Why Be An Entrepreneur & Not Self Employed? 


In my entrepreneurship mentorship sessions, I always float this question to my audience: why are you into business? In response, I receive an array of answers  some convincing, others not. That is normal with open forums.

In a study carried out by the Kenyan National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) last year in Kenya, it was established that over 2.2 million businesses had collapsed over a five year period. Even more shocking, was the revelation that slightly over 400,000 start-ups never lasted beyond their second year of operation. 46% of these firms die off within their first year. 

Youth unemployment remains Kenyas biggest socio-economic challenge. So enormous it is that it shakes the core of the countrys dominance as an economic powerhouse. Statistics put it that one in every six young Kenyans is unemployed. In neighbouring Tanzania and Uganda, the rate stands at one in every twenty on average. 

Ask any Kenyan youth about their occupation and they would respond that they are either gainfully employed (in a job), or self-employed (taken to mean ‘business owners’). More often than not, they venture into self-employment as an option for lack of employment opportunities. They undertake business with neither the requisite skills nor passion for it.

Nonetheless, are these who are self-employed truly in entrepreneurship? Is there a line between self-employment and entrepreneurship? 

It has to be cherished that entrepreneurship is a philosophy of sorts, a lifestyle. Methinks entrepreneurship in being a vocation, one to add value to society. An entrepreneur would identify a challenge and consequently task himself to provide a solution. His main motivation is to fulfil a human need and alleviate a pain point. Despite the challenges they encounter, they keep on trudging on the path to their objective. 

Take Thomas Edison, he who invented the light bulb, for instance. Over 999 times, he failed and never gave up. He said that each time he failed, he discovered one way that he would not do it. His optimism paid off at last. Again, let us examine Jeff Bezos, he who for some days beat Bill Gates to be Forbes Richest Man alive. When he started Amazon, his dream was to provide a link between producers and the consumers and build the worlds largest online retailer! The business made money for the founder after six years of operation. Facebook, the worlds largest social media platform, took five years before it reported a profit. Alibaba took eight years while Tesla, the world acclaimed innovative automobile manufacturer, is yet to be profitable to date!

Coming closer home, Parapet, the regions leading cleaning company, took three to four years to stabilize and post profits. While it may seem business leadership translates to super profits, Business Daily too proves otherwise. The paper is the countrys leading business publication and yet, seven years after launch, it is yet to post a profit!

Did the founders of these businesses give up since they were unable to recoup their investments in the short term? Absolutely not. In fact, with the continued negative feedback on their financial positions, they persisted and got motivated by the need to fill their identified society gap until when their businesses broke even. Hence, entrepreneurship is a philosophy, a calling of sorts!

On the contrary, those who take entrepreneurship to be a profession (self-employment) look forward to financial rewards or compensation. As such, they would get into business to be free most of the time (or so they think), to express their bossiness around, and most popular of all, earn huge payoffs from the business! Some even start a business to be able to live a defined kind of lifestyle. To others, getting their hands into business is an express ticket to wealth generation. Nonetheless, this is getting it all wrong. 

Entrepreneurship is about value creation. The sanctity of undertaking business is to enrich the human race. Their mission in life is made complete by solving a human need. It therefore cannot be a short term affair as for the ‘self-employed’. Entrepreneurs go for the long haul. For instance, Coca Cola has outlived its founders, more than a century after its invention. When the firm started in 1896, it sold nine servings per day in Atlanta. The founder passed on two years after inventing the beverage. Currently, the firm sells an average of 1.9 billion bottles daily across the globe! 

In addition, entrepreneurs are risk takers and dare invest in a venture in pursuit of their objective. They would not fear failure. Failing is just but part of the process of success. Whenever they encounter failure, they keep on working their passion to fruition. A self-employed individual is risk averse, choosing to play safe with the intention of reaping big from their undertaking. Failure discourages them altogether.

However, even more interesting is the ability of an entrepreneur to flex with dynamics on the ground. He appreciates that there are constant shifts on the ground and as such, he/she is prepared to change in tandem to the shifts. This is the reason why those who take entrepreneurship as a calling do not give up. Their flexibility works to their advantage. For the self-employed fellow, their rigidity works against them. Like the dinosaurs of old, their rigidity causes them to fail due to their inadaptability. 

