The Confessions of a Reluctant Entrepreneur

My African culture taught me that entrepreneurs are those who failed out of school or who couldn’t get a job in the corporate world. When you said, “Oh, he’s a businessman”, it was a way of saying he’s shady and we are not sure how he really gets his money.

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When I started to dream about being my own boss, fear gripped me. The ideas would come in my sleep, in the shower or it could stop me dead in a conversation. I started carrying a pencil and a notepad in my handbag. There’s a set on my bedside table too. While entrepreneurship in Africa is growing and better understood, I still heard voices, asking me what I do for a living. Will I say I work for myself? What will they think?

Now in 2016, I’ve never been more confident that I have great business ideas that could flourish. And I plan to pursue them, ignoring the voices.

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You are a Reluctant Entrepreneur if:

You daydream about working for yourself but you are afraid that you can’t make it on your own

You worry that your mother won’t think you have a real job if you start that business idea you’ve been doodling on napkins at dinner

You have a very clear idea of what you enjoy doing and you’re finding that more than half of your current role is not that

You have heard many times from friends and family that your business ideas are great but you don’t believe in yourself enough

If any of these apply to you, you might have an entrepreneurial spirit inside you. Give it a voice and see where it takes you.


This post was first published on Medium on 11 April 2016.

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How Steve Jobs lived before he died

Steve Jobs shows off iPhone 4 at the 2010 Worl...

Image via Wikipedia

I knew Steve Jobs was sick but I didn’t expect him to go so quickly after leaving Apple. Everyone knows he was Apple. I don’t know if he has an apprentice who shared his passion, to help the firm continue to produce disruptive technologies. I certainly hope so. I feel much closer to my iPhone today. I bought a fanciful cover for it (more about that later) and I keep looking at it, relishing what I have of Steve.

I was still down and out when I read this article about him on wired.com. I felt a sense of relief when I read about his life and his words. I will take this away with me:

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,”
Jobs said. “Don’t be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results
of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions
drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to
follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you
truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

He certainly knew how to live before he died. If I learn anything today, let it be this.

R.I.P Steve Jobs (1955-2011)

Likely Effects of Osama Bin Laden’s Death on World Economy (We hope)

I heard it first on CNN. There’s been a whole lot of rejoicing following the death of Osama Bin Laden, leader of Al-Qaeda. I personally didn’t know how to feel. I was glad – don’t get me wrong – but the sceptic in me asked the ‘now what?’ question. I’m hoping that it isn’t only justice served; I hope it also closes a terrifying era of violence and insecurity. It may even be the beginning of the consumers’ era when the world’s economy is suddenly in our favour.

Cartoon by Universal Press Syndicate 2011

In the mist of media reports and rejoicing, there’s bound to be anticipation that somehow, this man’s death has ended terrorism as we know it. I’ve decided to live in that fantasy world for a few minutes. What if in fact, Osama Bin Laden‘s death ends terrorism or at least the fear and uncertainty that comes with the threat? What will the world’s economy look like? Let me see…
Tourism: This industry saw a huge hit after 9/11. People just didn’t travel as much as they used to. If in fact terrorism is a thing of the past, this industry should benefit from it. Trans-atlantic flights are likely to be more popular and less stressful. The umpteen security checks at airports will reduce considerably and travelling will simply be…more fun. However, it’s naive to ignore the long-term effects of past decline. People may have reorganised their lives and holidays so that air travel, especially long haul flights, are minimal. Reduced travel may have also increased the use of social media and other internet technology for communication in the business world for instance. This is unlikely to revert back to the heavy travel days. As one saying goes, ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’. The rapid growth of globalisation is partially due to the need to work around reduced travel. And let’s not forget the cost implications.
Energy prices: The behaviour of the oil price is a peculiar thing. High prices are driven by doubt and risk. The more politically unstable oil-producing countries are, the higher the oil price. And- you guess it- the greater the profits cartels like OPEC (Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries) will make. With Osama’s death, there may indeed be reduced fear of terrorist attacks globally, causing oil prices to drop as has been experienced in the past week. It may also mean that prices at the pump drop too. While this is great news for consumers like us, it ‘s not fantastic news for the oil industry as a whole. If oil and other commodity prices drop, energy prices (utilities) should too. If prices drop, there’s likely to be reduced supply for two reasons:

  1. When prices drop, an industry can become less attractive for many players who may choose to leave or reduce investment in favour of moving to more profitable markets.
  2. OPEC can decide to reduce oil supply of member countries in order to force an increase in the oil price.

According to the Law of supply and demand, reducing supply will drive prices up again if demand surpasses supply. So overall, it’s a vicious cycle. Therefore, decreases in energy and oil prices may be temporal if it happens at all.

