A Tale Of Two Animals: Why Some Fail As Others Excel


When I was young, I used to love reading animal fables. One of my favourite was about the hare and a tortoise. The hare, in his flair, was proud and was known to taunt his fellow animals to wit. And he would beat them to the game!

It was therefore no surprise that one morning he approached the Lazy Tortoise to a race to the river bank. And to everyone’s astonishment, the slow Tort accepted the challenge. You can imagine the rest of the animal gang gathering on the sidelines of the track, jeering at the tortoise. Finally the race was started and the hare shot off, proud that he would win. The tortoise in his usual mode just slopped off the start line and descended the hill, slowly and with sure steps. But surprise, at the finish line, the cheering squad found the hare was yet to arrive, and the tortoise, in his fashion slow pace, strutted the finish line and went into slumber under his shell.

In life too, we have people representing these two classes. In business likewise, we have the hares and tortoises. What many have animals never knew as the reason why the clearly slow paced tortoise won the race is the fact that he was focused. The hare, in his usual character, and confident that he was the preferred winner, went about his business shifting focus on the way and forgot he was in a race with the tortoise!
I have come across many of us entrepreneurs who talk of big dreams, establishing big corporations yet what they do is totally wrong –lack of focus. A famous management guru, Jim Collins said that firms who dominate their sectors are ones which concentrate their activities in one core area and spot and develop passion in it. It is obvious each and every one of us has only a passion for one thing. You cannot be good at several things and hence, it is upon us to find out what out passion spot is and work on it.

I have seen many young entrepreneurs start out enterprises with multiple streams of incomes at once, and maybe that explains the high failure rate of businesses especially in our country. I always ask my talk audience to go learn about why Indian firms outlive their founders while indigenous African firms die off with their founders. It is because of that one secret – the power of focus. All Indian business setups deal with only one single line of commodity as opposed to ours, where it is a conglomeration of several in our attempts to earn much. At the end of the day, we realize the returns are too low and the model is therefore not sustainable. It is commonly said that you cannot be a jack of all trades. You will most definitely be a master of none!

Back to my story of two animals: Jim Collins used the demonstration of one philosopher called Isaiah Berlin who said that people are classified into two main groups – foxes and hedgehogs. Foxes pursue several objectives at once and would want to utilize the time at their disposal to achieve all of them at once. The hogs, on the other hand, know only one way to achieve an objective and would spend their time executing it until they achieve their objective! In the end, the foxes fail in most of their endeavours while the hogs achieve 100% results in what they put themselves down to do.

For the hair, he paid so many distractions on the way that he forgot his main objective – to race. How many of us are in this situation? How many fail to achieve our potential in life or in business just because we lack focus?

At the end of the day, the successful in business or at the work place are not they who do many things at once. It is them that do one thing at a time and perfect it. You can only be a specialist in an area if you put all your focus in it -effort and resources. Let us make a resolve and be the tortoise!

 

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Why Not Be A Passionpreneur?👌

I have been asked severally to explain what i mean by PASSIONPRENEURSHIP. Today, i took upon myself to elucidate what i mean by this principle. Apparently, it has been employed since the 13thnCentury by philosophers. Enjoy your read….😊

It is said that if you want to be the best, you got to learn from the best. In my endeavour to be the best in what I do, on almost daily basis, try to read inspiration from those who have achieved the best in life. At best, it helps me to learn one or two things about circumventing pitfalls in life and becoming a success. 

Take for example, Paul Pogba, the famous European Premier League player who plays for Manchester United. Late last year, he recorded the highest amount in transfer fees in football history when he moved from Italian Series A side Juventus to Old Trafford. He grossed a contract of £290,000 fee per week for five years! But if you were to look back, he used to play for Manchester United prior to moving to Juventus on a free transfer in 2012. I bet the then Manchester United Coach, Sir Alex Fergusson, did not see his value and made him be a substitute player for most of his matches. On moving to Juventus, Pogba helped the club to win four consecutive Series A cups! In 2013, he won the Golden Boy Award and followed up in 2014 with the Bravo Award and the Most Promising Player in Europe Award of all time! It is amazing how this written off character had become so valuable after being disregarded!

