This category contains 7 posts

Be All You Can Be!

Life has become quite a predictable path for many nowadays. It starts at birth, progresses through early education up till university and then plunges into the labor market. A number of people get corporate jobs while others tow the entrepreneurial line. We start to gradually ascend the corporate ladder from the lowest rungs. The rat race sucks us in so deep that we do not realize that all our desires in life are now directed at getting to the top of the ladder. Nothing else matters. Is there really anything wrong with that? Maybe not. In recent times, a few questions have come to the fore: “Is this all there is to you?” “Are you all you can be right now?” “Is there more to you than what you do (as a job)?” “Does your innate capability exceed your current displayed ability?”

It is evident that corporate/formal jobs may end up tailoring your career to fit a particular path without fully exploiting your innate abilities. The truth though is that the capitalist world we live in was strictly designed to employ resources to maximize profit for the owners…. nothing more. While people get all buried in work with grandiose desires to rise to the top, they need to realize that their skills and capabilities are only utilized while they fulfil their organizational goals of profit maximization.  For example, a foreman at a construction firm who is also a skilled saxophonist is not likely to be able to use his musical skill to enhance his company’s profit. This always holds true except in a rare case in which his music is used to boost the productivity of his peers.

Similarly, a basketball enthusiast who works as a bank manager will not use his sport skill to enhance the bank’s bottom-line except perhaps at the State or National Banker’s Games where a win may boost the bank’s brand.

After a while, the basketballer’s mind becomes filled with thoughts of what could have been- “Ah! I used to play basketball a lot”. He watches helplessly as the rat race takes over at the detriment of all his inbuilt skills, talents and capabilities. While he might enjoy tremendous career success and rapid promotion, somewhere in him lies untapped and unexpressed potential.

This is the dilemma which many young people find themselves in today.  They work at full time jobs that offer considerable career growth and pay the bills to the detriment of the expression of their full potential.

What other options of self-expression are available to people considering the demanding nature of their regular jobs?

The most common option is for such is to take advantage of annual vacation. Let me ask – How do you spend your vacation? Or hol’ up! Do you even take vacation? The few days or weeks away from work offer an excellent opportunity to work on your other skills and capabilities. The saxophonist may want to spend days rehearsing with an ad hoc band or even play with an existing band.  This might provide him an opportunity to meet others who share his musical interests. Many interesting collaborations have been birthed at “strange” places. The basketballer may find herself providing coaching assistance to young ones at a stadium or nearby sports facility.   One can only wonder how many sports academies are ‘locked up’ in the hearts of many corporate executives whose lives only revolve around their formal job.

What happens to those who rarely get time off work all year round? While it is not healthy for individuals to work without sufficient rest, the reality suggests that this is not uncommon.   After some time, diminishing returns set in, morale wanes and such an individual ends up in the coping zone.

What to do? Consider maximizing public/bank holidays and weekends.  A typical example is that of a medical doctor who is IT savvy but whose time is taken up at the hospital attending to patients while preparing for career examinations by the side.  There are quite a lot of routine processes within hospitals that are in dire need of automation. As a subject matter expert, the doctor is in the best position to solve such problems. Any spare time could be used by the doctor to build applications that would help optimize medical processes and make work easier. As with most ventures, the most important part is taking the first step.   Generally, one should focus on using every free time to hone skills that are not necessarily used on your job.

The options listed are by no means exhaustive. We must consciously ensure that we are living our lives to the fullest, using all our capabilities to positively impact our world. A wise man once noted “The graveyard is the richest place on the surface of the earth because there you will see the books that were not published, ideas that were not harnessed, songs that were not sung, and drama pieces that were never acted”.  Maximize your capabilities and be all you can be!


Plan it, Track it…or Lose it

In today’s world, new businesses are born from the culmination of innovative ideas. Each business operates primarily to make profit on investment by providing products and/or services that meet an existing or expected market need. The fact that a business boasts revenue does not imply that it is profitable. Profit making businesses, small or large, create success and continuously improve by effective planning, execution, tracking and controls.

At the initial stage for many small businesses, financing is typically a major hurdle, especially within a Nigerian market where easy credit facilities are still in the evolution process. As such, angel investors, which may include friends, colleagues, family, are usually approached by beginning entrepreneurs saying – “I have a business idea…will require start-up capital of N500k. Can you help?” In expected response, the potential investor whether family, friend or private equity firm will request to see a business proposal – “Show me your business plan“.