A recent article in The Economist titled, ‘Now, kill his dream’ states that Osama’s brand of brutal jihad is losing its appeal in the Arab World. Perhaps this is the case such that the seeming fantasy benefits on world economy could become a reality.

I wish I had a magic blackberry (things I said that don’t add up)

The Magic Blackberry by David Thompson

I picked this book at London Heathrow Airport on my way back from a business trip. It was a great, quick read and I was done before I got home to Aberdeen (1 hour 10 mins flight). As you’ll see from my post about blackberries, I’ve been leaning towards owning one for some time now but still no traction. The author of the book, David Thompson used the idea of a genie in a phone to send a very strong message about email etiquette. It centred on the moments when we should refrain from replying an email. ‘Aha!’ I thought when I saw this. After writing ‘Save the brain-insects with your email etiquette’, I was rather excited about spicing things up even if it meant contradicting myself.

The magic blackberry describes a working guy who replies impulsely to provoking emails. He gets an email from his boss or colleague asking him to do more work or criticizing an earlier decision and he explodes. On email. One fine day, he sends off another fiery email and it just hangs. The phone “refuses” to send it. And then the phone starts talking to him and basically tells him that it’s the last straw and he needs to learn one or two things about relationships at work.

I remember receiving an email once that really made me furious. I was going to reply, in fact I had a draft and was going to press SEND when somehow I didn’t. The next day, I was glad I didn’t. I read what I was going to send and realised that instead of me receiving an apology from this person, I would have had to apologise. I also remember pressing SEND on at least one thoughtless response and later wishing that I didn’t. Those were the times I discovered that the RECALL EMAIL function is useless. People can still read what you recalled…. Anyway, David Thompson emphasised that relationships have elasticity and that you have to know your stance with a person and that determines  the amount of slack you’ll get. The more positive interactions you have with someone, the more slack you’ll get if you mess up. In a nutshell, don’t mess up too early on or you’ll be toast.

Here are some of my favorite advice from the book:

  • The glue that holds businesses and careers together is relationships. The power to get things done, the power to break the rules and the power to express yourself.
  • De-personalize the message, take the emotion out of it, and craft a rational and considered response.
  • Your reply represents who you are and how you work- make sure you are replying with decorum, dignity, respect, and professionalism.
  • Just because a conversation begins on email, doesn’t mean it has to continue on email.
  • Use your emotions as a kind of barometer: if you feel frustrated, let that tell you that an email reply is not the right communication option.

The most valuable for me was certainly the relationship elasticity theory:

The amount of stretch in your relationship will depend on a number of things 1) the past history that you have with that person, 2) the current status of your relationship with them, and 3) the amount of time that you have known them or worked with them. It’s certainly worth a read if you’ve got under an hour to spare.

Managing relationships one concept at a time

Vector image of two human figures with hands i...

Relationships (Image via Wikipedia)

I’m interested in Relationship Marketing (RM) and I’ve read quite a bit about it. I found many of the theories rather conflicting with my status quo, depending on what areas of life and business I tried to apply it. RM is essentially about getting closer to your customers, designing ways to have 2-way communication with them and ensuring a win-win association. What is intriguing is the attitude postulated for existing customers and new customers. It’s common to walk in to a bank and find that great rate is only available to new customers or that awesome phone contract deal is only for newbies. It can be frustrating for “old” customers not getting any love (my experience still gives me nightmares). RM is very much about existing customers, engaging and retaining them. Most businesses are preoccupied with acquiring new customers and I agree with the concept that it’s not always the best to ignore existing customers. Apparently, it costs more to acquire new customers than it does to keep the folks you have. I apply my thinking to (1) Business (2) Friends (3) Church.

Business. It’s not rocket science that existing customers need to be kept satisfied. But new customers are important if you want to grow market share. Nonetheless, when it comes to RM, some customers will continue to be transactional and so will not want a close relationship with their supplier. In business, RM will be about identifying the customers that want a relationship and keeping them close. Overall, the RM concept will work very well for most kinds of businesses.

Friends. Interestingly, this concept works when I tried to apply it to friendships. It would mean focusing more on nurturing already founded friendships. Older posts on new year resolutions and the friendship grid is in line with this thinking. It’s great to make new friends (although finding trust and commitment can be hard work) and sometimes this is done at the expense of old friends who know you well and love you. So in this case, I vote for Relationship Marketing concepts!

Church. And not-for-profits in general. It all falls down when I apply it to Church for instance. Existing members of the community are important and part of the body but a Church’s main mandate is to win new people, to go out there and touch others. In other charities, it’s about rising funds and making a difference on a grand scale. Therefore, we don’t want to spend endless amounts of time chatting amongst ourselves. We need to go out and “acquire” new customers.

All very interesting (or not). Thanks for reading about what I’m reading! Ciao.

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