Another luminary who was somehow rejected severally is the worlds first and only Billionaire writer  Joanne Kathleen Rowlings famously know as J.K. Rowling. She conceptualised the ‘Harry Potter’ series of books and movies which have enabled her to earn billion-dollar grossing over a short time.  The story goes that the British novelist started out relying on state benefits after she lost her mother to multiple sclerosis. When she presented her manuscript to publishers, her first manuscript was rejected by twelve publishers. Her last publisher accepted her manuscript albeit with reluctance saying to her that she ought to have another income stream since children books would not sustainable! A decade later, alongside numerous other literary awards, J.K. Rowling was selected as Sunday Times 197th richest person in the United Kingdom. In February 2013, she was selected as ABC Radios 13th most powerful woman in the world. She is now an accomplished author and film scriptwriter all based on her manuscripts which were rejected by twelves renowned publishers.

These two just represent the struggles most entrepreneurs encounter when they try to find their footing in the turbulent world of business. In Kenya, it has been found that most businesses fail in their first five years, most probably for lack of purpose or passion in pursuit of the ventures. The underlying denominator in all these instances of success stories be it in business or employment is the factor is passion. Maybe it is time we sit back and ask ourselves why we are going into business in the first place.

Professor Jim Collins, a management guru, went out to study over one thousand four hundred dominant firms in different sectors. He sought out to discover what made these business set ups so dominant in their respective fields of operations at the exclusion of their competitors. He called this the hedgehog concept. It was initially discovered by an ancient philosopher called Isaiah Berlin who classified people into two major classes: hedgehogs and foxes.

He found out that they worked by incorporating three major components into their strategies  what they know best how to do, what they like doing and lastly, going for what gives them the highest return. He called that component which they love doing passion. Passion is without a doubt a central cog in the attainment of any objective.

It is the engine towards fulfilment of dreams and strategy. Without passion, one would be overwhelmed by challenges and obstacles that come in the way of pursuing dreams or objectives. It is what makes one to persist even when they fail. It is said that Thomas Edison failed a record one thousand times in his attempt to invent the light bulb. When asked why he never gave up, he responded that he actually never failed. He just discovered one thousand ways how not to do the light bulb!

I call these people who make passion their investment in life as they pursue their life goals, passionpreneurs. Passionpreneurs appreciate the fact that the only capital they need to achieve their goal is passion. To them, just as when currency fails, gold becomes the standard for transactions, passion is their currency of success! To them, orange is the new black to occupy the C-Suite at the corner.

Even more surprising is the realisation that all human beings were created with a drop of greatness in them. It therefore means that everyone is a candidate for success in equal measure. The difference comes in between those who toil to discover, develop and employ their passion for success, and those that sit on it and start pursuing dreams they were not destined to live. A passionpreneur discovers his strengths and employs them to achieve their life goals. 

A passionpreneur knows that for him to succeed, he has to concentrate on one thing and pursue it to its conclusive end. He knows the power of focus. Ever wondered why most never succeed fully? It is because they are pursuing multiple objectives at the same time. Like a fox, they have many ways to achieve an objective and they pursue all these ways to do that. Hogs do one thing at a time and purpose to fulfil their objective regardless of the time.

Maybe I should surprise you as I conclude: passionpreneurs do not need the set qualification criteria to achieve success. They employ the passion they have to achieve their highest dreams. Take for example Kenyas highest paid employee. He is the CEO of a private equity firm. But he never attended any business school. He earns over Kes. 16.7Million per month, more than the countrys President and his Deputys monthly pay combined! You will be surprised that even the richest business person in the country himself is a passionpreneur. 

