow, then you are taking that person, their family and their employees out of poverty. It’s a no-brainer.

I argue with some of my family members on what type of entrepreneur we should be supporting – the ones who just want to own one corner shop that supports them and their family or the one that wants to grow from one corner shop to a chain of stores and manufacturing/agriculture business that employs 100s to 1000s of people and supplies their shops and others. Obviously I’m a go big or go home kind of girl, but I do see their point of also empowering the one person who can look after themselves and their family and not need to hire loads of people and there’s no shame in that.

But I do think that if us Zambians can go to the model of the employer of 100s then we can take ourselves out of poverty. So we need more of these business plan competitions because getting money from banks is almost impossible. We then need to be our own angel investors too – disrupt the banking system and their crazy interest rates.

In order for these competitions to work though, the donor agency can’t operate like a donor and give the money to who they think are the most needy, or who looks good for PR photos. But to bankable businesses that we can go back to in 5 years time and see them ready for growth. Only then will the business plan competition be taken seriously.

It’s like a certain fellowship programme (yeah I was going to let it go but I can’t), or even award show, they don’t choose people based on merit but on popularity, losing all credibility for it. I remember someone saying, ‘if I was offered that, I would refuse it because it celebrates mediocrity, or given for effort as opposed to achievement”. We need to move past that and not settle for ‘ok’ but let’s strive for excellence and celebrate success. But not success at the cost of mediocrity. OK I went off on a tangent there, again.

For now, I say, all hail the tomato!

For now, I say, all hail the tomato!

One of the things that I really used to admire about my former boss’ boss, was his ability to see things from the audience perspective. It wasn’t about whether he liked or understood the product but whether it would resonate with the audience. And he trusted the teams he had to know the product and to know the audience. It worked. It kept the brand in the top 4 of global brands.

Now that I’m in the business of delivering creative solutions to clients trying to reach their audiences, it shocks me how few businesses think about their audience but think about themselves. I’ve met clients who market their products, that are targeted to people of lower socio-economic backgrounds, with billboards in Kabulonga. Or other businesses that base creative designed on their own personal preferences. It becomes less about the brand and the product and more about them, and perhaps how they look to their peers.

In all my experience – and that of all the industry leaders who I’ve read about – the beginning of success is with knowing your audience. From a deep understanding of your audience can you know what they need and what they want, and then deliver it successfully to them. Perhaps if you yourself are your target audience, then maybe your personal wants and insights are indeed useful, but if you’re not, then it’s really not about you.

It is definitely a hard thing to do – to put the needs of others above your own – but that’s why having a marketing team or agency that understands your brand and your audience is paramount.

Another example I often face is when we’re editing a video for a client. Despite them filling in the creative brief and outlining the objectives of the video, the audience it’s supposed to reach etc, when it comes to the first offline, and the first chance they get to edit it, it’s like they forget their brief and their audience! Sometimes this can be seen when the team reviewing the materials have very different opinions on the direction of the creative or the edit changes. That’s when you should know that somewhere along the line, someone is not in tune with the audience or the objective of the creative.

I find whenever I’m coming up with a concept, and following it through, I have to pause several times to ask myself if this is right for the audience. Having a litmus person or group also helps, I can check in with them if we’re going in the right direction.

Of course the problem with the focus groups, or litmus person is that you have to make sure they don’t feel the need to tell you what they think you want to here. In this regard, this is probably why Media 365’s immersion process is so useful. It’s partly based on observational research. Rather than asking people specific questions, watching their behavior, how they interact with things and their products.

Even sometimes that’s why listening can be more useful than talking. I remember once, during all the election campaigning and the candidates kept talking about their agriculture promise being about paying the farmers on time, my aunt from the village in Lundazi scoffed and said while that was important, even just having a place to store their grains was important. Turned out that they lost a lot of their harvest because the nearest distribution point was too far for them to get to.

