Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Show Me The Money

This blog is one of my posts as a guestblogger. It was first featured here at thenextwomen.com


Paying your bills and getting paid.
This is one topic that applies to us all; one aspect of business where we regularly find ourselves alternating between the roles of debtor and creditor. When I started my business a year ago, I was lucky to have come up with a great new brand in the foods and beverages sector and quickly claimed my niche.
My products were hailed and welcomed by retailers and orders grew overnight. One of my greatest sources of joy and inspiration was the friendly connection I made with most of the retailers; fellow business owners running small but prosperous establishments. Or so I thought....
Until it was time to pay me and in some cases, no payments were forthcoming. After sending a series of reminders through email and regular post I switched over to telephone calls. The ones that didn’t avoid my calls apologised profusely and promised to resolve the issue immediately. The oddball here and there claimed to have paid ages ago or claimed not to have received any bills/reminders and in rare cases, turned into the exorcist, yelling and screaming spine-tingling obscenities Grrrr...

Before I knew it, I found myself walking a precarious tightrope.
How does one successfully recover ones’ money without losing customers? How does one stay friendly and customer-oriented in the face of lies, excuses and bullshit?
Having been on the paying and on the receiving end of the stick I have compiled a list of Dos and Don’ts for the debtors and the creditors. These are guidelines and lessons gleaned from my own experiences on how to successfully navigate the sometimes tumultuous waters of entrepreneurship.

Debtors:

1. DO: Always communicate: The initiative to communicate your financial situation to your creditor is yours. Creditors appreciate knowing that you have not forgotten the bill and that you are doing all within your power to pay the bill.
2. DON’T: Never, ever give a creditor the silent treatment by avoiding their telephone calls or ignoring their letters and emails. This only serves to piss-off and enrage an otherwise compassionate creditor, turning them from human beings to insensitive machines.

3. DON’T: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Don’t say you’ll pay by Monday if you know you can’t. Be impeccable with your word.

4. DON’T: By all means, cut the crap. Don’t tell lies or give excuses that are an insult to one’s intelligence. (I already paid a week ago, I swear! or The banks were on strike again etc) It only serves to harden the creditors’ resolve against you, diminish your creditability, damage your reputation and destroy a good customer-supplier relationship.

5. DO: Come up with SMART options on how and when to pay your bill; like paying in instalments and suggest a viable and realistic time-frame to do this. If for some reason you (again) fail to keep your part of the bargain, be the one to initiate contact and explain why you cannot keep your end of the bargain. Again, always have an alternative solution handy.

6. DON’T: Never, ever resort to (personal) insults, violence, accusations or challenging the validity of bill to be paid.

7. DON’T: Please don’t let this happen a second time!

Creditors:

1. DON’T: Don’t mix up business and friendship. Don’t make assumptions based on simple courtesy. A friendly business connection or rapport is not the same as a personal friendship. Business is one thing, friendship is another, You gotta keep ‘em separated!

2. DO: Be clear and concise on your bills. Always send a legitimate bill with a payment time-frame included.
3. DO: Be consequent at all times. Create a company policy on payments so that if necessary, you can include a copy of this policy in your bill. Following up your own protocol on the payment policy without exceptions is your prerogative.

4. DON’T: Never freak out and regress to insults and violence. Stay calm but assertive at all times.

5. DO: Be open to negotiations and alternatives when it comes to getting your money back. It is better to get your money back in steady trickles with a good interest rate than insisting on the whole payment at once, knowing that the debtor when pushed against the wall may very well abscond and disappear from the face of the earth leaving you with nada.
Also, there may be other more interesting payments than money: My Father-in-law often opted for parcels of land and at some point 2 Arabian purebred horses as payment. He started a successful breeding farm of Arabian purebreds and made even more money than he could ever imagine.

6. DO: If all written attempts to recover your money fail, try going in person to your debtor. This might help when the amount in question is not really a huge amount or does not warrant extra costs like going to court or engaging a professional debt collector. If you do go, take someone along with you, stay calm, business-like and assertive.

7. DON’T: Don’t be afraid of losing a bad customer. One good customer is better that five bad ones who cost you precious time, energy and provide you with loads of negative karma.

8. DO: Finally, if you still wish to retain a customer with a lousy payment habit, your final alternative could be an “immediate-cash-payment-on-delivery” policy for that customer. If not, you run the risk of embarking again on the whole Tom & Jerry charade of running after your money... You should be sick of that by now.