The ball is in your court  you have the potential. It is upon you to make that ultimate decision to discover, develop and employ your passion to achieve your life dream. Is there a reason why you ought not be a passionpreneur? Learn for the best and be the best you can be!

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The writer is the author of the best-selling classic Passionpreneurship Demystified: Powering Dreams Through Passion and Business Networking: How To Maximise on Your Contacts For Business and Personal Growth. He is also working on his third book Face The Elephant: From Customer Standards to Experience.

Business Networking

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The Folly Of Bypassing the Business Pages

There is a great interest on the financial markets especially by young people out to make an additional buck from their savings. In fact, any young person not speaking about business is talking about investments. After my previous post comparing investment in the money markets against saving in banks and several inquiries via inbox, I found it good to expound on this concept.

Financial markets are a segment where capital is principally traded. I works t bring together buyers and sellers who trade in financial assets e.g. stocks, bonds, derivatives, currencies etc.  It therefore acts as a match maker between those who have capital with those who lack or have a deficit.

Financial markets exist in two classes, depending on activity: capital markets and the money markets.

Capital markets comprise of activities in which instruments are traded for a long period or long term investments for a characteristic period of more than a year. The most popular of these are stocks (shares) or bonds (corporate or government). Institutions use this segment of the markets o raise capital for long term or capital intensive projects e.g. organization reorganization, expansion, etc. in this case, investors buy the instruments (stocks or bonds) and trade them, for a period of time. The financial instruments are traded exclusively through an exchange. In Kenya, the Nairobi Stock Exchange deals with this exclusively. The capital market trading translates to equity. This is compensated to the investor as dividends over time.

One characteristic with this segment is that capital markets are considered risky especially for short term investments and hence not good for short term ventures. And example are the IPOs in which investors buy into the ownership of a corporate and sell it after some time. IPOs offer an exciting opportunity especially with the current government efforts to offload share holding in its corporate institutions.

In the short run, due to volatility and market dynamics, inflation may erode the purchasing power of funds. For instance, in 2006, KenGen issued an IPO with a share price of Kes. 15.15. The current price, six years later, averaged Kes. 5.17 as on 18th December 2016.

However, it must be noted that the high risk over time corresponds to high returns.  Eight years after Safaricom was privatized has seen the share price grow by a whopping 376% in value to trade at Kes. 83 as at 16th December 2016. It therefore suits best those investors who intend to grow wealth over the long term like to cater for retirement, education, etc. it is appropriate for young risk takers for that matter.

The other segment of the financial markets is the money markets. In his, short term borrowing is done over short periods of time, usually less than a year. The liquidity is high, hence money is easily available and conveniently. They are therefore very convenient for mobilsing funds or capital to undertake a project in the short term.  They offer a safe haven for funds over the short term and hence a favourite for low risk investors. Since the risk of investment is low, the comparative returns are also low. His option is relied much upon by fixed income earners since the cash is readily available when needed. It therefore means when a company borrows using this, the investment translates to a debt by the buyer (capital seeking entity) which they have to pay compensation for in form of interest over time. The trading of these instruments is not done formerly, but informally through what is referred to as Over the Counter (OTC) trading. 

One thing noteworthy is money markets can also be accessed alongside the capital markets and hence, cannot be considered to be exclusively dealt with singly or in exclusion.

The money market is a favourite among many investors who target this segment due to its flexibility and the steady high returns compared to bank savings accounts. However, it should be noted that the funds held in money market accounts are not insured. Other concerns raised include the opportunity cost of holding the funds in these funds vis a vis the market factors such as inflation, which may erode the purchasing power of the funds over time. The administration charges of these funds may also eat into the resultant yield of the funds hence reducing the overall net gain over the investment period. 

