How To Overcome Failure

failure

How do you deal with failure in life, business or professional life?  Many of us would instinctively give up and focus their energies elsewhere. Failure is indeed a scary word to many.

We were having a tee-a-tete with fellow influencers on an upcoming engagement for the youth in various fields including entrepreneurship when we discovered that one denominator ran under us: we all had failed one time in our pursuit of success.

My fist time to organize an event for nascent entrepreneurs was the first time to experience failure first hand.  We did all the necessary preparations beforehand.  The event was also oversubscribed and we were confident that it would surpass our expectations by far. Come the training day and we went earlier to set up the venue and waited for our trainees. Half an hour into the scheduled time for starting, no one came! We consoled ourselves that maybe those who booked slots would come later. However, none came. We had to pack up and leave. We agreed with my partner to revisit the event and learn where we had failed to make it even better next time we would. And that us why we met recently, to revive our dreams and see how best to resurrect it once again.

Did I give up after the debacle? Not at all. Actually after that major failure, I purposed to approach the calling using a different approach. I chose to build my brand and that is how I came up with Passionpreneurship. I did a book to disseminate this knowledge and followed it up with two others, including an online course on how to turn one’s hobby into a sustainable business. (Check out the Passion to Profit Online Masterclass via http://www.pblafrica.co.ke/individual-courses/ ). The inaugural book has opened up doors I never imagined – speaking events, opportunities to mentor others and most importantly, being a business trainer cum mentor for the prestigious Cytonn eHub Program. What if I had thrown in the towel, where would I be?

Your guess is as good as mine.

There is a famous saying that goes: if you have never failed in anything, then you have never tried doing anything. And if you are just inert, it implies that you are not accomplished. You can never achieve anything in life if you are afraid to risk it and fail.

Maybe we can examine various world renowned success personalities in their own right to best appreciate this: The infamous owner of the OWN Television Network, Oprah Winfrey, was once  demoted form her news anchor job because she was considered “unfit for the position.” Michael Jordan, the sports icon, had been cut out from his high school basketball team since his height was not up to standard. Years later, he was recognized as a top Basketball Hall of Famer, earning millions from his endorsements of sports apparel. J.K. Rowling, the infamous writer, did her inaugural Harry Potter manuscript and knocked 12 publishers’ doors and none would accept her. Her 13th accepted it but half-heartedly. He told her that she could not make serious money doing children’s books. Well, she is the only dollar billionaire purely from writing books!

Nonetheless, in the event failure happens, which is inevitable anyway, one reaps much when they choose to persist. This can only happen if you have passion for what you do. They say that passion, is more consistent with happiness and success than any other thing.

From the above examples, were it not for passion, the history makers would have thrown in the towel and resigned themselves to fate. But they chose to keep on pushing in the hope that one day things will turn out right.

It is therefore upon us, if we are serious about succeeding in life and overcome obstacles that come our way, to discover, develop and deploy passion into the world. This way, we are assured of overcoming any challenge that is set before us.

They say the when currency fails, gold becomes the standard of transactions. For success, the currency is passion. Passion, is the new black! Embrace it. 🙂

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The writer is the author of Passionpreneurship Demystified, a book on how to leverage passion for success in life. If you need a copy, visit the link below:

https://goo.gl/g4TVR3

 

How To Thrive As An Online Entrepreneur

goldfish in cart - e-commerce concept

In the last one year, a lot has happened in the eCommerce world in Africa. Just recently, OLX announced closure of their Kenyan and Nigerian offices and would be pulling back operations to South Africa. Almost concomitantly, Konga, one of Nigeria’s top eCommerce firms, pronounced it was scaling back operations in Africa’s second largest economy.

A recent survey of fintech start-ups in Africa by Disrupt Africa established that over 70% of eCommerce start-ups are yet to break even. This, sadly, is the situation despite the enormous opportunity for growth.  Jumia is currently enjoying dominance in this field and it seems is not stopping any time soon despite suffering losses in the recent past.

Nonetheless, in Kenya, Safaricom Kenya Limited announced they were launching their version of eCommerce, Masoko and followed it up with Songa, an online music platform. Be it as it may, Safaricom pegs the success of the two entities on its strong brand and it would be important to learn how a fintech like Safaricom, has built dominance in the highly competitive sector despite being new entrants into the industry.

