Saturday, December 26, 2009

Boxing Day Gift to Women (Be A Risk Taker in 2010)

Happy Boxing Day to you all. Hope you all had a great time yesterday? I did, I went visiting (ate lots of meat, though I know it’s not good for moi, but how I for do J ?). As we approach 2010, it’s time to do another stock take of where you are and what hope to achieve in the coming year and before you start wandering why I am writing about women today, don’t lose any sleep over it; let’s just say I feel led to do so plus I just finished reading an insightful book written by a woman “The Mary Kay Way” Mary Kay Ash: founder of Mary Kay female cosmetic products.

You may have heard of that name before (but I can say with a sense of certainty that a lot of women do) but just in case you have not let me introduce her to you:

At the time of Ms. Ash's death in 2001, Mary Kay Cosmetics had over 800,000 representatives in 37 countries (including Nigeria), with total annual sales over $2 billion from retailing. As of 2008, Mary Kay Cosmetics has more than 1.7 million consultants worldwide and excess in wholesales of $2.2 billion. Mary Kay herself was honored as leading female entrepreneur in American history. Thank God for the internet.

Am not sure even some of women are aware of this little fact (except that they like her make up)? More so most of the business examples they are given are mostly about men. As my boxing day gift therefore. I am writing to all women (my wife, sisters and of course my little daughter (though too young to understand)) to push the frontier in 2010. The opportunities are many.

Women are our future, If you don’t agree with me, just observe the number of female that are going to school (they are gradually outpacing men). They are a very important buying group (like I am telling you something new). Remember they gave birth us; they help raise our kids and whether we like it or not they are the spice of this world we live in (don’t let anyone tell you otherwise).

Back to the subject matter at hand which is taking risk: women are not really known to take risk could be and due to many reasons. For one they face a myriad of challenges and social obstacles (from sexism to financial empowerment), but the truth is that in 2010 many people (especially women) will start their own businesses. However the first obstacle they would have to surmount is their own FEAR, fear of failure, fear of rejection and lack of working capital.

They need not allow these fears hold them back. I would recommend the book to all women (of course men that are not too proud to admit some women are good in business) to read this lovely book. The print is nice and language is straight American English. I would enjoin the women to read Chapter 16: Be a Risk Taker!

To be honest, live itself is a risk, am taking risk writing about women in this article. Imagine a man who thought one of the surest ways of eliminating risk completely in his live is to stay awake throughout the night (continuously) since he couldn’t take a chance of falling asleep (since he does not know what would happen to him and was fearful of losing control!). Imagine was happened to him after 3 days, you guessed right, he was hallucinating from sleep deprivation (he lost touch with his environment).

2010 would be better than 2009 (if you don’t agree, just look at the numbers, its two digits at the end, meaning double promotion). Go out and live your life. Do something you have not done before. Call that old lost friend. Forgive someone you have begrudged for years. Learn a new language; Hausa, Yoruba and English are not the only language in the world.

If you are known for not commenting on issues, please do this one, the earth would not fall. Have a lovely Boxing Day ladies (ok and guys too). Just checked under my white brown (brow) beaten Christmas tree. No GIFTS. Santa did not come this year. Don’t mind him; Santa doesn’t take risk anymore (He does not want to be kidnapped!) Hummmm. Xman

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Lessons of the Nigerian Economic Meltdown

The Lessons of the Nigerian Economic Meltdown

We are 13 days to the end of 2009. It’s time to take stock of the going on in our lives. In this two part series. I would sharing with you some of the lessons learnt during this economic meltdown (I believe many of us already know some or have given some thoughts to them).

2009 in the lives of many Nigerians would be remembered for many things but one thing they mostly like to agree on is that it was a tough year. Except you are living on the moon, or basically cocooned or insulated from the goings in this country, the somber mood during this yuletide season should be a barometer for you to judge how the meltdown has affected all.

2009 was the year that saw both the country’s and citizen’s fortunes dwindled (Some Nigerian that made the Forbes list got delisted). Oil prices fell from Olympian heights, friends and foes lost money in the stock market and petroleum marketing even real estate investment that touted as the next big thing saw prices of land and properties head southwards. Some people who wanted to sell properties or lands to pay for huge loans taken from banks could not. Even banks started refusing landed property as collateral (can you imagine?)

There were budget cuts and people were retrenched (some were sacked outrightly). Banks basically stopped lending and people prayed more.

How has this meltdown affected you? How has it changed your relationship with God, family, friends and foes and ultimately yourself? Knowing what you know today, who would you do differently? Please share your thoughts with as I have shared mine with you. Please as critical as you want. Do not spare the rod as they say.

As for me 2009 will go down as a hard learning period for me and below are some the insights I picked from myself and other people during this past 11 months.

Many did not see the meltdown coming: Be honest, you did not see this coming? How could you, not with the giddy and blistering way stocks performed in 2007 and early part of 2008. Prof. Soludo said, we had nothing to worry about and that Nigerian banks were insulated! ( to think I was the people that believe him).

Even as things started to unravel, not many were willing to accept that the meltdown had come to our shores. We were all basically in denial. Even though, someone like me who had read the book “Who Moved My Cheese” a dozen times was behaving like the character “Hem” in the book. I was in denial (and so were many people!), so when the meltdown hit, it hit very had.

People became more religious: I am being cautious here, how i put across this point without offending people’s sensibility. I would have used the word “Spiritual” but I chose “religious” because even though many people try to appear spiritual in Nigeria, their actions don’t match most of what they profess (that is a subject for another day). Just take a look at most of the status update of your friends on Facebook, you would understand what am saying. Facebook are always talking about God (which in itself is not a bad thing) but checkout in what context. You would think most of your friends were hoping to start a church soon given all the Bible verse you see.

