Njuki Moments

Friday, March 25, 2011

One elephant day

This goes waaay, way back while still at Campu. You see,I had the pleasure and honor of being a Lumumbist.The great elephants you must have studied about in your history..oba was it geography class. Those ones. I was one of them. Don't be asking me about Gongom yet. But to clear ground,he is good, I hear. I mean,the guy has an empire to himself.

But that is wolokotho.To the main point.(he he i dare you to find it)

When the news hit me that I will be residing in Lumumba hall, I was both sad and oba happy. You know that feeling? We heard that is where everything goes down,you don't leave the same. But these guys(us ) have a reputation too, they are just too hard to handle. Whatever can go wrong will go wrong in Lumumba.I didn't know whether I would catch up.Iam known to be slooow many times. Now news travels fast.An old family friend learns of my admission and my assignment to Gongom land. Ha! He was a rat this guy during his days(those of Mitchel).
He calls my old man chap chap.
Mzee.I heard the boy was given Lumumba for a hall! Ha ha. you are in trouble, fellow parent. Kids don't stay in Lumumba and remain focused. You must remove that boy immediately! Pay for a hostel or something.That is one hell of a hell hole(okay he didn't use those exact words. Ed.)

So,Mzee calls me for a discussion and we must have had that discussion most serious parents have with serious children.Those of stay away from girls,stay focused and read.. By the time I was escorted to my hall,I was determined to be a good boy,after all I was assigned an Annex.Those ga rooms where you have deckers competing with people in numbers.You had to be extra naughty to be creative in such a room! Poor old man's advise was unnecessary.

Then,I see something. One fyne morning I was going for a cold shower when I detect foreign sights in the hall shower rooms,I take a double check. I look closely. I am not lying,there was a girl.Yes a girl,casually draped in a towel waiting in line for the shower. Alone like this.I died.If I was supposed to be good,why were such temptations put in my way!Straight like that! Ha. That was followed by some joke that if Lumumba hall ever fell,like many thought it would,I hear they would find more female bodies than male. Such madness.

Now. because I was a resident in that Annex for a year.Nothing else interesting happened till I moved...other than some guy we named fresher sharp who on a state visit by his gal they get busy on the upper bunk which is in the way of those large Hall windows,and just as he turns to stretch..after you know what..the whole three blocks chorus, in unison;

"Eh Lumumba Oyeee!"
"Oh fresher sharp oyee.."

Poor girl walked out with an averted face to wicked clapping. Fresher sharp applied for a dead year.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Debt and the entrepreneur

I had reached an enviable step in my life as an entrepreneur and celebrated farmer. Enviable to mean that I now had a car (well it was a truck, but it counts, right?) and I had a revolving chair in my office, with an assistant. Enviable to mean that I had been quoted in a few business TV programmes about what I do and how I got there. I also had quite a list of clients and financial institutions on speed dial. That means that clients call you and make orders and money exchanges accounts without a meeting or even a visit to the office. Financial Institutions to mean banks and micro-finance institutions and loan sharks alike. Enviable to mean that I could now take a few holiday trips to Zanzibar, or Addis Ababa and Mombasa. It was a good time.

When you get to a point like that in your career as an entrepreneur, you are destined for great things and you seem to have made it and the only direction you are headed is upwards. That's what I thought too. Because this is the most precarious step in business and entrepreneurship. If you miss a step here and slip, you will go down down and quite fast. I know.I slipped. And your fall will be a long long one.

Like most people in that position (you will want to be here by the way, its good I tell you) the good things seem to follow you and you seem to lose the concentration of what matters and your decisions tend to be based on emotion and not on gut or calculation or any of that famous acumen at a all.