It was another aha moment for me. While the papers were reporting about the farmers complaining about late payments, no one was talking about any other problems the farmers were facing, so it became an easy campaign promise to jack, without talking to any farmers. I’m not saying the presidential candidates didn’t do their research but perhaps they chose the ones that made more sense in the media, than to the voting farmers.

It reminds me of another story about a man who tried to sell me a bicycle (don’t ask), the thing was he sold me on the benefits, but couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t buy the bicycle. That’s because he never even asked me if I knew how to ride a bike – which I don’t (don’t judge me).

I fight a lot with my clients – I do because I’m passionate about my work and delivering a good product – on seeing things from their audience’s point of view (I’d also like to win some awards in the process, but that’s another story!). Sometimes the client will listen when I point to the data, but sometimes they’ll ignore it in favor of pleasing their MD – this is probably also because they have yet to convince their MD that when marketing works, it does translate into sales and therefore your profitability.

When your business is up and coming, it’s probably even more important to understand your audience as you develop products and services for them. But as you grow, it’s equally important not to lose sight of who they are. Not knowing your audience and how to reach them will ultimately cost you financially and give your competitor an advantage over you.

Running your own business can sometimes turn from fun to thinking in numbers. I use this phrase and people think it’s funny, but it’s true. When you start out it’s all fun and games, your overheads are low – maybe you only have your salary to think about – but as you start to grow, and plan to grow, those numbers become very real.

In a society where people are uncomfortable to talk about money openly, it almost seems like a crime to insist on upfront payment or payment in full before you do work, for some people they even worry it makes you look desperate! But cashflow is the lifeline of a business (I know I blog about this a lot because it’s so critical to business yet continues to be a challenge in Zambia for most SMEs). And clients (and other people) can sometimes take the piss. I have one job as an example where the client didn’t want to pay anything upfront and insisted on paying on deliverable, and because they are a Fortune 500 company, it didn’t seem like a bad idea. What we didn’t bank on was their silence on delivery and their constant shifting goalposts. We signed and delivered the product in December 2013 and we’re still waiting for a final sign off to get paid (yes that would be 8 months later…).

And that’s one extreme example but there are similar examples I can give. The other condition that also boggles the mind is the 30 day payment after delivery. I understand it where you’re the middleman like we often are, because you’re relying on a client to pay you so you can honour your commitment and don’t want to over promise only to not be able to honour your word. But I don’t understand it when you are the direct client. You knew you wanted the product, you knew how much it cost, and you knew the time in which it was going to be delivered – why is the money not ready for payment? And where is your obligation to pay me when I have delivered the product?

So why should I assume all the risk for you? The client is not God and we need to stop acting like they are. Yes we depend on them for our survival but as an established business they also depend on you for their own deliverables, and in some cases, justification!

Last month we decided that due to these conditions and the environment we operate in, as well as the reality is that as a boutique agency we have to pick and choose which clients we can work with (we’re just not big enough to take on lots of clients at any given time, and we dedicate a lot of our energy, creativity, solutions etc to a client), so we decided that clients had to pay either a percentage or the whole amount (depending on the job) upfront in order for us to proceed with the work.

Of course this didn’t sit well with some of our clients, they felt it was a trust issue, or to some that it was a desperate move, but the reality was we just needed to spread the risk, and that way also ensure the client themselves were committed.

I feel like, as we are a small agency, doing a lot of administrative work ourselves, it was not the best use of our time to be chasing clients to get paid. And quite honestly, if it means we’ll lose some clients in the process, I doesn’t bother me as much as it will finally give us time to focus on our R&D for our internal projects! And will eventually lead to a bigger pay day! I truly believe that when one door closes, God opens another. So it might hurt at the time when you have to turn down the job, but use the time to focus on growing your own business by focusing on your strategy and strengthening your own internal skills and systems. That’s how I look at it – preparing yourself for the clients who respect your work and your business.

