There come times in life when you need to take stock and evaluate your progress. Very often we are caught up in the daily rush of keeping up with the world, trying to keep our head above water, earn enough money to survive and keep up with bills, keep the bank manager happy, and try stay in touch with one or two of the people that are important to us. I’ve noticed lately that some people are far better at this than others. For whatever reason some of us just seem to be able to focus on the most important things going on around us, while others seem to be able to keep up with their own chaos while attending to half a dozen other peoples issues.
There was a time in my life where I used to thrive on sorting out the problems of everyone else, but I’ve learnt to be honest enough with myself, and accept that by throwing myself into everyone else’s issues I was only putting off my own issues for a while longer, and it was very often the case that when everyone else’s lives were all sorted and everything was hunky dory for them, I was left holding the can with my own life still in bits and pieces. I learnt to be selfish and it’s taken years to get to a situation where I have faith in myself to be strong enough to be able to acknowledge when things need my attention. What good is it to be there to fix everyone else when your falling apart at the seams yourself. You have to be at the right place in life, in the best state of mind and supported by the right people to be most effective at helping others.
Opportunities have presented themselves in Wales, and I sit at a bit of a cross roads. It required me to take a step back and pay close attention to the essentials of starting a business. In business planning is a critical part of making sure that any venture is prepared for any eventuality, and that kind of preparation does not happen overnight. It takes time and effort. I always remember Sam Levy one of the most controversial business men in Zimbabwe telling me that “Failing to Prepare was Preparing to Fail.” I recently was asked by a close friend to prepare some presentations for a seminar on Starting a Business when a member of her staff failed to meet her deadline. I spent a couple of nights putting together some information referring to resources on the internet and my old course notes, and suddenly became aware that so many of the fundamentals of business, those things that are critical for success in business, were things I was not doing. While at the time I was intensely irritated by a certain individuals ability to manage their time effectively, I am thankful that my friend asked me to do the presentations for her, because it took me back to my roots and showed me that there is a proven procedure and course that I should be following.
My mother always tells me that things happen for a reason, and I guess that this is just proof of how good can come out of something that was initially a pain in the neck. It’s true that we so often go charging into situations and forget all the knowledge and foresight that we gained along the way. One of the greatest lessons in life is learn to keep your ideas to yourself. I have watched people walk away with ideas time after time, having pretended to be your friend while quietly lining their nests with information and ideas. I recall recently finding out that someone I’d discussed something with accidentally telling me in a discussion a few weeks later how they’d discussed my ideas with someone else, only to discover from someone else a few weeks on that the very same idea is now going ahead with help from another avenue. I’d advise anyone with a business idea that is looking to develop the idea to be very careful indeed whom they discuss that idea with. Friendship means nothing when an opportunity presents itself to make money. I’ve seen families rip themselves apart over money and making it. Its remarkable how ruthless someone is willing to become when a substantial amount of money is at in the wings. It’s sad to think that siblings can become so caught up with the idea of money that they would consider someone in their own family could become a potential blood sucker. But we hear of these things happening all the time, so I guess when you’ve climbed over, used and abused everyone and anyone on your way to the top, that you would naturally be rather suspicious of anyone wanting your friendship. Or maybe it’s something else!
Another lesson that I learned is to never trust anyone. Even your own Bank Manager is out to screw you as much as he can. Be thoughtful, aware and observant in business. Be willing to go away and research when you’re unsure. Do not be afraid to stand your ground and don’t be bullied into what you are not willing to commit too. I remember talking with a General Manager at Tesco’s once. I was amazed when he admitted to me that he didn’t trust a single member of his staff. It shocked me that a man in charge of over 400 people didn’t trust a single one of them, including me who worked on his security team. Yet this man had one of the most profitable and successful stores in our region. The reason? He had his fingers in every pie, knew everything about what was happening in his store, had a the memory of an elephant, and when it came to his business, he knew the buck stopped with him and if there was anything you wanted to know about his store, he was in the know. That’s how to run a business man.