Any one with more/better ideas please let me know.
And let’s be honest; at the end of the business day, it always boils down to these two crucial questions: “Can you deliver” and “Show me the money”.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Social Terrorism is Trending



Social Terrorism is Trending

Urban Dictionary Definition of Sheeple:
Sheeple: People unable to think for themselves. Followers. Lemmings. Those with no cognitive abilities of their own.

30 years ago: Chain Letters “Send this letter to 7 friends within 5 days or else...! ,
10 years ago: Chain emails. Mail to at least 10 people or else...!
Today: RT, Share and LIKE or else...!

The sea is littered with floating continents of plastic waste material.
The world wide web is littered with cyber continents of feel-good quotes, self-help advice and spiritual flotsam.
All these bits and pieces of frou-frou debris( I won’t deign to call them information) are shared, retweeted and consumed voraciously. Some of these messages are about how to change your life and go for your dreams. Others are about how to love oneself or even thy neighbour.

All these messages convey an image of an enlightened, peace-loving, goal-oriented humanity full of awareness and living in a brave new world. Yet all these messages barely conceal the underlying threat: “ if you want to belong to the list of decent human beings then you must Like me, Share me and Retweet me”. Scratch the surface just a bit and you’ll be shocked by the staggering indifference and desensitization teeming beneath.

With the rise and rise of social networks a new brand of homo sapiens has emerged: The Digital Sheeple, A generation of compulsive “Likers”. For them the message itself holds little meaning. It’s about the war, the power (the Klout if you may) of the Likes. In this war the end justifies the means.
This photograph above explains a lot:

This message was on FB by one random mofo, Jdm Manuel L. It was captioned: “This girl deserves endless likes”.
Judging from the amount of shares and likes it received; respectively (137,903 and 2,760,474!) hordes of sheeple shared Manuel’s views. Yet upon closer examination these were some of the comments Manuel and others had written on the sidelines:


Jdm Manuel L: Follow me on twitter here so I can give you a shout out ( likes 997)
Frank Ocean: Who wants 2000+ friend requests?
1. SUBSCRIBE ME>Frank Ocean<
2. LIKE THIS COMMENT WHEN DONE
3. WANT YOUR FRIEND REQUESTS TO BLOW UP? C; {copy}  (likes 54)

So let me ask you this: How many people actually follow all the goody goody advice which the social networks are littered with? With facebook it’s even worse. A whole load of spiritual bull holyshit, tear-jerking sick kids, old ladies with even older cats, buddha squatting sleepily on some sidewalk and christ doing his S&M on a piece of plywood over and over again.


Seriously, who gives a shit???? I don’t mean this derogatively or rhetorically. This is a profoundly serious question. Who Really,Truly Cares?
You see?
This is why I can’t be bothered to care if you will forgive me or not for ignoring your birthday calendar- or Klout requests, refusing to accept your digital fruitbasket or invitations to join Sheep Farm. There are enough sheeple in the world today...
....myself included …...sometimes.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

The Queens’ Legacy: The Colonial Stain


“We even say that we are black and proud. We even say that black is beautiful; O! We got to prove it, we got to prove it... ~~ Bright Chimezie. Nigerian Highlife singer/performer of the late 1980’s.

As soon as each of my kids turned 4 years old and started school, this incident never failed to occur within the first months:
Sons/ Daughter:  Mama, can you turn my hair into short spikes slicked straight up with gel or long straight hair hanging down like the other boys/girls in the class?
Me:  That’s impossible; Your hair is different and beautiful with curls.
Sons/Daughter: Why not? Why can’t my hair be like that?
Me: Because you are of a mixed heritage and this means that you got certain parts of you from papa and certain parts like your great curly hair from mama and one cannot make spikes from curly hair.
Sons/Daughter: Oh really? That’s stupid! It’s all your fault then!

{ Fast foward  to a few years later & puberty}

Sons/Daughter: Hey Maam, I so like totally looove my hair!!! I can do everything and anything with it! Loose braids cornrows, dreads, afro, a mohawk you name it! Everyone loves my hair and people, even strangers, are always begging to touch it.
Me: { smiling wryly and rolling my eyes dramatically} Wow, tell me about it...