To best appreciate this, it would be good to revisit a book by Simon Sinek, titled “Start with Why”. Simon postulates that brands that have sustained business sales over time have formulated a way to connect with their target consumers through communicating strategically.

In this case, rather than push for sales volumes through campaigns, they start by communicating to their target audience the motivation behind what they do. This is called communicating the Why the firm exists and ultimately, establish a bond with your target audience. The end result of this is an emotional connection with the buyer and this enables the target audience to buy into the product eventually, what Sinek called the WHAT.  Dominant brands employ this technique to enhance market penetration and sustain product loyalty.

Building a relationship takes time and requires patience. In all the profiled case studies sampled for failure in eCommerce, the investors were not patient to let the business grow organically and return profit. What they failed in was to push for revenues in anticipation of profits and a quick return on their seed capital. When their expectations were unmet, they exited the scene.

A properly done brand communication strategy, borrowing from the Safaricom brand story, would start with studying the target market and getting to appreciate their demographics and culture. By aligning your corporate brand to your potential clients’, you in effect are warming up to them for a start. Secondly, it would really be important to establish what challenge the society has and thereby targeting your brand communications to be in line with providing a solution to this. In this way, the client would feel at home approaching the brand for a solution. Safaricom’s big break came during times of adversity – the 2007/2008 Kenyan Post Election violence that made financial transfers and transactions a big challenge. By launching Mpesa, its mobile wallet survive, Kenyans were able, with confidence and convenience, be able to send cash and trade freely. This is what has endeared Safaricom to the Kenyan people and mad exit to be the corporate behemoth it is today, with a market share of over 70%.

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Would you want to thrive as an online entrepreneur? Start with WHY you exist. Go out and interact with your target market and tell your story. Because so long as you will sell your product and push for sales, the revenues would not come.

Sustainable sales come about when you commit to build a relationship with your market and thereafter, enable them see the solution to the market gap that you offer.

Start with WHY then later, your WHAT!

Branding In Contemporary Times

Brand

A company’s most valued asset are said to be its employees, according to Anne M. Mulcahy. They provide a company with a competitive edge in defining their organizational culture. This ultimately defines the company’s brand. In essence, therefore, it means that the brand forms a company’s core. Any business serious about creating sustained market dominance would invest heavily in defining their brand and increasing awareness among its target audience.

Take for instance Apple, the world’s most valued brand. The business has invested heavily to create products that resonate with convenience and simplicity. The euphoria that follows the release of their gadgets enables them to capture the moment and hence, evokes prestige among Apple users. This explains why any Apple product user would openly flaunt the bitten apple for all to see! Through heavy investment in research and analyzing client feedback, Apple has been able to capture the imagination of its potential and existing users.

How then can a company brand elements so as to have sustained brand experience among our users? The most essential thing to put in mind is to understand the times – we are in the information age, the digital age. It is characterized by heavy influence of digital media on human behaviour and connections. But then, as times change, as surely as they do, how best can one keep up with the dynamics?

Nevertheless, there are some fundamental realities that an enterprise needs to put into consideration as it undertakes implementation of a branding strategy.

First, they need to appreciate that consumers are endowed with information. Clients and potential clients continually research and try to get information about companies and their associated entities. They are always in search of perspectives, assessments and opinions on products before and after the purchase process. Characteristic of the contemporary times, social connections have become the focal point of decision making. The bulk of these fact finding processes and information sourcing occur on digital platforms. This requires brands to forge a way of converging with consumer interests on these platforms rather than seeking them out. Enhanced interactivity and engagement between a brand and its audience on social media is just a must in this age!

Secondly, it must be acknowledged that the traditional channels of corporate authority have lost a considerable level of confidence in the eyes of the public. This is the reason why the public believes more what a blogger posts than the official account from a company. It is worthy to note that employees have become more trustworthy than their seniors as information sources. To compound this, these peripheral voices of opinion have the potential to reach a wider audience than the traditional structured channels of company communication. For that reason, it would be indispensable for companies to leverage their employees and these fora to disseminate information about their brands.