The roof doesn't fall in all at once but the signs are there and you will miss them because you are not prepared to observe them. You tend to call for more money (we call it business capitalisation, to give it a professional twang) every time you just feel like you need more money. Many times you don’t need that money and being where we are and our economy being Uganda's economy, credit it really expensive. But because everyone knows and probably envies you, when you call them for a few millions to be picked in the afternoon, they give. Soon you have to borrow some more to pay the old debt and much as sales come in to fill that gap often, miracles are not endless. So one time you will be short and your cash flow will be ugly and you are suddenly forced to acknowledge a really nasty situation for what it is. That is what happened.

You could still ask yourself, so what, after all you have your old business structures to fall back to, but they too get to a time and weaken and give way and you are left exposed in a really nasty way.
Interestingly as we grow up we hate debt, but if you choose business as your calling, you will have to unlearn and re-learn that credit is like oxygen on a death bed, you think you don’t need it and actually take it for granted while you are well only to realize its all that can save your life at that moment. They even charge you for it. So you need credit in business. But don’t over do it. Excesses have their own flipsides. A lot of times that you think you need to borrow, you actually don’t and I wish you don’t. Can you imagine how you ever survived while you had no job? And now that you have one you still are short of money even when you get paid bonuses and salary comes in promptly? You will not die, and some of those urgencies are really just illusions. Trust me, I know. Besides every time you borrow unnecessarily, it affects your focus. You now concentrate more on the debt and not on positive cash flow and if you ever meet with institutions that employ professional debt collectors as I did, you had better thank God if you get out of it with your health intact. You could easily die of stress or diabetes (yes, even in your early 20s) or any of those diseases which just tend to be in the woods waiting for a trigger opportunity.

The downside is, I lost my business and still remained with a mountain of debt to clear with a shovel. Your total existence is threatened when you lose a business especially if business is all you have done for a while. Options will not come to you that fast given that what ever you think of will have to sort out your huge debt that a healthy business was unable to before. Because by the time people trust you with their money, (bank or individual) they believe in your idea and what you have to show so far. New ideas don’t get the red carpet treatment like that, even if you are the same guy behind them. It’s harder. In fact, now they double check, always.

So, folks when you travel the entrepreneurial journey and make headway, be thankful. More still be careful especially about debt and credit, more so which has an expense to it. More importantly, treat debt like you would a loaded gun; very carefully. It can be the best security and it can also blow your brains out. In seconds.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

the way you do the things you do

Don’t be thinking I am doing a rendition of UB40' hit. No. I and I only sing for church. Excuse me very much.
I am only telling you how you do the things you do and how it reflects on how you get the things you get. I found it interesting that people in all spheres of life can be loaded and their very neighbors broke. How now? What happened to sharing?
I thought all bankers were filthy rich,all doctors smell of money and all business people are actually money itself. Then I found out. Not so.

You see,it all depends on what you do and how you do it. It was a long time ago when I attended secondary school and even then on UTV there was this singer,in military fatigues,yes that one.Who we loved watching. We almost dedicated his songs in letters.He was big. You know.On TV. Fast forward to 2010 and I meet that same guy in town,vending his own CDs. What went wrong? Could it be he lost the spark sometime during the journey?

I tend to think that passion brings out the best in us and even if don't want the money,it comes nonetheless. Let’s take examples. The musicians who make it are not just those who sing best. No may dear,but those whose passion goes beyond them to the entire industry and they grow with it. The lawyers who know the law more are not the ones who get ahead ,except if you mean in research,but those whose passion makes them creative ans the move from collecting knowledge to almost artistic application.

You will find Accountants who are filthy rich and poor accountants too,and the story goes on in all professions,including banking.

Now,You have an idea and you want to make it big.How do you know how far you will go?Will you sacrifice all you have to give it your all? Would you sacrifice everything, and I mean everything to make your idea work? Even when everyone believes you are bound to fail,will you stick it out? You are on the road, Keep on with passion and energy and just don't let failure be an option. Take a look around and observe the successful business people around us. They are those who are passionate about disease.In the sense that they will do whatever they can do study analyze and just eliminate disease.They don't see negativity and death when you talk disease they see break through in saving life and real possibilities. So they build hospitals and excel at human treatment. They are those who are passionate abut dirt,and rubbish,and wherever they see a new building in the skyline,they see toilets and they see dirt and they see money so they bid to clean and make life better and they mint money with passion. What is your passion?