How else can we explain the findings of a study by CB Insights, who undertook a post mortem on 101 start-ups that failed recently? In this study, they found out that the major cause of start-up failure is lack of a human need (up to 42%). Lack of capital only came second with 29% of subjects alluding this to their failure. This is interesting since most business founders blame the lack of capital as the cause of business failure. 

The crux of the matter is the motivation for an individual to get into entrepreneurship. That is what determines whether a business will last or not. Of particular noting is the fact that all the mentioned businesses that have outlasted the times had one common denominator  their founders had the right mind set. To them, business was not a means to earn a living. It was a calling, a vocation. If we re-evaluated our motivation to get into business, we would reverse this failure rate of businesses in our country and region and reap big from the ripple effect in terms of economic growth and sustainability. 

So then, would you rather be self-employed in business or choose to be an entrepreneur? The better choice is quite explicit!

-Ends-

This article was first done for publishing in the Cytonn Investments Plc Blog by Michael Okinda,  the author.  

He is an acclaimed personal branding & business coach under his PBL Africa initiative. 

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To FLY or LAND – WHY DO YOU EXIST?

Plane disused2

I was once privileged to work in Northern Kenya, in Turkana County at a town called Lokichoggio. It was my first time to serve in a hardship area in my ten years in banking and finance. The experience had its own challenges alongside merits.

For once, I could interact with flora and fauna I only read about in my Geography classes.  But the presence of the international airport as part of the town’s infrastructure is what fascinated me most.

During our time for rest and recuperation, we would use flights to and from Nairobi. The presence of many planes on the airfield, disused and in bad shape attracted my attention. So when an employee of the facility invited me over to the watchtower for a visit, I obliged.

Once up in the control tower, he showed me how they directed and managed flights in the airport. It gave me a chance to question why so many huge planes were parked on the tarmac on the fringes of the airfield, disused and abandoned. He informed me that most of those planes were left abandoned by their owners after the government banned their use in the country.

The discussion progressed on. I also questioned why, in such a short time, most had rusted and were literally falling apart. He told me that a plane is made to fly. Its life should be spent mostly in the air and not on land. As such, when packed on land, vagaries of weather work on it more than when it is in the skies. Likewise, my friend went on, a plane is safer when it is in the air than on land! And this shocked me to the core…

In Nairobi’s biggest airport, JKIA, the turnaround time for a plane is two hours on the maximum. This means, every two hours, a plane has to be in the air to minimize its wear and tear when aground.

Plane disused

It made me to start thinking: what was I created for? Was I really living the life I was meant to? Am I harnessing the potential in me to the maximum? What was my gifting? How was I using it?

In this world, many of us are like those planes on the ground – living a life they were never created to live, with unexplored potential lying idle in them. Many of us are leading lives to fit into our clichés and gangs. We do things to belong. We do things because we feel that is what society and those around us expect us to, oblivious of the actual reason why we were created in the first place.

Plane disused3

Look around social media for instance: we are literally competing against ourselves on who looks more fly than the other. But then, were we all created to be similar? Life would be very boring if all of us did the same thing, living similar lifestyles!

It is upon us to dig in and have a conversation within ourselves to find out why we exist. Unless we do that, we will be like those planes I have spoken of – wearing off and disused, useless. For we will never find meaning if all we do is sit on the ground when we were made to fly! When you time on earth comes to an end, would you look back and regret that you never lived the life you were supposed to? Would you, for instance, blame doubt and fears as some of the things that stopped you from exploiting your life potential?

So, then, fly – each in his own unique way as we were created or lie down and die disused and wasted. It is your choice. True success only comes when you live your purpose – living as you were intended to. So make the right choice!

***** Ends******

The writer is an acclaimed business author of Passionpreneurship Demystified and Business Networking: How to maximize on your contacts for Business and Professional Growth. Both books are available on Amazon. He is also a Personal Branding and Business Speaker with PBL Africa and a Cytonn Entrepreneurs Hub Mentor. In case you need assistance to give your business or profession a jump-start, he can be reached via the following contacts:

Email:                mokindah@gmail.com

LinkedIn:             https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-okinda-9652b210a

Telegram:             @Mokinda

Telegram Community:      https://t.me/joinchat/EkprBT6zCKCRUmQUaDD9cQ

 

I CAN IS ALL YOU NEED

maasai2

Sometimes back I visited the Maasai Mara courtesy of an old customer of mine who insisted on giving me a complementary package for the support I gave his business. Since I was then working and living in Turkana, a desert County, I found it appropriate to take time off and so we flew to the Mara with my fiancé then.