It is interesting to note that business firms are losing grasp on monopoly of information. Through widespread information sharing on digital platforms, the public can get wind of facts about a product or a company without the involvement of the official communication structure of a company. And this is where Public Relations come in, to attempt to correct any defective image whenever destructive information leaks. Third party sources e.g. websites, social media channels, and other channels that exist outside of the structured communication channels must be considered when crafting a brand strategy in this age. This is the main reason why pundits argue that a company that lacks a social media presence commits suicide.

Nevertheless, the most basic fact that a company should consider is the fact that human needs, as much as they are varied, remain the same over time. Necessities, desires and their stimulation have remained the same from time immemorial. For instance, a good taste and appeal of water would always make one who has not taken any for some time, thirsty. What changes, nonetheless, is human mannerisms. A firm would therefore need to study demographic changes to keep abreast with the dynamics of the society. If they fail to adjust accordingly, they become be less marketable. Consider Kodak, the once hailed camera manufacturer. In 1975, it invented the digital camera. Instead of marketing the new invention, it held back in fear of disrupting its market. Sony and Canon saw the opportunity and went full throttle, and took over the market by storm. It is said that dinosaurs did not get extinct because they were weak, but die to their inflexibility to ecological changes. What are you doing as a brand to keep abreast with dynamics in the market?

The digital age, too, has enhanced transparency as far as sharing information is concerned. A visit to any digital platform would reveal plenty of reviews for companies and products. Any individual can review a product and broadcast the information to millions who have accessed to their platform. This therefore forces companies to be transparent as the only way to survive.

How then can a company effectively brand in these dynamic times? Several means exist but depend on the target audience and the available resources. However, it is imperative to note that there are specific essential concerns a firm must address to ensure prosper and effective communication of a brand identity and experience.

The basic requirement is the brand should have a story. I usually refer to it as the “why” of the firm. What is the motivation behind your product development, for example? For Apple, it is simplicity and convenience. Because of this, clients buy their products to be seen. Apple therefore sells prestige by availing convenience and simplicity!  Your story has to be consistent, easy to relate to and provide a sense of direction. Through this, you ensure you have firm control of your brand or some other business will, like Kodak’s case!

Another way to build your brand effectively is utilize your employees. It has been observed that the public has waning confidence in formal company communication structures but tend to believe third party sources. As a brand keen on building your brand, leverage on your employees. For example, it pays to portray the unique abilities of your employees on public media as a way of showing confidence in the talent you have in delivery of value to consumers. Give motivation to employees to think and act as experts to make the brand values come alive in their interaction with stakeholders. Employees are better brand advocates since they have a wider scope of effect.

Another worthy factor to consider is to resolve to build your brand on ideas worth sharing. For instance, what values does your brand stand for? Do your brand elements (identity, experience, etc.) only serve as channels of product promotion or do they stand for something? A brand that is built on values can utilize these as the foundation of spreading influence among its target audience. It carries the possibility of creating a culture upon which branding content is created and built for a sustained market presence. Coca cola has used this tactic to last through generations with their emotive brand. This explains why, whenever one sights the Coke logo, they instantly feel thirsty. The brand is also associated with family times during Christmas celebrations (Coke Caravan idea). It therefore is synonymous with family values.

Furthermore, one should always think of the ultimate customer experience beforehand. Channels should be integrated their product delivery. Before the digital age, the sales pipeline was heavily used to facilitate the purchase process. It was wearisome and lacked the human touch.  In the digital age, tangible aspects of a brand are integrated with digital channels to impact the target audience. Therefore, before a purchase is made, the client would involve themselves with fact finding about the product or company. After purchase, the buyer experiences that brand. This interaction would determine if the buyer would place a positive word of mouth through their associations or not. It also influences repeat purchases. Hence, a firm should create a mechanism of integrating physical aspects of branding (product, visuals, etc.) with leverage their digital aspects for effective branding strategy (social media influence, reviews, etc.).

Lastly, most businesses anchor their brand experience on technology. Have you ever noticed that many banks have ticketing systems yet clients still complain about long queues? This is an indication of over reliance on systems. It would be imperative for firms to marry systems with the brand story to have an influential brand experience. Having a strong technological system without a story results into a mechanical, out of touch shell of a brand. It evokes no feeling. In as much as technology is a must have, it should serve as a brand enabler of the main brand infrastructure – the brand story. To have a firm brand experience, technology should complement the brand story.

