Archive for February, 2014

A BRAND STORY: Entrepreneurship Vs. Intrapreneurship

Where were we? Oh the WhatsApp buyout. Brian Acton like earlier stated had tried securing employment at both Yahoo and Facebook; losing out on both. We know the story by know. Many people are employed, yet few are intrapreneurs. An intrapreneur, according to my layman definition, is one who is under employment; but works having the mindset of a business owner. How many of us employed can claim to own their jobs? We work at jobs we do not like for different reasons; the pay, because we have to, lack of choice, fear of venturing out with our ideas, and many more. Few are the guys iHave met who genuinely love what they do, how they do it, and where they do it. Many are the hair-raising stories iHave personally been part of, and witnessed; of Horrible Bosses (remember the movie?)

An entrepreneur on the other hand, takes a risk, and ventures into the shark-infested world of business with nothing more than an idea; and the belief they can impact society in one way or another. Acton was benched from the school of intrapreneurship, and thrust into the entrepreneurship field. His partner Jan Koum hates the word entrepreneur by the way; going as far as saying his bodyguard will punch anyone who calls him that, hehe. My thinking is this, were Acton and Koum your average employees who clock in from nine to five, it would not have made any difference to the success of their venture when they started out. They would have fizzled out as many who have not defined their WHY do. However, they had a burning desire, a common trait amongst all game-changers; to see their idea to fruition. Your success as an individual is not dependent on your boss, your colleagues, or your work environment. Personal branding dictates that you set your personal standards. The bar that you alone know you can reach in relation to your capabilities, resources at hand, and the limitless power of imagination. The twist is your success as an employer is dependent on your employees. Your vision has to be internalized by those you hire, for it to have optimal impact to your target clientele.

Scarcity mentality dictates that there is a small piece of the pie for us, so we must fight to get the crumbs. We backbite, malign, falsify, to get ahead of those we deem our competition; at work, business and in life. iRead somewhere “iDo not want a piece of the pie, iWant the recipe”. This mindset is rare. Who said we cannot have all that we desire, or achieve our full potential in whichever endeavor we set to pursue? The dreams, goals, passion you experience are true to only you. Wow, iAm preaching here! My point is, regardless of whether you are an intrapreneur or entrpreneuer; your perspective will determine your output. Many have made it in life being career civil servants/ employees. Others have never been employed a day in their lives. Your ability to re-invent yourself no matter the curveballs life throws at you, will determine your finish line. Acton’s crystal ball would never have predicted the irony that his rejection would be a stepping stone to his joining the $ billionaire ranks.

Back to horrible bosses. iHave had the pleasure of working for the most, for lack of a better word, disturbed entrepreneurs. There was this lady who found fault with everyone, everyone! The tales of the people who have quit/ been fired on her account could fill a small novel. iHad a run in with her, reason why, to this date iHave no idea. iThink the shape of my nose must have rattled her, like Flynn rider in Tangled, the animation classic of Rapunzel. Let’s just say she was the earthly depiction of the white witch we read about in fables, cold, conniving, and downright nasty. The positive from this? She inadvertently fired the burners in my entrepreneurship journey, where iSwore before God and man; that no one would ever make me feel inferior ever again, without my consent (thank you Eleanor Roosevelt for that apt quote).

Tales to tell. iWonder why entrepreneurs in Kenya start businesses, yet treat their employees like mops. These are the first touch points the customer encounter. They are the face of the brand at that moment in time. Any outcome, be it positive, lies squarely in this employee. The Kenyan way of employee management is threats. The popular one is as there is a high rate of employment; you have been done for a favor by being hired. What happened to HR professionals actually doing their work? Very few companies in Kenya, multinationals included, can dare do an internal brand audit; where employees freely express themselves in matters related to the organization. We are stuck in a time warp, a master-slave relationship where the carrot and stick approach is favored. Brand identity and Brand image are miles apart. Who you say you are, versus who you actually are, is crater-wide.

iSpeak from experience, and did warn you earlier that Brand is extremely emotive. Allow me to vent because the theory of mentorship in SMEs in Kenya is simply that, a theory! Maybe it is in our nature, maybe we are not so sure of ourselves that we think our employees will steal our ideas (which they usually do!); but something has got to give. Employers cannot afford to be two-faced. It does not make business sense, is highly unethical, and unbiblical. Charity begins at home. You either walk the talk in your own enterprise, or suffer the consequences of employee turnover, together with client hijacks; and subsequent costs of re-hiring, then firing (an endless cycle). The consumer gets short-changed when your ego is in the way of service/ product delivery. Let’s call a spade a spade. We have become too comfortable with mediocre services, where we resort to PR and marketing gimmicks to stay relevant, at the expense of creativity and differentiation; yet the underlying cobwebs are not dealt with. The public sector is no different, ego-play between our ‘leaders’ on who has bigger guns.