Well, on the second day we went for a game drive in the morning and it was awesome seeing the animals in real life. All along, we had gotten used to seeing them on the silver screens and so it was awesomely exhilarating interacting with them one on one.

We passed some plains and onto the river basin of Mara River and I noticed many cows being herded by a small boy. I tried to look for another herder but funny enough, the boy took care of the animals on his own, in the vast game reserve. Maasai Mara is famed for the big five, including predators like lions and cheetahs that hunt and would not spare any herbivore they see around. Actually, a few metres from where the cattle were grazing, a pride of lions were lazing by, maybe enjoying the early rays of sunshine from the horizon.

I asked our guide if the boy is not afraid of the lions and other predators. He said the boy does not.

Ideally, Maasai boys are usually initiated into adulthood after proving their mettle. Before they are listed for initiation, they are sent into the bush and they are required to only come back with evidence of their fighting off a lion or other predator and coming back home with evidence of the conquest. In Kenya, they are required to return home with the head of a lion as trophy.

maasai

Because of this experience, the young morans (boy warriors) grow up with resilience and strong belief that they are capable of achieving any feat. Self-belief is ingrained in them.  They grow up that they can, no matter what. And it is this same spirit they venture with into the wild, with nothing but a spear in hand.

In the same vein, this is what we need in life. Most of the times we shy away from making advances in life because we are too afraid to take risks. Risk prevents us from making the ultimate step into our destinies and moving up. Like the Maasai morans, we need to train our psychologies that even if we are aware of the dangers out there, we still can overcome them. They say our dreams are always on the other side of fear. It is until we learn to conquer fear that we will win.

That interview, that business engagement, that venture you are thinking of undertaking, that girl or boy you fear saying hallo to, that one step you fear taking is the ultimate crossing point into your destiny. Gather up courage and still your heart with the ‘I can’ call and go ahead!

Do it.

***** Ends******

The writer is an acclaimed business author of Passionpreneurship Demystified and Business Networking: How to maximize on your contacts for Business and Professional Growth. Both books are available on Amazon. He is also a Personal Branding and Business Speaker with PBL Africa and a Cytonn Entrepreneurs Hub Mentor. In case you need assistance to give your business or profession a jump-start, he can be reached via the following contacts:

Email:                mokindah@gmail.com

LinkedIn:             https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-okinda-9652b210a

Telegram:             @Mokinda

Telegram Community:      https://t.me/joinchat/EkprBT6zCKCRUmQUaDD9cQ

Still, I have Faith in the Kenyan Enterprise Story

This week I have had mixed feelings about a subject I love most  entrepreneurship. And more so, about Kenyan startups and enterprises.

After a short period of mourning one of the major brands I have celebrated over and over because of their ingenuity, I got some really glad news about three of our brands, two of them home grown that won major awards at the World Tourism Awards. Kenya Airways, our national flag carrier, was voted as the top airline brand in Africa for the second straight year. It beat South Africa Airlines, Rwanda Air and the likes. Maasai Mara Game Reserve, the eighth wonder of the world, was voted the best in the national parks category beating Kruger National Park (South Africa) and the Namibian National Park. Sarova Hotels and Lodges, our premier tourist hotel chain, also won top awards in the hotels category in the continent.

But that is not news. Nakumatt was the biggest surprise of them all. After a prolonged period of negative publicity due to dwindling business fortunes, there was some good news  they have started restocking their stores again! To those who are not up to speed with the goings on in Nakumatt, the retail mart chain has been having it rough in the last 24 or so months. Faced with growing debt and a strain on their working capital reserves, the supermarket chose to start rolling out of the markets they had entered. They first closed the Ugandan store and later on, followed up with their Thika Road Mall (TRM), NextGen Mall and Westgate Mall stores. Last week, their landlords, the Junction Mall in Nairobi threatened to close their shop due to reduced traffic. One more in Nairobis Industrial Are and another in Mombasa too have gone down too. People have been avoiding going to their stores for lack of sufficient supplies despite their we need it, we’ve got it brand tagline.

