Tuesday, 5 June 2012

The 16 Business & Life Lessons I Never learnt in Class

Did you leave Campus With Just Good Grades? Are you an 8+4+4 or 8-4-4 graduate?

I’ve been immensely grateful for the opportunities life has presented me with and as I look forward to the future, it would only be fair to look back as well. June 2008 to be precise, I joined Strathmore University for ACCA, however 1 & half years down the line I discovered I had no interest in Finance and Accounting and thus quit for good. (Please note that it was someone's idea that ACCA & Bcom-Finance could get me a nice job after campus! If you were born and bred in shags like me then your parents must have consulted your 'rich uncle or neighbor' who lives in the city on the career path that you should take before you chose the course to do. Am not saying finance and accounting is bad, it wasn't just for me- I just couldn't see myself 'keeping books of account' and doing spreadsheets for all my life. I have always advised people to do what they love, but don't quit school in Kenya to go build your company because University of Nairobi isn't Stanford, MIT or Harvard. Locally papers matter whatsoever! There a few cases that we all love to refer to, people like the late Njenga Karume but it took them pretty long to make all they have today. You can't sell charcoal today and be a billionaire in 15 years. However with a good education you can build your 'Instagram', 'Facebook' or that big idea we all have and in 2-3 years you sell it for $1B.(That also depends on a few other factors). Am not a motivational speaker to tell you to think big, blah blah- I give you the real facts. It hurts me when I listen to men saying why they'll never buy a Probox and all girls in campus never love the Vitz. Few years down the line those same girls will be plus size women and they'll ride in them!  To roll in these guzzlers calls for much than that-you've got to work for it. When I was admitted to the University of Nairobi in October 2008 I came here ready to learn, to get an education not just grades, acquire skills to change the village, my country, Africa and the world. I did my last paper on 28th of May and I can comfortably say that am ready. Yes; am set for life. It's not going to be easy but my future doesn't lie in the hands of the HR department, no longer my parents, not my pastor or my lecturers.I now in control of my life and since I cannot do all I want alone I will seek your help and should you need some assistance too get in touch.
Here's my 16 lessons.
1    1.Write down your Vision.
The pen (or keyboard!) has power. It isn’t enough to envision your goals in your mind. You must have a blueprint on paper. Every decision you make, ask yourself: does this help me get closer to my vision? When I started attending the monthly Kenya youth coaching forums I didn’t have a plan but these sessions have developed me as a person, I now have my short term, mid range and long term goals. I also have a ‘vision board’ that captures my aspirations from business, to family to social life and life in general. The beauty of all this is once my mind conceives something then I set my self ready to achieve it and just start right away! Develop a personal mission statement and set SMART goals and give them timelines.
2. Passion & Interest
When work is fun, you don’t feel the need to take as many breaks. If you are an employee seek to fill roles that match your skills, look out for jobs in areas of your interest. I enjoy blogging, got mad love and interest for social media and marketing is my calling. There’s not a single bad day for me at work because I enjoy what I do! If you chose to go into business kindly do something you enjoy, it’s not much about the cash you make but how well what you do fulfills your life.
3.Legalize It.
If you chose to go into business just ensure you are doing nothing illegal. There’s no point of having millions yet you don’t have the inner peace and joy. If you choose to do anything have it registered, file for trademarks and patents so that no one rips you off. Should you be in a partnership, spell it out clearly what each of the partners’ role is. Pay taxes etc.  Ask for contracts, such things will act as evidence in case there’s a dispute.
4.Network, Network and Network.
You should know people bwana! The sad but true fact is that opportunities will never be shared equally amongst everyone. People buy people; guys do business with people they know rather well and trust. I attend at least three events, conferences or seminars every month just to meet a few likeminded people. When a few big names know you personally a few things change in your life. Your bank balance is one of those things off course. 
5. A support network is crucial.
As much as you try, you can’t do it alone. Building a personal and professional support network is imperative. I don’t have any mentors but what I call my 4 stretcher friends. This is my close network of friends. People I share my challenges with and they are ever genuine with me. My mum is also in this list by the way. She’s just the best! I also have a list of people I admire certain attributes about them. I call them my 5 most wanted.These are ordinary people doing amazing things off the public limelight. The reason I chose to go this way is I needed to start by changing my little bad habits one by one. The beauty of this is; these people are accessible. In as much as we all want to be mentored by our role models, the Chris Kirubis of our country, at times they can be ‘very busy’ for us.
Be picky when choosing your friends-my friend list (and I don’t mean Facebook) is short. Surround yourself with people who inspire you because that is what takes you to the next level. The company you keep also says much about you; if you want to fly high, hang out with the eagles.
6. Develop a great personal brand & image.
We live in a hyper competitive world and standing out in today’s crowded market place is essential. Despite constantly competing for attention the one thing that makes you stand out from your competitors is your Personal Brand. It’s the influence and attention you command. The image you portray how you look and how you present yourself in public.
It’s basically what is unique and valuable about you. Better put as “what do people say you are when you are not there” You are more like a CEO or a brand manager of the brand called you!  The best brands are consistent with their brand promise and that shouldn’t be different with your personal brand. Guard your reputation jealously.
7. Read widely