Planning, top-down or bottom-up, is one of many crucial factors to business success. Simply put, the business owner needs to be clear on a number of points – What is the product/service? What output capacity is planned (e.g. No of units/day/month/year)? How will this be achieved – What key activities are required to achieve output? What are the human resource needs for each activity? What materials and equipment do you need to get started? How much revenue do you expect per unit? What is the total owner’s cost per unit? Investors will expect you to prepare a cash flow sheet, determining the present value and expected profitability of your business. These metrics are only ascertained based on your business plan. So, plan properly.

Now the financing is in place, the business plan approved, and somehow, you have started running business operations. How well is your business doing? While it is understandable that many times, businesses may not ‘stick to the plan’ due to complexity and uncertainty in business environments, it remains essential that progress on the plan must be tracked. Plan it, and Track it. A local cement block making business planned to produce 400units/day and sell at least 350, leaving a daily inventory of 50units/day for the first 6 months. After being funded, the business commenced accordingly. However, over the first month, actual production was 250units/day with daily sales of 200 units. The business owner, oblivious to this gradual development, continued operations, overjoyed with the decent revenues. Was the business making money? Yes, probably even covering cost, but how well was it performing? It was certainly not meeting the plan, and was certainly underperforming its profit, if it expended the planned cost to produce yet less output.

It is one thing to track and measure, it is another thing to track and measure the right things. Readily, a business would prefer to track and measure quantity of output and cost but focus must also be placed on quality, speed, dependability and reliability. Were customers pleased with the quality of cement blocks produced? Were they durable, reliable and dependable? Having displeased customers is easy potential for undermining expected sales. What is the rate at which the cement blocks were being produced? Why the drop versus the plan? Was it due to faulty equipment, incompetent employees or perhaps environmental factors like continuous rainfall? At the end of the day, the business must not forget to track its customer base. What sorts of customers are most frequent and loyal? Which ones have reduced patronage? Why? Do you need to target other types of customers? What works for one business may not work for the other. It is important to track the right metrics.

Performance tracking, controls, and progress measurement provide a health check for any business and should be done on a routine basis. Small or big, each business should produce a periodic form of reporting. It could be weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, documenting specific performance indicators, plan versus actual etc. Effective tracking raises red flags, identifying operational issues very quickly, to enable the business respond promptly and appropriately.

To fail to plan, they say, is to plan to fail. What you do not track and measure, does not get done, so goes the old management adage. How can you improve business performance if you hardly know whether it’s doing well or not? To the business owner, the message is clear – Plan it, Track it…..or Lose it.

NB: This post was first featured in an SME Magazine (June 2012), and then YNaija (September 2012)

Introducing – “419 Reasons to Like Nigeria”

Dating far back to the 80’s, the term ‘419’ has associated Nigeria and Nigerians primarily with online financial scams – ‘Advance Fee Fraud’. Most unfortunately, the situation exacerbated to such an extent that the internet became overwhelmed with such negative news attributed to Nigeria.

In response to this, ‘The 419Positive Project’ was initiated, with an ambitious objective of generating four hundred and nineteen positive attributes about Nigeria and Nigerians. “If you could tell the world one remarkable thing about Nigeria and Nigerians, what would it be?” Furthermore, in Peter Reilly’s Forbes blog post (Aug 28, 2011), he suggested a similar intervention to his Nigerian audience – “Make lists of 419 reasons to like Nigeria and Nigerians…” His suggestion came as one remedial to his previous post (Nigerians Switching From Greed to Fear), after some Nigerians took exceptions to his views. Other online posts by Chika Uwazie, Nmachi Jidenma and Akin Akintayo, have further lent a voice in this regard.

Pulling these ideas and suggestions together, an online rebranding campaign is being furthered. The aim is clear – to consistently inundate the internet with positive Nigerian attributes, such that when anyone types in ‘419’ in a search engine, it yields positive commentary about Nigeria, irrespective of the pre-existing negativity. This drive is labelled 419 Reasons to Like Nigeria. Awareness is currently being ramped up online, with the topic having trended on Twitter in the early hours of 2nd of September. There will be the big bang launch on October 1, 2011 (Independence Day), of at least 100 Nigerian blogs and sites listing four hundred and nineteen remarkable reasons to like Nigeria, with subsequent monthly blog publishing till the end of 2011.

