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I’m always excited when it comes to the new year, it’s a new opportunity to grow and renew and more importantly learn from the past. Like the dawn of a new day, we use the new year as a starting point for greater things to come.

This year however, I’ve not felt that renewed energy so much, probably because I’ve taken so much from 2012 into this new year. Not all by choice, some is work related. But it has made me think, if I don’t feel that sense of renewal, excitement and to some extent accomplishment then something is wrong, and it’s something I have to address, and hopefully rectify.

2012 was a hard year for me, mentally, physically, professionally and financially. In short 2012 kicked my ass. My focus over the last few days has been to figure out how to make 2013 work for me. One of the things I know I need to do this year is appreciate myself and the team more. Though clients don’t usually say thank you, good work, or anything else to show they value your work, I need to lay down my driving ambitious way to smell the roses – in this case the good work we produce (if you don’t toot your horn, who will?). And while I’d like to stop rolling my eyes when I see the comments from clients when they watch an offline, I know that will still try my patience. I understand their concerns but I wish sometimes people would trust the consultant – why hire us if you don’t think we can do it?

But I’m going to try not to let that raise my blood pressure this year. Instead I’m going to look at other avenues to do what I love, but I also have to be a bit more ruthless, I’m trying to run a business!

Some of the things that do motivate me are my friends. It’s definitely true what they say about surrounding yourself with people that inspire you, and lift you up. I feel so blessed to have met the women in my life who continue to inspire me and act as mentor and friend when needed.

Having those positive influences in your life are important as we battle through life trying to fulfill our purpose, our destiny even. When the stormy weather comes, as it invariably will, it’s good to have your anchors. I’ve learnt those anchors come in different forms, from family, to friends, to colleagues, to mentors, to that special person in your life. When they believe in you, you know you can achieve anything, and ride out that storm.

So while I haven’t come into the new year with the excitement of the promise for a new, successful year, I know that my storm will pass and that light and sunshine that comes after the rain is guaranteed.

So yeah, bring on 2013!

Often times people use the phrase ‘it’s not personal, it’s business’. That might have worked years ago, but today I think business is personal. It certainly is in my world. Deals are made or broken not just by the financial gains but by the personal relationships we have with people.

I do think that people forget about the social capital – the social relationships/interactions that provide productive or economic benefits. We burn bridges without even thinking about it.

Working on this production – a 26 part drama series – has really shown me a lot about the nature of people. People I can trust, people who have my back and those who don’t. When it comes to business you don’t necessarily have to like everyone, but you should be able to recognise the economic benefits people provide. Sometimes the money today is not what you expect, but always look to the future, remembering that a bird in hand is better than two in the bushes.

As a business we remember how coming up not that many people supported us – saying we were too young to be taken seriously. And as a young person today, these prejudices still exist. But we believe in young people, we believe in supporting people that are trying to come up – after all, isn’t it how it’s supposed to be done? We must always be helping those coming up as we pave the way forward?

We have supported a lot of young businesses coming up, often giving them contracts that others aren’t comfortable giving them, and as an ethical business we have never done this with an expectation of something in return. At least not anything tangible. A little appreciation would be nice.

On this production it’s been clear that there really are no friends in business (in these people’s case) and that sometimes it’s even better to work with your enemies – no surprises when they backstab or betray you.

You do have to find a way to distance yourself and perhaps not invest so much in a project, which is hard when you are so passionate or want to deliver the best product possible.

The last month has been filled with tears, sleepless nights, anger, and the frustration that just keeps you silent, when the fight gets too much. But I am resilient, I don’t give up easily, can’t really afford to.

And like Maya Angelou said, ‘Still I Rise’.

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!

As you probably know by now – though maybe I haven’t mentioned this before – as much as I love producing TV programming, I actually hate being on set – it all takes so long, setting up, testing sound, sorting out lights, re-takes blah blah blah.  And shooting with 5Ds means you can only shoot for 12 minutes before you reset … none of this is good for a person like me who needs to be constantly doing something (i only sit still when watching tv).  So I’ve been less than thrilled that because of the two major projects we’re working on, I had to step in for Freddy, my brother and creative director, on the Brothers for Life Zambia shoot.