Money is such a sensitive issue. I have lost friends and even family over it! People do irrational things when they are stressed over money. I know, I’ve been there. But step away from the situation and take the emotions out of it. It’s not personal, and don’t treat it personal. I’m too grown to let money get in the way of relationships, but others aren’t always so. There is nothing you can do but wait it out, if the relationship was important enough they’re come back (clients, friends, family).

In Zambia, there are very few people and businesses, who are 100% financially stable all the time. Most of us are going through stuff and we need to understand that, so try and put yourself in the other person’s shoes and don’t make assumptions. But you have to protect yourself first, if you can’t afford something – financially, personal time etc – then don’t do it. It’s better to be honest that to expect something that doesn’t come to fruition. People may hate you at first, but when the emotions pass, and they’re mature enough, they’ll understand.

I’ll try and stop talking about money matters on my blog, but it really does impact a lot that goes on in my professional and personal life in Zambia. Hmmm I’m pretty sure I’ve written this exact blog before – that’s how bad it is.

In the last year or so I’ve seen more Proudly Zambian labels than ever before. I never really thought much about it until the other day when I heard about a foreign agency that was in Zambia to help an NGO with a reproductive health challenge for young Zambians.

First I was furious – this is exactly what Media 365 does – and then I thought, ‘ok, Media 365 does need to brand itself better so that people know we exist and what we do’. I did have a fleeting thought that this NGO did know us because we had done some random posters for them back in the day but more to the point, I never even saw them put in a bid in the papers for a local agency to undertake this work.

I’ve never been one to bow down to the blame game so really did look within ourselves (as in the company) to understand how we missed out on this opportunity but at the back of my mind I couldn’t help question why it is that we simply don’t support or buy local.

It then reminded me of a topic of conversation that I’d been part of about this false economy we’re buying into of this 6% growth and being one of the fastest growing economies in the region. Except for the fact that a lot of that money is going to foreign owned companies, sometimes not even within the company!

Ok so they are two separate but related thoughts. Let’s start with local and the proudly Zambian concept.

A lot of countries have used this technique to boost local business and I suppose instill a sense of national pride. At first I used to ignore it. I’d buy the best product at the best price regardless of where it was manufactured/produced etc. But as a business owner I started thinking about where my money was going. If I bought local, I was empowering a business owner who could then pay his employees. It is hard to think in those terms when you’re only spending K20 (less than $3) on something. But those K20s add up.

My other gripe with supporting and buying local was that local needed to be good enough to compete. I still believe this but how will they get good enough if we don’t support them enough to grow? Look at YoYo crisps. I like to use them as an example because if you compare their packaging to say Amigos’, it’s like night and day. YoYo’s can easily compete with international packaging, I actually bought a pack before I knew they were Zambian! Or think about Boom. Boom has been around for longer than I can remember, but their packaging has definitely improved again comparable to international brand’s packaging. The support of their mass market consumer allowed them to get to the next level. So if we don’t support local today – and give them honest feedback – how will they grow tomorrow?

So unless it’s truly bad, I do try my best to support local. How else will we stimulate our economy if we don’t support local?

And that goes back to the 6% growth and fastest growing economy thing. I think it’s now a given that the economy will be stimulated and grown by entrepreneurs, and that job creation will be done not by government, but by private sector. So if we’re not supporting local, how will local entrepreneurs help with sustainable wealth creation?

There is so much talent locally – and yes I’ve gone back to my irritation with competing with foreign agencies – but we don’t support this local talent. Even think back to our local TV and film industry. People like Mingeli Palata are continuously putting out films – and I admire this because the response is often so poor, as in poor turnout to watch the film, but we’ll go out for some other big budget movie. Bollywood and then Nollywood are some of the biggest industries in the world because the citizens support it. No one is going to tell our stories and get the nuances that make us Zambian, so why aren’t we going out more to support local productions?

Instead we look for something negative to say, some way to bring down that person, that product, that company. It’s like it’s something in the air. There is just way too much negativity in Zambia, that even one with the most positive disposition can’t help but find themselves bowing down to some of the conspiracy theories – ‘that person hates you’ ‘there is a group of people – a cartel – trying to bring you down’ and that then takes away your responsibility to do better and be better. We only have ourselves to blame for the fact that our economy may be owned by foreigner, or the poor turnout for our shows (film and music alike) because we don’t support each other, and we’re not striving for the best. We all start from somewhere.

