LEAD! How Business Can Reinvent Itself for Today

LEAD! How Business Can Reinvent Itself for Today

From time to time Albert will walk in with a complex as hell question. It may be the way his mind works or just the extraordinary situations he finds himself in.

He asked, “So how can we work for a technology client and still struggle with Outlook? Why don’t they use the millions of apps for business available?”

By apps for business he meant Trello, Franz, Google apps, Slack, Dropbox and the plethora of other businesses built by the world’s most brilliant minds to help evolve the nature of business in our time and age.

Valid question with no valid answer. At the time, anyway. How could a technology business not be the most technologically adept business? It made no sense. Over the months,however, we’ve had the conversations for me to finally understand why, the uptake of new technology is not as swift as it is developed.

The People Who Run Businesses:

Big businesses are built by successive promotion of talent and so in most cases people in management are the most experienced people in the business. Why is this dangerous? Because these people rely on the tools that got them to where they are. They trust Outlook and distrust Thunderbird.

They don’t understand Skype, Slack, Trello or Jira, because the only way to get work done is by having meetings. They also don’t understand the millennial-preferred offsite working.

And so, these decisions and technologies don’t get bought into, they don’t get signed off as business solutions and they don’t get used. So business remains archaic and stagnant.


The Industry In Which Businesses Operate:

The industry is made up of thousands of people who only think that office wear must include a tie for gentlemen. That dreadlocks are for hooligans. That everyone must be bribed. Thus, these ideas become cast in stone. They become millstones around the whole industry’s neck.

This attitude permeating the industry makes it inflexible, sluggish and bloated. It takes more time to come to decisions, more consultation to arrive at options, and ever more options to satisfy a boardroom of decision makers. The world’s leading businesses are agile, lean and extremely fast. Decisions are taken, businesses either succeed or fail and they learn from it. And move on.


The Talent Pool In The Market:

Businesses must also be aware of the people in their employ; millennials! More collaborative, less rigid and more creative about how they approach their work than any generation ever born! Businesses and the industry must first and foremost serve these people’s needs; which although they seem erratic, aren’t. They are just processing more information than anyone ever has.

“Write a tweet, finish and send the report, respond to the girlfriend about the weekend, walk into a 5 minute huddle, bite into the sandwich, sip on a coffee, double tap Grace Nakimera’s Instagram album, make plans for this evening. And that’s all before 8:45am!”


Old Dogs and New Tricks:

How does a business that only used to plan for Easter, Independence Day, Christmas, NRM day, and Eid holidays now retrofit itself to handle #MCM, #WCW, #TBT, #FBF, #SundayTwitter, Black History Month, Breast Cancer moth, The Kabaka run, the MTN Marathon, Movember,  #Tweminists, Grammar Nazis and the plethora of landmines waiting for it online? How can it do those things unless it changes how it works?


The Thirst is Real For Results:

Results! Results! Results! Everyone wants them. Clients want to know how much engagement there was on that post. Who clicked on it, where were they from? Can we message them with something else? Where did they go after they left the website? Cookies, algorithms, ad blockers, native advertising. Everything we do is measurable and someone wants to use those measurements to make money. Old technology will not have these answers.

New thinking and new knowledge is necessary. Buzz words today include; big data, A.I., blockchain, integrated marketing, Bretail, remarketing, influencer marketing etc. All fancy words to mean no one knows how today’s audiences behave so we are throwing everything at them to see what sticks. However, the guys at Cambridge Analytica are doing fun things with data.

No matter what you use, we need new tools because the old ones aren’t going to get the job done


How do we resolve these incongruences?


Has the advertising agency model died? Must we rethink it? Can big retainers continue to exist in an age where all employees have 2 or three skills? Can the model built on trust of credit survive in the harsh pre-paid economies of Africa? Can we


We must be bold. Courage and boldness in action will trump speed or strength every day. The courage to question the old ways. To depart from the knowledge that got us here but will not take us into the next 5 years. Must forge new paths.


We must commit. Commit to our businesses. Commit to unlearning and relearning. Commit to understanding our target audiences and what is hurting them. Know that client businesses are hurting and they need solutions that help their bottomlines.


We must be agile. Agility gives your business edge. It separates you form the bloated pack. Cut the fat from your organization and make it flat! Flat and lean like a start-up because if you want start-up money you must have start up structure and work ethic.

Allow to be bad. In his 50th Law, Robert Greene speaks of the necessity of aggression and how at the right time aggression can bring distinction thereby delivering the blue ocean your business desperetaly needs.


Or don’t do any of these things and go down in glory as the internet is full of companies that did nothing wrong and still went down.