 

Paul Da Prince, Slim, Kangwa Chileshe, Cactus Agony

We’re shooting the mid-campaign review documentary that tells the story of the issues the campaign addresses from the perspective of every day Zambians living these issues.  So I’ve sat through an interview with Owas Mwape – a local celebrity who gained notoriety for his domestic violence saga with his wife, that the BBC made public soon after the Chris Brown-RiRi bust up.  I went with the crew when Cactus interviewed Chibamba Kanyama, now DG of ZNBC and author and motivational speaker, who is passionate about the abuse of alcohol and raising young people, especially men, as productive being ins society.  Then I sat in on the breakfast with the brothers – Cactus Agony, Paul Da Prince, Kangwa Chileshe and Chibamba Kanyama as they met as a group about 11 months after they were brought together as the inaugural ambassadors.  It was all well and good, and somewhat interesting, but I would have preferred to be at my desk responding to emails, looking at the scripts for the drama series were working, looking at the style profiles for the cast and even editing the blogs for the Safe Love site.

 

Today when I was asked if I’d go to the Slim interview, I said no.  I had a thousand other things to do.  But I had to approve the questions before they could go.  Reading the questions and seeing that Slim was going to talk about prevention of mother to child transmission of HIV, I realised it could get a bit hairy and it was such a sensitive topic that I reluctantly said I’d go.

By far this was the most powerful and emotionally charged interview I’d done or seen.  To be honest, I’ve been doing this HIV work for so long, it wouldn’t be untrue to say that I’m a little jaded.  It all seemed the same type of story was told, and there were only two:  the poor person living with HIV in the third world (sorry developing country), who has overcome so much – by being HIV+, or the person living with hiv who has no story to their name other than they live with HIV.  Ok I’m being cynical, I do think that a lot of the stuff you see about people living with HIV has no depth to it, it’s almost like their whole life revolves around being HIV+, we de-humanise them in a way.  But Slim, Slim was different.

If you don’t know Slim, you might have seen him on MTV’s Me, Myself and HIV – a programme I conceived with my colleague at the Staying Alive campaign, though it didn’t turn out the way I’d envisioned, it did introduce Slim to the world.  And was the first time Slim came out as being HIV+, six years after he’d found out he was positive.  As much as I appreciate the work that documentary did, it didn’t do justice to Slim as a person – which sometimes the visual product can do, when you can’t interact or engage with the subject.  But I digress, the show told the story of a young man who was born HIV+, that would be Slim.  It also told the story of Slim, the music producer and singer.  The one correction I’d add to that story was Slim was not an upcoming producer, but actually was the producer behind Slap Dee’s first big hit – Gold digger.  I thought that was important to mention, but then again, I’m Zambian, so I know the value of that.  

Anyway, I digress!  The reason we did the interview was to go more in-depth into the story of Slim being a child living with HIV, I obviously can’t give too much detail on the interview – so you can watch the show! – but Slim did bring across the pain of being so young – 15 to be exact – and diagnosed with HIV.  And knowing the kind of stigma that was still around then, the loneliness of a secret of that magnitude.  It touched me so deep, yes me, the jaded one.  I guess because he made all of us in the room feel that emotion – I swear you could hear a pin drop in that moment (and I was with a bunch of guys too!).  

Again because of my years of doing this, and realising how easy it is to exploit a person living with HIV, to get that story that you want, the ‘human angle’ etc, how we can make the virus be more than the person, I asked him if it bothered him that this is the story people keep asking him about, about his HIV status and how it is to live with the virus.  ‘No’, he said.  ‘I believe this happened to me for a reason, and I know that by sharing my story I’m giving hope and encouragement to someone, someone who might be in that dark, lonely place that I once was in.’  Ok, it might not have been quite as profound as I re-phrased it, but it was his ability to think about the good he could be doing by sharing his story that touched me.

I don’t always think that people know the power their life stories – and we all have them – can do for other people, and when someone as young (he’s 23) could be so honest and so visionary about the impact they could have on someone else, well that’s just admirable.  For a lot of people it’s scary to open up and talk about something so life-changing like that, scary, embarrassing, humiliating, you name it – because most people put themselves first, instead of looking at the value in their story and it’s impact on others. Slim comes from a humble background, he’s still pushing his music career, but he’s taking his role as an HIV+ activist seriously to help other people, and simply by using his voice.  That’s powerful too.  You’re not going to see Slim starting an NGO, or giving up his music career to focus on telling his story, but you ask him about his life and he’ll tell you.  And that’s the other thing that I admire about him.  He’s doing what he loves the most – music – but he’s also willing to do his part in building our community by spreading the word about HIV.

My words can’t do justice to how I felt today, and what Slim sparked in me – which I can’t talk about yet – and I hope that we captured it on tape for you to see in the interview, but one thing is for sure, Paul Slim Banda is one of those people God sent to earth to inspire us.  (Now you know how moved I was because I’m not usually that corny or sappy!)