Every Nigerian with a blog, website, and online presence of any sort (Facebook, Twitter, Google+, account etc.) is encouraged to volunteer and be a part of this campaign. With sincerity and candour, it is true that some, in times past, have contributed unfortunately to the prevailing negative association of ‘419’ with Nigeria, however, the time is NOW for us to counter-strategise by providing alternative content via an online rebranding initiative.

To register your interest, simply send an email to volunteer@419Positive.org, with the subject –CAMPAIGN VOLUNTEER, and be sure to provide contact details (email address) so you can be reached subsequently. Volunteers will be contacted latest by the 9th of September, 2011.

Be a part of this drive…the time is now! Let’s tell the world 419 Reasons to Like Nigeria.

Lessons on Leadership & Good Governance

(Excerpts from Sonala Olumhense’s article, originally published via SaharaReporters website and reproduced with permission)

Good governance—the onslaught for development and progress through the thicket of corruption, mediocrity and fear of change—is attack, not defense.  Good governance is defiance and demolition of the status quo, not compromise or negotiation with it.

Good governance is the courage to advance, not the authority to sit down—for you may be sitting down on a dying child, or suffocating a genius.

Good governance is NOW, not later; it is ME, not a Minister or a Commissioner or a Permanent Secretary. That is why great leaders deploy personal example.  They liberate hidden gems, including the time to act, and the talents.  They smash down barricaded doors and mountainous stonewalls; in their place they erect giant monuments and expressways that define tomorrow.

That leads me into what is perhaps the most significant thing about great leaders: fear.  They are always afraid, and they are not afraid to be afraid.  They are afraid that while they control power, they cannot control Time.  They are afraid to squander that precious and irreplaceable resource in merriment or indolence.  They want to ascertain they do not run out of it when they are conquering disease or leading education.

Great leaders are always clear that the authority in their hands is a loan, not a possession.  They are afraid that if they delay, History may unmask them as a fraud.

The Great ones are suspicious of the temptations of comfort and sleep.  They understand that social progress demands they stay awake to plot and plan and prompt.  They know they must not only inspire, they must perspire.

The Great Ones understand the meaning of doing; that doing is what genuine service is about.  They understand the paradox that only service defines leadership.

This is why the Great ones do not wait.  They know that waiting is for travelers with no sense of History.  The Great Ones, having seen rain interrupt too many festivities, and festivities interrupt too many good intentions, hold procrastination in contempt.”

Original article is found here

SHOP4FREE – An Exemplary Case of CSR

In an age and time when many Nigerian churches and Christian ministries seem more often to ‘take’ from the community rather than give, Global Harvest Church Lagos has joined the league of those few that have redefined ministry. On April 22, 2011, Global Harvest Church Lagos launched a novel and innovative community outreach initiative tagged ‘Shop4Free’. Perhaps choosing to introduce such a concept on Good Friday was just in line with the spirit of the season, commemorating Jesus’ death and crucifixion, and indeed a perfect time to demonstrate true love.  Shop 4 Free is a community project initiated with an initial goal to feed, clothe and give hope to over 1,000 people at its first outdoor market.

The doors of the venue, NECA House, Alausa, Ikeja, Lagos, opened at 7am to a crowd of people. With an overall turnout of about three thousand people, the venue was saturated with a buzz of expectation and joy. This crowd of people comprised social workers, street cleaners, ‘okada’ riders, mechanics, law enforcement agents, the less privileged, and yes, they shopped for free. The church hall was stacked full with variety of products ranging from food items including bags of beans, rice, semovita, tins of beverage and milk, cartons of noodles, spaghetti and sugar, packs of frozen chicken, to clothing with mini boutiques set up for both male and female wear, books, drinks and personal effects. Forming a queue, people were assigned Shop4Free vouchers worth N2000 for individuals and N5000 for families. They proceeded to walk through the well structured make-shift supermarket to pick items for themselves and their families. Adequate controls were put in place by the project committee to ensure each person/family got just a voucher and used it only once, to make more available for others. The shop closed at 3pm, after 8 hours of meeting people’s needs. In the words of the Senior Pastor, Rev Victor Adeyemi, “The joy on people’s faces yesterday made it worthwhile for Global Harvest to reach out with this initiative”.

