“A wise man will hear, and will increase learning; and a man of understanding shall attain unto wise counsels” – Proverbs 1:5
My learning experience has been one of formal education at primary, secondary and tertiary levels; then in academia (teaching and consulting with staff and students); and the consulting business of hard knocks. Now, I spend most of my time with entrepreneurs offering them a “business shepherding” service. These entrepreneurs are engaged in developing enterprises which span a wide range of sector including information technology, communications technology, renewable energy, media, sport, health and wellness, agriculture and agro-industry, contemporary art, board games, creative design, music, film, fashion, transportation, edutainment, food, urban development, game shows and education. The shepherding activity is very rewarding not only because I continue to learn and to be exposed at the cutting edge of many fields of endeavour but also because of the gratification which I get from my clients who, at their own admission, benefit from the sharing of business experiences which I have amassed over 40 years. I was indeed formally trained, over a period of eight years, as a mathematician, statistician, biometrician and operations research scientist and have appropriate certificates to show for it. However, it is the forty years learning experience since then, for which there are no certificates, which has moulded me into what I am and can offer to others today. Every so often I get labeled as an ICT specialist, health guru or agriculturalist but that is by association rather than by formal training. The title which I have given myself is that of “change engine consultant” where I see myself as a consultant who induces change. Change is the only thing constant in life. From the point of view of the external environment (economic, political, market, social, regulatory and technological innovation) we have no control over the net effect of changes which might occur and hence we have to be ready to take advantage of the opportunties which manifest themselves and also to avoid the impact of threats which might occur. From the point of view of a business we should always be on the lookout for ways of growing the business not only because this could lead to a better standard of living for the stakeholders of the enterprise but also the expansion of these businesses will collectively redound to the expansion of the national economy. Remember that there is no other way to sustainably grow an economy other than the emergence of one successful business after another. It is therefore important to be wise and give oneself every opportunity to increase learning, a life long process, so that one can build on the reservoir of understanding and become even wiser. One is on earth to contribute and once good health attends you then the learning and sharing process can continue day after day. The sustainability of good health is facilitated by a balanced diet, regular exercise and the practice of peace of mind. I rather like medical analogies in describing business processes. When a patient goes to the doctor one is exposed to the sequence “assessment-diagnosis-treatment”. The assessment is obtained by an interview(s) with the patient, an examination of the patient and the taking of medical tests to check the body including the circulatory, digestive, endocrine, immune, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, reproductive, respiratory, skeletal, and urinary systems. Then a diagnostic report (a health profile) is prepared by the doctor after which the doctor prescribes a treatment or the patient is referred to a specialist or the patient is sent for emergency care. Either the patient can afford the diagnostic and treatment process or has health insurance to cover its cost; or, the patient cannot afford these processes then the patient must seek medical help through the publicly assisted health service. In either case if the patient is diligent in following the doctor’s treatment then the chance of the patient enjoying good health is expected to be greater than if the treatment is not taken. When an entrepreneur seeks business advice from a management advisor (business doctor), he/she is exposed to the sequence “assessment-diagnosis-treatment”. The assessment is obtained by an interview(s) with the entrepreneur, an examination of the entrepreneur’s business and the taking of tests to check the systems of the business including strategic management, marketing, technical and administrative operations, human resources and financial systems. Then a diagnostic report is prepared by the business doctor which gives a business health profile of the enterprise. The business doctor then prescribes the preparation of a business and implementation plan for the entrepreneur. Either the entrepreneur can afford the cost to prepare the diagnostic report and the business plan or can source an advance to facilitate their facilitation; or the entrepreneur cannot afford the cost and the entrepreneur must seek management help through a publicly assisted service. In either case if the entrepreneur is diligent in following the business doctor’s road map and sourcing investment capital, as specified in the business plan, then the chance of sustainable business success is expected to be greater than if the business plan is not followed. The analogy is instructive but not perfect because whereas the systems of a human body will senesce after a while, the business can be renewed in perpetuity, or certainly for much longer than the average human life span, if the appropriate advice is sought and taken. The learning experience is a catalyst to success in life.