Sports? Farming? Painting or teaching? Note to reader,if you do not enjoy what you do,let it go,find something worthwhile for you time. Chances are you are cheating yourself and your colleagues too.That's where excuses come from. Quit and find your passion. Figure out how to drive it and get whatever you want.

First, I’ll say what passion is NOT. A passion is NOT someone else's idea of what you should be doing. Even though you can and will use other people's observations about your talents and strengths in figuring out your passion, the final choice should be something that you decide is important to you. A passion cannot be an obligation or someone else's vision for you. It must be yours and yours alone. Here are some of the qualities of a passion.

A passion is something that often comes naturally to you.It 's raw. You are home doing what you love. You feel fulfilled.It interests you and it fulfills a need.
When you meet a passionate person, you know right away,the live and eat and breathe their passion.Ralph Waldo Emerson put sit succinctly;
"Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful engines of success. When you do a thing, do it with all your might. Put your whole soul into it. Stamp it with your own personality. Be active, be energetic and faithful, and you will accomplish your object. Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm."

For an entrepreneur,passion will see you through the hard times when you meet mountains fro problems and during the days of boredom when a snails moves faster than your progress.And because you are the spark from which others catch the fire,working without passion is losing the war before the first battle begins.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

for all the girls I have loved ..

I will say this once,because deep truths make me uncomfortable. That explains why I have kept this piece as a draft for so long.For some reason,I just couldn't keep it any more. This is my homage ,my appreciation my celebration to all the gals I have been honored to love and be loved by them.

I hesitate to call you a gal.Well,because society wont allow me. But 'gal' expresses how I feel.We seem to grow together.We have played together,you sang to me,we cry together,you know my deepest fears.You seem to read my thoughts. My biggest comforter,and the first gal I met when I came here.You have taught me a lot. You, I have known longest and closest.You have shaped me and taught me how to love.I treasure every moment I have known you.You have sacrificed your life for me,in many ways.You gave me life. In my deepest fears and uncertainty,your words comfort me;"Whatever has a beginning has an end.You will be alright".

My sisters:
Boy am I lucky or what! Having come to have sisters like you is the best I could have asked for. I still don't know how to treat you,whether let you free or protect you too much. I guess we shall figure that out as we go along.Having been born after some of you and before the rest of you has given me this feeling of knowing you at all ages,all the time.
Monica and Jane,Rest in Peace. I know you still look beautiful where you are.You must make them smile. You left too early. Sadly, I never had the courage to tell you I loved you .I still do. Do you read where you are? I hope you get my feelings now.

My angel:
You,I have expressed how I feel. May be because we share a life.But you can never say enough.You know how I am, I am a man and our deep thoughts don't tend to come out often,even when they should. Thanks for what you have brought to my world,love,guidance,a soft touch and for making me a Dad.Woman of my life. I love you.

My princess:

If you study hard,some day you will read this...and probably understand it.You have re-focused my life..and you are so pretty. You rock. I will do my best to be my best.I just feel blessed to play the Dad part in your life.So we shall play and have fun and enjoy our lives. I love you too.Well,because you said if first.

My friends:
There are great women who have played teacher,mentor,friend,colleague and so many roles in my life. I know that we do not remain the same when we meet great people. It rubs off. Whatever role you have played in my life. Know I appreciate it..and I celebrate that association.

Happy Women's day to you all.

Monday, March 7, 2011

How I wish government could help . . .

All of us must remember that part in our childhood when we would get money every time we needed something, from parents, relatives and even older working friends.
We must also remember the transition from student to working class 'professional' and just how hard it was for us to ever again be given money! Isn't it ironic? Now we needed it more! And we somehow cannot explain to our young friends and children how we may not have money. And they could wonder...and yet you go to work everyday! Then, government was mummy and daddy, well and every relative who could chip in.