I always remember the fact that people would look for a reason Love Games was good – oh they had foreign crew on it, oh they got money from this donor blah blah blah. The foreign crew were here to help, but answered to a local director, a local producer – they weren’t calling the shots. And the local crew who worked with them increased their skillset. Learning is part of the process of getting better, to getting ‘good enough’ to compete internationally – seeing as some people think we can’t right now.

I wish government would also get better at supporting local, and being more proudly Zambian. Ok the idea of now tenders going to companies that own at least 50% (i think) of the company is a good one. But more often than not, government is still awarded things to foreign companies.

A few months ago, I went to a talk at StartUp Junction where our deputy commerce minister Miles Sampa was the featured guest. There were several things that were shocking about what he said but the key one that stood out (or at least related to this post) was that he said he got the logo for his constituents football team logo done by someone in Pakistan!

I get it, it was probably cheaper to do it in Pakistan. But you’re in government, you of all people should be supporting local businesses! And there are loads of kids who could do a logo for next to nothing – hell he could have held a competition to get one done for free!

I think it’s our collective responsibility to support local, this is how we’ll see our economy really grow, how there will be equitable wealth creation and will stimulate better local products and services. So if there is one thing I’d ask you to do is go out and buy something local – and I’m not just talking about bread, but be more conscious of your purchasing power and use it to grow your own economy so that we can grow it.

The other day I swelled with pride when a trusted and respected associate of mine mentioned the name of someone who had once worked with Youth Media (a not for profit we founded long time before Media 365). It’s always so rewarding to have others talk fondly and with equal respect for someone you helped shape. I guess this is how mentors feel about their mentees.

20110626_leadership-begins-with-stewardship_poster_img

A few days later, I had another entrepreneur I know well visit us – we like having like-minded people come to the office where we engage in conversation for hours (I try to keep these visits to Saturdays for obvious reasons!), and we spoke about the role of stewardship in our respective businesses.

The principle of stewardship is very much linked to Christian teachings (if you google it). But in general it really is about shepherding and safe guarding something that is valuable. One of the things we set out to do from the very beginning – when we were still a not for profit, non-governmental organisation – was to bring up young people as we came up, being that they really are the most valuable thing in your organisation. It wasn’t just about paying it forward, but it was about empowering others to help them achieve their potential. We didn’t just want them to compete, but to truly stand out in the market.

This could be another reason I’m so passionate about mentorship. It’s not enough to be the best that you can be, you have to help bring up those coming behind you. I know some people are scared of that approach, scared if you teach people what you know, then you become redundant and they can take your job, your career etc. But to us that is a myopic view. If anything it helps better the environment we operate it. If you have a lot of like minded people, able to work efficiently, and professionally, with relatively similar skill and ambitions, ethics and other quality attribute, isn’t that just the greatest environment to operate in?

stewardship

I think it also speaks to our own beginnings. The people who believed in us and were willing to teach us what they knew to up our skills and make us compete competitively and on a broader platform than the Zambian landscape helped instill that value in us too. And that’s what we always strive to do with our own staff and the younger people we come into contact with, make them better today to compete tomorrow. And it’s deeply rewarding as I said before. I think that’s what can be said about all aspects of giving back, because it’s not just about you (though it is kind of selfish to want to have that rewarding feeling… maybe in a small way it is about you!), but a social initiative.