Building a brand in this day and age would require effort, diligence and heavy investment of time resources. All dominant brands have their ear on the ground to monitor any changes on the ground and shift their strategy accordingly. With digitization of the world, the dynamics are even more fluid than ever before and hence the need for brands to be versatile in keeping with these changes.

Otherwise, like the dinosaurs of old, they risk extinction and their places being taken over by more adaptive and flexible ones! If you do not take care of your brand, some other entity will surely come and take it over!

 

Monkey Business : Be Dapper!! 


I am trying to see how to start this write up but i guess i have figured out a way.  

Have you heard of this story about monkeys and bananas? I bet you know monkeys have a love for things bananas.  Well, it is said that if you place money and bananas before a monkey, it will gleefully go for the bananas and leave out the cash.  It is obvious as i said, monkey have a thing for bananas! 
But then, cash can be used to buy even more bananas. Better still, if they had the wisdom, they would take the cash, go do business and multiply it to earn more and enhance their power to acquire what they love most – bananas!  
Last month i read a rather sad story of a former acquaintance – he wrote an open letter to the President of Kenya, complaining that despite being learned, he was unemployed.  In the missive, he enumerated four of his siblings who had likewise gone through college and earned their papers but were jobless, many years after graduation.  Okay, we are aware that unemployment is a big issue in Africa and Kenya is no exception.  But then, should that be the reason why many should languish in lack of gainful employment of worthy income sources? Maybe it is time we should have a sincere conversation about why we attend school – is it to earn a paper qualification to get you a job or is it otherwise? 
Maybe we should contextualize it in business terms: when you go into business,  what is your objective?  Many do business for money and hence,  their ultimate objective is to generate cash flows and live comfortable lifestyles. We call them lifestyle entrepreneurs.  Others do it because they want to replicate what other people do. This is actually seeking the bananas rather than grabbing cash in seen in our analogy. 

It would wise for us to critically get into thinking before we commit to any undertaking.  It is called looking at the ‘bigger picture’. 
Why do you really want to go into business?  Why are you a student,  for instance?  Is it to just go through the system and earn a paper certificate?  Why do you really live on earth?  Is it to just exist or to live?  A living being is alive – it responds to stimuli and adopts,  surmounting challenges. It even goes to an extent of moulding the environment it lives in to ensure it fits it.  An existing being or object shapes the environment around it and adopts to it.  
A dapper monkey is smart – it appreciates it loves bananas. It would forfeit instant gratification in exchange for longevity. It knows that by selecting cash offered to it,  it would transact and multiply the seed cash to create more value and wealth and enable it survive beyond the moment. 
Likewise,  a wise student would study with an objective – to build his skills and competency. To him,  the paper certificate is an additional benefit beyond his competencies. They dont go to college to study,  they go to college to be transformed into a universal thinker and local actor. They have a vision board that guides them on their daily routine towards achieving their objective. 
A wise entrepreneur would not go for cash returns,  which are short lived. He creates value and constantly innovates to build a loyal client base and brand that will last. Coca Cola is an example. When it was founded in 1896, it sold an average of nine servings per day.  Today,  it does 9.6 million bottles per day! A wise entrepreneur does not start a business – they build brands! 
So,  then,  would you rather be the monkey that picks the bananas or the cash?  The choice is yours to make. But then,  The Passionpreneur here advices you be the dapper monkey! 
Wouldn’t you? 

Of Foxes And Hogs

Just amazed that it has taken me more than a week and a half to think through just four core objectives of this year.  Previously,  before i learnt the Fox and Hog Fable lessons,  i would do more than ten New Year resolutions even before the previous year comes to a close.  Well,  it seems with age,  i have become wiser… 

Come to think of it, Isaiah Berlin, a 13th Century English philosopher studied human beings and classified them into two major groups: foxes and hendgehogs.  

