Thursday, 21 June 2012

5 Business Lessons From Chief Francis Kariuki On The Bench

Lessons For All The Recent Graduates in Kenya- Who's Smarter Now?

Francis Kariuki is the simple chief of the dusty Lanet Umoja location in Nakuru County. His name may not ring a bell to many Kenyans. The fact that he is now one of the most sought after civil servants by the international press, due to his innovative use of information technology, may surprise many. The 47-year-old chief has moved from addressing small village barazas to addressing the international press that has been making a beeline to his office. He has talked to CNN, Associated Press,Huffington post, BBC, Daily Telegraph , Mashable e-Africa and yesterday he was on Capital Talk with Jeff Koinange yesterday, all this is thanks to the tech-savvy chief’s innovative use of Twitter to fight crime. Twitter is being used as a crime-fighting tool by a tech-savvy village chief  he has used the micro-blogging site for everything from tracking down missing sheep to stopping home invasions. His Twitter account is so popular that, he says, even the thieves in his village follow him. The chief uses Twitter to help solve problems and maintain order in his Kenyan village, showing another example of how social media has evolved beyond wired metropolises to reach even the most previously unconnected corners of the globe. Kariuki has used Twitter to organize a rescue operation after a man fell into a latrine pit. Chief Francis Kariuki tweets to defeat thugs and thieves, locate missing children and farm animals, and organize village logistical matters, he once mobilized residents to track down a lost nursery school pupil, who was found at Nakuru Central Police Station, 15km away. On many occasions, he has been called upon to attend to women giving birth in the middle of the night through Twitter. Although the residents do not have smart phones, he advised them on how to set up their normal mobile phones to receive his tweets as text messages. “From a chicken to a human being, everyone now feels safe in Lanet Umoja because if anything happens, it only takes minutes before the entire population is in the picture as the chief keeps us updated. But just what lessons can we the recent graduates and all the young people in Kenya learn from this brilliant chief on innovation & business?
            1. It’s in the simple things
 Having cleared campus last month I had the opportunity of listening to students better known as comrades on their plans after campus. Some of the smart guys really think big, with great ideas that will never be implemented (Kenyans are good talkers) while others lack the customer focus or generally the business angle. My point here is that we have graduates who think that starting another social network, application, software or a gadget is what innovation is all about. To some extent that’s the notion and perception however innovation isn’t just only about that. Chief Francis Kariuki didn’t spend years coding that SMS service he uses, he just leveraged on two platforms (Twitter & Safaricom). Is that rocket science? NO! was he taught that in college? NO!  From doing that he has now become a local hero, a globally recognized figure, he’s now training his colleagues on using the same. We need to think about ideas and concepts that change our communities, country, Africa before thinking of ideas that storm the global market. Do not focus on the complicated issues, think 'within'. Evans Wadongo came up with solar lamps to solve the problems in his village, through that he's now well known globally. When a few of us endlessly tweet about everything all day Chief Kariuki approach to Twitter is strictly business, he understands personal branding on the social networks etc yet our business leaders do not understand the basics of engaging on social media!
          2. Be Passionate
Chief Kariuki was a head teacher for 21 years, a job he would have kept till his retirement but he left to pursue his passion. He wanted to serve more people thus he felt that serving in the provincial administration would quench his thirst to lead. It wasn’t for money for him as he said on the bench, that wasn’t the motivation as he pursued his quest to become the chief of Lanet Umoja. Currently a large number of graduates want to run businesses only for the profit motive. Well I agree that we all have to make money, that’s why businesses exist however it is passion that drives you past the challenges that you’ll face on the way. After you've made your first 10M you no longer wake up every cold morning to go the office just because you're making money! It's not!  Mr Kariuki definitely makes more money nowadays, he gets more allowances, he could be paid to train his colleagues and when he makes presentations in conferences he definitely gets a "Thank You"cheque from the organizers. Being as smart as Mr Kariuki doesn’t call for having an Ivy League education, James Mwangi has done it with Equity Bank so the world is watching you! 
  3. It doesn’t cost so much money 
Mr Kariuki sends his tweets as messages to over 21000 people instantly using 1 bob; and that’s ridiculously cheap! Why then should the young people argue out that they need to work for 10 years to save money to start a business? Why should someone, a commerce graduate tweet arguing out that money is all they need to make more money? Another bigger group fail to go business citing lack of capital as the largest impediment to their dreams. In as much as funding is a huge problem there’s always money chasing great business ideas. Start, build something then seek help, do not sit there waiting for someone to do it all for you! The business also has to be scalable-with a huge potential for growth. If you come up with an economically viable business people will invest in your idea!
        4. Befriend the Press.
Mr Kariuki definitely understands the power of PR, he’s been addressing the international press having talked to CNN, Associated Press, BBC, Daily Telegraph , e-Africa and Capital Talk with Jeff Koinange among others.
There’s nothing as powerful as someone writing or saying great stuff about you, it changes the way the world thinks about you as a business or personally. It may not be that easy to get media placement on leading dailies, but if you’ve got a great product, story or unique idea the media will hunt you down to cover you. Ensure you’ve got something newsworthy. Getting the attention of international press and leading blogs isn't that easy, getting them to 'chase' after you for a feature is something every PR agency would want for the brands they handle. For Chief Kariuki it came effortlessly, by doing something for his community now every media house, blogger and writer wants to do a story on him! (Ooh I also did one on him) Do not be surprised if Mr Kariuki wins coveted global awards, gets invitations to international conferences, becomes a global ambassador to some UN or global organization or even gets an honorary degree from various local and international universities. Why? He’s smarter than most US!
        5.Ethics , Values & Morals
Mr Kariuki isn’t just another government official, he doesn’t talk about beating corruption and later pick bribes to serve the community. What amazes me about this tweeting chief is his values, ethics and his high moral standards. Whenever there are "Kazi Kwa Vijana" jobs he invites all the youths who are interested, then writes a YES or NO on papers and should you be lucky to pick a YES you’re hired on the spot. That’s very transparent, time saving and very efficient; you can’t interview or select 1500 people for 25 menial jobs! Back to you now, to make it life and leave a legacy you got to have high moral standards. We cannot fight corruption yet we are the same people who pay bribes to access services. The young people have been blamed for the recent fraud cases in local banks. It seems we (the youths) have an insatiable urge to make money quickly, we all want to make it in the shortest time possible. Rather than work hard, in legitimate businesses we sell drugs to make cash fast, we get into crime to make ends meet. We’ve seen the recent cases of corporate governance issues at CMC and a number of other companies, all this points to lack of morals and being unethical. The sad thing about this is you’ll never be peaceful, the drug barons are billionaires but they have to be on the look out always and they’ve been blamed for the recent Ngong plane crash. To what extent can they go to silence people who have information on who they are? Why make billions and yet remain on the run, no peace or spend your life in jail. You can read more here about how great personal brands lose trust.
If you've got anything to add on to the above (comments, compliments and lessons) kindly follow @Chiefkariuki  & @KenyanMarketer .


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