People just expect governments to help.
I heard this a lot while I was working with 'the working poor’, it’s an NGO term to describe people who can be helped to overcome poverty. I used to train them and design strategic plans for their small organizations. So one time this phrase comes up and I take serious notice. I pose a question. ‘Okay, supposing we have identified a problem in our lives (these kind of government appeals mostly tend to be personal in nature), please close your eyes and for once imagine a specific action being carried out by government.’ The answers I received were numerous, some of them hilarious like, someone saw 'government' hoe- in- hand fixing a trench in the neighborhood

I personally believe that we tend to rely too much on our governments, wherever we are. Not that they don’t have a responsibility, they do but they are not our parents! That’s where capitalism comes in. Ingenious people identify problems and challenges to their communities and decide to solve them, for a fee. Because our expectation of a good life should come from government, government tends to be happy for progress made and some rewards maybe made still, to the problem solver. You must remember the time when trade with Southern Sudan was a tough cookie, because of the insecurity in both Northern Uganda and Southern Sudan. That is also the time that most money was made by dare-devil traders. They could have asked for government intervention,though eventually they did and roads have been built and there is relative security but profitability has gone down too because every one can now trade. So,how do you balance external help with acumen?

Supposing you woke up one day and you are in a foreign country? It could be Japan or China (which we know a little about) or USA or Britain (which we know a lot about).Or even Kazakhstan or Dominican Republic. What would you do, to not just live but prosper too? Picture the many people who go to foreign countries without knowing the language, culture or even any one and how they prosper and rule the world they choose. I am sure not too far from your office one of them owns the building. Which skills did they fall to? Are they attainable anyway? Is it even ever too late?
No, it's not. You can start now.They start by taking matters into their hands,literary, and doing what has to be done. The guy who get work done,no matter the challenges is the guy who gets ahead,you could call that guy the astute businessman. You are in business by solving problems for money. Simply put.

I dabble a little in real estate and recently ‘estates’ are all the rage(never mind that some are just apportioned bare blocks of land).For the ingenious though, after sub dividing the land, and grading through what you could call a road, they start marketing the plots and people begin building, they approach government to offer their ‘God-given’ or is it vote given role of providing infrastructure. In such cases government is only willing to help, or be seen to help anyway, and many such estates have had roads built and the value has gone up. It's a win -win situation, the home owner gets a road, the entrepreneur's estate appreciates in value and government is happy with its service to the people.They could have built the road themselves,but they don't have to,and because they have started the process,it's justifiable for the government to chip in.

Your cash flow tends to follow a certain pattern when you have one restricted source of income. We live on dreams. They inspire us. They give us hope. If you do not dream, you will never live your dream. Well, you have none! A doing attitude therefore is quite necessary in the game. The fact that you do whatever you have to do whether you get external help or not.Come to think about it,if everything was as good as we wanted it to,where would the opportunities in business be? Though I hasten to add here that governments exist to make our lives better,by establishing an enabling environment; for peace, for people to live well and prosper,to be healthy,to have power( I mean electricity)..and so on. So they build roads and provide other essential services. The role of creating a paradise out of a country does not fall on their shoulders,it is yours. Your role.

Back to our question. What do you see 'government' doing when you close your eyes? And if its not all yet done,would that pose an opportunity for you? To fill the gap? Provide the service? How about you start now?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I met a P.I.M.P

If you are an average guy or chick for that matter,this post is not for you.Because the people you know who normally do this work are called bulookas(brokers).So thanks for visiting.Do come again. Bye.

Now that we have the pervs as audience.Welcome again.
The story starts here. Once upon a time...........and you repeat "a long long time a go".