This is one of the ways our business will always differentiate. And it is my hope that the people who have worked with us, whether at Youth Media or at Media 365 will take that principle of stewardship into their own careers and professional environments as well. Some of Zambia’s brightest (in my opinion) and recognized young people cut their teeth with us, and it’s great to see them succeeding and really making their mark. Allow me to highlight a few:

Kachepa Mtumbi who owns and runs KPR Consulting. It is one of the few PR agencies in Zambia and his client base boasts one of the biggest brands in the world, Samsung. He is not only one to watch but giving the other more established PR companies a run for their money!

zedhair-show-lusaka-zambia-Masuka-ZedHair-managing-editor

Masuka Mutenda is an accomplished communications specialist working with international organisations making a difference in Zambian people’s lives across the country. She also founded Zedhair a business targeted at the ever growing natural hair industry, a space few (if any) operate in.

Masuzyo Matwali not only does multimedia designs for all sorts of businesses and recording artists alike, he also runs his own design studio, Graphic 404, and is probably one of the most talented designers in Zambia right now.

corporate-heelz-cover

Janice Matwi now the Brand and Communications Manager at Airtel, also founder of Corporate Heelz, a business that aims to inspire and motivate career focussed women to achieve their potential.

Muchemwa Sichone (I knew him as Robert!) now runs his own company, Global Link Communications. They can be credited with various of communications work, not least the simplified (i.e. people friendly) version of the draft constitution.

mag44
Magg44 – not so much from Youth Media days (he’s probably too young :)) but from our early start with Media 365 he did some great score and sound engineering with us and just to see him, as an artist, and his business with IM Studios really flourish is also inspiring.

I could do a laundry list of all the people that came up the ranks at Youth Media/Media 365 and continue to inspire me with their personal and professional success but there are too many to mention – some who were here when I wasn’t, but are spoken of fondly by my other co-directors.

But just the few examples I’ve given above really speak to the importance of stewardship, mentorship, and investing in young people – when they are still young too. That’s one reason we will not stop.

Just recently we had a young guy who came to us as an intern, more or less straight out of high school. He left after two years as a competent video editor, with skills in sound and lighting techniques.

I see businesses today scared to invest in their staff, worrying (as is the norm in Zambia, where loyalty is such a coveted asset) that their staff will leave to work with their competitors or start out on their own, taking their client base, which are all real possibilities. The principle of stewardship is not just about training on hard skills but advising and mentoring with soft skills and advise. And that is far worth more than worrying about something that may or may not happen in the future!

Anyway, this is something I’m passionate about so I could speak about it for ages, so I’ll stop here and hope it gives you pause to think about how you can apply stewardship into your own life.

I write this letter out of frustration with the service and service delivery of Zamtel’s ADSL service. My latest experience has made me make the decision to terminate my services with this provider, I’m sure Zamtel won’t care to lose one customer, as most businesses in Zambia tend not to care about losing customers – despite the fact that it is cheaper to retain a client than get a new one. However, as customers we have the right to demand that where we are spending our money, we are respected and getting the service we were promised.

zamtel

The company I run has been using Zamtel for the last two years and the service has been less than reliable at best. Sometimes it works, other times you’ll be calling the service center relentlessly trying to get information on why the service is not working.

Recently we moved office from one location to the other (within Lusaka) – I won’t even talk about the process just to get that done, with every person we spoke to telling us a different process. Perhaps Zamtel should consider training their staff properly, or for those staff members that can’t remember their training, a simple handout of the process that can be given to clients would suffice.

So finally we get a new phone number and our ADSL reconnected at our new premises, but then we get told that we’ve got a new account number – I was actually told that when you move offices you are given a new account number. I spoke at length to the person on the other end of the phone about how that didn’t seem to make sense as then your business has multiple accounts, how would you know which was the right account? The man even agreed, and just said that was how it worked and they were actually going through the process of removing inactive accounts for that very reason.

On the 14th of January I accidentally paid our ADSL bill on the old account and on the 16th of January I went back to the Manda Hill branch where I paid to correct the mistake as well as find out why yet again the internet was not working.

I have to admit at this point – 10am, I was already irate because I had been unable to do any work due to the lack of internet connectivity. I had planned my day that required me to be online to deliver on key work.

