Every proper company ought to do some marketing communication (promotion) both to position itself in the proper market and to attract customers. And there are five general ways of promoting one's business:
  1. Advertising,
  2. Sales Promotion,
  3. Public Relations,
  4. Personal Selling, and
  5. Direct Marketing
image: lam09.weebly.com

And how to constitute the mix depends greatly on what type of market you want to reach and the type of product/service you sell. If your market targets are other businesses (meaning you run a business-to-business company) and you provide business services (not a physical product) you are going to focus more on personal selling, direct marketing and public relations. And should sparingly use sales promotion. Finally, you should let your branding materials do most of your advertising. You shouldn't run a nationwide advert and have a services brochure that looks a TV manual (unattractive and destined to be thrown away).

And that is the category I fall under -- a B2B that render business services. And now I'm realizing the things I have been doing wrong and the ones I should be doing more of. I ought to do a lot of personal selling, going from one company door to another selling my business service. I need to have a system of directly marketing to potential clients who are not yet convinced that they need my service and those who aren't ready yet. Building a one-to-one relationship that proves our competence and shows them the value we can add to their business.

The only thing I have been doing well is public relations. I have been so helpful to so many people that they willingly tell others about our services. The Microsoft MVP award has been a good PR too. And my blog, YouTube videos and forum contributions. But I could do more by nudging everyone I have rendered our business service to to give a testimonial we can use on our website and brochure. 

Finally, by choosing to position myself as a B2B company providing business services I am changing my competition from every business outfit that renders Excel training. My competitions are no longer the businesses that post Excel training offers on DealDey or the ones that cater to individual customers. I am ultimately positioning myself to compete with management consulting firms like KPMG, E&Y and PwC. And by focusing on Excel based business intelligence/data analysis, I am putting myself in a white space that the big boys aren't covering. I'm creating the differential edge that I need to slowly build up my business arsenal before expanding. I want to also turn my service into a luxury product. Characterized by my personal touch, the best service possible and very costly.

It's a big goal. One that can't be rushed or easily achieved. And today I'm redirecting all my steps towards achieving it.

The biggest help going to a university contributes to our career is not the specialized knowledge we acquire nor the certificate we are awarded at the end, It is the confidence to put ourselves out there before an employer. Not so many of us are doing the things we were trained for in the university. We had to learn from scratch the knowledge we now apply to do our daily jobs and further our career. Yet we don't feel inferior to colleagues who did a course that was relevant to their current career. All because going to the university helped us to believe in ourselves, to prepare a CV that portrays our confidence in ourselves and to be bold enough to put ourselves before any employer.

In the corporate world, you can't rise above the level of confidence you have in yourself. If you have a BSc and limit yourself to applying for a gateman's job, well, that's what you'll get. But if you apply to a manager's role and don't accept anything thing less, you'll be turned down multiple times but you are bound to meet an employer who will grant you that managerial role because of your confidence. So it's very important that you believe in yourself, and to a high degree.

Don't just believe in your ability to do what you have done before or passed an intensive certification exam on, but also believe in your ability to do what you haven't done or tried before. Be more optimistic and enterprising. Worry more about success that failure; think of what to do to succeed at the big task your over-confidence has landed you and not the bitter consequences of failure. Be willing to learn on the job rather than before the job. Take up roles you are not fully qualified for but are willing to work an extra mile at in getting fully qualified and delivering the results expected of you. Let the level of your belief in yourself correspond to your loftiest aim and not to highest degree/certificate.

When you compare yourself to the best or those who are much better/qualified than you, pay more attention to how they started and not how incompetent they make you look. Bill Gates didn't learn programming by not making mistakes; he once got banned from using his school's computer because of the damage he once caused on it due to his incompetence and curiosity. Steve Jobs acted immature and incompetently for the most part of his early corporate career and had to be fired from the company he started. Thomas Edison was most proud of his mistakes and believed that a great success is founded on numerous failures. What they all have in common is not verifiable competence at what they attempted but huge self-belief that drove them to attempt all they attempted.

Even Mark Twain said, 'The secret of getting ahead is getting started." Putting yourself forward with little regard to your qualification is the secret of getting ahead in life. You get from life only as much as you demand of it. And the only way you can demand great things from life is to have a great self-belief. To have an earth moving confidence in yourself. To be willing to attempt what you are not qualified for and to think more in terms of "What if I succeed?" than "What if I fail?"

You have to believe in yourself!

If you have a child who is interested in computers and how electronic gadgets work, then, the perfect Christmas gift you could him/her might be the Arduino Starter Kit.

