29 Aug

Business Lesson: Building Materials

This lesson was inspired by the scripture below, which is referring to our lives as Christians and building on the foundation that is Christ. As I read, I found myself drawing parralels with how l am to run my business.

“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ. If anyone builds on this foundation using gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay or straw, their work will be shown for what it is, because the Day will bring it to light. It will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test the quality of each person’s work. If what has been built survives, the builder will receive a reward. If it is burned up, the builder will suffer loss but yet will be saved—even though only as one escaping through the flames.”
1 Corinthians‬ ‭3:11-15‬ ‭NIV‬‬

I am going through a season of implementing processes in my business. As I do this, I’m coming across holes of inefficiencies and a lack of excellence in the way the business has been run. The foundation of your business is the idea that God gave to you in the first instance. Going forward it becomes your responsibility to choose the best materials with which to build it.

Straw and wood are cheap and easy to come by. It is easier working with these sort of materials as straw can be bent into shape with little effort, wood can be carved or sawn easily too. It isn’t expensive to obtain either.
Silver and gold on the other hand are costly and difficult to work with. It requires the skill of a metalworker or blacksmith, it requires fire and hours bent over a furnace. If a mistake is made using such a material it requires painstakingly starting all over.

Which materials will you use for your building?

The cheap ones can still make a beautiful building, it isn’t so hard to paint over wood with high shine gloss or create a bells and whistles website. What matters is the quality of your work. It is when faced with the fire, challenges in the business that the truth is revealed.  

Creating a quality product or service requires investment and not just cash, but hours of learning to become an expert. You can if you have the funds hire an expert where needed so long as quality, excellence is what is being produced. Where God is concerned we should do all things excellently. With each creation of the component of the world, God ‘saw that it was good’ when he completed it. He didn’t do a shabby job and say “this will do, it’ll work itself out”. He stopped only when it was excellent.

If your business gets burned up because the materials used were cheap and flammable, we have a merciful God. You will suffer the loss, it is painful but you will survive it. You can begin again, His grace is sufficient for you.

Finally, note that having a sound foundation or a great business idea does not absolve you of the physical and emotional investment required. Just because you were inspired by the Holy Spirit does not mean it will be a roaring success. You have to choose the right materials and invest time and energy into it while following the leading of the Holy Spirit. And after you’ve done all you can, stand. 

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25 Jun

Reputation vs Money

“Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.”‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭22:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

A reputation is what others think or say about you, not what you think say about yourself. We don’t choose a good reputation by carving out an enviable image for others to adore. We don’t make claims of being an expert in an area were our knowledge is floundering. We don’t promote ourselves to the masses, selling what people don’t need in the name of running a business. 

Many people today choose making money by any means necessary over having a good reputation in business. There are charlatans that masquerade as ‘helping people to live their dream’ when they themselves don’t believe that they are capable of moving from their current nightmare into actually living a dream life; they have no real experience or even knowledge to share, they simply regurgitate old information that’s freely available yet pleasing to the ears of the unsuspecting. A good reputation is earned, not created. It cannot be purchased and it is not identified by how many followers you have on social media. A good reputation is what people say about you based on their experience with you. Don’t chase after riches, work towards earning a good reputation instead. 

“Choose a good reputation over great riches; being held in high esteem is better than silver or gold.”

‭‭Proverbs‬ ‭22:1‬ ‭NLT‬‬

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27 Nov

Are you the Tail and not the Head?

“The Lord will make you the head, not the tail. If you pay attention to the commands of the Lord your God that I give you this day and carefully follow them, you will always be at the top, never at the bottom.”‭‭Deuteronomy‬ ‭28:13‬ ‭NIV‬‬

It’s no secret that what happens in the physical is simply a reflection of what has already occurred spiritually. Your mind plays an important role in bringing it to manifestation. If you believe it you shall receive it. 

Often however we don’t believe it, at least our actions say we don’t. For example if you own a business and you’re always looking up at larger competitors and seeing yourself as beneath them, it means you believe you’re the tail and not the head. Therefore you’d always be their tail. 

I used to shadow a larger competitor and follow their every move. Everything they did, I felt I must do as well in order to be successful. I didn’t realize it at the time out I had put them up there as the head, and me, the tail. The follower. I looked up to them and never imagined the possibility of growing to that size or even bigger.

