Thursday, July 29, 2010

Salsa, a return to The Intercontinental and a Life Coach

Tuesday evening I had a perfect chance to take some lessons from my salsa class to the dance floor.

It wasn't the plan for the evening, but a friend from El Salvador was in town and a couple of us joined him for dinner at the Italian restaurant at the Intercontinental. Now that's a place I had almost sworn never to return :-).I ranted about it here But Tuesday's experience was one of those that made me re think the other experience, which I was totally vexed about.

The security detail was on point, and with so much going on in Nairobi this week, the hotel was a flurry of events, but the staff were impressive this time round. From the security at the entrance, to the guys up front at the Lobby, and the waiters in La Prugna were up to scratch. I had lasagna, it was well done, (though C.S makes a better one -( I may be biased though!:-)And we also had to settle for South African Rose as the Chile one we ordered wasn't available.

After dinner we got into the Safari bar..and requested for Salsa, my feet retraced the steps I learned in Muziki Tele

Wednesday, I had coffee with David Bernard Stevens and it was refreshing to hear about his Life Coaching projects with women in Kibera, and how the women are learning to elevate their self esteem first, as the initial step in being agents of change; we also talked about his plans for rolling that out in even bigger scales. it almost felt like a class in itself, and it did challenge me to become a leader of myself first, before attempting to lead anyone else.

PS: Is oxtail soup rightly called " Supu ya mkia wa ng'ombe?" that made part of a discussion later that evening over dinner with a friend at Blancos.. which has pretty good African food!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

LET'S IPO HARAMBEE STARS...(Note to self..But who am I to say?)

Harambee Stars is close to my heart.

Very Close.

If you have kept up with this blog you know by know that I am (originally) a country girl, who grew up on the farm, with cows, chickens, goats and transistor radio.

We also went to the local Kitale stadium every once in a while with my cousins Mike, Ian and Carol to watch football. Many times AFC leopards and Gor Mahia rocked, but when Harambee Stars came to Kitale, we would have to arrive at the stadium hours earlier, to get good seats at the front of the stadium.

These are memories that get me nostalgic every time the National team plays.

But that was then. In recent years though, the few times I have made my way to Kasarani Staduim and Nyayo stadium to watch them play against other countries, always leaves me with anxiety.

I remember the days of Ghost Mulee, when I had this tugging at my heart that the team would go places. I am a dreamer, I believe so much in people, to a fault. Whenever the stars play I get these goose bumps. Normally, I feel very deeply about performance, any performance. But more still, about a players dreams. In their world, its all about competition, and about winning, so it is in everybody’s world, but imagine playing to loose every single time, what keeps you on the pitch?

It is such thoughts that tug at my heart, because these boys believe in themselves, they have a drive that’s untouchable, yet so very palpable, it’s the kind of hope that can take you places.Yet for Harambee stars, it hasn't.

There’s leadership, and then there’s leadership, literally, in Kenyan football, and that has failed. Completely. It is way beyond time to rethink a strategy for our National football team.

With the World cup flame dying out, and 2014 around the corner, why not rethink the direction we want Kenyan football to take? If it is a basic right for every Kenyan to have a job, why not create an environment that favours football and create jobs for the talent in this country? We can see that talent through the same lens we view Macdonald Mariga (Intermilan) and Dennis Oliech (Auxerre) Musa Otieno (Sanlam Santos, SA) among others.

Harambee stars first entered Africa Cup of Nations in 1974, they have never made it to the finals, and of course never made it to any world Cup, and have generally been very unsuccessful in International matches. The country (team) has been banned by FIFA more than once, in regards to issues of government interference and other irregularities.

Can that house be put in order?

I think so. I am not the absolute authority on football (what would I know?) but I think it is way beyond time the National team is run like a proper business.

Because it is a business. Management has done a shoddy job at maintaining the National team, where everyone’s hopes now is to be spotted by an international team and be whisked into European bliss, then return home with Chrystlers and Hummers.

For a football crazed country, I think someone should start toying about IPO’ing Harambee Stars. And that of course means a complete change of management and a clear strategy. It is only with public ownership structure and accountability measures that Kenyan football can work.

Being a Kenyan that has watched the stars from way back in the day, I’m more than willing to place my bets on it. I will make the queue and be a shareholder. Then our boys can stop dreaming and start living.

Monday, July 26, 2010

As Michael Joseph bows out....

I remember my very first interview with Michael Joseph in June 2007 at the Laico Regency, Safaricom was then announcing it's full year as well as talking on the possibility of an IPO, which was of course not being run by Vodaphone but by the Government of Kenya. I was jittery as I had just joined CNBC Africa and began by doing some pretty high profile interviews with people I was only used to watching on TV. He was my 4th Interviewee after Richard Branson, Central Bank Governor Njuguna Ndung'u and the then Finance Minister Amos Kimunya. But still I had butterflies, the Interview though went well, and he declined to comment much on the IPO. Since then I have interviewed him a couple more times, and his passion about Safaricom is unquestionable.

During my different interactions with Safaricoms and news around it, Michael strikes me as one of those types that had it mapped out right from day one, strategy wise, but kept going back to it and altered it as the market grew. He and his team also has an eye for the best talent, and better still; know how to keep them there.

So I when I heard recently that he is leaving on the 1st of November, I began to envision what the company would be like without him. He has been what many refer to as a visionary leader, with impeccable integrity. Those that work for the company or know him personally would know better, but what I can say , as an outsider who has spoken and interviewed economists, stakeholders, stockbrokers and shareholders almost every week in the last 3 years in my job as a business reporter, there is something about how MJ lead the company that is above impressive.

I remember watching him recently On Citizen TV as he defended his company over proposed regulations by CCK which would hurt them as the market leader; it felt as if he was dealing with a personal attack.

But, his was a strategy that held on.

This week I have been reading this months HBR and I couldn't stop making references to CEO's and MD's that I know who have great strategies and manage to deliver them.I could almost write MJ across the bullet points as I indulged the writers opinions( KCB's Martin Oduour Otieno, Equity's James Mwangi and Even President Paul Kagame could fall in this category)

It's one thing to have a great strategy and it is another to deliver it. Michael Joseph is one of those who managed both successfully. Top Exec's create the strategy, but those below them carry it out. If the team shares in the goals and believes in the strategy, it will be carried out to the T; then that's what you can call a great company, and if Safaricom's financial results over the past decade is anything to go by, then I would say he mastered the art of the steering the team in line with his strategy; (Mobitelea not with standing)

Safaricom's products, services may not be what every Kenyan is happy with and the share price not what shareholders anticipated, but the company is the most profitable company is East Africa, the biggest taxpayer in the country, as well as the company that has the biggest number of shareholders across East Africa.

Safaricom is Michael Joseph's baby, and my two cents is that he has been a great parent. It will be interesting to see how the company fights it out for what has been a marginally declining market share in the past two years, which now stands at 78%.

He has left a legacy, and is surely a great example of how great leadership works.( I wonder if he will be sipping martini's and playing golf from Nov 2nd!;-)...That's my ultimate goal when i'm done working smart!

We will miss him at the top, but we will be watching Bob Collymore as he steers one of EA's best ran companies.

In other news...When our wings are strong enough to fly...then lets let them fly...mine's on that path;But I will still be here.