The arduino starter kit is a do-it-yourself electronic components kit with a beautiful manual that teaches you and your child how to build cool simple and even sophisticated electronic gadgets. And when you are done with the projects in the manual, you can proceed to building more complex and useful gagdets, like an FM transmitter, a drone and a remote controlled toy car (though you'll  need few more components for them and a manual like 20 unbelievable arduino projects)

But straight out of the box, just with manual in the kit, you and your child can do the following electronic projects (as listed on their official site):

01 GET TO KNOW YOUR TOOLS an introduction to the concepts you'll need to use this kit
02 SPACESHIP INTERFACE design to control panel for your startship
03 LOVE-O-METER measure how hot-blooded you are
04 COLOR MIXING LAMP produce any color with a lamp that uses light as an input
05 MOOD CUE clue people in to how you're doing
06 LIGHT THEREMIN create a musical instrument you play by waving your hands
07 KEYBOARD INSTRUMENT play music and make some noise with this keyboard
08 DIGITAL HOURGLASS a light-up hourglass that can stop you from working too much
09 MOTORIZED PINWHEEL a color wheel that will have your head spinning
10 ZOETROPE create a mechanical animation you can play forward or reverse
11 CRYSTAL BALL a mystical tour to answer all your tough question
12 KNOCK LOCK tap out the secret code to open the door
13 TOUCHY-FEEL LAMP a lamp that responds to your touch
14 TWEAK THE ARDUINO LOGO control your personal computer from your Arduino
15 HACKING BUTTONS create a master control for all your devices!

And if you think you are too old for this and not convinced that your child will enjoy working with it, then here is a comment from a grandpa on how he and his grandson are enjoying making stuffs with arduino. (Gotten from Amazon) --

I had seen articles about the Arduino online and in some magazines, so I put it on my Christmas list. My wife said she didn't know what I needed, so I should make up an order. I searched for Arduino-compatible items and ended up buying some $165 of stuff to play with, including a book, and then went back and got some more stuff and a second book. (Don't tell my wife--I told her $100 would do it.) I started through the tutorial in the book and became more interested and impressed with the capabilities. I told my 12 year-old grandson about it and he came to visit and learn. He told my daughter he would like to buy some Arduino items with money he had earned and she agreed he could. I had also promised I would share some of my items with him.

Well, he did a better job of searching the Amazon items and found this kit. My daughter called and asked me to look at it online. My first reaction, before seeing the description, was that it might be more money than they would want to invest if they weren't sure. However, upon reading the details, I began to get really annoyed. There are considerably more capabilities in this kit than in all the stuff I bought--and the kit includes a book of tutorials describing what you're doing very nicely [for less than $100].

I went to my daughter's home to see his kit and looked at the book and became more frustrated. The list of items it has that I didn't is depressing. After I had told my wife about it, she told me (!) to go ahead order the kit and enjoy it. So I did and now have two Arduinos.

BTW, go to the sporting goods department of a discount store and get a clear plastic fishing tackle box, as used to hold lures and small items. Otherwise, the parts get mixed together and finding what you need is a real chore. I bought a box that is about 10 x 14 inches, with adjustable dividers to make compartments of various sizes.

What's wrong with the kit? The only thing I can think of is the book is in smaller type than is convenient for someone with (mumble mumble) year-old eyes. I can read it, but I wish it were larger. It is also bound as a paperback and it would be nicer if it were spiral bound so it would lie flat.

Well, the other thing wrong is that my grandson is about eight projects (chapters in the book) ahead of me and there is not a way I can catch up. That I have a PhD and have been teaching electronics for thirty plus years isn't helping my ego at all. Maybe I'll go over when he isn't home and spill his tackle box.

And as for how you can get one. Fortunately, it is one of the non-book items Amazon now allows to ship to Nigeria. You can buy it on Amazon and have it shipped directly to you in Nigeria. And very fast too. Like in a week.

You can also buy it from Arduino's official store,

First, I would like to say a big THANKS to you all and especially those who called, sent an SMS or emailed me yesterday. You all made my day.

Recently, I have begun to take understanding the non-technical side of running a business more seriously. I applied for an online MBA and was lucky to get a spot. I will begin my classes by January 2015. 

image: ngn-europe.de

But by some stroke of luck I came into temporal ownership of the MBA texts of one of the highest ranking and one of the most expensive universities in the world. The university currently ranks as 3rd in Europe and 9th in the world. So I got exposed to hand compiled texts by some of the best professors in the business fields and the textbooks they recommended as the best. And lots of case studies.