Knowing what a sensitive subject this has proven to be in every black community, I took the time to really think this through before running my mouth pen like I usually do.
We, all people of african heritage whether americans or africans, have unanimously agreed en masse that slavery and colonialism have created massive pathological chasms in our collective psyche. We are quick to point out the pernicious consequences of these dark aspects of our history and have spent decades trying to heal.
I wonder then, how today we all can stand tall and proud and still be blind to what (in my opinion) remains one of the most deeply-rooted, ubiquitous and dangerous backlashes of slavery and colonialism: Our (female) collective denial and rejection of our natural curly hair. This collective denial of our natural hair by the use of weaves and sodium hydroxide a.k.a. relaxers, a.k.a “creamy crack”, to fit with the mainstream ideology of beauty, especially amongst the well-educated, is in my opinion a latent and therefore very lethal aspect of our painful history.  I call this self-colonization or the colonial stain.

Allow me to elaborate:

When I was growing up in the south-east of Nigeria, the current class/caste system roughly identified two groups of citizens: The good ones meaning: individuals with a strongly anchored western belief system and western domestication. These were usually the higher middle-class; western educated and therefore western in dress and appearance (hairstyle).
The bad ones, “bush” ones or the “Agboros” were the uneducated touts, peasants or riff-raffs. In general, people who reside anywhere where western influence is limited or adulterated like in slums and villages. These people were in my youthful eyes, pathetic, stupid, poor, dirty, to be avoided and even looked down upon.
Looking back now, it is clear to me that my peers and I were spoon-fed a certain set of values from birth. We were consciously and unconsciously domesticated with the collective agreement that the path to human development lay in striving to be as patriarchally western as possible. This agreement has unwittingly influenced every aspect of our lives; from the adoption of eating processed foods to our taste in music and arts and finally our perceptions of (female) beauty.
We learnt early, as all children do, the distinction between (our society’s definition of ) “good” and “bad”. Good behaviour led to rewards and bad behaviour to punishment.  We learnt to desire rewards and fear punishment. We learnt what the requirements were for attaining rewards: accepting domestication/colonization.  We humans, being social herd-creatures, have a natural tendency to seek out and identify with one another by means of uniformity. This means that we automatically find it more comfortable and rewarding to be similar than to be different. As we grew older, our craving for the rewards of social acceptance grew so immense that we no longer needed grown-ups to domesticate or colonize us. We learned to auto-colonize ourselves.

This theory, when applied to certain beliefs like the concept of beauty, is in my opinion the underlying reason why black women today have grown to prefer weaves and  creamy crack to natural hair. This is the reason why the fake black-hair industry is a million dollar industry in the hands of asians who ironically have no hair issues. This is the reason why black women spend thousands of dollars which they cannot afford, to keep living the lie. This is why women avoid activities like swimming and cannot wash their hair themselves at any given time because of fear of ruining their weave. This is the reason why something as natural as getting caught in the rain has the power of inducing a panic attack from a black woman.This is the reason why women torture themselves and put their health at risk by using lethal poisons and chemicals on their skin and on their young daughters’ skins; unconsciously passing on the tragic heritage by spoon-feeding her the belief that her hair, her natural state of being, her identity is no good.
This is the reason why today the most common physical characteristic of any given middle-aged to older african woman is shifting from obesity to a weave-induced receding hairline.

Before I continue, I would like to stress that I do not believe all western influences are detrimental to africans or that all african tradition is an embodiment of perfection. My discourse is primarily focussed on the deep-rooted negative corollary of colonial patriarchy on black women.
One way or the other, black women, are all afflicted with self-colonization. I know a lot of women would love to “go natural” but refrain because  we have no clue as to what to do with our natural hair. This is something our generation never learned.
I have had black women snap back angrily at me that the reason why they chemically straighten their hair or deploy a weave has everything to do with personal taste and nothing to do with wanting to look like white women. I believe them. Yet I question them on what the underlying motives are behind personal taste. Why would you prefer a hair texture and appearance that comes natural to caucasians? To me the answer staring us in the face is: because if we agree that straight hair is more manageable, attractive and desirable we automatically indicate that nappy hair is not. We all shook our heads patronizingly at Michael Jackson's self-denial and yet we are no better when it comes to hair.
This affliction has persisted in my opinion also because of the pejorative role which colonization has played in our female development of self-perception and consequently our sexuality.
We have no celebrated black female role-models ancient or otherwise. ( Don’t be quick to mention Oprah here because with her chemically processed hair, she is just as afflicted as the next woman) Our archives have forgotten records of these women but due to the patriarchal nature of all education, western or indigenous, history has remained His-Story not hers.
Ask any given black person who the historic figure Shaka Zulu was and he or she will be more likely to answer accurately than if you asked who Amina of Zaria was.
Triply disadvantaged by having been raised with a.  the wrong sense of physical self-appreciation, b.  a gaping vacancy in the department of black female role-models and c. innately downtrodden by the paternalistic nature of both our traditional culture and that of the colonial powers; it is of no surprise that black women had no choice but to opt for white women role-models as the norm on which to build their identity. John Lennon should have said “Black woman is the nigger of the world”.  