I’ve learnt too that to earn respect don’t be afraid to charge what you are worth. Someone that was big enough to challenge me earned my respect told me that work I did for her was valuable to her and cost me time and effort that if I didn’t charge her for she’d not order through me. I was shocked but I learnt a lesson from her. There are no friends in business. We work damn hard to make a living and if you’re not making that living then forget it. I recall discussing starting a business with a friend once. He was considering starting an eBay store. He was talking about selling computer components. In the particular example I use, he told me he could get a certain clip for £6 for 20 of the clips including his post and packaging costs. He then aimed to sell the clips on eBay for £0.50. Considering that there were 20 clips a quick calculation meant he earned £10, a £4 profit. He was enthusiastic that £4 profit when multiplied over a certain number of items would begin to add up, and yes anyone could be forgiven for thinking along these lines. However this is where the wheels begin to fall off in so many business ventures. We fail to plan. We get caught up in the possibilities of profit without considering the route to profit. When you look further beyond the £4 profit, I asked my friend about post and packaging and costs. He stated that the customer would pay for it, but missed my point. I then asked him how long he’d spend putting the information onto eBay and he said about 1/2 an hour. I asked him where the post office was and he said 5 min down the road. Ok, so let’s examine it. 1/2 hour for data entry, internet connection costs, time spent packaging clips, travel to and from post office, plus time spent… Let’s assume that after you’d sold all 20 clips you’d spent maybe 2 hours, not an unbelievable figure. Suddenly £4 profit for 2 hours work. Erm, sorry I’d not get out of bed for £2 per hour. Yes you have to start from somewhere, but your time is valuable and must earn you what your time is worth or don’t bother charging for it and go back to working for a salary.
Yet another lesson is be careful who you lend money too and for what! I remember talking with a friend once. She told me she’d leant money to a member of an organisation we both belonged to for them to attend a meeting for the organisation. I recall thinking to myself at the time how much of an insult it was to ask for money to attend the meeting when the person in question is a full time nurse earning well over ten pounds an hour and working in excess of 40 hours a week. It was even more of an insult when the person in question arrived late to the meeting having taken a detour to another city to collect a friend not part of the organisation, and then when the meeting was concluded to have the cheek to ask for even more money to return. I was discussing with my friend a few weeks ago, and she told me that this person was upset at having been left out of other organisational stuff, but as yet had not even bothered to repay the loan given to him many months before. Is it any wonder he’s been excluded? I ask you. The nerve of some people, yet if I am honest I have done this to people in my past, and it’s not till it’s done to you that you realise how much it hurts. Sometimes returning to your roots reminds you that you’re not so perfect yourself.
Yeah, sometimes going back to your roots is the best thing in the world. I’ve come to realise recently that in order to make an impact I need to rethink my approach and rework my theory. I’ve realigned my priorities and made some difficult decisions. I realised when a friend told me that someone I barely know hates me, that I was trying in vain to please the wrong people. It matters not to me one iota what the woman in question thinks about me, what is of priority is that my efforts are concentrated on productive ventures, and clearly wasting my time with such driftwood is totally pointless. Going back to grassroots level and interacting with people means I am better able to spend my time more productively meeting people that will help me to grow, learn and make a difference in areas I choose to channel my efforts, and one day I’ll smile back at a woman poisoned by hatred and thank her for waking me up to the reality of how futile and pointless my efforts to win her respect were.
Tonight my post has taken a swipe at a few people in particular and I hope as they read it they will feel pride as they recognise themselves. If there is one thing that I hate in life its hypocrites. I’ve always believed that to make a difference don’t be a speaker. Yes we need speakers to get people enthused and encouraged to participate, but true success comes from action, and if you’re not a person of action then please don’t waste my time lying about how much you can do when you’ll eventually prove you can’t deliver. Don’t offer your assistance to me if you know in your heart you have no intention of helping out. Don’t promise a world that is not yours to offer. And if you cannot see beyond the colour of your skin then don’t judge me for the colour of mine. I am a human. Yes I get it wrong, but I’m big enough to admit when I do. I am not perfect, but then again perfection is overrated. I have met so many people recently who have promised us so much and delivered so little. I work with Barbara Nyagomo who can stand next to me and confirm how frustrating it has been to learn that people who lead us to believe were as passionate as ourselves were actually only going through the motions. I know for a fact that she has been hurt, used, taken advantage of and disappointed even more than me. Yet unlike me she perhaps more gracious to give people a second chance and is less inclined to stand up and say listen, if you can’t be honest shut up, I don’t want to hear it. In choosing to go back to my roots, I realise that it is through interaction with people, and getting to know them personally that will enable me to know their heart, understand their feelings, and be in a better position to be able to find the people I need around me to be positive, make progress and change our world. Yes indeed, going back to my roots, learning from ground level is sometimes the best way forward.