Last year I had the opportunity to work with a top British brand. I got to see behind the scenes of this multi-million pound company. I discovered they were just as human as us, when you strip away the branding, the revenue and all the layers that define them. Yes they are successful, and we acknowledge and recognize that, but it is important not to label others the head when God has said you’re the head and not the tail. Believe and act like the head. The head leads. The head follows boldly its own ideas. The head does not need permission from anyone to carry out its plan.

The moment you start to act like the tail, you will remain the tail.

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23 Aug

The Race

“Pay careful attention to your own work, for then you will get the satisfaction of a job well done, and you won’t need to compare yourself to anyone else.” ‭‭Galatians‬ ‭6:4‬ ‭NLT‬‬

The outcome of my race is dependent on my effort alone, not the effort of others.

A professional sprinter does not run forward while looking back. The outcome of their race has everything to do with the effort they are putting into it, and not what the competitor is doing.

When Oprah started the Oprah Winfrey show decades ago, her staff  often times  shared  with her in a panic about what the other talk show hosts were doing and how they needed to switch gears too. She eventually told them to stop looking at others and focus wholly on their own show. And it worked.

Looking back depletes energy which should be devoted to your work. Seeing how close the competition is, or how unique and different they are may cause you to question the value of your work or life, it may discourage you and/or fill you with questions. Questions about whether or not you are doing things properly. You may then abandon your plan, or alter it to look ‘right’. My takeaway? My race is dependent on my effort alone, not the effort of others.

A word on Relative Success:

Using someone else’s progress as a benchmark for yours. Humans are competitive in nature and if you grew up in a culture where high achievement in education is celebrated and failure mocked, you may have a tendency to carry on trying to be the top of the class. There’s a difference between trying to rise to the top, and trying to be at the top of the class. In a classroom of mediocre, failing students there will be one in the lead, granted in a different setting they’ll be at the bottom but still, being at the top of the class isn’t necessary a success indicator. It may mean you are the least mediocre. A bit like the proverb, ‘in the village of the blind, the one-eyed man is king.’

The scripture says pay attention to your own work, not to the work of everyone else in class. The top student in the failing class may never know just how behind he really is academically because his standard is so low. In the same way, you may never know just how successful you could become if your standard is the guy next to you. When you pay attention to your own work, you’ll receive instruction and guidance from The Teacher, the counsellor, the one who guides you into all truth.  God’s standard becomes your standard. In addition your energy and time will be focused on your goal, not the goal of others.

When you think about it, you should really be confident enough in your own plans without checking back to make sure the competitor approves of it. There is a time to look and see their strategy, but that’s in the planning phase, not the running phase.
One final thing to look out for is competing with non-competitors. We can sometimes get into duel mode with innocent bystanders who are simply doing their thing. Just because they’re in close proximity to you does not mean they’re in a race with you.

I encourage you to be mindful to take your eyes off others and focus on your own work,  your own life goals.

Have an awesome week!

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22 Feb

Business Lesson: How not to Treat your Customers

Some months back I looked after a friend’s facebook business page while he was away on a trip. Annoyingly my updates on his page got a lot of interaction- unlike mine. I pondered on the possible reasons. Our businesses are very different and we serve a different audience, yet here I was doing better with his audience than I did with mine. I asked God what was missing,

It turned out that I understood his clients better than I understood mine because as a small business owner I was his ideal client. I knew my needs and understood my thought processes & challenges. In business we are always told to ‘get into the mind of your customer’. I find that to be a challenge because I grew up in Nigeria where the concept of a themed kids bedroom meant enough plastic boxes for your Lego pieces, I did not grow up with a luxury bedroom and playroom. I felt I didn’t truly understand the mind of my customers.

A couple of weeks later had the opportunity to work as a temp in a store I had tried for years to get into. They are the hallmark of British Luxury and it was the perfect opportunity to become acquainted with customer service in the luxury goods sector. I dealt with the wierd and the wonderful. Adults who flew into a rage over late deliveries, women in hysterics because an item was out of stock, I even had one customer pass me first to her husband, and then their son who was introduced to me as a lawyer, they were going to sue the company for a late delivery, and there was that news presenter who was breathing heavily and on the verge of tears. Over some bottles of wine. I was of course baffled that well-heeled respectable people in society would throw tantrums over Christmas gifts and food. I just didn’t get it. Until today.