 It was therefore a sad thing to see the mighty bronze elephant statues being dismounted from the entrances of their stores as the giant slowly fell. 

But the story of Nakumatt is reminiscent of the Kenyan entrepreneurship story. An entrepreneur comes up with a great concept, works his way to make it established like a colossus. But the problem starts to arise when the firm reaches its maturity stage and the growth either stagnates and declines or continues to rise and forms its Achilles heel. The latter is what happened to Nakumatt. Nakumatts rise has been anything but phenomenal. In a few years from being a small backstreet store, it established its footprint all across the region. As at the beginning of the year, it has slightly more than 60 stores across Kenya and Uganda. With increased stores and pressure to deliver to its clients, Nakumatt relied heavily on suppliers credit to meet the demand. With no cash to pay for its supplies, it resorted to extend its debtor days from the standard 60 days to more than twice that number 120. But what even made things worse was a strategic decision by the Nakumatt management to start producing their products under the famous Blue Label brand. In this case, it approached producers of various products and bought in bulk to resell to its customers, undercutting its suppliers. The Blue Label products were even more popular with consumers as they were cheaper than the conventional ones. 

However, we have to appreciate  that the Nakumatt enterprise is a wholly owned family outfit. Atul Shah, the current heir, is the son of its founder. Many suitors have approached the family to invest into the firm but they have continued to hold on. As such, the working capital has been provided through external borrowing and sources from within the family, which limited its operations. With a restricted cash inflow to finance operations, suppliers refused to provide more suppliers on credit since the delivered goods were not being paid for. And that is how the firm was pushed into a corner since human traffic was reduced significantly. Stories of stores with empty shelves were abound on social media and the print media, further eroding its brand position and equity. They remained with no option but roll out of the markets they had entered, further deteriorating the situation.

This therefore means the cookie started crumbling when the owners of the firm refused to adjust to the demands of the business in terms of capital. A business that grows demands a huge outlay of capital and when the owners are restricted, it ultimately collapses. Most startups are started with an all- mine mindset by the owners. They start businesses with an intention of being the sole beneficiaries of returns and hence choke it up in the fullness of time since growth is stifled for lack of capital. What we need to appreciate is the fact that a business is like an asset. No asset is held for good. There must be an exit strategy sooner or later in the course of time. The owners must be ready to cede part of the shareholding and ownership in exchange of additional resources (financial or knowledge) to help their vision advance to even bigger proportions. 

As the founder, you will still remain the originator of the business idea and the vision carrier. But moving the business from its nascent stages to maturity would demand that you leverage networks and resources. And this is where the call for additional shareholding is most welcome. It is time we learnt from firms founded in the West. Facebook, Google, Apple and the likes, were started off by one or two people who came together. With time, they needed additional resources to grow and as such, they had to cede control of their firms in exchange for additional resources that have made them the conglomerates we know them to be, today. It pays to know when the time is ripe for an exit in any undertaking.

Nakumatt was approached by investors interested in injecting additional cash but they chose to cling onto their baby. Now they are struggling. It is my hope that they would indeed heed to the needs of the business and give in, for the preservation of this important national success story. And I do believe that other startups would learn this lesson and follow suit. This is why I still have hope for the Kenyan Enterprise, that indeed we will thrive!This week I have had mixed feelings about a subject I love most  entrepreneurship. And more so, about Kenyan startups and enterprises.

After a short period of mourning one of the major brands I have celebrated over and over because of their ingenuity, I got some really glad news about three of our brands, two of them home grown that won major awards at the World Tourism Awards. Kenya Airways, our national flag carrier, was voted as the top airline brand in Africa for the second straight year. It beat South Africa Airlines, Rwanda Air and the likes. Maasai Mara Game Reserve, the eighth wonder of the world, was voted the best in the national parks category beating Kruger National Park (South Africa) and the Namibian National Park. Sarova Hotels and Lodges, our premier tourist hotel chain, also won top awards in the hotels category in the continent.