When I got into the service center at Manda Hill the first thing I did was go to the Customer Service counter, just to be told that there was one line for all desks – even though the other desks were for bill payments. In terms of providing service in a timely manner for your customers, this way of operating does not make sense.

I waited in line patiently behind people who wanted to pay bills (even though there are at least three desks that could service bill payments). Finally I get to the counter to be served by Batuke Kalimukwa (who didn’t want to give me his full name by the way). As any irate customer would do, I complained that Zamtel’s customer service was poor. He didn’t even try to appease me, and just asked what service I needed.

I explained to him our problem and he said that I must have given Zamtel instruction to open a new account – which I didn’t. So he advised me to write a letter to Zamtel asking to close the account. What about the money paid on the account, could that be transferred to my active account? Nope, because it’s a pre-paid account (the inactive one), but I could write to Zamtel to ask for that to be reimbursed (good luck, was his attitude).

So how can you help me because my business can’t function? He could log a complaint in the system. Sigh

I asked him if he could tell me why the internet was so slow this morning. Because we’re on a package that only services five or less computers – ‘It was in the brochure’, he tells me, like I ever received a brochure! Instead I told him that it was one of his colleagues who sold us the K900 a month package, and we were never given the brochure.

Tough. I was told to write a letter to lodge in all my complaints, and address it to the Customer Service Manager. After asking for a name and address to write to, I was told simply to address it to the Customer Service Manager, Zamtel.

Pray tell why there is no name for the Customer Service Manager? What does that say about transparency?

Finally I asked if he could tell me if there was a fault on the network as only three computers were connected to the network so by his own admission, the ADSL package we’re on should work. No, he couldn’t tell me because his machine was only for payments. Hence the reason I wanted to go to the customer service desk in the first place – but then again, who knows if she would have that information to hand either.

At this point, in the middle of my complaints and queries, Batuke’s phone rings, which he answers in front of me, with no apology or concern that I had not yet finished trying to get a solution for my problem – though I guess at this point, it was clear that he was unable to offer a solution.

As a Zambian, I am frustrated that a company we in effect own, treats its customers, it’s Zambian customers so poorly. But I also don’t believe that we should reward bad services with our business, how else do we let companies know it’s not ok? I have given Zamtel enough chances, and now I believe it is time to move my account.

Processes and systems are good when they work, but as human beings we should have enough intelligence (or just common sense) to be able to operate in a manner that uses common sense, this is what sets us apart from computers. But my experience with this person at Zamtel was his inability to problem solve and offer workable solutions. Perhaps Zamtel doesn’t empower its employees to take initiative or to think, when today’s environment demands that we do attend to client’s needs, and sometimes that means thinking outside of the processes to keep your client happy and to keep them with you.

The service provider I went to after my Zamtel experience, to get a quote for their services, greeted me with a smile and was able to answer all my questions. Her pleasant manner and putting my concerns first (she even asked me if it was ok for her to answer her phone when her maid called), put me at ease and made me want to switch to them.

Zamtel can not just rely on its affordable price strategy, but to actually deliver on the service to match – and this isn’t just the service of its products, but of its people too. Gone are the days when anyone needs to be held to ransom due to lack of choice. Zamtel would do well to also remind its staff that their attitude, their work ethics, their ability to do the job ultimately is a reflection of the Zamtel brand. The service I got today tells me that Zamtel is an arrogant, archaic giant that does not value its clients. I hope for Zamtel’s sake that I am the only customer who feels this way or has had such an experience with its representatives.

2013

2013 has been a year full of ups and downs, massive successes, at huge prices. If you’ve been following me, I don’t need to remind you of the year I’ve had. But we’d finally been making progress – seeing the light at the end of the tunnel when two things happened that sent me reeling.

Loyalty has always been something that I value, in all aspects of my life, and most certainly in the business. The last week of the working year for us, I felt as though I had been stabbed in the back. The hurt I felt can not even be described, one act compromised the business and was just plain evil, the other was just a bit of a double cross. But put together, it was in short the straw that broke the camel’s back.