I had a rough day and at the last minute went to the beauty shop to get my nails done. I was to do so while lounging on a massage chair. Not the same as human hands but it was sufficient. I was shown to my chair, one of only two massage chairs. I placed my bag next to it and went off to hang up my coat. By the time I arrived back my chair had become occupied by another customer who came in after me, my bag had also been moved. I found it odd and asked one of the staff why I was moved, she pointed to the owner and mumbled something incoherent. I thought nothing of it. This new customer then began conversing excitedly in Chinese with the owner of the shop and her assistants. I asked for the controls of the chair. I was told the chair was faulty and the massage function wasn’t working. I looked over to the other chair and realised that one was working fine. I was bumped into a faulty chair for the sake of a favourite customer. I was treated badly. Now it takes a lot to push my buttons to the point where I’ll complain to the agitator, I surprised myself by pulling up the boss and telling her what she did was wrong and unacceptable. She tried to give an excuse about the chair being faulty. I was livid and I only got angrier by the minute. I didn’t lose my cool & I won’t go into my subsequent conversations but in the end I told the her she’ll be getting a very bad review from me. Her response?

“Why would you do that? You’ve been here lots of times and we always give you a good service.”

I was obviously supposed to travel back in time and claw back the good feelings I had from some expired good service, and then use it as balm to soothe my irritation.

I learned some important lessons.

The Customer is Always Right

Now I get it. It doesn’t matter how right you as the business owner feels, the customer’s feelings are more right than yours, even if her feelings are not warranted. Emotions are very real and if I feel unhappy about something, no one has the right to tell me I have chosen to exercise the wrong emotion. I am reminded of a situation we had with a customer in the Middle East, we made a mistake on the paperwork and it ended up costing the client time and inconvenience. I struggled to understand why he wanted compensation, aftreall he did not overpay for the service he recieved, it took a while for me to understand that his expectation and the reality were miles apart. It isn’t always about money, the emotions are more valuable than cash.

It’s not about you

At the nail shop I felt disregarded, my opinion had no place. I was supposed to put up and shut up. She seemed more interested in proving her rightness, than in making me satisfied. She argued with me on every point I raised and I would have been satisfied with a simple, “I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have done that”.  In relationships, couples are often told it isn’t about who’s right or wrong, and there are various endings to that quote. Again with my Middle Eastern customer my focus the entire time before I saw the light was in pointing out that we did nothing wrong. It was all about our position and I didn’t consider how he felt.

Treat your Customers Equally

Another lesson I learned was all customers should be viewed as Very Important People. The woman who took my seat was without doubt more important than me, which perhaps is true if she spends more money there than I do. Getting her hirsuite body completely waxed I’m sure isn’t cheap- sorry I digress, but the hairball should not have been shoved up my nose. A customer may earn your business more money and it makes sense to take care of them, but you shouldn’t announce the fact to the other customers.

Put yourself in their Shoes

I am thankful that in the end I didn’t lose out even though I paid for the premium service against my wish.  I learned some valuable business lessons which will serve me well in my business. She refused to charge me the standard rate arguing that it was ‘only a machine’. I schooled her on what my day had been like, a horrid one that I wanted to turn around by sitting down for a spa pedicure with mechanical, albeit barely effective massage, so it was not ‘just a machine’ to me. It was an experience that would have gone a small way towards undoing some of the knots in my shoulders. I’ll point out that my disappointment had little to do with a faulty machine and more to do with being bumped. She had the chance to make me leave happy, but I left enraged.

Leave a good Impression

A good impression is often used to describe the external or tangible assets that you are contracted to give in exchange for payment, such as branding, good service or products etc. But you also want your clients to associate your business with warm feelings of contentment, not irritation and regret that they met you. Every contact with a client gives us the opportunity to leave them with a positive vibe. And that’s every contact, even if they don’t end up making a purchase.

I teach my boys that there is always a lesson hidden in a challenge so they must search until they find it. As angry as I was, I picked up several and for that I am immensely thankful to the nail shop for the short course on How not to Treat your Customers.