But that is not news. Nakumatt was the surprise of them all. After a prolonged period of negative publicity due to dwindling business fortunes, there was some good news  they have started restocking their stores again! To those who are not up to speed with the goings on in Nakumatt, the retail mart chain has been having it rough in the last 24 or so months. Faced with growing debt and a strain on their working capital reserves, the supermarket chose to start rolling out of the markets they had entered. They first closed the Ugandan store and later on, followed up with their Thika Road Mall (TRM), NextGen Mall and Westgate Mall stores. Last week, their landlords, the Junction Mall in Nairobi threatened to close their shop due to reduced traffic. One more in Nairobis Industrial Are and another in Mombasa too have gone down too. People have been avoiding going to their stores for lack of sufficient supplies despite their we need it, weve got it brand tagline. It was therefore a sad thing to see the mighty bronze elephant statues being dismounted from the entrances of their stores as the giant slowly fell. 

But the story of Nakumatt is reminiscent of the Kenyan entrepreneurship story. An entrepreneur comes up with a great concept, works his way to make it established like a colossus. But the problem starts to arise when the firm reaches its maturity stage and the growth either stagnates and declines or continues to rise and forms its Achilles heel. The latter is what happened to Nakumatt. Nakumatts rise has been anything but phenomenal. In a few years from being a small backstreet store, it established its footprint all across the region. As at the beginning of the year, it has slightly more than 60 stores across Kenya and Uganda. With increased stores and pressure to deliver to its clients, Nakumatt relied heavily on suppliers credit to meet the demand. With no cash to pay for its supplies, it resorted to extend its debtor days from the standard 60 days to more than twice that number 120. But what even made things worse was a strategic decision by the Nakumatt management to start producing their products under the famous Blue Label brand. In this case, it approached producers of various products and bought in bulk to resell to its customers, undercutting its suppliers. The Blue Label products were even more popular with consumers as they were cheaper than the conventional ones. 

However, cognizance has to be taken into consideration that the Nakumatt enterprise is a wholly owned family outfit. Atul Shah, the current heir, is the son of its founder. Many suitors have approached the family to invest into the firm but they have continued to hold on. As such, the working capital has been provided through external borrowing and sources from within the family, which limited its operations. With a restricted cash inflow to finance operations, suppliers refused to provide more suppliers on credit since the delivered goods were not being paid for. And that is how the firm was pushed into a corner since human traffic was reduced significantly. Stories of stores with empty shelves were abound on social media and the print media, further eroding its brand position and equity. They remained with no option but roll out of the markets they had entered, further deteriorating the situation.

This therefore means the cookie started crumbling when the owners of the firm refused to adjust to the demands of the business in terms of capital. A business that grows demands a huge outlay of capital and when the owners are restricted, it ultimately collapses. Most startups are started with an all- mine mindset by the owners. They start businesses with an intention of being the sole beneficiaries of returns and hence choke it up in the fullness of time since growth is stifled for lack of capital. What we need to appreciate is the fact that a business is like an asset. No asset is held for good. There must be an exit strategy sooner or later in the course of time. The owners must be ready to cede part of the shareholding and ownership in exchange of additional resources (financial or knowledge) to help their vision advance to even bigger proportions. 

As the founder, you will still remain the originator of the business idea and the vision carrier. But moving the business from its nascent stages to maturity would demand that you leverage networks and resources. And this is where the call for additional shareholding is most welcome. It is time we learnt from firms founded in the West. Facebook, Google, Apple and the likes, were started off by one or two people who came together. With time, they needed additional resources to grow and as such, they had to cede control of their firms in exchange for additional resources that have made them the conglomerates we know them to be, today. It pays to know when the time is ripe for an exit in any undertaking.

Nakumatt was approached by investors interested in injecting additional cash but they chose to cling onto their baby. Now they are struggling. It is my hope that they would indeed heed to the needs of the business and give in, for the preservation of this important national success story. And I do believe that other startups would learn this lesson and follow suit. This is why I still have hope for the Kenyan Enterprise, that indeed we will thrive!

             ***** Ends******

The writer is an acclaimed business author of Passionpreneurship Demystified and Business Networking: How to maximize on your contacts for Business and Professional Growth. Both books are available on Amazon. He is also a Personal Branding and Business Speaker with PBL Africa and a Cytonn eHub Mentor. In case you need assistance to give your business or profession a jump-start, he can be reached via the following contacts:

Email:                pblogix@gmail.com

LinkedIn:             https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-okinda-9652b210a

Telegram:             @Mokinda

Telegram Community:      https://t.me/joinchat/EkprBT6zCKCRUmQUaDD9cQ

 

How To Effectively Make Money On Facebook

fb money3

Startups and nascent enterprises face a myriad of challenges, capital constraints and market penetration being some of them. However, with social media, most have been able to introduce their products into the market and even penetrate albeit with much struggle.