The solution is simple. Let us all collectively step up to the plate, and be counted. Employee or employer, are you worthy being emulated? Are you who you say you are? When the chickens come home to roost, will you be left with an egg on your face, or will they nest on your head? Tafakari hayo. Let us deal with horrible bosses next time; we have barely scratched their surface….



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BRAND: It’s Business…and very Personal

The news is awash with the sale of WhatsApp to Facebook. For some, it signals impending doom, as they believe our privacy will be compromised. Others see it as a conspiracy theory by the NSA to further probe into the lives of the global publics. iChoose to see the human element of it; Brian Acton. Together with Jack Koum, they have become the newest billionaires in town, according to Forbes. The classic story of rejection ,from shame to fame;  from ashy to classy, as the Notorious B.I.G. told us eons ago rings true. He was denied a position at both Facebook, and Twitter. Four years later, $19 billion is proof of his tenacity, ingenuity, and fruit of his labor. Where am i going with this?

Too often, we have been told the infamous adage, ‘It’s not personal, it’s just business’.  this usually happens when you are getting the sack, or being let down ‘gently’. ibeg to differ. The business of Brand is very emotive. It is extremely personal, why? As we said previously , or wrote last time; the consumer decision-making behavior is largely driven by perceptions, which emanate from feelings. It is purely an experiential process, after which the informed consumer makes rational decision on the product/ service purchased. What the heart wants, it wants. There are no two ways about it. Try prying away from a lady’s hand a pair of shoes that ‘were just  made for her’. Or from a man a gadget that simply calls out  to him. iSpeak from experience. There is small, square music device known as The Music Angel. The first time a colleague showed it to me, iHad no idea how it worked. So after fiddling with this device, instead of reading the manual (all men don’t! Who reads those things anyway?), iWas in love. Let’s just say we are now celebrating our 2nd month anniversary. In order to maintain proper relationships with you-know-who, a plan was hatched to get her a pink one. Crisis averted.

Aha, back to topic. Business is personal. The passion that drove the formation of any enterprise, the big WHY?, the reason for existence; is derived from an innate desire to solve a prevailing need, a core purpose. Let no one lie to you that the purpose of business is to make profit. Such ventures are the fads that disappear like Usain Bolt, here today, gone tomorrow. Were Acton et al not passionate about his vision, talents,  and put his sweat where his mouth was; we would not even know about him today. The reason we have countless tales of pathetic customer service permeating all industries in Kenya, is the lack of heart in the owners, translated to the employees. The actualization of the triple bottom line of Planet, people, and Profit, is the reason we have the newsmakers, and lack of is why we vumilia the noisemakers (another story for another day, hehe).

Anyone who has played sports competitively knows that even a practice session is a dress rehearsal to the weekend game; and it is very easy to pick out the joy riders from the focused. iHave had, and heard three stories of the appalling cases of lack of decorum by  makangas (touts). A pal was nearly drugged, another almost accosted; and iAlmost had fist conversation with a member of this league of extraordinary gentlemen. Sadly, they are just a reflection of what we have condoned as normal behavior and standard of service; from people we actually pay a premium for shoddy services rendered. The public sector is rife with mismanagement of time, and infrastructure simply because of lack of passion for the job, resulting in disgruntled, foul-mouthed public servants who deem it fit to share their frustrations with those who pay them, the general public. iStill blame their leadership, they are a reflection of their superiors, a spitting image.

