Running any business in Kenya is an extreme sport!
I started my first ‘real’ business in the year 2000, which, as you might remember, was probably not perfect timing; but nothing in my life was perfect either so it did not really matter. My journey has been colorful, characterized by fear and courage in equal measure, uncertainty, loneliness and, most of all, very frequent change. I wanted to share a list of things I feel have helped me navigate change and have kept me moving despite it all.
In the early part of my career, as an employee, I was influenced by the professional modelling of people with extraordinarily strong character. Working with them, I got used to answering the question ‘Why?’ and ‘What have you achieved?’. These questions were asked so often that it became a habit that I have carried that with me on every step of my journey. I am always asking myself and others ‘Why? Why do you do what you? What motivates you? Are you in it only for the money?’ This questioning defines, clarifies and continually brings me back to my purpose. Purpose has not only helped me shape my goals but has been the main differentiation; a source of creativity, determination and resilience. Having crystal clarity of my ‘vision of success’ enables me to define the paths to achieving my goals. It also provides the agility to change the path when it no longer serves me or it gets blocked.
Steven Covey in his book ‘The Speed of Trust’ lists the core aspects of self trust as integrity, intent, capability and results and explains them beautifully. To earn credibility and therefore be trustworthy, he explains, a person of integrity must demonstrate capability and produce results. In my experience, the biggest driver of self trust is alignment of individuals and, in this case, of the business. Alignment results when all decisions you make are informed by the same principles and values you articulate. When an individual claims to intend to ‘make a positive difference in community’ and then participates in a business that harms the community through, they fail the credibility test. Alignment happens when our stated intent (our intent is also communicated through our non-verbal communication and visual identity) directs and is reflected in our behavior.
Over the years it has become clearer to me that being intentional about my interaction with my business and with the world results in a state of contentedness. What this means is that all my activities are on purpose and designed to contribute to my stated personal vision and, by extension, the purpose of my work. I have found that this has enabled me to direct all my resources (time, thought, finances, energy) to activities and areas that contribute to achieving my life goals. This focus has also lifted my consciousness; my self-awareness and responsiveness to the world around me. It has also heightened my spiritual connection with God as I observe the wonders of His creation and recognize the limitations of my own being.
While the adage ‘you can’t teach an old dog new tricks’ may hold some truth, I have found that embracing life as a mission and not just a state of being opens one’s aptitude to learn new things, especially if there is evidence that it will increase your propensity to achieve your goals. I have learnt to actively seek new experiences and new information. I have also learnt to be present in every situation as often ideas and wisdom are couched in daily conversations.
I also acknowledge that working with others enables me to achieve more. It’s not always easy and collaboration can be particularly challenging when it requires you to share revenue in service businesses. But in the long term, it pays off in both quality of work and learning. Choosing a partner with similar values and complementary skills is critical to make this work well.
In a season where change is being forced upon us suddenly, it is helpful to remember that flexibility and responding to change is one of the only constants in both life and business. It may be more intense and obvious right now, but bouncing back in this situation will give us the practice we need to carry us through the challenges we will inevitably face in the future.