I bet, like myself, you have come across these ads posted on public walls advertising abut a product by sellers. But then are they really effective? It seems the script is to send to as walls as possible and this is really annoying at times.

So you don’t know how to make money through Facebook groups?

People have been asking me why content marketing does not work for their business and I have three major reasons for the:

  1.  You don’t write using a proven template that delivers.
  2. You are communicating the right message to the wrong audience.
  3. You fail to write compelling content that can convince anyone to buy your product.

I have had such an experience before – I set out to do an entrepreneurship masterclass for nascent entrepreneurs and got so many responses. Come the day of the training and none turned up. Actually a group of three came up and went away promising to be back and we never saw them again up until the time we had hired the hall lapsed.

fb money2

People are on social media to have fun. And most times, our friends and family may not be our target audience and that may render your content marketing strategies useless.

This means you can’t afford to ignore Facebook communities totally.

I’m sure you are wondering, what should you do?

I will explain this and assume you make and sell wigs…

Firstly, identify your target: men don’t wear wigs (unless they are a Supreme Court of Kenya Judge). You know your target market is women.

Secondly, find women communities: just search Facebook with women communities and you will find lots of them… Don’t go to communities where members are predominantly men. Women have the final say on things related to them.

Thirdly, come into the community to educate, entertain and create awareness. I did not say come and sell like somebody in Gikomba market….! Create content that educate women on about your products and business. Tell them why it’s better to wear cotton wigs than synthetic. Tell them the harms in wearing human hair/wig. Tell them how to wear a wig. Tell them how to make their wigs last. Tell them health implications of wearing wigs wrongly. Tell them the side effects of rivalry products to yours. Tell them…..

Leverage on fear as motivation to buy your product…

Sell happiness, promise and benefits not features.

Show that you care…

Have I written anything that warrants being kicked off? No! In fact, you won’t be salesy and spamy at all. You won’t even tell to buy from you. They will be the one to seek you out.

By creating actionable content on your products and services, they will trust you and will be eager to buy from you.

Enrich your content. Use pictures of your product in your content. Especially where your customers are rocking it.  Use your own pictures too because you are building your know like and trust.

Interact well with people who interact with your content. Send friends request. Send them a welcome note on messenger. Over time, your target audience will be many on your friends list. At the end of time, you will have a community of followers who would want to use your product. And that is when you pitch.

What this means is that it would demand you allocate time to create and post content. The time schedule too has to be right. Teenagers are never on Facebook during the start of the week. Most are on towards the weekends, for instance. And that is the most appropriate time to schedule your postings.

fb money

Being rash about posts and posting onto hundreds of walls does not make and ad more effective. It demands strategy and proper planning.

As a by the way, you must have strategically placed your products and services on your wall for it to work well!

Happy selling!

**********ENDS**********

The writer is an acclaimed business author of Passionpreneurship Demystified and Business Networking: How to maximize on your contacts for Business and Professional Growth. Both books are available on Amazon. He is also a Personal Branding and Business Coach with PBL Africa and a Cytonn eHub Mentor. In case you need assistance to give your business or profession a jump-start, he can be reached via the following contacts:

Email:                pblogix@gmail.com

LinkedIn:             https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-okinda-9652b210a

Telegram:             @Mokinda

Telegram Community:      https://t.me/joinchat/EkprBT6zCKCRUmQUaDD9cQ

 

The Power of Success in Failure

One of the most common scenarios I encounter on my day to day life online are queries on how to deal with failure.

Personally, I cannot count the number of times I have failed in life. It is surely normal to fail. It is given. But what happens consequent to failing is what matters. In business and professional life alike, one should expect to miss the mark once in a while.

Thomas Edison, America’s leading inventor, is said to have failed more than 9,999 times in his attempt to invent the light bulb. Any other person out there would have given up altogether in the first or second attempt but he chose to push on until finally he made the land mark discovery on how matter can light up when an electric current is passed through it. When asked how he managed to keep up the faith, he said that each time he failed, rather than he gave up, he appreciated that he had learnt one more way NOT to do it! Awesome, isn’t it?

