Sunday, January 20, 2013

Small is the new big: review.

Godin, Seth  (2006) Small Is the New Big: and 183 Other Riffs, Rants, and Remarkable Business Ideas. P.352. ISBN-13: 978-1591841265
I recently read Seth Godin’s Small is the new big. Fantastic read for aspiring entrepreneurs and people who want to be the best they can be i.e. remarkable. Being remarkable is the main thesis of the book. The book is a compilation of his blogposts and some posts are available here.
Again, it is a very good read and I like that each post is short and you don’t have to read it in a particular order. However, the book is US/Western-centric. In our part of the world, the odds are stacked against us (see this post) unlike in the West where can live a decent life and determine whether or not you want to be remarkable without so many obstacles.
Reproduced below are some of my favorite lines from the book

  • Anonymity is the enemy of civility (Godin argues that we would be well-behaved on the internet especially if we are not anonymous)
  • The percentage of the work you get paid to do goes down as you get paid more (so true, our bosses “do nothing” and get higher salaries)
  • Changing people's minds: being right isn't the point. Being persuasive doesn't seem to matter that much either. Being right, being persuasive and being with the right person when that person is predisposed to change their mind- that's when things happen
  • Pay attention to detail and take responsibility- two obvious secrets of every service business
  • What did you do during the 2000s?
  • Ask why (Yes ask why)
  • Working class: having a job where the worker has little control over her acts - her goals, her time, the outputs created. (This is the best definition of working-class I have seen)
  • Urgent is not an excuse
  • If you don’t have the time to do it right, there’s no way in the world you’ll find the time to do it over
  • You will succeed in the face of change when you make the difficult decisions first
  • Progress: humans tend to work on a problem until they get a good-enough solution, not a solution that’s right
  • The marketplace often rewards solutions that are cheaper and good enough, instead of investing in the solution that promises to lead to the right answer
  • RPB: Relentless pursuit of better
  • Getting the job you want: be remarkable, build a network of people who truly want to hear from you
  • People don’t buy what they need. They buy what they want. E.g ringtones
  • People are selfish, lazy, uninformed, and impatient. Start with that and you’ll be pleasantly surprised by what you find
  • There is no correlation at all between success and hours worked. The secret is understanding the key issues and making decisions about how to act on them
  • Sales in one easy step: make something people want to buy
  • What’s my free prize? What makes me standout?
  • Short words are better than long ones and short sentences get read


Saturday, January 12, 2013

Beneficial CSR activities


Hey all,

During Christmas, corporate organizations were competing for media space on their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) activities, it occurred to me that these organizations should be more strategic about their CSR activities. This week, I consider how financial institutions can meaningfully give back to society (other ideas and contributions are welcome)

I am a firm believer that the Small and Middle-scale Enterprises (SMEs) would drive our growth. Why? SMEs engage in production (tangible and services) and more production would have multiplier effects on any economic system. For example, a baker buys eggs from a farmer who buys feed from other farmers.
Yet IFC (International Finance Corporation) reports that Financial Institutions (FIs) under serve SMEs which are the pillars of any economy.  

High interest rates (about 22%) are a strong limitation for SMEs to procure loans especially in Nigeria’s harsh economic climate. Apart from high interest rates and limited access to finance, SMEs face challenges such as weak infrastructure, insecurity and poor internal systems.

In addition to their CSR activities, FIs can organize free training programs for their SME customers. A credit worthy, better structured SME is an asset to any bank. One advantage of having structured SMEs is that loan defaults would be reduced, and SMEs would become more credit- worthy thus removing the barrier of limited access to finance. SMEs lack the administrative know-how to run their businesses, ensure consistent profits, differentiate profits- profits for the company and owner profits and imbibe those little details that can make or mar a business (quality service and products).

Programmes that can educate their clients on how to run a business- efficient record and book keeping-, plan growth, create an enduring business structure, and accessing finance should lead to positive changes in small businesses thereby making them more profitable and creditworthy. This would result in positive outcomes for the SMEs (profits, expansion), FIs (a well-served customer would refer others=more business for the bank, new products would be developed for SMEs) and the society (the government gets more revenue, citizens get better products and services, SMEs patronize other businesses). This may seem plain and rudimentary but it is an option worth exploring.

Friday, January 04, 2013

Project 2013

Life is hard, but what is more, Nigerians almost seem to take pleasure in making it harder for themselves and others- D.J Smith

Happy New Year, People! It was about this time last year our president gave us his New Year gift. Thankfully there were no surprises this year.
I read the above stated quote in a book and it aptly describes us as Nigerians.
So what’s this post about? It is about decisions and actions.
An anthropologist describing the peculiarity of Nigeria’s state and value systems likens our attitude towards our “situation” - especially corruption, to a traffic jam. He writes“drivers aggressively attempt to circumnavigate the traffic, maneuvering between lanes, cutting off competing vehicles, driving on the shoulders and frequently even racing between oncoming vehicles in the opposite lane - all the while loudly cursing and condemning other drivers who resort to the same tactics. On public transportation, passengers exhort their drivers to take drastic measures to get them were they are going as fast as possible, even as they lament the whole spectacle.”   Chinua Achebe believes that Nigeria’s issue is solely a failure of leadership and that the “average Nigerian” has no opportunities to participate in corruption. I disagree.  Nigeria’s issue is both a failure of leadership and the average Nigerian.
This year, the average Nigerian has to refuse the option of doing nothing. We have to individually decide whether we want our nation to become better or not.
It starts from the little acts of civility, refusing to “show others we are in charge”- funny story, I watched a movie and the receptionist in the movie threatened to fire the cleaner-, doing our jobs the way we should, refusing to give a bribe or refusing to benefit from corruption. We should determine to hold ourselves to the same standards we hold others.
If everyone decides to be punctual to work; determines to be exceptionally productive; sells genuine products and do not rapaciously seek profits through inflated prices, our lives would be better and richer and we would gradually build our productive base.  A reason that’s being given for our lack of growth is that our productivity is low. It is common sense to note that doing things the right way equals to higher productivity.  Our collective productivity would accumulate over time and when it is honed to an appreciable degree, we progress to higher and better skills i.e we go from being competent to becoming brilliant. For instance, a project manager oversees a simple road construction project and it is done well- good drainages, quality asphalt, no potholes. Other things being equal, he learns that certain materials can be added to construction materials that would generate electricity.
It is time to leave the traffic jam mentality and aspire for a free expressway.  In past weeks we have witnessed the unfortunate consequences of inaction (read the air and road accidents those in government have been involved in). Everyone needs to rise up to the occasion and contribute his or her part to Nigeria’s progress – however little. These incidents do not have to occur before we act, as we should.  That ‘free expressway’ may take a while to achieve and the journey may not be smooth; it certainly is not utopia-. However, it is doable and in the long run, worth it.