Luckily, all hope is not lost. There is a growing natural-hair movement in the states and in Africa. Unfortunately it is still not happening in multitudes. I have yet to experience the pleasure of seeing thousands of liberated black women hit the streets and burn their weaves as they go; the way women burned their bras in the 60’s. Still I am positive that this trickle will one day become a waterfall, because according to an old igbo proverb: when the walls of a house collapse, the roof is not left standing. When key black female figures all go natural, sooner or later tipping point will be achieved and the rest will be quick to follow.
Until then, I remain comforted with the knowledge that nothing that results from human progress is achieved with unanimous consent and that those who are enlightened before the others are condemned to pursue that light inspite of others, inspite of themselves.

The Igbos have a saying: Onye kporo oba ya nkpokoro, agbataobi ejiri ya kpoo ntu.
If you say your basket is useless, the neighbours convert it to a trash can. Meaning:
If you don’t value yourself, nobody will appreciate you.

I rest my case.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Banquet

The Banquet

If you think that the definition of the word WIFE means something a woman becomes after she gets married, well think again.
 

 I am sure that every mother who holds a job, self employed or otherwise, has asked or been asked the question: “How do you juggle family life with a career”? I am also pretty sure that every father who holds a job, self employed or otherwise, has never been asked the same question.
No one would dream of asking a guy this question because everyone automatically knows that his home affairs are safely in the “back office” department; in other words his home affairs are the terrain of the Wife.
Having been brought up by some one’s wife and seen and known a good number of wives in the course of my 36 years- (hell, I’ve even been a wife myself on occasion); I have had ample opportunity to discover the true meaning of the word wife.

A wife is any individual m/f who is prepared in exchange for payment, (assumed)security, symbiotic dependency, material comfort, all of the above, (and/or even more obscure reasons known only to the individual involved) to place ones interests on a secondary level and assume a subservient position for a given amount of time (usually a life-time) so that ones significant other can go out into the world, have achievements and discover ones’ genius.

As a teenager in boarding school; we had to attend mass on Sundays and there was this hymn, a favourite amongst other students, which I hated with a passion. This ultra-patriarchal song (like every thing else that reeks of church) was symbolically about a banquet, to which God intermittently invites man to attend in the course his lifetime. The refrain, the most awful part, is about the excuses that man, wallowing in his pathetic little world of self importance and materialism, gives as a response to God’s call. It goes like this:
The Banquet
Refrain:
“ I cannot come to the banquet,
Don’t trouble me now!
I have married a WIFE, I have bought me a cow.
I have fields and commitments, that cost a pretty sum,
Pray, hold me excused.
I cannot come”.

The question that always popped into my mind was whether the wife and the cow were one and the same. For some inexplicable reason I assumed this was the case. Thus assumed, my armpits would prickle and burn with outrage every time I heard this song and I always kept my mouth stubbornly shut at the refrain.
 

Life has taught me that in the grown up world, there are only 2 kinds of individuals: Husbands and Wives. Husbands are the Einsteins, the Picassos, Galileos, the Mandelas, the Stephen Hawkings and the Colombuses. Individuals who go out the there to conquer and shape the world.
Wives, on the other hand, are the back office of the former. They are the faceless, anonymous ones who stay at home, to hold the fort, raise the kids and the keep the fires burning so that the husbands out there can become heroes.
One can safely conclude that the key to the success of every genius lies in the having of a good wife. I have tried on both shoes and discovered that I am a born husband. (I swear I am!)

Having known both shoes, I have also learned to deeply and most humbly appreciate the wife.
So whenever anyone asks me again in the future, how I do the home-career spastic juggle I will look them in the eye with my best poker face and say that I rent me a good  PA (nervous cough) wife every now and then.
For behind every career, every success, every hero, every dictator, every genius, behind it all, is a damn good Back-office, or PA, or Cow,.... or a Wife.