Branson said, “iRun all my homes like businesses, and all my businesses like homes”. He says this is because both have to be shared, and neither one works as well if one tries to go it alone. You want a solution to the lack of of decorum by product/ service providers? Look at the leadership. Change begins with you and me (story for another day). Simply put to all intrapreneurs, and budding entrepreneurs, your WHY? Should be the most compelling reason you wake up each morning. You have to be in love with what you do (remember Love and Brand?), and grind it out, regardless of present circumstances; for you to live to your full potential in business, and life. Acton has reinforced the ideology of Mvumilivu hula Mbivu, do your part, and let God do his bit.

iAm passionate about what iDo, are you? It is your business to be offended by poor service, and to break the cycle by offering the best of you in whatever you do, to your target audience. It’s not personal…it’s personal to business, and life.Image

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The leader shall be the servant of all. That is where we left off. Market leaders in the corporate world have one thing in common; they pay attention to their customers. They understand that the reason they are in business, and making super normal profits; is because of that one person in that remote location, who always uses their product/ service. Love and Brand sounds like an odd couple, who isn’t? How many times have you asked yourself how those two people you know ended up together? Yes. iWrote a similar article six years ago, aaahhh nostalgia. this piece is more relevant today, now more than ever. iWas a fresh-faced soon-to-be graduate on internship; excited about the world of employment, naïve and ambitious. A hopeless romantic, full of youthful exuberance. Good times. Back to topic!

The greatest commandment of all is love. You can have everything in this world, but if you have no love, you have nothing. Any functional business is formed on the basis of a ‘Why’; that innate desire to fulfill a gap, a need, to the best of its ability. Competition is a non-entity to the truly successful brands. They swim in their own oceans, leaving the piranha to feast on the morsels in the pool. The big fish in a small pond analogy is apt for the majority of businesses in Kenya. In a ‘me too’ culture, predatory instincts take over strategic thought. Niche positioning is forgotten as SME’s, and even corporates, go after each other’s jugular. iHave digressed, we were meant to be in the lovey dovey state. Apologies. Where was i? oh, Love, and Brand.

It is said working backwards gives a clearer picture of where one is headed. Covey called it beginning with the end in mind (Habit 2). The overriding purpose in today’s business world should be to satisfy the customer needs, exceedingly, abundantly, beyond their wildest expectations. Top of mind, how many global brands do this? African? Regional? Closer home…Kenyan? Even closer…County? The county of Machakos emerges heads and shoulders above the 46 others 9a story for another day, (County, and Country Branding). A public park has been opened today, the 14th; when the romantic at heart are looking to connect with loved ones. Call it corny to take your date to Uhuru, Central, City, or Luna Parks; but we all know that love is indeed corny. It has no mind of its own, always putting the brain in hot soup. Love is blind. Consumers are blind to your marketing gimmicks, if you do not appeal to their base desires, instincts; felt and unfelt needs. It is your prerogative as a business owner/ worker to know your clients better than they know themselves.

Blue Ocean Strategy dictates that you go where no other business has gone, the proverbial uncontested market space. Apple did it as the world watched. From a computer hardware business, Steve Jobs et al dove into the music business, and telecommunication business. iTunes, iPods, iPhones, iPads…name it. The core of all these revolutionary initiatives was attention to detail, providing a quality product to the discerning customer; who did not even know that they needed these products before they heard of them! Safaricom and M-pesa have gone where no financial institution even dared to dream. They are not stopping; M-shwari is recording over six million customers and Kshs. 64 billion in deposits, in a calendar year! It is the 2nd largest lender, and it is a virtual bank! How?

Their core competence (in my opinion) of the above, is the ability to delve into their customers’ lives, and extract the unknown. Superior products and services, exceptional consumer insight and experience; have driven Apple to the apex as one of the world’s most valuable brands. Safaricom has mined Kenyans’ ‘peculiar habits’, made a fortune with it, and become a global case study; despite having higher call rates than its competitors. Once consumer love becomes the engine that drives business, then superior return on investment is the natural response, not reaction to market forces as many do. Consumers are more inclined to follow their hearts, than mere logic. The heart may not be so smart, but it knows what it wants, and gets it regardless! Appeal to the emotions, fulfill them, and get their feedback on how to do it better next time. You are assured of a lifetime consumer if you do. Are your customers in love with you? Do you even love them? It takes two to tango. Love, and Brand…not Love and Basketball…makes the world go round…

