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"Culture is the heritage of us all. some may be more interested than others in the treasures of the past, but no one can fail to take a pride in his country's participation in the story of mankind, as represented in carvings, sculpture, music, paintings and the other arts. And there is a personal commitment to this, for no man can really say he is alone: we are all joined through our identity, with the cultures which are part of the mainstream of life"
- Simon Kapwepwe, Zambian Independence Freedom Fighter

"Success consists of going from failure to failure without loss of enthusiasm" - Winston Churchill

"Try to be the rainbow in someone else's cloud" - Maya Angelou

"Your time is limited so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma - which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinion drown out your inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition" - Steve Jobs

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Woolgather Wednesday: Are You the Last One Standing? (MUNTU Zed Series)

Sipho Phiri is a proudly Zambian businessman.  He pursued a career in
banking and finance , with experience from the UK and Zambia.  After
two decades in the industry, he decided to take the plunge and explore
 his entrepreneurial side.  His current ventures include Leopards Hill
Memorial Park, Mukamunya Estate, and a hydroelectric
plant in Western Province.
© BongoHive 

Last Tuesday I attended BongoHive's Insaka featuring Sipho Phiri, a respected businessman renowned for his financial acumen and his shrewd understanding of how to navigate and profit in the Zambia's bureaucratic and at times frustratingly and unnecessarily hostile business environment. 

There were three main points that stood out to me in his talk:

1. Zambia is THE land of opportunity.

We are constantly hearing about how Zambia is one of the top 10 investment destinations on the continent.  We have a desireable political climate, great incentives for FDI and have an abundance of land and resources to be exploited.  For some reason we Zambians do not care to take advantage of this and gripe and complain when we see others come in and make their fortune.  Granted, the government does not have favourable policies and laws for local businesses to exploit, but the fact that there are so many gaps in the market to easily take advantage of and create opportunity far outweighs the hell you need to go through to make it happen.  This leads to the second point...

2. Do you have what it takes to be the last one standing?

Many of us start businesses or have an idea of what to do, but when we actually set forth to create and achieve our goals we fall short and then give up all together.  Either we do not want to partner and collaborate because we are afraid that our fellow Zambians will do the stereotypical thing and steal our ideas and set up something else on their own and take demand with them, or we get so tired of all the hoops we have to jump through to make our businesses viable that we remain moribund and ineffective for years, or we just close up shop altogether without really assessing what could be done different to be profitable and useful in the market.  We aren't willing to put in the work to formulate ideas or make them a reality either :(.
People just aren't willing to put in the time and work required for the kudos, respect and riches they have decided they are entitled to.  Half the time they neither have the experience, education, work ethic, product or service quality, and/ or the right to think they should have what they want and are willing to do insidiously clandestine things to get ahead because of their deficiencies.  So self motivation is really important to not lose hope and to continue to find the right people to collaborate with and the right entities to partner with.  

© BongoHive 
Sipho pointed out that you need to be the last one standing.  So many people will come and go in the arena you decide to play in, but in all likelihood they will not have the stamina, the mettle, the drive, the passion, the determination, the skill, the experience, the innovation, the creativity, and most importantly the overwhelming need to succeed.  So stick it out.  It will be hard.  You will be broke often.  You will not always know what to do.  But if you really want it, help will come just when you need it.  That breakthrough will happen when you least expect it.  Believe. Work hard.  Stay focused.  Remain steadfast.  It will come to pass.  Although painful to hear that it will probably not get any easier, it was comforting to know that there is light at the end of the tunnel.

3.. There is nothing wrong with staying small.

A lot of the times, when people create businesses they believe that we all have to be moguls.  We want to be billionaires so bleeping bad. Not everyone is meant to be a ridiculously wealthy.  Not everyone has to be as you don't necessarily need to be that loaded to accomplish your professional goals and live the lifestyle you desire. Economies of scale do not necessarily follow with upscaling.  There is an opportunity cost to artificially stalling growth as well as to swiftly expanding operations.  There should be a reason for being an SME or to becoming a huge corporate entity.  You need to ask yourself what works best for you, what works with your style of management, with the vision you have for your company and your employees and how you want to serve your clients.  You size determines the quality of what you want to achieve.  Big does not always mean better: you can lose a lot by expanding: your profit margins may shrink, and your personal rapport with employees and clients can be lost.  At the same time, you may not be able to serve without bringing in more people and to produce greater profits to keep innovating and creating you may have to attract more business.

Here is Sipho's entire talk at BongoHive:


For more information about upcoming talks follow BongoHive on Facebook and Twitter.

I have also now changed MUNTU format to accommodate changes in the blog, so anytime I write about someone I will add them to the tag and this post is part of the Zed Series about inspiring Zambians.

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