Single and Sought After – Excerpt 07 September 2017

WARNING: The title of this book may change before being published. Ha Ha Ha Ha.

Here are excerpts from pages 116 to 119


Sandra gave him a look that made him drop his hands quickly. “Please move”

She moved towards Helen who was still standing close to Philip’s Toureg. Sandra’s heavy figure ought to have made Helen, a size eight, wary about having a face-off with her. Sandra moved towards Helen and noticed the defiance in her face. She gave a her soft push. The security men tried to hold her back.

“Look! Small girl! If you try me this evening I will wake you up from whatever they have given you to drink. better shut up and go play with you mates! Nonsense”

Four men struggled to hold Sandra back. it was such an interesting scene for those who loved to watch others fight. A fight was brewing here. Between two women. It was one of those awkward moments when a quarrel breaks out and someone who is smart enough realizes there is more to  it that the little step on the toe that was visible to everyone. There was certainly more to this matter than the fact that Sandra had blocked Helen’s car. Even the Security Guards new.

Abena was close. She had been walking briskly towards Philip’s car. She knew that car quite well. Maybe this slim lady had deliberately chose to stand by it for this face off.

“Sandra!”

“Abena come and see this mosquito…”

“Bundle her away! If not I will call the police!” Helen could not be silenced. Her eyes widened. She kept her distance but kept raising her voice, threatening and insulting the ladies, sweating profusely while at it.

“Madam, what is this about? Is it just the car or something else?” Abena asked. She did not wait for an answer.

“Sandra please let me have the keys. Let’s go”

“Who is your Madam? Idiot!” Helen snapped. Sizing her with disdain in her eyes. Abena heard the words faintly. she had turned her attention away towards Sandra.

Abena managed to drag Sandra away with a little help from the dumbfounded security guards. This time she drove. She had just crossed the gate, giving the guards time to burst out in a round of laughter in their ‘office’ when it was as though Sandra’s frenzy resumed:

“Oh God, Oh God!” She yelled, “Abena you should have let me deal with  that mosquito! What nonsense. She doesn’t know her size. O!”

Abena kept quiet. She was visibly angry. Not at the slim, stylish young woman who had embarrassed them in front of Philip’s office and not at Philip himself. She was angry at herself for letting this trip to his office happen in the first place. She vowed to herself not to let it happen again. That little lady would not have had the effrontery to initiate that face off of there was nothing going on between them. Office Wife! Her phone rang. Sandra picked and put the phone in Her left cheek.

“Hi Abena. Where are you?” It was Philip.

“I left.”

“Left? What’s wrong?” He was standing by his car. Helen had long gone right behind the ladies and Philip was turning his head back and forth in the now scanty car park looking for Abena as though she would be hidden under one of the ten to twelve cars now left at the front of the brightly lit car park.

Abena hesitated and then let it out: “Your office wife chased us away. I guess she was afraid we were coming to snatch her husband!”

“What?”

“I am driving! I will talk to you later… Bye.”

“Ok..” The line was dead before he finished the two letter word.

 

 

Abena was pensive. Sandra was silent. maybe this was her fault after all. how could she have know the young man was some kind of philanderer knocking women’s heads together. The way Abena spoke about him it was as if she had him all to herself. but no one had Philip. Philip had himself and managed to give those he cared about their portion of his time. the time allocated to each lady was good enough to satisfy them and position them as very dear to him. Perception is everything.

It was in no way deliberate. he was not really trying to knock  heads together. he was not trying to have all the ladies. One could even claim they were trying to have him. he was just being nice and he did care about each princess in his ‘harem’ . He just did not consider any of them his girlfriend or anything close to that. Girlfriend? No! not even Zainab.

Helen was still on the road when Philip called. She picked the call using her bluetooth device.

“Hi Philip. Surprise, surprise. I thought we were not talking to each other!” She sounded in high spirits though she did not smile. they say one can tell if you are smiling over the phone. The excitement in her voice could not have given away her near-death experience a few minutes previously. Philip hesitated now wondering if she was actually the one Abena had encountered. He had assumed it was her since she had called early claiming his bank girlfriends were looking for him.

“Did you meet  two ladies who came to see me before you left the office?”

“Yeah…any issue?”

Should he ask this question and how should ask it safely. She hadn’t been on talking terms with Helen for weeks. If he had assumed wrong then this would probably extend the malice another few months.