I traveled to Dar -es Salam. Damn,this city is hot.Eh! Sorry. No swearing in stories.In order to take advantage of cheaper flight rates, I booked early and even flew early,(I suspect to leave the plane for more paying passengers).Since main business started Thursday morning,my Monday morning flight left me idle by the time I touched down. I had days to kill. So I call some one.I have friends in hot places. He picks up,he was just having a lecutre,but since I am his international friend come a visit ,he leaves the lecture.
I ask him,
"Now friend,have you ever been to Wandegeya?"
"Wande-wa?" he asks also. I conclude he hasn't.
I ask again,
"Okay,where in Dar is a place like Wandegs?" he is bright,he must have watched Wandegs in his TV.He tells me such a place is called Sinza.
Sinza is like Wandegs in two or three ways.It is close to town but yet with the friendly prices of a friendly place. I pick a cab. I have a few friends with me. In the hot cab is an old man .He realises we are Ugandan. he gets into our culture. You see we talk alot. Ask MTN,we even jam network.MTN you will pay later.That is a kalango.The man talks about history,about Dar about the cousin he has in Uganda, about Zanzibar. Wait..did he say Zanzibar? .Are we the type that has four days to kill? ..and you are sure he said Zanzibar? We listen,meanwhile our brains are turning around this hot piece of information and pictures,oba diagrams are drawing themselves in our heads..how slaves be sold in Zanzibar and how sultans,those of Bargash be ruling in richness..our minds are picturing...

He said somethig in swahili,and we knew we had got to Wandegs,sorry Sinza.My friend was there waiting.We check into a hotel and we soon go looking for supper.No,lunch.Yes.Lunch. Because we are tourists we decide to walk back into Sinza and them amazing sights be before our eyes.There are pubs everywhere in trees.No.Not like birds in trees but since it's so hot,why build buildings?You just kwesooka a nice shady tree and a pub is established. We enter.(Sounds funny,entering a tree?) We enter the pub and take some drinks.They realise we are Ugandan,they play Chameleone,and Tindatine,can you imagine!? Long story short,we sleep at five a.m.

Now,if you want to die.Don't die before you take a speed boat to Zanzibar.Do that and you can die anytime. It amazing,ocean water being white as the speed boat slices through it. Then you pass by large ships as you go,its like overtaking buses on Masaka road. That is how awesome it can be. I even took a picture which facebook blocked. So we land in Zanzibar.

Enter my pimp friend. Friend because,this is twelve hours early ,but since, well he is a PIMP ha calls every one male, friend. Now,its hard enough to find someone who speaks english in Dar.Multiply that by the square root of seven and give me the answer. It's muuuch harder in Zanzibar.

"Maen! Whazzup?
"Man,we ara fine.We want hotels",and pimp takes us to a hotel having trippled the prices.
We inspect the rooms and they are oba mouldy! It's low season.But because Americano as we called pimp was a welcome relief in a world of coast swahili and arabic,we warmed to him early only to realise he was cheating us.Swahili guy tries his best English on us to let us know Americano is cheating us.Why should we trust him?,we ask and he says "ask someone else other than him and me". "Because he has taken you away from my hotel I also take you away from him.Even I was going to cheat you, I am honest" Any business pupils in class? Take notes.
We ask a third party and we realise the truth.We don't book.

Now this is a warning,.Movies are fiction.They should never be related even remotely to reality.Even sports channels. Dude with us tells us in glowing terms how he knows a good place for lunch,and we are all hungry now.We hire a Super custom and get there.The ads showed them in good light.But that was all. We settle for Birhian in the next kafunda. Using the same informant,we drive all the way to North Coast,only to realise since it's low season,they are deserted and you can't do a lot on kilometres of white beach sand except collect shells and take pictures. We do that and return to stone town.

In stone town,we had visited him Bargash the sultan's palace,slave market and the ancient town.It's magical. But we return at night and struggle to find a beer. We have done better scaling walls.Beer is a rare commodity in Stone town Zanzibar,except in Komba discotheque.

