Njuki Moments

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

There is life after death;and sometimes death thereafter

I am constantly tending a small graveyard in my back yard. Once in a while I take a thoughtful walk over there and take a look,sit on a fresh tombstone,pull out a few weeds. My collection has grown. It reminds me how time flies. It sure does. You should come over visit sometime. Visit this memorial of mine. Oh ,come on,don't be like that! The graveyard is your friend. It is there that your nostrils will take in the most pure of airs. That slightly breezy wind,seeping through the trees. It makes them dance.The trees whistle. Can you believe that! Come visit sometime. Sometimes,the dead return to life. Sometimes they die,other times they live. What! You are not a believer! There is life after death. I know. Everyone of us has that back yard,where our memories and ideas are buried. Those which never took off. Those which did and crashed,and some which we hope to launch some day. Breaking out on your own teaches you lots. The good and the bad. That which no one ever tells you about,because everyone is entitled to their own experience.It is a sin to stop someone else to learn by experience. No one can teach experience. You can share,but you cant relieve it fully for some one else. I seem to have come full circle now.After a hiatus of sorts. I may just have that now famous 'primitive energy' beyond the border. I have realized that is not what you have but a state of mind. Let me digress a little. How do you make a debut flight campaign and one of the 'killer' words in the campaign meant to get people to embrace your airline is 'primitive energy'! Stay with me here. It is a question. How about if you put your self in the 'campaigners' shoes? OK? Let us do. Are you there.Laces tied up? Ok. Did they mean that the people you are flying in to see have this almost rude energy they will snatch anything or scream for service? Or is it used in a positive light to reflect,say, unspoilt,almost virgin energy? Moving on. But wait. Just a second. Primitive energy?! Really? Seriously? For a place that is going to host you and your business! I would kill to get the Korean translation.Possibly the meaning was lost in translation. But back to my collection patch.Lest any one thinks I am a cannibal or something. I am talking about ideas. Some which have come to fruition and some which haven't. Most of them have had the light of day shining on them and they have had an impact. Some have set me back.Some are yet untouched and yet they are all there,collected,as if in a trance till that spark comes in to ignite them. There is this one which just won't go away,constantly nagging,tugging,as if screaming for attention.It is now that I realize that my constant walks may have something to do will resurrecting ghosts. What did I think,you may ask. But it is also now that I remember that sometimes we work to earn,but our most memorable day and moments will be those where we work to learn.The world has a way of repaying those moments where we didn't even question for pay,as if telling us that our price is ahead and is yet multiplied and what we have picked up,no price could have paid for,and it would have been us paying! The next time we talk, this idea would have grown legs.As if zombie like,a tomb cracking open,and the opening getting bigger ,a figure walking out,dusting cob webs and dead earth from its glazed eyes and picking up speed as it goes,leaving a gaping hole in my once pristine graveyard.Going to happen to the world.And you will never notice when you meet,that this extremely tailored well cut- suit is holding what once lay there lifeless. My next big idea is here.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Uganda at 50: The more things change the more they stay the same