In what is seen as an exemplary case of Church Social Responsibility (CSR), Global Harvest church has joined those few others in setting the pace for community focused ministry. Departing from the general impression of prosperity for the benefit of the church, or perhaps as many may reason for the ‘Man of God’, Global Harvest church appears set to create a paradigm shift, keeping focus on more on the community. Shop4Free was funded by generous donations and wilful giving from individuals near and far. Could it be that there are still many benevolent individuals out there who seek such channels to reach out to the society? They may not be inclined to contribute to the direct needs of the church, but are enthusiastic to support whatever the church determines to do for the society. Perhaps this model of ministry is laden with such potential for growth and maximum impact. It certainly is reminiscent of the early missionaries who made their way to Africa, to preach the gospel. Their tools of outreach were embedded in the provision of service to the community, and as such they built schools, hospitals and clinics, roads and houses, many of which are still in use today.

The Nigerian society craves for change like never before. While we wait on the government to get its acts right with education, health, security and other forms of infrastructure development, there is an opportunity for non governmental institutions, including the church, to tap into. Some churches have such nationwide coverage that positions them to reach out to practically every region in the country. Embracing such possible initiatives as Shop4Free, Health4Free, Jobs4Free, Education4Free, Roads4Free, Housing4Free, with sincerity of purpose, and nationwide deployment, will certainly put joy on more faces, while drastically reducing poverty levels. There will be innumerable positive effects on society. Societal impact cannot be left strictly in the hands of the Government. The church and religious institutions must definitely play a part.

For Global Harvest church, this surely must be one of many steps in the right direction, and indeed an exemplary case of church social responsibility.  There must be more to come!

Flip your Switch

I keep wondering how many things in life simply flow naturally, maybe springs and waterfalls (perhaps!!!). More often than not, we are necessitated to put things in motion. Quite frankly, your vehicle engine will not move of its own accord, it requires the user to get it started. Whether by voice recognition or some other form of technologically advanced technique, you still need to get the engine rolling. Your living room may be well decorated with exquisite chandeliers and warm light fixtures but without flipping the switch, the lights remain as simple decorations.

The laws of physics have clearly demarcated the lines between what we consider as potential, static endowments against that which is activated, kinetic, and in motion. Potential energy is defined as energy possessed by an object by virtue of its position and/or composition. It is energy stored within, with the innate capacity to be transformed to other forms. Kinetic energy is said to be energy possessed by an object due to its motion or advancement.

Every human being was born with a measure of potential to a specific purpose and end. Each individual is uniquely identified to be different from the other. Specific characteristics, qualities, habits, proclivities and endowments make each individual distinct from the next.

Every now and then, human resource professionals have categorized people by their intrinsic attributes, skills and abilities. Essentially, each person is recognized for what his/her potential is at present, and what such potential may be developed into (going forward).

Recently, the award winning entertainer, Dapo Oyebanjo (a.k.a d’banj) released a new single dubbed “Endowed”. He possibly attempts to depict the potential deposited within (and without, who knows). Somewhere in between, he also cuts across gender lines, implying that endowment is a generic thing, and irrespective of gender. Both male and female are endowed with potential.

Thinking through, this quickly paints a picture of the ‘said to be’ greatest nation in Africa, Nigeria. A country absolutely endowed with innumerable wealth of both human and natural resources, nonetheless plagued by poverty, dilapidating infrastructure, corruption, power failure and dysfunctional parastatals.

To this end, it becomes sufficient to conclude that endowment is not an end, talent is just a resource, ability is only a starting point, and potential is not enough!

Crude oil has got enormous potential but as long as it sits still in subsurface source rocks, it remains potential alone. It must be explored, located and subsequently produced and refined to create benefit and profit.

It is the same way with every individual, society and nation. Until you put your endowments to work, you remain a beautiful chandelier in a dark house.

Potential without activation leads to stagnation. Stagnant water tells the story better. You, as an individual, need to set your potential in motion. Convert your ideas and concepts into useful benefit. Activate your abilities and flip your switches.

Even corporate organizations periodically pen down what they see as their core competencies, strong points, sellable edge, based on what they consider to be their skills, potential and endowments. Then, they activate a strategy to create profit from their potential.