It may seem easier said than done. But the crux of the matter is in how to deal with instances of failure. When failure occurs, what happens? Most of us focus more on the failure to hit the mark more than what is the converse – the learning point. Failure in itself, is a process of learning. Like for Thomas Edison’s case, it shows you one more way not to do it. It is a learning point of sorts.

Well, let us rewind a little. What do you do immediately you fail? There are two choices – either take it positively or negatively. Optimists do not see the end in failing. To them, they take it as a means of attaining their objective. They go back to the drawing board and re-strategize, reworking their procedure to firm up their points of weakness. This is the time they ask themselves why it did not succeed. They don’t pass the buck. They take responsibility. A person bent on success would try to re-engineer his methods to see where they can improve and make the project a success.  Would the tweaking involve adopting a new methodology? Maybe change the ingredients? Maybe involve a new approach towards solving the problem? All in all, what matters is adopting an optimistic mindset that no matter what, it just has to work! Mindset is the word.

In contrast, for those who are unsuccessful, as said earlier, failure is an end to itself. They resign themselves to fate and most probably, shift the blame elsewhere. They never take responsibility. To them, failure is given and a normal outcome. And this is where most of us lay. It is said that over 92% of people in the world fail to live up to their dreams due to giving up too early. But then, who said that it is going to be easy? Your guess is as good as mine – no one!

But our biggest folly is being mindful of the views and opinions of the external environment. We pay more attention to the world. We have cultured our minds to trends and systems that exist in the world. To us, life has to be in accordance with what is happening around us. And this is where we get it all wrong.

It is therefore not given that since someone else tried and failed, we too would. The world never works that way. We are all different. We are differently abled. And as such, our uniqueness plays out in the way we execute tasks. This therefore means that we cannot be all equal. All of us cannot have a similar outcome when we execute tasks or a project. It therefore calls for a sober approach to every project we undertake to accomplish.

What are your gifts, for instance? What can you do best? How else can you utilize these special abilities to accomplish whatever you desire? That is the power of creativity that every person is blessed with. Apply these to such situations.

It is therefore incumbent upon each of us to employ these skills that we are endowed with to accomplish whatever tasks lay before us, dealing with situations of failure included. Trust me, we are all equally ably skilled to sort out any limitation that is before us!

So, does failure in life qualify to be a blessing or a curse? I am an optimist- I take them as opportunities to learn, advance and empower myself. I was once paralyzed two years ago and I could not use half of my body from the chest down for a month and a half. This presented me with the opportunity to re-examine my life and do a self-discovery of my real life purpose. From my sickbed, I vowed that if at all I would survive (from my doctor had told me all patients he had attended to with multiple myeloma had either been terminally paralyzed or passed on before me), I would pursue my life purpose with no abandon. And that gave me renewed emotional energy to heal. Indeed, one and a half months after discharge, I started feeling my legs and my miraculous healing came through.

In business too, I have failed multiple times. But each event of failure has been a learning point of sorts. I have divested from ideas, I have re-strategized and re-set plans. I cannot yet declare am perfect but every time I come out of the experience as a stronger, more refined entrepreneur.

So let us purpose to change our mindsets and take failure positively. In the entire history of the world, there is no single person who made it in life without failing. Failure is given. Your attitude at the end of the day is what will determine whether you would transform the failure to success or terminate as a failure. Use this principle to make success your signature using this mindset.

******* END*******

The writer is an acclaimed business author of Passionpreneurship Demystified and Business Networking: How To maximize on your contacts for Business and Professional Growth. Both books are available on Amazon. He is also a Personal Branding and Business Coach with PBL Africa. In case you need assistance to give your business or profession a jump-start, he can be reached via the following contacts:

Email:       pblogix@gmail.com
LinkedIn:  https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-okinda-9652b210a
Telegram:       @Mokinda
Telegram Community: https://t.me/joinchat/EkprBT6zCKCRUmQUaDD9cQ
Facebook:                       https://www.facebook.com/maikol.okinda

DOMINANCE BY STANDING OUT: LESSONS FROM KENYA’S CBA BANK

Dominance

Interesting times these are – after the enactment of the Banking (Amendment) Bill 2016 late last year, most of the Kenyan banks’ profits went southwards. Actually, for the financial year closing June this year, a bank known to have zero loans at risk of loss (PAR), Victoria Commercial Bank, recorded a loan on default, to underscore the dire situation facing the industry.