It must be noted that there is a difference between money markets and money market mutual funds. Money Market Mutual funds are a collection of investors funds, which are invested together to minimize risk of exposure to credit and market/liquidity associated risks. Investors funds are thus pooled together and invested in a variety of portfolios and the returns paid proportionately over a period of time. They are low risk, flexible and easy to operate. In addition, they form a huge portion of the retail money market fund segment that allows individual small scale investors to access investment opportunities. 

The most favourite mode of investing in this segment is through unit trust funds. Most of the small scale investors like start ups and students employ this mode of creating wealth over the short term. They therefore provide a very convenient way to mobilise funds ventures. Do you intend to grow your capital reserves over a short period of time in order to start a business? This is the most appropriate way to achieve this goal. The main advantage of using unit trust is the professional investment portfolio management that the companies provide alongside diversification of portfolio risk which lowers the risk level. You need not indulge yourself in the business of managing the risk but just open an account, deposit funds and the returns are deposited back into your account. They enable the investors take advantage of economies of scale since they have a higher bargaining power and hence, returns. The accumulated funds are thereby invested through instruments like treasury bills, certificate of deposits and commercial papers which are professionally managed.

So what should you consider when investing in the money markets?

The fist consideration should be the yield in terms of compensation to the investor over time. The higher the yield, the more attractive an option should be. It has been found that capital markets offer a higher yield compared to savings accounts in banks. I have captioned an extract of 15th December 2016 of various Unite Trusts and Balanced Fund yield rated for savers review.

The amount of interest to be earned cannot be used in exclusivity. Several other factors should be put into play to make a good choice on which fund to invest in. A second factor to consider is the minimal deposit requirements. Some money market players require a minimal amount of cash to be used as initial deposit for the account to be opened, which might be discouraging for small scale investors. Some may also require that a minimal balance be maintained in the account over time.

Liquidity is also a major factor for consideration. This is how fast one can access funds from the investor funds held. Some may be restrictive, requiring a long period of time and others are short. The longer the period, the more liquid the option is. 

Some entities have administration fees or commissions which they charge to manage the portfolio. As a demerit, this can really be punitive to efforts to grow wealth since, over time, these charges can erode the volume of compensation an investor may earn from the fund. Inasmuch as a fund may have higher yields, the erosion of the value of the net returns by associated charges should be taken into consideration.

Another very essential thing to consider is the size of the fund. Larger funds help to minimize risk exposure to the investor by taking advantage to the economies of scale and diversification of portfolio. Hence, the larger the fund, the lesser the impact of a singles investor actions are. Small sized funds are really affected by for example, the withdrawal of a single investor due to the economies of scale associated with such a move. This is the reason why investment funds would always seek to grow their portfolio to absorb such shocks.

The reputation of the investment fund should also be looked into. What do customers say about the company? How are their reviews online? It would be important at this point, for example, review their page reviews on social media sites for example. Some funds are known for encouraging investors to deposit funds with them but become a menace when the times come for withdrawing. How do they treat their customers?

The beauty about investing in the money markets these days is most of the activities have gone paperless and online. With a few clicks and a minimal deposit which is easily available, one is able to start off on his journey to prudent wealth management and creation! The issue of lack of capital to start businesses or fund other short term projects should not arise. The power is in your hands. 

Wishing you a fruitful savers trip, folks!

To Start A Business, You Need Not Capital!

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What does one need to start a business? Many would say capital and financial resources. It is true that any business operation demands a lot of financial resources to finance operations. Startups are no exception. However, past studies of cases of several startups have established that little or no capital is required for actualizing a passion into an enterprise.

It is no secret that most startups face the challenge of funds availability for operationalization. Banks and other financial institutions depend on revenue flows as a basis of advancing financing. For a startup, this is not possible since no business has been transacted before. Borrowing from other sources may prove expensive and unsustainable.