“Did you speak with them by any chance?”

Helen paused. Then spoke again, with a little less excitement.

“What did they tell you? That I fought with them? They blocked my car and I simply asked them to move. Why should they block my car? …” The excitement was back … in the other direction.

“So the issue was your car?”

“Yes! It was my car. ”


I hope I will get this done by year end. Watch out for the pre-sales on crowdfund.ventsell.com

Fatherhood Series – 002 – Moments

It seemed only like yesterday when I stood in the theartre and watched the umbilical cord being removed from a Caucasian-looking tiny boy who happened to be my son. He seemed to delicate that it was scary to even touch him. A few months down the line his complexion has changed to a smooth chocolate or so. His eyes are bright and wide, gazing at everything curiously, he makes weird sounds every now and then speaking baby language which consists largely of crying and sobbing when he wants attention.

About a month ago he started smiling for the first time. It felt awesome and we kept doing things to try to make him smile because no matter how many times he smiled every occurrence was an absolutely sublime encounter. Thrilling. We wanted to make him mile and laugh all the time. Well we call it laughter because it carried the same level of excitement as a normal laughter when we look at his face even though he hasn’t started making those cracking sound we make as adults.

It makes one wonder though: what makes us laugh? What makes us cry? What the actual constitution of our emotions? Why do our emotions seem to be something we need to control as we grow for example? In a few years my boy would no longer cry when he is hungry, he would speak. When he is a teenager, a simple stare from my eyes would no longer make him smile excitedly being all grown up. He carefree baby songs would be all gone. Oh, but the wonder of those simple moments of baby life. Nothing matches them!

Treasure those moments with family while you have them. They are moments that are difficult to repeat. Some of those moments may seem to have absolutely no logically expressible meaning but they are of infinite value in our human relationships. Nurture them and treasure them. The smile, the laughter, the sing along songs, the cuddle, the game of cards where the winner doesn’t matter and seeks no prize. Treasure the moments.

Leveraging on Complimentary Partnerships

According to a study done in 2013, Africa’s population will be approximately 2.4 billion by the year 2050. This figure is 200% of the current population. The year 2050 is a little over thirty years from now this implies that most of the population in 2050 will be below thirty-five, within the age range in which people are expected to be actively working. I can deduce this because the 2.4 billion estimate is based on the number of babies being born now and the reduction in mortality rates in Africa.

 

In about thirty years most people who started working this year in regular jobs would be nearing retirement age however this will not significantly reduce the pressure on existing jobs. In addition, the rise of technology will significantly reduce the number of open positions as we know them today thus those who will be working will be doing slightly different kinds of jobs. I hope the picture is becoming clearer.

 

Now, everything I have written so far is more or less common knowledge which I have merely put I a different combination of words. Also common is the understanding that if we are to be ready for this future we are inevitably headed for, we must embrace entrepreneurship. However the question becomes: can EVERYONE be an entrepreneur? I think not. Some people cannot be entrepreneurs because they lack the required drive, enthusiasm or interest. Some people simply want to get along and they are happy with life. Others cannot be entrepreneurs because no matter how hard they try, they simply lack the capacity.

 

Capacity: Specific ability of an entity (person or organization) or resource, measured in quantity and level of quality, over an extended period. ( http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/capacity.html). The dream in most people’s hearts is to be significant in life. We are all inspired by success stories. For most people in the world, that’s where it ends even after decades of attempting to ‘do something great’ : a dream. Is there a way to address this?

 

 

I think one way to deal with this is to do an honest estimation of our strengths and weaknesses. Maybe even a full SWOT analysis of ourselves before we venture. I love being an entrepreneur, I want to be an entrepreneur, I have a great business idea and so on. But can I, yes I, can I actually become successful at entrepreneurship? Will it require too much effort from me? Will it sap me of energy so much that the joy of finally arriving there would not be worth it? If YES, then I have to take another route: find a partner.

 

This blog post discusses ten super successful companies formed by co-founders. The value of a partnership is mostly found in cases where one person compliments the other. One person is an ardent programmer with little interest in money and the other is an aggressive businessman. One person is a deep-thinking introvert and the other is a great marketer, making friends and customers everywhere. One person is the son of a humble shop owner and the other is royalty who doesn’t know what to do with money. Complimentary partnerships. Approaching business this way can scale up the number of businesses that will be running by 2050 when we will really need them.