 

 

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01 Dec

Business Lesson: When Preparation Meets Opportunity

Sounds like a cliche- it is a cliche but be prepared  is a lesson I learned from a reality TV show. My TV preference ranges from anything business-related to of course, Columbo. I particularly like the reality shows that focus on the day to day running of a business. Very often it draws out a deep breath of relief as I discover that actually, ‘they’ are not out to get me, it happens to all small businesses, whatever ‘it’ is.

I need to go on record to say to my Non-UK readers that we totally rule when it comes to showing retired TV shows, I mean those that aired around the world as far back as 10 years ago. So we only just got to watch Cupcake Girls, a Canadian show about two young ladies franchising their way across North America. We’ll ignore the fact that by now they have probably forgotten they were once on TV.

January tends to be a slow time for businesses in the food industry, especially delights like cupcakes. At that time of the year people are still basking in their new year resolutions which includes healthy eating and are celebrating their arrival at day 5- new year, no cakes yet, yippee!

The girls were well aware of this (we must know the trends and seasons in our industry) and they knew they needed to find a way to make money very quickly. They decided to set up pop-up shops in department stores. I admired the fact that there didn’t appear to be any dilly-dallying on their decision but went straight to work. They were surprised to receive a response almost immediately from one of their targets, and they were told to set-up in 2 days!

Here’s what got me

They did. They were able to because they had all their materials ready, from stand and flyers to mobile card terminals and appropriate displays. The girls had all that was required to quickly set up shop. I wrote that night in my journal; Toks, if asked to set up a concession or a trunk show in an establishment like Selfridges can you do so in 2 days? How about 1 week?

I leave you with the same question.

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09 Nov

Business Lesson: Transfering Personal Values into Business

There she was again, appearing in the papers. This time it was because she was newly pregnant with child #5 or #6, for husband or man #3 or #4. The previous time was for her drug-related activities and the time before that was her financial tragedy. To put it simply, she made the news and the media loved to hate her.

In my line of work, failing to keep abreast with celebrity goings-on is a cardinal sin. A scandal like this makes prime social media material and the ones in the know will experience a surge in their clout scores. I was about to join in and retweet this salacious bit of gossip and the Lord said “Don’t do it. Don’t let your business, or yourself be tainted with even a hint of negativity. You were created to spread good news and not bad. Don’t slam that celebrity because her latest escapade has set twitter ablaze. Oh, and let your conversation be seasoned with salt so you may bless the hearers.”

I confess I was disappointed, how else was I to engage with my customers and come off looking like I rubbed shoulders with the editors of Hello! and OK magazines? I have since had several opportunities to engage in negative drivel. Some, I’m ashamed to say, I accepted and some I turned down. The result is that my personal values are slowly being transferred to the business, and if my personal values are drawn from the scriptures, then God is becoming more present in my business!

We’d love to read your lessons in life or business, please feel free to share.

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23 Oct

Lessons in Business: Stay in your Lane

I thought it would be a great idea to share lessons I have learned in my business life over the years. I’ll keep it short and sweet- promise!

This morning on my way out, I picked up a flyer that had been shoved through my letterbox. It had the word ‘kebab’ next to a plate of succulent, come-get-me meats. I flipped it over and on the other side was an equally appetising meat combo Pizza, offered by the same establishment.

Immediately I was reminded of the first business lesson I learned years ago. It was given to me by my business attorney, George. I had absolutely no business experience and I was going through the process of finding and purchasing a business. The plan, of course, was to run it like a guru and take over the planet. I had looked at a number of weird and wonderful businesses before happening on a dry cleaners’ shop in the city we wanted to move to. It all seemed attractive. The cash flow was kosher and I pictured myself waking up at 10am since I’d have staff who would do the ‘real’ work. Yes, I hear you. Poor, clueless girl.

George told me that the Koreans were masters of the dry cleaning industry in the state of Georgia, and it was unlikely anyone would take their expensive Armani suit to a non-Korean dry cleaner. That revelation meant I had to dig deep to find out what I could fit into and ultimately become an expert in.

Would you go to a kebab shop to buy pizza, or will you choose Pizza Hut or Papa John’s?

The lesson: leave the experts to do what they do best.

Leave the experts to do what they do best and be the expert in your field.
In other words, stay in your own lane!

I’d love to hear your life or business lessons too, please share in the comments box.
Thank you!

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