It therefore leaves the entrepreneur with no option to raise funds from other sources apart from borrowing. It therefore requires the business owner to raise capital from own sources other than external sources. This can be from personal savings or at times, funds raised from selling or owned assets.  This exercise where money for starting a business with no or little money is employed establish or run a business is called ‘bootstrapping’. Also, bootstrapping occurs when the new venture uses capital from operating revenues of its own.  This is called ‘ploughing back’ money earned from business operations. Bootstrapped firms therefore focus more on profits since the profits made is what keeps the business concern going over time.

Apart from personal savings, the business owner may raise capital in the following ways:

  1. Being economical in operations and eliminating any excesses especially on operating costs.
  2. Running a business from quick turnovers or even taking preorders from suppliers and paying later after sales, sell off of owned assets, among others (trade credit). However, most of the suppliers would be unwilling to extend trade credit until they have established a firm relationship with your firm for some time. It will help if one would approach his suppliers to extend this form of credit. In as much as it’s workable, the mode is not sustainable in the long term.
  3. Selling receivables to a buy in exchange for cash to for instance a financial institution. This is usually common in sectors where receivables are characterized by a long repayment period. The factor (buyer) therefore assumes the risk of collecting the payment. Caution should be taken to take into consideration the factoring cost and hence the price setting must be set with this in mind.
  4. A letter of credit can also be employed in securing finances to undertake production and delivery of products. This is usually a popular mode in businesses dealing with export and import of goods.
  5. Credit contracts to finance acquisition of business equipment. In case of a business that is engaged in production of products, one may approach the supplier for a credit facility in which the equipment is supplied and the payments paid over a term in installments. This is convenient to startups since committing a huge amount of cash to the equipment may constraint cash available for working capital.
  6. Leasing of equipment from suppliers. In this case, the business owner only pays for the part of the equipment he puts in use rather than the whole buying price.

The major advantage of using bootstrapping to finance capital requirements of the business is it removes the burden of having to deal with expensive loan facilities in the nascent stages of the business. It therefore is more convenient and gives the entrepreneur total control over the business decision-making processes.  Nevertheless, it should be noted that this form of financing may limit the pace of the firm becoming stable over time. It may therefore be restrictive to expansion of operations and investments in other areas, for example.

However, for startups, this provides the most convenient way to raise capital especially for firms that are just starting up and do not have a firm foothold in the target market. It should also be noted that bootstrapping is not limited to start ups alone. It is a cost effective and inexpensive way to treat existing resources at any stage of the business’ life. It is a sustainable business practice.

Bootstrapping is all about how one manages his financial factors. Its aim is to keep the overheads low while maximizing returns via revenues. Operating expenses too need very close monitoring and control, with keenness to choose what is cheaper in the short run for the benefit of the business. Any investments should be discouraged in the business unless absolutely necessary and work within the business’ means without stretching other critical business sectors.

Be it raising funds from own sources or elsewhere, bootstrapping remains the most convenient mode of capital facilitation in startups. But caution must be put into consideration when considering cost implications. It is therefore a challenge that would need strict business wisdom to tackle. Another point to note is the bootstrapped business has to develop a pipeline of paying customers and maintain them. This is because it’s only by revenues generated by the business that the firm is sustained over time.

With the limited financial resources available, effective marketing has always been a challenge. However, bootstrapping on marketing especially for startups can be achieved in the following ways:

  • Increase sales via cross sales, where a client is allocated a minimum of several products.
  • The use of social media for marketing – YouTube, Facebook and Instagram provide free platforms for doing advertising. With the power of connections, one can reach millions using a product page. And it is absolutely free!
  • The use of customer referrals for new sales. Keep a database of all clients that you have sold products to. Engage them and if they are happy with the product, they do referrals to those connected to them. This is called networking.

It is therefore possible to start an enterprise without money. It has been seen even in West Africa where entrepreneurs landed big deals with big corporations without capital. As long as you get the product right, capitalization should never be a challenge! It therefore means what one needs to start a business is not capital per se, but a passion and the need the passion would fulfill.