 

I have noticed however that trust issues, hedonism, lack of vision, the quest for titles, greed and many other mundane factor challenge the ability of African entrepreneurs to work together and form valuable complimentary partnerships. We have to find ways of addressing this if we are to move forward significantly. And it is worth mentioning here that such partnerships must be genuine. Genuine in the sense that all parties involved must realize that we succeed together or we fail together. There is no fair-weather complimentary partnership that makes any sense.

 

In summary, if you have an idea that for some reason you feel that you do not have capacity to execute, you do not need to feel stuck. Find someone you can work with and make things happen. All our children are counting on you.

 

Biafra: The Humble Thoughts of a Layman

 

The Man at the Centre Stage

 

Nnamdi Kanu is definitely a force to recon with. His consistency, resolve and the following he has amassed the world over among the Igbos is phenomenal. I admire him for these and more. Many people are however worried that his rhetoric is largely emotional, stirring up the emotions of the Igbos. These emotions are stirred for good reason though: the marginalisation of the Igbos and other eastern tribes of Nigeria since the end of the war some fifty years ago. This ‘marginalisation’ is a contentious and debatable concept but most people will agree that it was only a matter of course that ruling powers would attempt to keep the boisterous and powerful Igbos in check after such a showdown. This control makes even more sense in view of the fact that before the war, the Igbos were more or less the dominant tribe. Even now, while not dominant politically or in the Nigerian Army, they have strong influence in the nation as business owners.

 

 

Nnamdi Kanu appears to be an intelligent man with a lot of knowledge of history and culture but some may doubt his depth and understanding of governance and political power. His humility in refusing to be called ‘Eze Ndi Igbo’ is inspiring. His willingness to continue the struggle after being incarcerated is an even more powerful testament to his resolve. His persistent reference to God as the initiator of the idea of Biafra’s separation from Nigeria is something I keep contemplating. I listened to his wife too who appears to share his vision and passion. My personal thoughts are that the logic was largely lacking. Again, emotions.

 

Who is Following Nnamdi Kanu?

 

The large crowds at Onitsha, Owerri and other cities who cheer Mazi Kanu are largely, as some analysts put it, unemployed, disgruntled youth who did not even experience the Biafran War. Apparently Ohaneze Ndi Igbo do not back Kanu. The war veterans, I hear, do not back him. The other tribes who originally composed Biafra also do not back him. The elite Igbos of Nigeria appear silent: The Jim Ovias, Tony Elumelus, Oby Ezekwesilis and so on seem to be silent. I can understand when the politicians do not back him because they have vested interest in the nation called Nigeria and may even be part of the problem but I am wondering why he doesn’t have strong backing from the Igbo movers and shakers in Nigeria and beyond.

 

But then, it could also be an issue of vested interest or caution in the interest of ‘Business Continuity’. The Igbos are known to be more concerned they prosperity of their individual families than a common cause built on an ideology. Will a Jim Ovia move Zenith Bank to Enugu as international headquarters? Will Mr. Elumelu register UBA as a Biafran Bank? And fo goodness sakes where is Ralph Uwazuruike in all this?

 

Educated or not, elite or not, it seems the following this new Biafran leader has is so strong that the Nigeria government is scared stiff of a referendum.

 

How Will Biafra be Governed?

 

My thoughts in the previous section spill over to this section, introducing the question of strategy. Who will be president of Biafra? Who will be in the central government (I understand it will be a confederation)? Who will drive Biafra’s development? I guess we have to count out the existing political leaders of Igbo extraction who do not even want a nation called Biafra to arrive and ‘pour san-san in their garri’. If the Igbo technocrats of Nigeria are not backing Nnamdi Kanu, who will build Biafra? Will we end up being delayed again by power struggles among inexperienced folk trying to grow a baby nation?

 

The concept of building a new nation does sound exciting. The possibility of starting on a new slate, correcting the mistakes of Nigeria. Maybe the Biafran government will pay more attention to the likes of Innosen and Tinapa. Maybe we will finally get resource control for the Ijaws if they do agree to join in secession. Maybe government will be a bit more transparent. Just maybe.

 

Rounding Up My Contemplation

 

Most people may prefer to keep mute and see how things turn out before commenting on such sensitive issues as secession. It is probably safer to keep away and see how things turn out but I do think every middle aged person of Igbo descent along with our neighbours in Eastern Nigeria should be concerned about the unfolding events. Our children might just be living in a country different from where we grew up.

