Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Donkey in you

Continued from the previous post...

Otieno, the master welder set out to run a business. And many of us do that. But how many of us succeed in our ventures; barely 10% within the first 5 years and 5% after five years. The amazing welder was once employed in a welding workshop. He started entertaining the feeling that his employer was really dependent on him, and to an extent he was. How many of us who are technical entertain such thoughts.

I was once employed in a small software company. I did all the donkey work (I will allow you to call me a donkey). I once felt like the boss was doing nothing. I really felt that the company was making money (lots of it) from my personal skills and I never felt adequately rewarded. I had a manager who never understood anything about software. He once gave me some work which he assumed was a one day’s job but in the real sense was a one week’s job. On day two after giving me the work, he reprimanded me and I told him off and walked away. I had the guts to tell him I will never work for him again. Interestingly, I just walked away and without any idea of what I will be doing with myself. Strangely, after 3 days, the fellow called me for a discussion over a cup of coffee and he convinced me to go back to work. I went back and since that time the guy at least could listen to me, after all hata punda anahitaji heshima. I am sure you have seen those sign board that advise we respect donkeys along Naivasha road somewhere around Lari and Kijabe. You need to take good care of the donkey and in return, it will give you good service. On the contrary, if you don’t do that, you can receive the dangerous kick. Where I come from, they say that a donkey will never sleep unless it has a full stomach.

Back to Otieno the master welder. While employed he entertained the kind of thoughts that he was indispensable and his employer could not do without him; after all, all the windows and doors had to be made by him. His boss was just a clueless noisemaker. He assumed that he could definitely succeed in his own business; after all his works were just amazing and he could even run away with some of the clients from his former employer. Mistake No 1: Assuming that the business would just succeed simply because the technical man is around. For Otieno’s case, the technical fellow (donkey) doubled up as the business owner.

You are very good at what you do at the technical level, but realize that this is just but one element that will be needed for the business to succeed. Being a master baker does not in any way guarantee that the raw materials for the cakes will be sourced in good time. Neither does it guarantee that your cakes will sell. Neither does it guarantee that your cakes will be distributed in time. Alas, it does not even guarantee that you will talk nicely to customers and satisfy all their needs. Again, if you were to bake the same type of cakes with the same raw materials ad infinitum, your clients will get bored…so a bit of creativity and moving with time is needed.

I used to get bored by whiners in the office who always had something bad to say about the boss and how they are unfairly treated. You see, as long as you are in employment, you are just but a slave who sells his time for money. Aren’t you better off thinking of what you can do to get out of the slavery. The boss you keep whining about is just doing his job, and if he is not the business owner, then he is just but an elevated slave. After all he dances to the tune of the CEO. And that CEO who thinks he owns the world dances to the tune of the board.

What is the lesson for today? A business surely needs donkeys (the technical fellows) but it also needs a lot more. By the way, there is nothing wrong with being a donkey, but if you remain as one till retirement age, then I will say you are not that clever. You will at least qualify to be given a wheelbarrow and a spade at 60. Your employer will even give you free transport to your retirement home if you will be lucky to have one.

In the next post we shall look at the other very important thing that Otieno failed to do to succeed in his venture.

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