What first struck me was that MBA isn't as easy as I thought. The module texts, required readings, case studies and work involved are intensive. And going through the course structure and texts convinced me that Josh Kaufman was wrong about anyone being able to get an MBA education by reading some select textbooks. He is wrong about doing a personal MBA, self-study MBA, as an equivalent of a proper expensive MBA. I have read his The Personal MBA and read some of the books he recommended to read to get the understanding that will equal that a university MBA will provide. The trouble is they are a lot of books (over 100) and some have very conflicting ideas, and by the time you are done reading them you'll have the impossible task of compiling those knowledge into one practical easily recalled body of knowledge. And you don't get a professional to guide you through and give you case studies that will help burn in the knowledge you acquire.

I'm already beginning to get practically applicable knowledge from the texts. I got to learn that in business you don't try to sell what you can make, be it goods or services. You, rather, make what you can sell. Figuring out what people readily need and will pay for is way more important than making a perfect product first and trying to get buyers for it. And this has changed my perception of my business. I used to feel unhappy about the fact that I don't have a product that I can mass produce, either as a software or online tool. Now I am much less bothered about that. I am now happy that my current jobs are tailored to the clients' needs. I often have to spend days meeting and discussing with the client to be able to come up with a scope of work. No two projects I handle are the same. I don't have a ready made solution that I'm selling, I simply let the clients show me their problem and I tell them the ones I can fix. I make what I can sell. And, hopefully, after a while I will specialize more and have a robust tool I can sell to clients with a popular need.

The next valuable thing I have learned is that products have a lifecycle. And my Excel consulting product is in the birth stage of its lifecycle in Nigeria. Not many people know what it means and if they need my service. A large portion of my potential clients don't know they need me. I often have to do a free demo before they begin to see the value I can create for them. And there are some things that are peculiar to this stage of the product lifecycle. Especially recommended ways of marketing, of positioning myself way ahead of existing and coming competitions. 

The third thing I learned is that the best way to have a differential advantage is to start with focus on a small niche. Spread myself less broadly as the competitions and be the best in the niche market I have defined. So I will be focusing on building macros and servicing corporate clients. And maybe even focus on the Telecoms industry only. I have a well rounded knowledge of the entire telecoms industry in Nigeria and huge contact base. Being this narrowly focus will quickly build up my reputation and sideline the competition in my chosen turf.

image: en.wikipedia.org

Today last year I was ordering a cake and doing several trips to Ebeano Supermarket for drinks.
Today last year I was taking pictures with colleagues at work
Today last year I was unhappy with the direction my corporate life was heading
Today last year I spent over 10 hours at work
Today last year I had a steady monthly income and a significant part-time income
Today last year I wrote about investing and putting my head where my money is
Today last year I knew it was just a matter of days before I'd quit my job
Today last year I wanted to take full control of my career
Today last year I had an individualist mindset and cared too much about myself
Today last year I spent hours crafting a blog post I could safely publish
Today last year I had a boss I liked but in a company I didn't like
Today last year I knew I could be more than I was
Today last year I wanted to lose all my fears
Today last year I wanted to rid my life of everything I didn't want
Today last year I wanted to follow my passion fully
Today last year I was working hard but not working smart
Today last year I knew my window of opportunity to positively disrupt my life was closing
Today last year I got calls, mails and messages than I could handle
Today last year I knew who I wanted to be and what was holding me back
Today last year I had too many book knowledge waiting to be put to practical use
Today last year I was trying to be an extrovert
Today last year I decided to trust myself more and work on my dreams
Today last year I wasn't concerned about how openly I wrote about myself online
Today last year I was working towards becoming a prolific honest original writer
Today last year I wished not so many people knew it was my birthday

To be a genius at anything you would need 99 parts perseverance and 1 part inspiration, according to Thomas Edison. When you pick out the most successful people in the world, either you like their way of success or not, you will find that there is a huge amount of work behind their success.

Take Nicki Minaj for instance. Not many of us like her and for very valid reasons. But you can hardly listen to any Billboard chart and not hear at least 4 of her songs (including songs she featured in). We all know that songs don't write themselves neither do they sing themselves through your lips. She works really hard at her craft. Always coming out with new songs. And you will agree with me that her music genius has got a solid bedrock of hard work.

image: pickthebrain.com
Phenomenal success in life can be patterned after the way a Chinese bamboo tree grows. Once you plant the seed, it will take you about four years of watering before you will see the seed germinate. But once it sprouts, it grows to about 90 feet in just 35 days. That's over 2 feet a day! Whoever sees it grow will consider you very lucky, he wouldn't know that there was an unseen period of four years in which you were consistently watering the seed. 

When you switch on the TV or read celebrity news and you feel that the people generating the most buzz and money are not working as hard as you or doing really simple things like singing or playing football or running, you are obviously not seeing their years of silent watering. No one makes it big time without having built a deep foundation of hard work. The meanness thing you are allowed to say is that the hard work comes easy to them. That running several hours a day comes easy to Usain Bolt. But you should never say that they got to where they are by luck. Even if they began by luck, they sure didn't continue and be the best by luck. It was by sustained hard work.