7 Things I Picked Up from Ironing 60 Chair Cloths

I recently had an occasion where I needed family to help out with preparations for an event. One of the tasks that came up was the need to iron sixty white chair covers we hired just one day before the event. I had asked a young lady to do this task for me on purpose and I found out almost ten things she gave away without knowing (she is going to blacklist my blog for writing this Ha Ha Ha). I think most of them can be applied to the attitude of some people in the workplace.

 

  1. She Lacked Negotiation Skills

Ironing sixty pieces of cloth is understandably a herculean task especially when it had to be done at the end of a long day which was expected to give birth to a new day of more work. She however did not bother to negotiate the terms of the task. Could she split them in two and share with someone else? Would I help? Were they all needed? Was it really necessary to have them ironed? She simply agreed to iron the sixty pieces of cloth even when, I suspect, she knew she was not going to finish the job. Negotiating correctly helps us avoid promising what we cannot deliver.

 

  1. She Lacked Strategy

We were thought in school that the difference between an engineer and a Technician (with all due respect) is that an Engineer works mostly with his head and a Technician mostly with his hands. Strategy differentiates us from the crowd. How can this task be done most effectively? What process can I employ? Who do I need? What do I need? Taking the time to think through the tasks on our table could save a lot of time and produce better results. Get mentally engaged at your shop.

 

  1. She Lacked Skill

My subject failed to device an effective method of approaching the task before her. She simply attempted to approach the task as a straight forward ironing task. He approach may have worked for one shirt and a pair of trousers but sixty cloths? This required more skill. Skill differentiates us in the workplace when the nature and volume of the task before us changes. Learn the skills that will make you stand out when push comes to shove.

 

 

  1. She Lacked Staying Power

How many of these cloths did she work on? Maybe ten. One could forgive a subordinate would come and say, “I have gone half way and I am very tired, can I continue tomorrow?” Staying power shows commitment to delivery. Staying power shows professional pride. We often fail to stand out because we leave the office too early. We stretch ourselves too little. We give up too early. On a daily basis, drive your body further with determination.

 

  1. She Lacked Responsibility

My subject was not able to finish the task but she simply handed it over to Mom and went to bed. She had passed the buck and forgotten about it. This is quite understandable but a little irresponsible when done in the context of a workplace. How many times have you abandoned a task to a colleague and not bothered to check whether the task was completed of completed correctly? Your reputation is at stake. Take ownership of the tasks n your table and maybe more.

 

  1. She Lacked Accountability

Granted, she handed over the job. Assuming I agreed to look this over it would be a little tricky because I did not actually know she handed over the job to someone else. Accountability for the task would have demanded that she report back to the owner of the task on her progress and her decision to delegate the task. Feedback to your boss means a lot. It shows you have respect for him and for the job on your table. Keep the reverse communication lines open with your boss, it pays.

 

  1. She lacked Environmental Awareness

You are absolutely right! There is no such expression, I just made it up. Environmental Awareness. This is how I choose to describe what my subject showed a lack of when she used the baby’s basket as the destination for the ironed cloths in view of the fact that that Baby Basket was likely going to be used the early following morning. Do not be so focused on your own tasks that you fail to see how it fits into the goals of the entire organization.

 

I will have to stop the bombardment here. Trust me, lady, I did not write this to spite you but I do believe there are lessons we can all learn from every encounter. Cheer up!

Fatherhood Series – 001 – How It All Started

I have been in IT for about 10 years and nothing ever takes me away from my duties except God. That day however, I had to shelve a trip to the office and have someone stand in for me when she said he seemed to be coming. (He finally came two days later). The following couple of days were full of drives back and forth to the hospital. Anticipation. Expectation. Anxiety? A little. We had packed everything in the travel bag as if it was a hotel we were going to. The nurses were definitely as nice as Room Service unexpectedly. Ghanaians are generally nicer when they are in customer service roles I guess!

The pain came at intervals. Hours on end. On the final evening it seemed as though she needed some help. It was deeply emotional, watching the inevitable process of birth. I got the the borderline, questioning the intelligence of this design. Why not an egg, external to the human body? Why not mitosis of some sort? Or even creation by words? Why so much pain? Did the pain arrive after the fall? What was the process before the fall. And I recorded all the intermittent outcries, and breathing and gibberish and calls to the midwife. The last two intense hours.

