Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Njuguna, aren’t you working too hard?: Part 1

Guest post by Samuel G. Njenga

I first heard about Njuguna the very first time I landed in Kitengela in search of land. The broker I met was very jovial and excited to meet a young man (I was then) interested in investing in land. As he took me round to view the available options he could not help but tell me about Njuguna, because he felt I could be as successful as him. They were buddies with Njuguna because the broker is the one who would get nice pieces of land for Njuguna to purchase. I was therefore very keen to know more about this Njuguna and probably meet him.

According to the broker, Njuguna had as many as 150 acres of land in a myriad of places, in different sizes around Kitengela. In other words his fortune converted into cash would translate into like 200 Million as per the valuations of that time, quite a tidy sum several years ago. I requested the broker to take me to Njuguna just to have a chat with him because maybe I’d get some tips from him.

I was taken to some timber yard and introduced to Njuguna who happened to be the owner of the yard. Njuguna never in any way looked like what I expected. A man of average height dressed in some blue jeans and some blue t-shirt and in sandals; quite simple and modest. When we shook hands and introductions were done, before we could speak further he was on his phone. From the conversation I figured out he was talking to a guy somewhere in Tanzania and they were discussing about timber delivery or something like that. When he finished the conversation he looked at me and told me that he is usually quite busy. Immediately another call came in and from my little knowledge I could hear he was talking to someone at Lands office in Kajiado and the little I heard it was all about a missing green card.

While still talking, some lady came over and joined us and motioned to us that she wanted to talk to Njuguna and urgently so. When the guy finished talking on his phone, the lady was all over him asking about some timber he was meant to have delivered to her site somewhere in Athi River. He cooled her down and called some guy and instructed him to measure some timber from the yard and deliver to Athi River.

Soon after Njuguna was looking at the broker who brought me to him and asked, “What is it that this Kijana wants? “ The broker was at pains to explain that I was interested in investing in land and wanted to just talk to him and probably get some advice. His reaction was quite a surprise as he looked menacingly at me, “Kijana, you know we cannot talk about some things now. Why don’t you come later at around 6 and over a cup of coffee, we can talk business?” Of course I realized how busy he was and nodded in agreement and then we disappeared into the horizon together with the broker.

Of course I really wanted to know the secrets of Njuguna and how he had made it. I was therefore quite inquisitive and the broker gave me a long story of Njuguna’s life and I realized the following:

1.     He was an extremely hardworking guy and his story was that of ‘from rags to riches’. The timber yard was set up like 15 years ago with a capital of twenty thousand shillings and it had really grown to an extent that he could channel part of his profits to land consistently. He had created a good relationship with Maasais and they’d always bring offers for any land on sale to him.

2.     He used to take charge of almost everything in all his businesses. He was the manager at the hardware, was in charge of sourcing for timber and could spent most of his weekend at the border of Kenya and Tanzania awaiting the lorries from the other side of the border.

3.     As far as land dealings were concerned, he would also take clients to site, chase documentation at lands office, chase consents with DO, and sometimes even go to Survey of Kenya to get maps and so on.

I realized that despite doing quite well, he was too busy and working for long hours, sometimes to the detriment of his health. I therefore concluded that he was not only a workaholic but also his businesses depended entirely on him. Minus him, then the businesses would crumble like a stack of dominos.

He had a big problem trusting anyone else to even do the simplest of errands. He was also a mkono gamu and releasing any of his shillings was a painful ordeal. I actually looked for him several time so that we have the coffee but he always had something that would not allow him to show up. He seemed to have a cluttered life to say the least.
The big question I had on my mind is whether he was working too hard and was he actually working smart? Is it possible that with a different approach, he’d easily get to a higher level of success and probably work less, have time with the family and generally create a reliable system that requires his minimal input and probably at a strategic level?

Are you having problems similar to Njuguna’s and how can you get away from the mindset of working hard and start working smart?

Working too hard can have a really negative effect on your quality of life. Long hours and the pressure to keep doing more can lead to stress, burn out, depression, or just that miserable feeling of is this all there is to life?

Next post we shall explore Njuguna’s weak points and possible ways of dealing withthem. Maybe the dude should even get time to play golf and take the family out, a few holidays here and there….he should enjoy life, or so I have been thinking. After all, what is the motivation of accumulating all this wealth? The religious fellows like me will even ask “Of what use is it if a man gains the whole world and loses his soul?

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