After discussing it, and thinking about it, we knew to grow, we needed to always put the business first. Even if it meant sacrificing.

There are definitely parts (and people) of 2013 that I’d like to erase altogether, and I think mentally I have done that. But as I believe every day is a learning day, I’m not mad (anymore), it’s just another lesson learnt that I’ll take into 2014 to build the businesses bigger and stronger.

Before going into 2014 we’re taking a much needed break, and we will be back.

Merry Christmas and a Very Prosperous New Year.

An entrepreneur, according to Dictionary.com, is defined as “a person who organizes and manages any enterprise, especially a business, usually with considerable initiative and risk.”  Forbes goes a step further to state that ‘entrepreneurs find a need – any need – and they fill it’.

An entrepreneur is said to be a money multiplier – they invest to gain rewards, but at the end of the day, they run businesses.  What is the point of a business if it’s not going to make a profit?  In that case it’s not a business, it’s a charity, or a non profit organisation or maybe even a non-governmental organisation.

The reason I’m banging on about this is because I’m not sure if the point of being an entrepreneur is really understood in Zambia.  Some of my clients think I should lower my prices or discount everything for them because they work in developmental work and so I’ll be aiding in national development if I do this work for free!  Erm, no, I’ll be aiding national development if I am successful enough to provide jobs for other citizens of this country and pay taxes (more than I pay now due to more revenue :)).

Or the other day I was told about a three day event from a foreign government to learn about how entrepreneurs can aid in sustainable development.  I was baffled.  I costed out the potential lose of business to the company – as in my line of work, everyone’s time is charged out – and the outcome of this venture was for the business to understand its role in sustainable development?  Not the potential to win a really large contract?  Not an opportunity to pitch a sale?  Not an opportunity to showcase our work (so that we can attract new clients)? Potentially an opportunity to network (which is never a bad idea, but can be done in one day).

 It got me thinking – is it that we have a different role as entrepreneurs in Zambia?  Is entrepreneurs seen as the new darlings of development, the NGOs and non-for profit have had their day so now it’s all about the cute, fuzzy entrepreneurs cropping up around Africa trying to make it on their own?  

 Ok perhaps I’m being a bit harsh, I’m sure the thinking behind these entrepreneur workshops are well intentioned, and maybe if the workshop was specific to my industry, or just a bit more clearer on its objectives as a whole I won’t think of it as so ‘insulting’ to my entrepreneurial spirit!  

 I guess it came at a time where I was just angry, angry at how difficult the path is for an entrepreneur with challenges that can’t solely be solved by workshops (though you can make great connections).  Unless the workshops are targeted at real business challenges that all SMEs face, about operational cash flow, about access to finance (and not the BS ones the bank tries to sell you), on management, on product development, processes and whatever else entrepreneurs get caught up on, it’s just time away from growing my business. 

 The entrepreneur in Zambia is not applauded, despite the fact that in our economic climate, it might be the only way to go, it’s certainly not easy to get a job!

 Though with some of the young people out there, who think it is easy to get a job, maybe this is why being an entrepreneur is not such a big deal.  I have had two young people work with us recently, who frustrated me no end – it’s amazing how kids today can say they want to be the best of the best and then not actually do the work or learning to make them the best of the best.  Anyway, there was a real disconnect, as if they were doing us a favour by working here!  In fact one who left recently was totally chuffed that they were going to work as a PA for a start up they know nothing about!  It was like being here was a holiday, and now they suddenly have a real job.  I shrugged my shoulders, thinking was I really than vacuous at 21?

 Don’t get me wrong, by no means do I believe that we’re the best of the best (yet), or the number one choice place to work (yet), or the super successful, trail blazing business (yet), but hey, I do know potential when I see it!  And I think for some businesses maybe those type of workshops are necessary and important for them, they’re just not for the type of business I want to be.