As such, the challenge remains yours to take your potential and set it in motion! Irrespective of the fact that the environment may be limiting and frustrating, the buck certainly stops at your desk. It’s time for you to activate. Walk through these suggestions and see how:

  • Document your potential – What can you do? (Ability)! What do you like to do? (Passion)! Are you a go-getter? (Characteristic)! Do you have a unique style of doing things? (Gift)!
  • Develop activation strategies – How can you use what you have, what you do/like to do, into useful benefit? Pull a group of like-minded friends together and brainstorm (over a meal/few drinks possibly). Seek a mentor who’s activating his/her potential in a similar regard.
  • Do your potential…..convert your innate abilities…set your vision in motion.

Whatever your potential is – starting a business, establishing a political frontier, motivating people, teaching, entertainment (in its varied forms), sales and marketing, public speaking, reasoning and analysis, writing, advocating, philanthropy etc, it’s time to flip the switch.

Are you still wondering and pondering? Get going right away….Just do it!!!

Great….and Small!!!

It’s such a wonder to realize how we forget so easily that we weren’t born as 5 or 6 footers. Some would even as much as remember their infant days, back in kindergarten or primary school, secondary or high school (depending on your background, “butters’ went to high school’ or “paki’s’ did the secondary/grammar school”); but not many have actually embraced the fact that as grown as we may be currently, we evolved from a very minute embryonic form in a woman’s womb.

No man was born full grown (apart from the likes of Sat Guru, who claim to have just appeared on the scene). Nobody just appeared! Every big thing started from an inconsequential, seemingly insignificant beginning.

  • Forests grew from a small seed sown in the ground. Seed gave birth to a tree, to produce fruits with more seeds, to eventually grow a forest or plantation.

  • The sayings still holds that oceans are formed from a gathering of little water droplets.


  • The journey of a thousand miles begins with the very first step.


  • Every business venture started with the initial paltry investment.


  • Large families originated from one small phrase that passed from a man to a woman “Will you marry me”. Generations have been created from a single phrase of ultimate intention.


  • Great networks and years of devoted friendship have been kindled by one of the shortest words in the English dictionary – Hi!


  • Large edifices and infrastructural installations have been consumed by huge conflagrations just by a single small spark.


  • The four stroke engine is ignited to produce power for motion also by a spark.


  • The information age was birthed by the discovery of an infinitesimally small piece, the chip.

Apparently, every great achievement in life is simply the full grown version of an initial small embryonic idea, thought, or chip. Everything great started small. This is essentially the paradox of life. One of the greatest discoveries still reshaping the way we live and work in the 21st century, is the chip (microchip).

Literally speaking, a chip is defined as a small piece of wood/stone, or a small piece of food e.g. potato chip. To a wood worker, the chips are the tiny pieces that are seen to fly off the main wood, while the saw-man slices the log. To an electrician, a chip is a miniaturized electronic circuit that has been manufactured in the surface of a thin material. Chips, by physical appearance and size tend not to be reckoned with as major contributors and the tendency to dispose of them is pretty high. After all, they’re just chips.

And basically, that’s what we tend to do with our personal chips. They become just passing thoughts, unrealistic ideas, far-fetched imaginations, and the likes.

However, it is obvious that our world today is changing and modifying continuously premised on one factor – the emergence of small pieces, not just of electronic circuits, but small ideas, small thoughts, small phrases, small concepts, small opinions, small imaginations, small muses – The very small things!

Rather than sweep them off and dispose of them as superfluous, or over bloated, you and I need to begin to gather our chips, thoughts, concepts, and ideas together, no matter how insignificant they may seem.

Your little idea, almost swept away and discarded, when fully developed, may be the ground breaking strategy to address the complexity of traffic in Lagos.

Your infinitesimal thought, so reticent, yet so latent, may be the final piece to fit in the Nigerian democratic puzzle.

Your microscopic opinion, though never heard, could be a solution to the syndrome of bad roads in our country.

Your miniaturized chip could be all you need to change your world.

Your minute concept could modify societal and cultural styles and create a better world for us all to live in.

Your chips, when fully grown, will announce you, advertise and publish you, and take you to places. You see, it’s all about those little things deep rooted in each of us.

Pen down your thoughts, gather your chips, document your ideas…..everything great starts small.