In October this year, Uganda will be 50 years old. Her beauty un -diminished the girl has a story to tell. Having grown and retarded almost in equal measure we examine what has made the 50 years worthwhile and what we would rather forget as a country. Beauty and tourism: The thing with natural beauty is that you don’t earn it; it is natural and is simply bestowed on one by God. So was the case of Uganda. Sadly because no wars are fought to win beauty not many people and countries in this case put in that much effort to maintain or grow that beauty. In 1908 Sir Winston Churchill, then Colonial Secretary of the United Kingdom, in his book My African Journey, detailing his visits to British colonies said this about Uganda. “My journey is at an end, the tale is told, and the reader who has followed so faithfully so far has a right to ask what message I bring back. It can be stated in three words: “Concentrate on Uganda”. But it is alive by itself. It is vital, and in my view, in spite of its insects and its diseases, it ought in the course of time to become the most prosperous of all our East and Central African possessions, and perhaps the “financial driving wheel of all this part of the world”. My counsel plainly is: Concentrate upon Uganda! Nowhere else in Africa will a little money go so far. Nowhere else will the results be more brilliant, more substantial or more rapidly realized. Uganda is from end to end a ‘beautiful garden’ where ‘staple food’ of the people grows almost without labour. Does it not sound like a paradise on earth? It is the Pearl of Africa. Now compare this with the lonely planet magazine’s description of the same country 104 years later. ‘Uganda is Africa condensed, with the best of everything the continent has to offer packed into one small but stunning destination. Uganda is home to the highest mountain range in Africa, the Mountains of the Moon in the Rwenzori National Park. It is the source of the mighty Nile, and around Jinja offers the best white-water rafting in the world. It has the highest concentration of primates on earth, including the majestic mountain gorilla, one of the rarest animals on the planet. Head to Bwindi Impenetrable National Park for a chance to get close to these great apes. On top of all this, the scenery is so striking that it looks like an oil painting, the beautiful national parks see far fewer visitors than in neighboring Kenya and Tanzania, and the capital, Kampala, is safer and friendlier than most in Africa.’ Sadly, Uganda is yet to ‘become the most prosperous of all our East and Central African possessions, ‘or even the ‘financial driving wheel of all this part of the world’. A typical case of failing to turn blessings into assets. Even with ‘other people’s’ discovery of the pearl gifted by nature, not much has been curved out of this for its children. Majority of Uganda’s continue to slave away in unproductive gardens scratching the surface of the earth with hand hoes for food and economic survival instead of putting to use the easily available tourism potential. Like is the case with most natural beauties there develops a sense of entitlement, working against the beauty instead of for. Uganda has not been able to lead its East African neighbors as Winston predicted and sputtering efforts are still the only response government is giving to this huge potential despite being the leading exchange earner for the country by its very nature. Amos Wekesa, president of Uganda Tourism Association cites poor marketing strategies, poor infrastructure and lack of political support as the major setbacks in developing the tourism sector. He says that although Uganda is blessed with some of the most breathtaking sites in Africa, and that tourism creates more jobs than many other sector, the little political support accorded to the sectors has seen Uganda play catch-up to counterparts like Kenya. “How come that with all our natural endowments, other African countries like our neighboring Kenya are doing far better than us in brand imaging?” Wekesa asked. However the tourism players seem to have acquired an un-failing fighting spirit. They have designed a campaign which will seek to boost Uganda’s tourism once the proposed 7 Wonders National Program takes center stage. The campaign will also boost Uganda's revenue earnings with figures estimated at over $2.5b each year. The initiative designed by Amos Wekesa Masaba a tourism investor and President Uganda Tourism Association is supported by the Private Sector Foundation Uganda (PSFU). “The campaign shall involve asking Ugandans within and abroad to choose Uganda’s 7 wonders. The selection of the 7 wonders will start with President, Cabinet, and Parliament before it rolls out across the country,” he said recently. A World Bank program implemented by PSFU has approved funding for the initial survey of the tourism attractions amongst tourism stakeholders to choose the best 30 natural wonders out of which the whole nation will choose the top 7 wonders of Uganda. The features will be identified from across the whole country with selections spread across flora, fauna, national parks and forests. Others will include rivers, mountains, rocks, historical, religious and anthropological sites. Gideon Badaggawa the chief executive PSFU says the campaign is a boost towards improving competitiveness in the Ugandan tourism industry. ‘Uganda’s scenic, unique and rich tourism potential has gone unnoticed over years,” he said. Despite the tourism potential, Uganda receives a small number of tourists averaging around 500,000 a year. Wekesa is optimistic revenues will double once the numbers of tourists rise. “What we need is market for our products and what would be better that attracting 2m people each year with a potential of each at least $2500 (Shs7m) while in Uganda,’ he mused. Unlike other East African countries that invested much in tourism last year (Kenya-$23m, Tanzania $10m, Rwanda $5m) Uganda only invested $300,000 earning a paltry $650m.Yet unlike the other states, Uganda still stands out because it has the highest density of primates (gorillas, chimps, baboons). According to the National development plan which was rolled out two years ago by President Museveni seeking to get Uganda into the middle income bracket by 2017,there is still work to be done. The plan whose goal is that on average, every Ugandan earns at least Shs1.8 million ($900)per year, details tourism as a key growth sector. However the plan is yet to move away from what is – just a plan. Hopefully, the next fifty years will find Uganda much wiser, more competitive and fitting into what Churchill saw 104 year ago realized as a regional power house, only 154 year late but on course. This article first appeared in The CEO Magazine May 2012.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Want to hunt? Go ahead -head hunt.