When it was time to go to the next level, I was close to tears. Why after all the hours? What are the possible things that could happen? I could not afford exposing my emotions in her face. That would be even scarier. I held back. It did not take long though I could not look inside. How did these doctors do it? Horrific sights of internal body parts and they acted normal. She just smiled. The pain had been temporarily suspended and she could not see what was really going on. The cry of the baby brought relief about twenty minutes later. It was done.

Veritas: Connection Requested by Invalid server

So here is the scenario:

I recently built a SQL 2016 Failover Cluster with multiple NICs and one NIC dedicated for Backup. I went through Symantec Netbackup documentation available here which indicated that I had to create a virtual name referencing my Backup LANs IP Address to get the backup configuration to work. (this is a paraphrase). I did all that, update the host files on the client, master and media servers but kept getting this error in the log files in the path C:\Program Files\Veritas\NetBackup\logs\bpcd


bpcd valid_server: mastersvr-01 is not a master server
bpcd valid_server: mastersvr-01 is not a media server either

.

.

.

process_requests: Server access denied


 

Checking a few solutions on vox.veritas.com indicated that the master server name as resolved by the client was not matching the name configured in Windows Registry. It turns out the order I had entered the master and media server names in the host file actually mattered. I switch from A to B to get it to work:

 

A.

xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx      mastersvr-01     mastersvr-01.domain.group

yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy      mediasvr-01       mediasvr-01.domain.group

B.

xxx.xxx.xxx.xxx      mastersvr-01.domain.group   mastersvr-01

yyy.yyy.yyy.yyy      mediasvr-01.domain.group     mediasvr-01

 

Important to note is the fact that this is the default order in the Netbackup Appliance in version 7.7:

IP Address , FQDN, Short Host Name.

Master DB Recovery Failure After Upgrading to SQL Server 10.50.6220

I recently tried to upgrade a SQL Server 2008 R2 instance to build 10.50.6220. In fact I worked on two servers simultaneously. Both succeeded but one instance failed to startup after the installation. The errors in Event Viewer were as follows:

 


Cannot recover the master database. SQL Server is unable to run. Restore master from a full backup, repair it, or rebuild it. For more information about how to rebuild the master database, see SQL Server Books Online.

Script level upgrade for database ‘master’ failed because upgrade step ‘sqlagent100_msdb_upgrade.sql’ encountered error 200, state 7, severity 25. This is a serious error condition which might interfere with regular operation and the database will be taken offline. If the error happened during upgrade of the ‘master’ database, it will prevent the entire SQL Server instance from starting. Examine the previous errorlog entries for errors, take the appropriate corrective actions and re-start the database so that the script upgrade steps run to completion.


 

This was scary and I began preparing to repair the instance. A repair using command line options might involve revert the instance to the RTM level. I had the option of a restore so I started up the instance in single-user mode and saw the actual error below:


2017-04-14 15:23:09.20 spid6s Dropping procedure [dbo].[sp_syscollector_enable_collector]…
2017-04-14 15:23:09.20 spid6s Creating procedure [dbo].[sp_syscollector_enable_collector]…
2017-04-14 15:23:09.21 spid6s Dropping procedure [dbo].[sp_syscollector_disable_collector]…
2017-04-14 15:23:09.21 spid6s Creating procedure [dbo].[sp_syscollector_disable_collector]…
2017-04-14 15:23:09.21 spid6s Dropping procedure [dbo].[sp_syscollector_get_trace_info]

2017-04-14 15:23:09.32 spid6s Uploading data collector package from disk: f:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL10_50.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\Install\SqlTra
ceCollect.dtsx
2017-04-14 15:23:09.33 spid6s Error: 4860, Severity: 16, State: 1.
2017-04-14 15:23:09.33 spid6s Cannot bulk load. The file “f:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL10_50.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\Install\SqlTraceCollect.dtsx”
does not exist.
2017-04-14 15:23:09.33 spid6s Error: 912, Severity: 21, State: 2.

.

.