When the show is out, I’ll let you know!

Last week we buried my uncle (for the purpose of our Zambian tradition where everyone is an uncle, I mean my mother’s brother). At the same time, my sister buried her husband’s sister. Yesterday, we found out a close family friend’s brother had died.

Death, they say, is a natural progression of life. But we like to think that death comes at the end, when you’ve lived your life, when you’ve enjoyed your life. Looking at the people I know who have died in the last week, that isn’t always the case.

When people die, we feel sad, we mourn their life, we ask God why He had to take them away, we try to accept that it was their time and we need to move on with our lives. We feel for those who have lost a life partner – a husband or a wife, those who have lost a child, a parent, a sibling, shake our head, say a prayer, and move on with our life. Unless it’s an immediate loved one, we easily move on with our lives, and hope for the best for those who have been left behind.

From my experience, those who have been left behind, focus on the death, sometimes unable to move on, hoping to find an answer as to why the person died. In my own life, I’ve lost (why do we say that, like they’ve been misplaced?) two brothers, now two uncles, a nephew, a best friend, and numerous aquaintance. My reaction to their deaths is based on my relationship with them. One brother, I felt like I lost a part of me, but I was also riddled with guilt – had I done enough for him while he was alive, sadly I always knew the answer was no. And even in his death, I’m failing to honor his memory properly – but that’s another blog.

Now, as I’m older, I look at death in a different way, a reminder to live life – every day. With my uncle’s passing, which was truly tragic, because it didn’t have to be, he died alone – none of us as his family there, all getting on with our lives, always thinking there was tomorrow to see him, tomorrow to check on him, tomorrow to pay him attention, tomorrow for anything he might need. Yet we all forgot the fundamental words – that the present, is a gift.

We do this all the time, take the present for granted. Always thinking about tomorrow. There are definitely times when you need to think about tomorrow, if it’s about finances, or education, or a career, but when it comes to relationships, tomorrow is definitely not something we should worry about. Relationships are very much in the present, and that’s all relationships you value be it a boyfriend or girlfriend, husband or wife, parent, or child, or sibling. Those you can’t get back tomorrow.

Even as I write this, I struggle questioning my own relationship, looking at the flaws and wondering if I can deal with them, as opposed to looking at the positives and recognising the fact that this might not be the ideal relationship I always dreamt of, but that it is the perfect relationship I’ve been in my whole life. Should I keep looking at tomorrow for the answer or enjoy the present I have in my life today?

We always question the meaning of life, asking what our purpose on life is, but we can go through all of life only to die without knowing our purpose. Perhaps our purpose is in death, to remind those who live to truly live life and know what we value in life before we die and are returned to the earth.

The reality of working and living in Zambia is finally hitting home – big time. When I first moved back, just over a year ago, I loved the fact that I had a work-life balance – well, that I had a life altogether!

But now I realise that I might have more of a life and less of a career. Welcome to Africa they say, or my personal favourite TIA (This Is Africa). Time is anything but of the essence. You can spend days on end waiting for feedback, approvals, quotes, suppliers showing you their work, and anything else you need to actually make anything happen.

We signed a contract with a new client in January, which was supposed to end at the end of July, out of the four deliveries, we have just delivered on one thing, while we wait in vain for feedback to allow us to move forward – the downside of being consultants or an agency, you can’t move ahead without an approval to do so!

This waiting game means that you lose the momentum, and in some cases the drive to do it. My boyfriend laughed at my two hour gym sessions – saying it would be hard for me to find the time to do it during the week – but the joke’s on him. I can take 2 hours off – say lunch time to be on the safe side (as if), and still come back to find myself still waiting.

Yesterday someone remarked that working in Zambia is like being on holiday. Yes that it is. But the frustrating thing is that once they give their approval, they expect the product/service to be delivered the next day! Really?

And this is why I think it is important to run a business with products or services you control – because you’ll have the time to!

But seriously if this behaviour of slow moving work-place environments continues is it no wonder we’re lagging behind in development (when we used to be ahead)? Or that employees are unmotivated to function productively?

I am glad I can go spend hours in the gym, or wander the mall at lunch time, or not work on weekends etc but you know what they say about an idle mind (and idle hands!). Plus it breeds frustration on my part. I’m not used to not doing stuff, not using my brain, not… functioning. But now that I’m getting used to this sad reality, I’m working on using the time constructively – not just seeing what’s going on online (besides I keep finding stuff on Kim-Ye, which is just boring), or catching up on twitter and facebook, I’m using it as an opportunity to develop my own stuff – stuff that is time-dependent only on me.