I was my own sole employee for a few years.
I had even launched two new product lines to the market. No jokes. Seriously-I just like the line...launched two product lines to the market-eggs and packed chicken. Then Faith happened. Not Faith the virtue. No. Faith, the person. She was my first employee and as a result she introduced me to the world of head hunting.
You see when you start a business unless you are the genius type, which I am not, you will get to a point when the business outgrows you. At that point, you will constantly you struggle to learn new skills and you will constantly fire fight to get things right-on time.
That is what happened to me the first day my new product line was launched. I told you I love that line. It was that bright day when the receiving clerk at the supermarket asked me to differentiate between a thigh and a breast-of a chicken. I know I needed someone better than me in this area.
When you realize you need better skills the urge is normally to go back to school do a course or something. You will rarely find that useful. By the time you complete the course your business will be far back than you left it, especially if it is the type where you play a key role and your presence is needed daily. There are people out there who have done what you want done for a while. This is how Faith came into the picture. She came highly recommended and she had the experience from a multinational company to boot.
Problem was, I didn't think I could afford her. Business skills coming to the fore, I negotiated not her salary-I didn't know how much she was worth and my deeper fear was whether I would be able to accommodate her skills fully-whether my small business would generate enough challenging work for her.so when we spoke, I negotiated for time. Half her time in a day. I let her be the boss. Come in here early morning and you can go do something else. Come back in the evening and finish up for this fee. She accepted. With time I would ask her to train someone else to work in her absence so skill transfer can take place. When you have an arrangement such as this with lee-way either side you can’t go wrong.

With time Faith agreed to work more time and even gave me insights never thought needed. Don't die under the load. Ask someone with experience to help. Give them the convenience of choosing the terms-at first it will guide you well on how to proceed. Use them well and build a team. You will be surprised just how beneficial such a deal can be in the long run. They tend to look at this young outfit as their baby and well-steered you will achieve much more than if you had engaged another rookie so you can still be the most knowledgeable on the team.
Being smart is measured by how well you manage people who are smarter than you. Learn the skill and if you are in the service industry, outsourcing pretty manners and some faces goes along way.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Mind your business

Not many entrepreneurs are known for their depth of knowledge from formal school. That is if we get talking diplomas and degrees. However, one thing you may observe is that no one can pass for a fool or uneducated if you may. If you have experienced some form of success in creating and running a business, you have far too much education, and experience than you get credit for. Why?
Because that is just the way of business, it is a game that requires tack and skill, and experience and speed and if you are winning, you certainly are doing something right. Money is fluid and requires careful handling. When you succeed in so doing, you have what it takes to win in the rest of the world’s challenges.
But most importantly, what entrepreneurship requires of you is knowledge of your business, attention to detail and questioning even that which seems obvious. You need to mind your business, and getting information before and after you start is important. Learning never ceases.
When God said, 'My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge'(Hosea 4:6) take it that he had you in mind. A lot of entrepreneurship graves litter the horizon. Cause of death? Lack of information and insufficient care to own business. Let us share some examples.
In March 2008, I found myself in a long line of investors who wanted a slice of the Safaricom IPO shares. Safaricom one of the most profitable telecom businesses in the region was listing on the Nairobi Stock Exchange. The Kenyan government was offering 25% of its stake in the company. Talking money, the IPO was offering 10 billion shares priced at 5 Kenyan shillings a share(Ush 150), which implies a value of KES200 billion ($3 billion). As expected there was this whole lot of promotion for the Initial Public Offer, and everyone imagined themselves owning part of that juicy offer. Catch was, you had to subscribe for the shares in Kenyan shillings plus opening up a CDS account and brokerage fees, all for small percentages, it seemed.
A lot people lined up converted their cash and went in for the kill. If you spoke to some people queuing up-like I did, the strategy was to get their allocation and sell immediately on the opening day hoping the price would appreciate as had the KenGen shares two years before. As luck would have it, the IPO was oversubscribed, meaning not many people got all the shares they had subscribed for, they therefore had to go through the money losing and heavily stressing process of reconverting their money at obnoxious rates some months later. At the end of the day, the banks and agents had made the money and so had Safaricom. Not many speculators came out smiling, because to add to their troubles the share price dipped on opening. Now some people had taken loans hoping to cash in and pay back.
Now, specialists and consultants are important in business but you remain their boss, meaning they are meant to refine your thinking not stop it. Eventually it is your money and therefore you should take the last decision depending on your independent analysis.
For this particular example, anyone who has played the markets should have told you that you invest for the long run, which makes more sense so you should be prepared before you go in. But if you miss the analysis you go down.
I can imagine God up there looking on in wonder, tugging at his white beard, calling Jesus, 'Hey son, come here and observe earthly beings making a fool of themselves' and probably wondering how to help all out. Sadly for you, if you miss making your own analysis, Angel Gabriel doesn’t deliver messages here like he did before. So you are on your own. Key point is: invest in doing your own studying and no matter what the experts say, if the deal doesn’t make sense to you don’t go in. You would rather be sad for missing an opportunity than taking it and crying for losing even more money.
The same would go for Ugandans who have taken up online trading and playing the global markets. Truthfully, it is a viable business opportunity but one needs to invest in knowledge so you know how the money is made. It is foolhardy, in my opinion, to save up and deposit all your money with a consultant’s company and simply expect monthly pay outs without knowing how the business runs. Invest in knowledge. In short even when you employ experts to manage your money, mind your business.