 Ok perhaps if they asked me to speak at the event I would have gone 🙂  Seriously though, I think when you set out to run your own business, you have to know what you’re in it for, and there are lots of reasons to run your own business that aren’t based on profits alone, but at the end of the day, you have to ask yourself, if your business isn’t making a profit, and it can’t sustain your needs, then why have the business?

Entrepreneurship is not for everyone.  It’s hard, it’s long hours, it’s emotionally draining and there is so much failure involved.  But it’s also fun, rewarding, and life affirming!  I just wish that people in Zambia would regard it as a serious endeavor instead of some new craze.

 Oh dear, am I beginning to sound just a little bit too angry?!

Time flies! I can’t believe that it’s been almost a month since I last blogged, just been so hectic. I feel like I say this every time I blog! Time moves on and so much happens, good and bad.

Season two of Love Games is finally being broadcast, which is great! I’m really excited about season two. I went back and forth on this season, it was a hard one for us as it’s the last season of the show, so it’s pretty heavy. We learned a lot from producing season one, so season two is the result of all these learnings, so I’m super proud of that.

I can’t even begin to discussing the difference between shooting season one and season two. The sleepless nights I faced during season one, weren’t there in two! But it came from the experience. I think even the crew who worked on both seasons can say this. And that’s something that I’m big on – constant learning. We can’t sit on our laurels and say ‘it’s good enough, therefore I don’t need to learn any more.’ And it’s also important to listen to the critics (not the haters, the critics), listen to it, take it in, and do what needs to be done. I don’t believe in listening to the negativity that makes you beat yourself up, but honestly dissect it and say, does that add value? And if it does, take it on board.

You can never please everyone, you have to ensure that you are happy first and foremost. Because you have to live with your decisions and your work is your legacy after all, if that’s your calling card, are you 100% happy with it? If so, then don’t sweat it. But if you’re not, then keep it 100 and do something about it.

But Love Games has come to an end and there are lots of changes at Media 365, which at first had me in serious worry mode, but then I remembered my motto ‘start with the end in mind’. I had to check myself to remember where this journey is going to end, and that excited me again. We’re fighters, we don’t stay down for long!

If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that apart from business, the next thing I’m passionate about is empowering women. I’m so pro-women that it hearts my heart when I hear about other women not supporting each other, and I’ve seen it in practice, so I’m not foolish enough to claim it’s just a man-made thing to keep us women down (but it’s tempting to say it!), but I’ve also seen amazing women that support each other. This is no truer than in Octavia Goredema.

Twenty Ten Club logo

I get so proud when I look at the strong women in my life and their trailblazing success. Octavia is one such woman. She started the Twenty Ten Club in London to inspire and connect with like minded black business woman to get them to reach their true potential and grow their businesses. When I started running Media 365 a couple of years ago, I reached out to Octavia to share with her my own frustrations of not only running a business, but of being a business woman in a country that didn’t necessarily respect women in the first place. I spoke to her of the challenges I found of being taken seriously and finding my space in this male dominated society. And I mused about how great it would be to have a supportive organisation like the Twenty Ten Club.

Little did I know that it was just at that time that Octavia, who had not only received an MBE from the Queen, but had also started another business, while also relocated back to the States, was already toying with the idea of expanding her network into Africa. Talk about the right timing!

Recently, I was honoured to champion the ideals and values of the Twenty Ten Club, by becoming the Chair of the Twenty Ten Club Zambia – the first one in Africa.
On one hand, I worried about where I’d find the time to take this on as well, with everything going on at Media 365, but then I also know that not only will it help me be a better business woman, it also allows me to pursue my other passion – empowering women to achieve the success they deserve.

While there are other networking organisations that connect woman who are climbing up the corporate ladder, or helping them achieve their dreams, there isn’t one that is specifically for business owners. I think as career women, we all have similar ‘issues’ but as business owners we also have specific issues that corporate employees don’t necessarily have. So I thrilled to be taking on this challenge and really hope that I can mirror the success of the Twenty Ten Club in the UK.

I’ll obviously keep you posted! In the meantime, I hope you’re getting your Love Games fix too!