Kissing The Emperor’s Ass; Ugandan Advertising and its Pitfalls

In advertising, it is a common occurrence that you will regularly be asked to kiss someone’s ass. Sometimes with good reason and sometimes for no reason. Now because advertising is what it is, no one ever questions the ass kissing; it’s always been done and will always be done. We just do it. Maybe one day Jesus will come and we’ll stop. Or maybe we wont stop who knows. But I digress.
You now know that advertising people are a subservient, obsequious and disgustingly self-loathing bunch of people. But the truth is that it is not all advertising people who are this way. It the client service people. Those are the real ass kissers. Those who most kiss ass eventually have their oral orifices transform into that oval shaped pout now common with most girls on Instagram; you know the one white girls do because they don’t have thick African lips and the one African girls copy from the white girls because, well they don’t know why the white girls do it and are too stupid to see that their thick Africa lips look like a tilapia in rebellion rather than whatever they imagine they are doing.
 Again I digress.
These client servicing people over the course of a successful (important to note here) lifetime kiss so much ass they get used to and even start to like the smell of it. However there are people who don’t kiss as much ass; the creatives (but this one I’ll leave to another day). But every once in a while you find some ass that smells good. People who know you have to kiss their ass but take the time to make sure it is clean and scented and they wipe it. Clients who like you. Who think you are the shit [no pun there]. Clients who, you too, incidentally, like. They respect you. They listen to you. They let you do your work. They are honest about their budgets. And they appreciate you when you do good work.
“What?! Whaaaaattttt?!! They exist!!” *in maniacal voice*
The real trauma is that this gentleness and humility has come at the end of a lifetime of hard work and interactions. It is lessons from dealing with thousands of people. The kind of wisdom possessed by an “emperor” (for purposes of this post) and not is tempestuous “heir apparent” (also for the purposes of this post). Which brings us to the heart of this post.
Most people who deal with emperors find them civil, full of leadership, great product knowledge and a great amount of insight about their products or services. They know their customers, they know what they (their customers) want, they know when their products are weak. And so they trust their agencies to lead them to the right place. They also know exactly where they don’t want to go but are open to being surprised on what is possible. They are visionaries. These are the ones with the scented bottoms. You could kiss that ass all day long.
However because this breed are so rare one only encounters a handful in a lifetime of work. Quite often you meet one in your whole advertising career.
Just 1.
And you meet them at the end of theirs.  They are either preparing to hand over the empire to the next generation, or to move on to the next great thing. Or if your stars are so badly aligned and you deserve nothing good in this life – they are preparing to hand over to their children.
Why, you ask?
Because anytime a business is successful enough to be handed over, it means there is a lifetime of relationships and lessons to be taught there. A plethora of cautionary tales and an ensemble of adversaries the business has overcome to survive that long. These are things that most emperors try to teach their heirs apparent but most times fail miserably. Why? Because the lessons are time acquired, they are seared in the mind because they are experiences mixed with emotions making them memories. They can’t be forgotten.
In their tutelage, most heirs apparent hear these lessons but brush them off as tales of a time gone by. The prospect of “modernizing” things is so intoxicating that most of them forget why things have remained the same for so long. So they rush into the boardroom and fire everyone. They replace all the casual labour with a capital intensive solution that makes the “casuals” jobless. They are swift to “modernize” the logo and up-end the “brand look and feel”.
“These things are from a long time ago. They all need to change,” they say. “We need to get with the times. Something new and fresh and exciting!”
“Like what were you thinking?” lips firmly placed, you ask.
“ I was checking online and I saw something that I think we should use,” comes the curt retort.
In that process they want their asses kissed so hard and if there is no evidence of sh*t on your face they’ll rub it in for effect. They’ll work you harder. They’ll listen to you less. They’ll disrespect you more. Eventually, when the tally is done they will never let you make as great as they could be. These are the bottoms we all dread. The ones who don’t wipe. They ones who will fart while you are in the middle of your morning ass-kissing ritual and laugh just because they can and there is nothing you can do about it.


But why are they like this? I don’t know so don’t ask me but in my next life I’d like to come back as an heir apparent just to see. But I suspect there are a few reasons why:
As I said above, the emperor is wise and old. He has seen many things and has learnt that he will never really know it all. So he listens. He mulls on things. And appreciates a good idea. He is the emperor. No one can rush him. When he is ready he will act with deftness and blinding speed. The heir apparent doesn’t have that luxury; he has got naysayers, detractors, populists, etc all around him. He must be rushed and decisive. And there is where all the skid marking starts. As they make the wrong decisions and shit their pants in fear, all the ass kisser will find is skid marks when he comes for their ritual ass kissing.
The decided lack of compassion: this lesson is almost as old as itself. Nowhere in the human race is there less compassion than in heirs apparent. They bear an often unmistakable proclivity for mean, spiteful, denigrating behaviour. They’ll end old friendships and relationships, will set fire to the village barn because they haven’t gotten their share of the wheat crop even though the harvest was bad all around. This is perhaps the point where that lesson on absolute power and corruption is derived. I’m reminded that even in the much hailed Holy Bible for all their strength Judges would never become kings. No matter how many Philistine foreskins Samson took, he would never have the grace and empathy of David.
And that leads to my final point; Strength Vs Grace: Ass kissing is all about grace and tact. It’s very difficult for you to kiss ass when you know its ass. The human spirit rebels against that kind of thing. It is revolted by the debasing of the spirit it represents. However if a king passes by and it has been agreed by his subjects that none shall look upon his countenance then it is in unison that they all bow before him and give him respect. That they will let him have the final word. That they will do his bidding even against great personal misgiving. On the other hand, being forced to kiss hard, unscented, unwiped ass on your knees, in chains only makes the ass worse, and the action more vile.
Yet we must and will continue to kiss ass for that is what will light our houses, and warm our loved ones and feed our children. In the end all you can hope for is that you meet an emperor in your lifetime because that experience is truly one worth having had. Just one emperor. Oh such sweet ass.