In every graduation ceremony there’s always that bit where the chancellor says “You now have the power to read”. Education doesn’t end when you clear college; there is so much information online on any topic. Read at least two blogs a day and share the content with your friends. Read papers, magazines, books and listen to podcasts. With the internet you don’t have to go to school to study certain things yet you can easily listen to ‘how to’ tutorials on the same topic online and become an expert. I spend so much time reading blogs from experts on social media, digital marketing and brand management because I want to be an authority in the same field very soon. I also started blogging to ‘give back’ the little I know and share it with the world. Through this I have also acquired certain skills over time. If you want to be more effective in life over time learn a new skill each year. Could be just perfecting your public speaking skills.
8. Learn to listen.
The marketplace will tell you what it needs; you have to listen, and then deliver. There is only one boss in the organization and that’s the customer. That one guy can fire everyone in your company or workplace by simply spending his money elsewhere so treat him nicely. Be honest with him, keep your promises, treat him with respect, provide him with more use value than you take from him in cash value and help make his day-to-day easier, lighter, more relaxed and enjoyable by buying from you. That way he will bring in more business to you! You never learn much when you do the talking!
 9. Be up to date.
The pace of technology will only continue to quicken. It doesn’t matter what your industry is, you have to keep up in order to constantly leverage it for your business and life. It is always important to keep abreast with whatever is rocking the world by the minute. For you to remaining competitive today you got to have up to date information, industry trends and such. You got to know what’s happening around, scan  the market for problems, opportunities and gaps that you can fill. Money is made and lost by the minute so ensure your decision and judgment is right in most cases(There are consultants to help you with that by the way).
10.Always think in terms of value — not price.
Always judge based on the value something or someone brings to the table. People buy solutions that products offer, we all buy benefits so remember price is what you pay but value is what you get. As you go to that interview, sell your skills and how they match the role you had applied for, demonstrate clearly what you can do it. It’s rather sad when I share vacancies on my facebook and twitter and I get responses like “How much are they paying”…that is so selfish!As you pitch for new business, always talk about the benefits; explain clearly the “What’s in it for me” factor and people will listen to you, buy your ideas and whatever you have to offer.
11. Only hire people who have fire.
This is especially true if you are running a small to medium sized business, in a large corporation, there is room for many types of personalities and people. In a smaller business, passion is a must in every position. Hire people who are driven to do well and see your business succeed. If you are a small entity managing this talent can be a little challenging however ensure you hire a good coach able team. It’s not much about the cool strategies you got; if you are to make it in life you need a great team to help you achieve your business vision, goals and ambitions. The most successful people and companies in the world place their bets on the people.
12. Treat your team well.
People will follow a leader who treats them with respect. Learn to value each person’s contribution. If you must fire or you are on the receiving end being axed, be graceful and professional about it. It is tough to let people go, but for the greater good of the business, sometimes it must be done. It doesn’t matter if you are firing or being fired, don’t burn bridges. Learn to also forgive, things happen, people change. You can’t move forward in business — or in life — if you can’t forgive but never forget!  Pick the lessons from each case, experience or life event and move on.
13. Cash flow is crucial.
Money is what fuels any business, it’s what pays salaries to your employees so manage it well. Turnovers are good to brag about but net profits matter to your business. If you got no retained earnings then you can’t invest or expand. Work with clients to get payments upfront, work with people and brands that value what you do because they can pay well for your services or products. Target a motivated market that is willing to pay for what you are offering. If you are a recent graduate, on your first job or internship, manage your funds well, have a budget and a savings plan. If you cannot manage the 30k salary, more money won’t solve your financial woes. Blowing up money fast on liabilities makes you look rich but in the real sense you aren’t. I also do this at times but trust me, this has to stop now!
14. Don’t underestimate the power of PR.
The power of the press may now be in more than just the hands of journalists, social media, anyone?). Learn  to be a friend to the press. There’s nothing as great as someone writing great stuff about you, it changes the way the world thinks about you as a business. We all know the PR lies however the average reader isn’t that analytical to read between the lines. 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!
 15. Focus is the most underrated skill that you must master.
I have in the 3 years managed to run my first company (BMB Ltd) work on two jobs and start blog yet I was still in campus and held various positions in and out of campus but I managed to juggle all those roles in the 24 hours we all have! 90 percent of the time, what is on your computer screen is not resulting in a positive ROI. Learn to focus on what truly matters in your business. Then, do it consistently.  Multitasking doesn’t mean greater productivity; don’t put “good multitasker” on your resume. Numerous studies have shown that multitasking decreases brain power. These same multitaskers are always too busy doing one thing or the other but at the end of the day they show no success. Focus on one thing and do it perfectly then move on to the next!
16. Give luck its due.
Luck has played a huge part in my life and I don’t deny it. I am just grateful for it. The grace of God has been abundant in my life. I define luck as when an opportunity meets a prepared mind and person. Hard work is a given however struggle doesn’t have to be. I’ve learnt that there is always work that will need to be done, the task list is never complete so, just enjoy it! Keep doing what you are doing (if it’s the right thing off course) never give up too soon but don’t also stick with something that’s not working. Sinking in more cash into a bad business makes you poorer; to be ‘lucky’ you’ve got to be on the right path at the right time. A lot of young people don’t want to act on their dreams too. We procrastinate over so many things, do things last minute etc etc. You’ve got to DO IT YOURSELF, do not waste so much money on motivational books and CDs, they all have the same message-wake up and do it! Dream big, Start small and Start NOW! In my next article what's below here. 
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