.
2017-04-14 15:23:09.33 spid6s Script level upgrade for database ‘master’ failed because upgrade step ‘sqlagent100_msdb_upgrade.sql’ encountered error 200,
state 7, severity 25. This is a serious error condition which might interfere with regular operation and the database will be taken offline. If the error happen
ed during upgrade of the ‘master’ database, it will prevent the entire SQL Server instance from starting. Examine the previous errorlog entries for errors, take
the appropriate corrective actions and re-start the database so that the script upgrade steps run to completion.
2017-04-14 15:23:09.33 spid6s Error: 3417, Severity: 21, State: 3.
2017-04-14 15:23:09.33 spid6s Cannot recover the master database. SQL Server is unable to run. Restore master from a full backup, repair it, or rebuild it.
For more information about how to rebuild the master database, see SQL Server Books Online.


 

I simply copied the contents of the path f:\Program Files\Microsoft SQL Server\MSSQL10_50.MSSQLSERVER\MSSQL\Install\ from its equivalent on the working server and I was able to start the instance. I still am not sure where things went wrong. Comment if you can hazard a guess.

 

Made in Africa – Radical Thoughts on Cultures We Have Adopted

Kenneth Igiri

A few experiences over the past few months have made me think about how we live as Africans and what we can do as a people to better our macro economies. As you read this be aware that I am not some racist or separatist. We must co-exist with the rest of the world but I believe there must be a balance  in the practice of “giving and receiving”,  “buying and selling”. The way things are now, the flow of wealth and goods is grossly out of balance we as Africans living in Africa are at the receiving end of loans, the buying end in terms of trade and it keeps getting worse.

In addition, do not consider me some kind of absolute genius because I am writing this. What I am writing today is not new. It is practically common knowledge but like a lot of knowledge we possess, it remains in our heads. We do nothing with the knowledge. Because we are afraid? Uncertain, not confident? I do not know why but it is just the way things are: we fail to create much value with our knowledge. It remains in our heads and in our mouths.

Dr. Myles Monroe of blessed memory wore suits a lot. But he also taught me about Hellenization: the process the Greeks used to convert a large portion of the know world some two thousand five hundred years ago so strongly that even when the Roman Empire took over, Greek was still the dominant language in most parts of the world where natives of different lands had to communicate. The English did the same thing with countries we now call the Commonwealth Countries. (We actually pride ourselves in being identified with the Queen’s “common wealth” which is very distant from us, a matter for another day). Because of this process, we speak English.

 

Why Do We Wear Suits?

Suits evolved over thousands of years  in Europe but the basic concept of a suit, along with boots and hats and coveralls is this: Europe is in the upper hemisphere. It is cold and as much clothing as necessary is not out of place. So why do we  wear suits in Sub-Saharan African. We can pardon East Asia for adopting English culture in this manner because they are also in the upper hemisphere. Maybe we can even pardon South Africa. But Nigeria? Ghana? Cameroon? Togo? Why do we wear suits?

There are twenty five or so banks in Nigeria, maybe about thirty in Ghana. A 2009 report stated that about 60,000 members of the work force in Nigeria were bankers. Assuming a person had only one suit and typically changed it every three months, in one year 240,000 suits would have been imported. That is not very significant because we have left out the ties, shirts, air-conditioning, dry-cleaning, refrigerating, etc. What was your reason again for wearing suits? Prestige? Conformity? Custom?

Imagine what would happen if every bank in Sub-Saharan Africa chose two days in a week to “not wear suits”. Radical? Maybe positively radical. New jobs sewing smocks, Adire, Isi-Agu and the like. Less air-conditioning, better productivity etc. Soon, more modern, work-friendly designs of local fabrics will emerge, much like what happened to the original English Suit! Radical, did you say? How about no suits at all? Cringe.

 

Why Do We Eat Chinese Food?

Apologies to the Chinese but as much as I appreciate Chinese food I must ask: why it is much more expensive? Because it is imported? Possibly. Why do we take pride in and photos of ourselves visiting Chinese restaurants? Something has happened to our sense of identity. When a foreigner tastes Banku or Moi-moi, he or she typically does it because he wants to have a new experience as part of his or her tourist adventure. I can assure you that if you open up an African Restaurant in New York most of your customers would be fellow Africans. If your bring KFC or something from China I cannot read to Accra however, it becomes the in thing for all Africans. The rich and powerful show their power by visiting such places regularly. “I will do KFC today” “I did Chinese last night” sounds very prestigious to us. Amazing. I learnt some time last year that local Poultry farmers are unable to produce the amount of chicken required to sustain a certain eatery in Accra. I am not against any of these, I just think the imbalance is disheartening.