But even more amazing is one bank that went against the tide – Commercial Bank of Africa (CBA) which posted improved profits where even its more heavily capitalized bedfellows failed. Last week the bank reported a net profit of Kes. 2.7 Billion up 14.1% from the previous year.  It would be interesting to study their business model to find out why.

The underlying reason for this resilience is their association with another powerful brand – Safaricom’s Mpesa product. Safaricom is East and Central Africa’s most profitable blue chip entity; with a valuation that ranks it as the fourth most valuable brand in Africa. Mpesa is a mobile phone based wallet that enables the public to do financial transactions at their convenience.

By linking up with Mpesa, CBA developed a mobile based banking service called Mshwari that has become a hit with the unbanked. As such, anyone, as long as they are subscribers of Mpesa, can borrow and repay funds through their mobile phones. Additionally, subscribers are able to save their funds at a fixed rate of return to be withdrawn later with some interest. It is literally a bank without a physical vault. As at the end of last year, Mpesa had on boarded slightly more than half of Kenya’s population – over 47 million customers.

By compensating for the fall on revenues due to regulatory restrictions through enhanced revenues from Mshwari, the bank was cushioned adequately. It is observed that revenues rose by 16.3 percent year to year to close at Kes. 5.5 Billion.

Dominance

The Hint

According to the World Giving Index published this year, it was observed that Kenyans are the third most generous people in the world. It underscores the social cohesion that exists amongst Kenyans and their sharing habit. It is this social value that the developers of Mpesa chose to ride on and develop their product, thereby aligning their product with a truly Kenyan value. This is the main reason why Safaricom and Mpesa to be specific have enjoyed dominance for the last ten years of its existence.

And this brings out two very important lesson most of us entrepreneurs purposely ignore: synergy and values.

Robert Kiyosaki said that networking is the business of the 21st Century. Networking is about leveraging relationships, within and without the firm. Smart firms, like CBA as explained above, chose to take advantage of the readily available market by Mpesa subscribers to offer their services – banking. As an entrepreneur, ensure you create linkages with other players in the sector and related sectors to ride on their associations and operations. Be it supply chain management, production, knowledge exchange, etc. ensure you find a suitable partner to establish a mutually beneficial relationship. For CBA, Safaricom Mpesa provides them with an already established market. In turn, Safricom earns from the lending expertise from the banking partner. The days when a firm would exist on its own are gone and synergistic interactions are the way to go.

Values, I say, are the most important element in a business. I always ask people- what does their business stand for?  I opine that any great business is built on the foundation of their organizational beliefs. Its product offerings are only accepted once their value system is in tandem with the societal belief systems of their target markets. Considering this example, Safaricom realized Kenyans like sharing. Our national philosophy is Harambee, literally meaning to pull together. Whenever someone has an enormous project, people would come together and contribute towards helping in the realization of the project. These gatherings are called Harambees. In the west, it is known as crowd funding. It is an embodiment of our giving spirit.

A Kenyan who lives away from home would always send home some cash to help his kin back at home. Mpesa’s launch, coincidentally, was done at the onset of the infamous 2007/2008 Kenya Post Election Violence (PEV) period when banks and other financial systems ground to a halt. With the service, stranded populations were able to send and receive cash at the convenience of their homes. Additionally, as opposed to banks which had locations majorly in urban centres, Mpesa had a huge network of agents that permeated all the areas of the country. The footprint covers more than 70% of the nation, with a huge concentration in the rural areas. Add that to the convenience of only requiring an ID to be registered, Mpesa became an instant hit with users all over the country.

Much more can be said about this success story of Safaricom but one thing stands out: values. This is what made them to be acceptable and build a loyal client base that has proven hard to break. Airtel Kenya Limited, then known as Zain, launched a competing service nicknamed Zap. It waived its fees altogether but the population could not accept it since it did not resonate with its ideals and values. To many, Zain was for the urban rich and elite. It was also not used by the majority as almost all phone owners had Safaricom lines.  Safaricom hence passed off as an authentic Kenyan brand that was deemed cheap (even when it was not).

Well, there you go: what will you do as an entrepreneur to replicate a success story like CBA’s? It is not too hard to go against the grain and disrupt the ideal and become dominant. It just needs a little tweaking of the obvious to stand out.

And indeed, you can!