No point in sitting around complaining is it? The world is our oyster and only we can determine our future and our legacy – go out and take it!

My younger brother was diagnosed with Downs Syndrome when he was born – 22 years ago. At the time we were living in London and he was able to access services to help improve his quality of life.

When he was three years old we moved back to Zambia, and that was pretty much the end of services to improve his life.

There was a school at a local hospital which was for kids with special needs, but whether it was understaffed or not properly skilled workers, Kwangu (my young brother) seemed miserable there. Though he couldn’t (and still doesn’t) speak, there were way we could tell that he was not thrilled to go to that school.

It was also a challenge for my mum, as it was soon clear that he couldn’t be left at the school alone. This meant that she had to spend her day there, making it difficult for her to have a job – at the time we were all kids, so was necessary for my mum to work so both my parents could provide for us five kids that were home at the time.

Sooner rather than later Kwangu left that school. My mum and other concerned parents formed the Parent’s Partnership for Children with Special Needs (PPCSN) in an attempt to provide the necessary services that were missing for their children, all with varying special needs.

It was admiral, but really it was a bunch of (mainly) women, older women, who had no real clue of what to do. They decided they wanted a school that could properly serve the needs of their kids and that of the community, especially as reports would suggest, the policy to provide education to children with special needs was only reaching approximately 10% of the kids that needed it.

PPCSN actually did research, funded by Save The Children Sweden, that was quite astounding, regarding the numbers of kids that had a mental disability. At the time (circa 2003), they found 1,334 children in the nine wards of Lusaka district that had a disability and 96.4% of them received no assistance from government or any other social institution. Slightly over 50% of those eligible to go to school were not in any school. Further to that, it was found that within their own communities:

87% had no access to special education
89% had no access to skills training
63% had no access to rehabilitation
69% had no access to assessment
69% had no access to special care
70% had no access to recreation
46% had no access to health care

That may have been nine years ago, but I doubt very much that a lot of that has changed. If anything there might be more kids living with special needs.

However, my mother and her group, despite those statistics and virtually no source of funding soldiered on. I remember some of the stories my mum would tell us, about parents in the townships who had to chain their child to a tree to ensure they didn’t wander off, while they went to work as they couldn’t find anyone to care for the child. Chain a child like a dog!

It didn’t help that mental disabilities is not a well understood illness and people felt that it was related to witchcraft, which scared them even more to have anything to do with children with special needs. I felt that first hand when my brother had to go into hospital and my parents were out of town at my uncle’s funeral. The nurses were even too scared to give him his medication. My sister and I ended up providing the care that the nurses were supposed to provide.

Eventually PPCSN were to have their school! After some fundraising walks, a fundraising premiere of GI Joe (thanks to the folks over at Paramount Studios), and some goodwill from private citizens, a small community school – Hidden Voice – was established in one of the high density areas of Lusaka.

The school still can’t provide enough for its students, let alone the vast number of kids that could benefit from the services, but it’s a start.

My kid brother is now too old to attend the school, and we have tried to improve his quality of life as much as possible, but he is an example of how bad things can get for kids with special needs when the services just aren’t there. There’s very little we can do for Kwangu now that will improve his educational and skills needs, but that doesn’t mean we’ll stop championing for the services for other kids like him.

I just hope that sooner rather than later people will understand the need to include children with special needs when they refer to access to education for all.

I write because it helps me express myself and how I’m feeling. Sometimes it’s easier than other times. I feel the challenge of being a Type A person – which I’ve never particularly thought of myself as being. Yes I’m fiercely ambitious and can (occasionally) be an over-achiever, and yes success (of the financial kind) is top of my list, and some people may call me a workaholic, or work obsessed, but I guess because nothing I do do I ever think is good enough, I’ve never considered myself Type A. Though coming to think of it, isn’t that the very reason why I probably am Type A? Constantly pushing myself to be better?

Anyway, my point was the last couple of weeks have been particularly challenging for me. Working in Zambia is probably not the best place to work if you have a Type A personality. The work ethics aren’t on the same point, there is not much of a go-getter attitude and really hard work isn’t actually valued or rewarded. In fact looking around – and I’d say thanks to the media (well they are the eyes and ears of the people) – there aren’t many examples of how hard work, drive, ambition and dreams can turn into success, wealth and personal growth/satisfaction. Instead we have examples of how doing the least amount of work and a poor attitude can get you by, and in some cases also succeed (though those examples are marred with potential corruption and scandal and other unworthy characteristics).

