On Tuesday 24th March 2015, eight AfricaTalentbank.com Limited (ATB) Brand Ambassadors (BAs), excitedly prepare to meet with Mr Peter Njonjo, General Manager, Coca-Cola, East Africa. I am privileged to be a member of this group.
These are meetings organised by ATB to expose our youth (namely ATB BAs and candidates), to the world of work and what it takes, to be a leader. . They are confidence building and you are thrown in at the deep end and expected to swim. It is fair to say, this is where confidence begins and you are expected to rise to the challenge. There is no sitting in your comfort zone at ATB.
So far, we have found most CEOs we have met, to be very approachable, straight forward, often humble and always ready to give advice to us youth.
So, the eight of us arrive at Coca-Cola, suited and booted (as they say), and in we walk to reception to register our arrival at 1330hrs. We are received by a lady who gives us all a warm welcome and then shows us to our seats, offering us Coca-Cola as we await 1400hrs which is when our meeting is scheduled to begin. The interior design at Coca-Cola Plaza is breath taking – a place where my BA colleagues couldn’t help but insist they would love to work.
The minute you walk into the Coca-Cola Plaza (which are the offices serving Sub-Saharan Africa), you forget you are in Upperhill. Instead, you feel like you are in a World cup stadium and this feeling is further heightened when you meet the diverse nationalities moving around the office – you are transported to another place.
At 1400 hrs we are received by Katherine (who works with Peter Njonjo) and she leads us to a meeting room where a few minutes later, in comes Peter Njonjo, a cool, charismatic gentleman who moves around the room, shaking hands with each one of us as we exchange introductions. Mr Njonjo comes across as warm and approachable and then graciously gives us an introduction to Coca-Cola, sharing his career journey and then opens the forum for questions and answers from us.
I will highlight key points that you can use for your own business model or life from the insights we were given, a virtual extension of the meeting proceedings to you:
1. Shape your destiny by owning a vision and working towards it. People don’t owe you anything in life. No matter what life throws your way, embrace your vision, persevere and focus.
2. Whatever you are doing, no matter what it is, do it diligently even where the task is perceived as menial, give wholeheartedly to this task; you will get your reward in due course.
3. Have a mentor to whom you can turn for counsel. Have an experienced practitioner in your line of trade who can advise you on the decisions you make. If you must disagree, do it on good terms and keep communication lines open between you.
4. Have a broad outlook on life . Boundaries are imaginary lines. Reach out, unless you make the first move it is difficult to transition.
5. Focus on the consumer. Give consumers good value proposition i.e. have magic price points. The consumer will pay any price provided the perceived value is greater than the acquisition price.
6. If you have scarce resources, prioritize. Focus on cash flow, capital may be scarce to find but if you look hard enough you will find it. You can’t make money if you don’t know how to chase pennies across the corridors. every penny counts, so to speak.
7. Find a business partner whose ethical values align with your vision, goals or purpose. Ethical fibre is at the heart of everything you do. You succeed because you have good people working for you, people with capability and passion to go into your line of business. If you have a partner who values lifestyle over business welfare i.e. someone who would purchase material goods before even paying employees’ wages, then it is time to rethink your partnership.
8. Family is important. Be present for your wife/husband and kids. Make time for your family. Work from home if you can and avoid travel during weekends.
9. 60% of the world’s arable land is in Africa. 70% is under utilized. Think about this.
10. For a successful business, you need to Innovate or die.
Wise words indeed from Mr Peter Njonjo. We are grateful to him for taking time out to meet with us. A big thank you also to Katherine and to the Coca-Cola family who made us all feel welcome. This meeting has inspired us all to ‘Dream big and push hard’. Written by Mitchell Odhiambo.
Mitchell Odhiambo is a final year student at JKUAT, studying for a BSc in Actuarial Science. He is a Brand Ambassador at AfricaTalentbank.com (ATB) where his role is Team Leader, JKUAT Brand Ambassadors. He is also Events Manager at ATB which includes overseeing and supervising ATB events which include: ATB Careers Fairs, ATB Entrepreneur Events as well as ATB Graduate Open Days which ATB organises for its corporate partners.