Are you like the guy below, leaving your queen to get all dirty on her big day? Crown Your Customer, as Sunny Bindra puts it, and they will fall for you, every time…


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Alma Mater Brand Identity Crisis

It has been a while since iPut finger to keyboard on this platform. They call it the hustle and bustle of life; we call it ‘kusaka tuvitu twa dunia’. Now to catch up with you on matters  #Brand;  in Kenya, Africa, and the world in general. Now, my alma mater is in the news for all the wrong reasons. The better part of last year, it was all over radio and TV, announcing to all and sundry on the caliber of ‘celebs’ it had groomed to greatness. This infomercial rubbed some people the wrong way, as they claimed were they to ‘floss’ their alumni like the above; then it would be nigh impossible to enumerate them.  The other commercial highlighted the international composition of the student population. The diversity of the populace was screened in full colour. Thus, if you are new to this country, you would be thoroughly enthralled by the impression created. Then, early this year, the chicken came home to roost, dirty linen got its full aeration in the same spotlight that the glory had been transmitted. Social media was rampant with staff salary details, and the discrepancies in them. Hot on the heels was the closure last week of a section of the institution over student unrest.

Now, to demystify the myths. Swahili sayings have a way of telling it as it is, no holds barred. iWill use two proverbs to underline my point. The first is Mgalla muue na haki mpe. Loosely translated, it is a similar analogy to giving unto Caesar what is Caesar’s; regardless of his ills. My university is truly renowned for churning out the best journalists in the business. Name any media station, and iWill show you five people in each who are making headlines, literally! The thing is, this fame is slowly waning. Other colleges and universities have upped their game. It is no longer the preserve of my dearly beloved Uni to chest-thump as the only university with a difference. Competitive advantage and market forces have deemed it necessary to innovate, or die. Sadly, my people are still relying on manna, rather than crossing over to the promised land of milk and honey. Granted, if you boast of an international clientele, then you should similarly deliver on the same standards. However, the converse is true.  Systems, structures, processes, and culture are still analogue. Customer service is only in the marketing books.

A brand is a promise kept. Period. Simple. iWill hold you accountable for false advertising, if the product you claim can solve my needs does not live up to its hype. Uzuri wa makakasi ndani kipande cha mti. This means no matter how glossy or polished a piece of furniture is, the composition is still wood/ timber. All that glitters is not gold. With the closure of a branch of the Uni, the worms have come out of the woodwork. The polished image is starting to crack in the public eye. Perception and Experience are vital components in consumer behavior. They inform the customer purchase decisions and behavior;, as well as subsequent brand loyalty. Google any global brand you know of; none has been successful by chance. It is the deliberate cultivation of relationships with their  stakeholders; as well as seamless execution of strategic objectives; using relevant resources, that has brought about the success.

iHave major, major issues with Kenyan brands, if iCan call them that. That is a story for another day, but we will touch a bit on it. There is no way you can be competitive, if you have absolutely no inkling of your customer experience, and its manifestations to your core purpose. In our context, it is claimed the university management is aloof, and dictatorial. Unilateral decisions that directly affect the welfare of the students are ridden roughshod, and passed. Analogue is the management, and communication, that even the faimba guy would really be perplexed, and say “Mbossiwe!”. This blog is aimed at providing solutions to Kenyan, African, and Global problems, so enough with ranting.

Simply put, communication is everything. Be it in relationships, work or personal. The Bible puts it simply, ‘Come let us reason together’ (Isaiah 1:18). Display of wrangles in public is no no. It is neither Biblical, nor is it African to display nakedness hadharani. Let us put this matter to rest, for the betterment of all parties concerned; and the great heritage of this institution. History will judge all stakeholders harshly, if they just sit back and take photos as it crashes; as our generation is wont to do (The witnessors, ni kama ndrama, ni kama findeo!).

Brand identity and Brand image are directly correlated. If you claim to be the best, it is only in order for you to deliver; by having in place all that is required to fulfill that promise. Mediocrity has no place in the path of excellence. Brandlyf addresses very emotive issues, as anything that is close to one’s heart is bound to be. It is high time we deliver on these emotions by consciously engaging the consumer at their basic level. The Leader shall be the Servant of all…Let us Live The BrandImage

Let’s pick up from here soonest…

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