It is Virtuous To Be Selfish…😉

Most of the time we focus so much energy, effort and attention to the external environment at the exclusion of ourselves. As we start a new month, it is time to re examine ourselves and review our limitations and strengths, check the external for any threats to our growth and if there are, make them to be opportunites. 

It is a given fact- all of us have a drop of greatness in us. It is upon each one of us to discover, develop it and exploit it to our benefit. That is how a Passionpreneur lives. He appreciates the value of the potential he carries and employs it to his advantage. 

He knows that orange is the new black, the currency for success in life!

Choose to #BeYou.

Objective Networking in Business

When we speak of networking, many take it as the usual meet-the-people activities we engage in during our free times. Like going to pubs and having some weekend snack with pals. Of course most are characterised by football or political banter that does not add any real value to life.

But let us think over this in a few: how many meals do we take in a day? I guess on the higher side three  breakfast, lunch and supper, if at all there are no snacks in between. Of these, how many do we employ for use for the benefit of our professions or businesses? I know most have none as the answer!

If we are to compute the total number of meals using the three meals a day average, it comes to about 1095 meals in a year. If we imagine only ten percent of these dedicated to utilising them to grow our business and professional relationships, this translates to around a hundred opportunities availed! Man is a social being and as such, networking events are relationship connections.

Networking has the potential of facilitating growth of business and professions through cultivating mutually beneficial relationships with other parties. They operate on the givers gain policy where, those who are willing and are committed to offer the other party something, benefit in return. 

An objective driven networking event or social gathering ensures that each member of the network comes with something to offer the other member and in return, they get to receive something. As such, whenever the members of the network congregate, each comes with a referral or a business fulfilment for the other party.

Everyone would want to work with someone they know and as such, a relationship or acquaintance has to be cultivated. You can only work with someone you know, trust, like and invest time in building that social bond for mutual benefit.

Professionally run and objective driven networking gatherings work in a structured manner, with laid down ground rules that dictate the mannerisms of its members. What they aim at is to build a structured supportive system of doing referrals to its members. As such, each member would emanate from the meeting with substantial business and hence gain value from the relationship. They therefore need to have a common bond and objective  to network and grow mutually.

Objective networking also would require that the members have an unbowed and unwavering commitment towards the social organisation. They should be able to afford to sacrifice their time resources or otherwise towards the networking forums. Most usually hold their meetings over a meal, either the breakfast or lunch period. As such, there should be strict observance of time and frequency of meetings. Some clubs have established ground rules that dictate penalties for deviance from established norms as a deterrence measure.

As mentioned, the mind-set of the network members should be sole  to give. As such, all should work as a team with their sole purpose to market the other persons business. And hence each member markets the other members profession and business and in a way, advertises their commodities business via word of mouth. There is therefore need for sincerity on each members part to help the other as he or she receives help in turn. At the end of the day, through word of mouth, each business entity represented there is advertised for free and business leads generated!

The most important bit is availing tools of networking by the members. The most basic of them are business cards. These hold vital information and as such, they should be articulately designed and laid out with attractive features. A blog would also come in handy as it would be a platform for articulating issues of concern or interest and as such, attract followers and build a fan base. It helps one create an influence cheaply and conveniently.

As mentioned, one obvious benefit of networking is free and cheap advertising through word of mouth and referrals. Indeed, comparing the heavy costs of doing media ads versus the free word of mouth referrals, the later wins the day! In actual fact, it is said that over 98% of business leads generated today are through networks. If your business is currently not leveraging on this, then you are not in business!

It would also be an enriching experience socially and professionally to interact with people from diverse backgrounds. It is said, that we are defined by the books we read and the PEOPLE we associate with. It would also be a platform to learn new skills and get to learn from people who possess better experiences.

In a nut shell, next time you meet a person, get to task to see what you can learn from him or her. Let that interaction leave a lasting impression and in return, influence their life in one way or another. For indeed, clever people look for business or work. The smart build networks!