The meltdown was a health check for your Friendship: In good times, there are many a friend who are quick to profess their loyalty and how they would stick with you through thick and thin, well 2009 should have helped you sieve the wheat from the chaff. The fake friends faded away as quickly as smoker would blow a smoke away.

You suddenly know how much expense you incurred monthly: Let’s be honest many people in Nigeria do not have a monthly budget or make one (I for one don’t, and not that I don’t care, it’s just not a habit). But now that the alternative incomes have dried up (remember Notpesco, Shefteg and those racing stocks) who can blame you, if you didn’t take stock of how much you spent monthly? The meltdown made many seat up (myself inclusive) to take stock of their spending.

People developed clever (some time illegal) ways of saving cost: I have spoken to many people about this and you will be shocked at the revelations that came out. For example, if it were not for this meltdown. I would not have known that some people surf the internet illegal using the Telco operator network (ala Opera). Newspaper circulation has also dropped dramatically because patronage dropped, a lot of people now prefer go online to read the news (thanks to Proshare if you are still following stocks), because it was supposedly free (even Punch that wanted to lock people out, have had to open the website for readers to access). Most of those stock publications have disappeared at the vendors stand. I thought it was only teenagers and university students that called after 12 midnight, don’t be fool (older people and the working class have joined them)

Some people became appreciative for what they had: A Cow does not appreciate its tail until it loses it. Working in a tough business climate like Nigeria of course does not help matter coupled with the fear of job losses and shrinking fortune (ask business owners); people started looking for something positive to latch on (Please don’t say sports or beer!). Many people suddenly had something to be grateful for. Some were grateful for being alive, If you worked in a bank, you were grateful that your bank was not affected in the recent Tsunami.

For those employed, they were grateful that they had a work to go to (and not have to deal with payment of salary to other people at the end of the month). Either way, we all had something to grateful about. As matter of fact some husbands spent more time with the family and their wives were eternal grateful for the hard times (No more money for extra curriculum activities). They prayed with their families (for once!)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What Obama Inauguration means for me and hopefully for you too

January 15, 2009

First I want to thank God for this victory and that the upcoming 1st Black US president inauguration is happening during my lifetime (and as Yoruba people are apt to say, “O shoju mi “It means” I witnessed it”). It is a pity Mr. Irving Wallace is not life to witness this inauguration but at least those of us who read his book about a black president can say with some guilt now that he knew what he was talking about!

Years later some of us may not remember where we were when Obama won the election and where we would be during the inauguration but it doesn’t matter. What matters, is what his ascendant to the most powerful office in the United States of America (and may be the world) means to you and your children and even generations to come

Let’s be honest none of us can accurate predict with any instrument or metal physical powers what life has in store for us, what it will dish to us and like the solider in Forrest Gump said in the movie; “Life is like a box of chocolate, you never can tell which one you are going to get “, So his Dad ran away (like a lot of black fathers do in the US), he ended up with an Indonesian step-father and all the baggage that came with being a half caste – You like a bat:- neither a bird or mammal; A lot of half caste suffer identity crisis in the US…

Many things would happen to you that don’t like but then life is full of strange things but the good news and lesson from the Obama victory is where you start doesn’t matter but how well you finish matters and as such it is important to always have it in the back of our minds that we should always be focused on where we are going to, we should not let people’s fear, reservation, criticism or refusal of us stop us from aiming high and going for our dreams. Your future is not in their hands, though many people as if they do….(it never has)

Yes, it’s has never been done before does not mean you cannot be the first person to start it. Speak your truth gently, as much as possible do right by people, walk the straight and narrow, for you do not know when you will be called to a higher office. Imagine if Obama had a shady or doggy past (trust me the contenders for the exalted position have searched and are still searching, they just have not found anything incriminating, that is why they have not pounced on him yet!) So my advice (including to myself) KEEP YOUR NOSE CLEAN!
Interesting most of us have reached that prime age when we get to start taking key positions in life, either as a team leader, manager, CEO, head of a Church or Muslim group, a commissioner, minister or the head of a delegation. Whatever position you aspire to , it is well within your grasp, you are endowed far more than you know.

Keep your network fresh, call an old friend, forgive people that say and do nasty things to you. To be honest you are higher than them. Imagine what would have happened if Obama reacted to the hate slurs or race baiting taking place at those John McCain or Sarah Palin campaigns rallies?……. But he knew better, he has a high calling, a bigger assignment to unite and not divide people.

Learn whatever you can from this Obama experience, for me I concluded that it pays to be diligent; it’s nice to keep a positive posture about yourself not only for now but in the future. That tough condition is not permanent.

In order to win sometimes, you would have call on everything you got, your skills both ones that are relevant and those that are not so relevant; the ones that your friend sniggered about (After all how would Obama have known that people would fall in love with his Basketball skills, for one, it got him a Wife: - or so said his brother in law in a recent article in Times Magazine and it has been reconfirmed in this interview conducted by Le Monde in 1996 – Please do read the interview, it tells you some things about how Obama views family institution)

Though I did not vote but I followed every bit of the US election and I can say it pleasure, I enjoyed every bit of the process, it tells me that we as a country (Nigeria) has a long way to go but that hope is not lost. Even though I would not be able to make the inauguration, I am rooting for Obama. Am sure if you are reading this article then you are most likely a fan of his too! We can make giant stride in our small corner of this world like Obama has done for himself. I know we can. YES WE CAN.

Wishing you and your fellow Obama fans happy inauguration!

Suleiman Shaibu (Xman)