This is the real thing! All you pervs ,may I have your attention please? I find my friend Americano a.k.a P.I.M.P on duty.Daytime job,if you can call it that. He tries to skive drinks off us,mbu he will give us company.We refuse. Club opens at midnite.We enter.We dance. We dance the shuffle.We seem to be the only group dancing the shuffle so everyone comes our way,and then Americano has no job.They play Juliana and Chameleone and Tindatine arrrgh again!

Now.I apologise,I will not tell you what else happened.We had a great time.All you people who saw us spent in Bagamoyo,this is where the term 'memory loss' was coined and this is where we lost all our money.Ask no more questions.

Having looked even for a a guy to speak broken English and failed,I am leaving the club last and this bouncer tells me in crisp Luganda."Ba ssebo mwebale kujja.N'enkya tujja kukola"

School of hard knocks,hustling while young

I thought Humorist George Ade would guide us right through title,after all isn't society constructed to make us persevere through the hard times! A lot of people have discussed the merits and demerits of school life and our education system. How it doesn't prepare us for real life. I will not join them.Instead I will concentrate on the opposite University across the Street,also sometimes called the University of Understanding. In this school you never graduate,but your lessons pile up high since you enroll and experience comes with them all. In this school,they don't issue graduation certificates,rather it just shows through what you achieve or sometimes the wrinkles on your face.

Not many people will tell you the risks or even hard part of doing business or going it alone. And this not meant to scare you.Just to prepare you.The best times are in business,the sky they say is not just the limit,it is the starting step to achieving your world.Like all good things however,it doesn't come cheap.It has a price,that must be paid way before the harvest. You must have heard of the law of the harvest,that you only reap what you sow and that you can never cheat nature,if maize takes three months to mature, you can't force it to mature earlier. So is life as it should be. Early preparation just like normal school is helpful, so is doing your home work.I n case you are already where you desire to be,give the lesson to your children.Encourage them to work on everything constructive and most importantly that which has a money element to it.

I had a proud childhood. Now that I think about it.Where parents provide but don't limit your potential to achieve more. In the village where we lived,we had several large coffee shambas and despite attending school being first priority, our teacher- Dad let us know that if we needed more than he could provide(or wanted to provide we suspected), we needed to do more than we were doing. I mean,we all knew he would spend money on weeding the farm and picking the coffee cherries. The catch was,if we found time(normally classified as strict play time) and did work that was designated 'for pay' then why not, we join the paid rank. So if you ever wanted non -school going shoes or those Savco jeans then,you were welcome to the farm,and missing the football match in the process. We didn't complain,because we only worked if we needed something.But the innovation of young age was not spared.
We bordered a large forest, constantly full of lumbering and, as children, loved the smell of oil mixed with wood saw dust.So we would go inspect every time we heard a 'machine' lumbering close by.After a while we also realized we could make some money too,a few errands here and there,getting the timber waste for fuel and lifting sawed timber for those of us who were heavy set enough for a few coins. We were then rich kids the next day. Surprise surprise,the same formula works so many years when I get into business. You must work for what you need. I guess the reason it wasn't ever classified at child labour then,was because we went to school first and did some work at leisure.

Times have changed.You don't have to live in a village like mine to encourage the young ones to be innovative or even earn some of their money.Music is now gladly paying and so is sport.So is software.Software is so easy for kids to manipulate,before you know it they could be the next billionaires. Not mentioning creativity with interiors and beauty solutions. Irrespective of whether they intend to make if a full time job or not,the training is invaluable. All I am saying is that those have opportunity to promote a hobby or passion within their young ones,it's an invaluable lesson that will serve them years to come.An example of an icon started young Michael Jackson can attest to that.

Children may not have the confidence to go forward. They don't see the potential for accomplishment. They may not believe in themselves or their ability to conquer the situation. Encouraging words and patience are needed from parents to help them through. And as Albert Einstein said,"The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil, but because of those who look on and do nothing."