Foxes are known to be cunning.  They are energetic and can run after several objectives at once.  They hunt prey,  hedgehogs included.  Hedgehogs/hogs on the other hand are sluggish.  They are never in a hurry to reach a destination. When attacked by foxes,  they only know one way to defend themselves – rolling up into a ball and expose their spiky exterior.  The foxes would be beaten to the game and try another way, this time running away and hiding and once he is sure the hog is up and walking around,  he attacks the hog.  The hog would again fold up in self defence.  This way,  hogs use that one skill to defend themselves against prey.  The fox gets outwitted bespite his numerous ways to achieve his objective and finally gives up the chase. 

In real life,  foxes would try many ways to achieve a single objective.  They pursue many things at once and this makes their achievement of goals very hard and ineffective.  Hogs are slow and meticulous – their rates of goal achievement are high and very efficient.  They concentrate on their “One Thing”. 

I learnt this principle and purposed to apply it in my life last year before teaching others through my #Passionpreneurship programs and it worked.  Against momentous odds,  even my career life transformed totally. 

We are starting a new year….. It is still very young,  would you rather be a hog or a fox?  The ball is in your court – hit it and score well! 

Won’t you? 😉

The BLACK Dot

The Professor stood in front of the classroom holding a white sheet of paper with a black circle at the centre.

“What do you see?” he asked his class

All the students raised their hands. Most of them answered that they saw a black dot.

You know the story and its moral – despite the bulk of what he held being white, they focused on the black circle.

This famous story speaks volumes about our lives. 

Let me twist the plot a bit: If the Professor started with informing his students that he was holding the white sheet of paper and eventually asked them what he was holding, they would have provided the correct answer  a white paper!

How does the difference come in? In the second is in the Professor enlightens the students about what he held in his hand!

Corporations all over the world invest billions of dollars to build their visibility to sustain the demand of their products over time. 

Coca Cola was established in 1896. In its nascent years, it sold an average of nine servings daily. As we speak, it does 9.6 billion bottles on average, thanks to heavy investment into marketing! Apple, the most valuable brand in the world is another case. Every new release is usually met with long queues of people in front of their stores even before they hit the market. Mark you, they buy at a premium price yet IOS system they run on is not the best Operating System! What do they buy? The simplicity and prestige associated with the Apple brand. 

In Kenya, the most profitable company is Safaricom Kenya Limited. In 2017, it announced profits that contributed to 54% of its parent companys, Vodacom Plc. The funds, if availed to the Kenyan Government, would finance its Ministry of Health for a year (as per 2017 Budget) and it would have remained with Kes. 2.1 B as change! Their game changer was in investing in brand visibility. Let us keep note that it was Airtel Kenya Limited (then known as Kencell) that started mobile telephony services in Kenya. 

As an entrepreneur, you will certainly not have a market if your products personality does not ring in the mind of your target audience. I always advice my mentees to invest in being known for something. People will never buy the product per se, but the #WHY behind your product. Invest in making it known why you exist and this will always pull people to make a purchase.  People would not know your product exists if they are not aware of what value it can add into their lives. This is why, when you see the Coke logo, you feel thirsty. Your mind has been programmed so!

I tell students alike: as you study, develop you unique abilities. Exhibit them to the world and be known for something. Those who know me associate me with perfect execution. Similarly, when I started my banking career, I known as the “perfectionist. I believe this is what enabled me to grow in my career against expectations. I made it into management from graduate entry in a record two years! Employers do not recruit for qualifications. They do for competence to enable them create value that pass on to their clients. The paper qualifications are therefore a plus. The world has no shortage of employment opportunities, it is in shortage of the employable! 

The professor in our analogy failed to make the students aware of the existence of the paper. This is why his students noticed the black spot yet the primary background was all white! As an entrepreneur or job seeker, this year invest in enhancing your brand visibility. Unlike the professor, ensure your white background is visible to the world more than the obvious (dot).  With focussed effort and consistency, you will be able to curve out an identity that you will be associated with.

By the way, many never know I pursued a biomedical degree in college earned a first class honours. Nonetheless, I chose to pursue my passion and exhibit to the world my abilities. I ended up in banking and part time consulting. This is what I do even now as a part time author, speaker and business coach. You too, can purpose to exhibit your white rather than let the world choose to see the black dot! 

Can’t you?
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