So it’s easy to understand why a company, despite how long you have worked with them, despite how much business you have thrown their way, to still treat you with disrespect and try to con you in some way or another. The attitude of ‘I don’t care if I lose your future business because I’m going to exploit you today to make a killing’. The saying a bird in hand is worth two in the bushes is totally lost on business in Zambia – from my experience that applies to both small and large businesses.

Also the limiting ourselves nature of people. When did we stop dreaming? Where is the can do mentality? Initially I found it amusing when one of our employees couldn’t say where they wanted to be in five years, then I thought that maybe it was because they didn’t want to tell us if their plan was to move on. But the more I talk to people, the more I observe people, the more I realise that loads of people don’t have a plan past today – and that’s probably to get home to some food and TV.

I have big dreams that I can’t limit just because of my gender, or my age, or the country I’m in, that’s ridiculous. From the age of 10 I started dreaming that I wanted to win an Oscar (best film and best director), I may not have that dream anymore, but I never thought because I was a girl born and living in Zambia that it wasn’t possible. My dreams may have changed, but they’re still big. And therein lies my problem.

My loyalties mean that I don’t want to leave anyone behind as I continue to move forward in my life (read career), but what happens when you feel those very people are holding you back? You feel as I do, a condition prone to Type A personalities (so I read), and that’s stress and depression. And if you dig further (ok do more google searches) you realise that depression is simply latent anger, which could be a result of frustration (that part I’m guessing).

And then it makes me think. Is it that there are no dreamers, or ambitious people in Zambia? Or did the frustration and challenges around them kill them? To be honest I can see why getting home to food and TV can be a hell of a lot easier and comforting than constantly working against the tide.

We’ll see how this chapter plays out.

I was watching an edition of Extreme Make Over: Home Edition where this kid said that after being diagnosed with Leukemia and discovering his blood type was B+ he decided to make that his life motto. In my mind I thought he was talking about the average grade you can get, and didn’t really understand it – is it my over-achieving mind that led me to that? Of course he meant your attitude in life should be positive.

I’m always inspired by people who don’t seem to let anything affect them. They always see the glass as half full and nothing else. Truth be told I pretend those people irritate me, but I guess I kind of envy them. I don’t think I’m a negative person per se but I’m definitely not one of those eternally optimistic people either. Partly, I think it’s my disposition, I’m a problem solver and very driven, I don’t see challenges as an exciting hurdle to cross but yet another problem I need to solve. I guess I drain my own personal resource by doing this and frequently feel down.

My boyfriend is one of those people that never seems to let things get him down – he says that it is what it is so there’s no point getting down about it, it resolves itself always. And I can see why he’s right. Even in our relationship he says I need to focus on the positive and not think about the small negatives (which the positives far outweigh).

Running your own business it is hard to take the negatives (or challenges) and just roll with them, because there are a lot of them that can impact the success of your business. But at the same time, constantly worrying about them doesn’t help either. Every once in awhile you need to check out of whatever you’re doing and take a step back to look at the bigger picture – so that you can remember to stay positive!

Last week I did just that by going to Livingstone with some girlfriends. I didn’t take my laptop – which was a big deal for me – and I pretty much turned off my cell phone – even scarier than not having my laptop!

The next couple of days were spent exploring the mighty victoria falls – what an amazing natural beauty and so powerful. We jumped off a gorge, a 58km drop in 3 seconds – crazy, and then did a sunset cruise to observe the wildlife along the banks of the Zambezi river while enjoying a cold beverage. It was bliss. I may have been a little too social for my own good coming back exhausted but far less stressed than when I left.

Where you drop into the gorge!

Back in Lusaka and back in the office, it occurred to me how much the energy of the management team affects the rest of the team. My positive, more relaxed demeanor also allowed the team to be more relaxed and excited about the weeks ahead, and looking at our task list, it’s important to keep this attitude up as there are long days and hard weeks on the horizon.

My boyfriend and I got to a hurdle in our relationship, one that we (ok me) discussed for hours, but also kept me awake as I thought about what to do. In the end, I decided to trust him and myself and to not make the issue bigger than it was, I decided to be positive and have a little bit of faith. Was it the right decision? Only time will tell but at least I’m feeling happy and that’s what counts.

I’m still going to join the gym though – it requires a lot of energy and will power to have a positive attitude!

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!