 

What Does Our Breakfast Look Like?

Cheese, bread, Kellog’s Cornflakes? Baked Beans? Sausages? Let’s think about it: How many tables in Holland have Akara, Corn meal, Moi-moi, Hausa Cocoa on a regular basis? This is not hate speech, I am just considering the issue of balance. What are we offering to the world? What is the world buying from us? Are we really “living large” or just drowning ourselves slowly?

 

I Challenge You

Let’s do an experiment. Can you choose one month this year in which to eat only Made-in-Africa breakfasts, wear Made-in-Africa clothes from head to toe (if your work allows), and seek out one useful gadget or piece of artwork made in Africa. I think we do have something to offer the world. I am hoping and praying that the generation coming after us will still believe that.

Five Things I learnt from the Road Side Food Vendor

Business is theoretical for most of us. We read about it, we discuss it, we go to school to earn degrees on it but we never actually do business. On the other hand some people do a lot of business without attending ‘ Business School’ or reading any books. Sure there is a balance between the two and I do believe there is something we can learn from both sides. I passed by a food vendor’s kiosk this morning and noticed a few things that can scale. I will call her Yayra for the purpose of this blog post and tell you what I learnt.

 

  1. Yayra Owns Real Estate

Yayra does not pay any rent. Maybe she pays a little money to the Accra Metropolitan Assembly for placing her kiosk where it was but in my opinion by owning her own kiosk she has cut off a certain recurrent cost. Once she covers the initial cost of procuring the cost, she is free. Cutting off unnecessary costs is a valuable business strategy. Her business model does not require an elaborate building (at least not at this stage) so she keeps it simple and owns something that is fit for purpose.

 

  1. Yayra’s Kiosk is Agile

Recent studies have begun to focus on how quickly businesses can adapt to changing environmental factors. I believe there is even a methodology along this line called Agile. Without studying this methodology Yayra is practicing an aspect of it. She can quite easily move her kiosk if need be. She is disaster ready and has a BCP plan, a simple one: too much rain, move the kiosk! Earthquake warning, move the kiosk! Government policy impact, move the kiosk! Simple. It reminds me of last year’s demolition of the market at the Kwame Nkrumah Circle (now Interchange) which put the affected shop owners through many meetings for compensation. Yayra would not need compensation in such a case, she would only need to move the kiosk!

 

  1. Yayra’s Services are Explicit

Yayra does not need much advertisement because all her wares are visible through the thin glass that makes up the upper part of her kiosk. Everyone who comes close can see clearly what the menu is: the steam emitting freshly cooked rice, the heap of eggs, the red stew turgid with assorted pieces of meat etc. No need for questions. No need for elaborate explanations because everything is clear. If a product needs to be explained too much then it is probably not in the correct market segment. I can imagine how utterly confused some of her customers would be if they stepped into Holiday Inn! I can imagine how difficult it is to explain to some people why a 70x50ft plot at Appolonia costs $19,000 (currently).

 

  1. Yayra’s Customers Are Monarchs

At Yayra’s shop, everyone determines what they want. Rice, three cedis, salad, one cedi, macaroni, one cedi. If you like, Rice, ten cedis, fish five cedis, etc. Very flexible payment plans. It is almost like the model that has become popular in the last decade or two: Pay As You Go! When customers can control their costs, they love the service provider.

 

  1. Yayra Operates a Lean Workforce

What is the optimal number of staff required to run Yayra’s Kitchen efficiently? One! One, yes one! The customers can wait in queues on both sides of the kiosks. She can attend to them personally one at a time. They are not irate, they are willing to wait. This means at this stage, Yayra does not need a queuing system or an ordering system. She does not need an online portal to process orders. She does not need a nice looking reception. She does not even need another waiter, no, not at this stage, maybe later. Yayra knows what she really needs in order to keep her costs down. Do you?

 

Conclusion

It is amazing the things you can learn when you observe. It can even be more amazing if we can apply to our lives every valuable thing we learn every day. Ownership, Agility, Product/Service Definition, Customer Focus and Cost/Staff Optimization are just a few things we have seen in a slightly different light by passing through Yayra’s Kitchen. I’ll keep my eyes open. I am sure I will see more lessons in the everyday grind of life and when it’s significant, I will share with you. Please share with others.