The mistake most of us make is confusing working hard with hard work. Hard work is doing a work that is not easy, something very few people will attempt and even fewer people succeed at. Ed Sheeran in his struggling years did 312 gigs in one year with little to show for the huge work. It was almost like one gig per day for an entire year. He thoroughly watered his seed for years, and now that he is getting award nominations and making huge sales you'll feel he is lucky. That he does not work as hard as you or the bus conductor you see daily and he is getting so much success. And you are right, he does not work as hard as a Lagos bus conductor. What he did and still does is hard work, the kind of work many people won't do. A lot of people claim to be talented at singing but only very very few will put off their careers and other goals to sing at events 6 days a week and for a whole year, and without a significant pay. That is hard work. It is defined more by the uncommon sacrifice you make and uncommon path you follow.

All farmers work hard. But only very very few farmers will water a seed for four years without giving up on it. And that's the difference between most of the very successful people we see and us. They pick an uncommon path and put an uncommon sacrificial work into it. And persevere. They don't just work hard, they are hardworking. Working at something as hard as running miles everyday. Writing chapters of novels everyday. Working on a new song every week. Taking their passion and pouring a lot of sacrificial work into it daily. Watering their seed daily without care for immediate result.

Almost everyone in Nigeria works hard. We just have to. We work much more than people in other countries and for less money. We wake before daybreak and sleep at midnight. We have little or no break at work. Some of us even work on Saturdays. The issue is that we are too focused on working hard. We would rather do what everyone else is doing and only aim to do it more intensely. We almost kill ourselves with numerous certification exams. We seldom attempt what no one else is doing. We only pay attention to our passion when it's a popular one, like public speaking. We don't like to put in uncommon sacrifices in pursuit of an uncommon goal. We don't want to water any seed for four years while our friends have gone through 4 harvest seasons. We simply want to be a better edition of everyone else. Not a completely different person. Unfortunately, to become phenomenally successful you have to not simply work hard but work at something uncommon (like running for hours everyday), make uncommon sacrifices (like not having a regular career so as to have time for your uncommon goal) and persevere (don't stop or give up no matter what).

Have you ever looked at the picture of when you were a child? Do you try to see that child still in you? And for those married with child(ren), are you constantly seeing yourself in your child(ren)? When you think back on your childhood, do you have this special feeling that makes you smile and talk in an animated way? When you see a very large gathering of children, do you often feel drawn to look or to go there?

There is a child in us all. As we grow up we don't grow out of childhood into adulthood, we simply add adulthood to our childhood. We are still that child who loves birthday gifts. We are still that child whose curiosity is insatiable. We are still that child who has big ambitions. We are still that child who loves to be loved. We are still that child we were many many years ago. The child in that picture is still in us.

image: ec.europa.eu
I still have the innocent shy look I had all throughout my childhood. And the silent stubbornness. The desire to do the very thing I have been told is very dangerous. Even though I have got a large bed, I still sleep at the edge and wake up on the same side I slept facing. It was the way I slept for the most part of my childhood. I still enjoy reading those books I read as a child: The Great Expectation, David Copperfield, The Little Prince, Gulliver's Travels, The Drummer Boy, Eze goes to School, Without a Silver Spoon, Song of Praise hymns (and our version of the hymns), The Pilgrim's Progress, My Book of Bible Stories, The Adventures of Souza, Sugar Girl, The Boy Slave, Oliver Twist, The Chronicles of Narnia series, Jungle Book, The Hunchback of Notre-dame, The Jero Plays, Mine Boy, Things Fall Apart, No Longer At Ease, A Man of The People, One Man One Matchet, The Beggars' Strike, Second Chance, Little Men, Little Women, Robinson Crusoe, Treasure Island (love the pirate's song) and the stories in the Intensive English textbooks. 

There is this indescribable joy I feel when I come across the creative writings I made when I was a child. The grammatical errors and bad spelling apart, they are so much like my writings today. I remember how my dad used to buy the Saturday Punch to see if my articles had been published in the children section they had then. About 6 of my sent-in articles were published. Till today, he still buys Saturday punch and I am still trying to contribute articles to newspapers.

I can't think of any aspect of my childhood that didn't go along with me into adulthood. Even the way I laugh. I am constantly seeing the child in me, the child I was and will always be. 

And you? Do you often see the child in you? And do you have any very interesting story of the childhood habits you still have?

Today I came across a very inspiring article based on the life of a man who dared to dream and attempt the unattempted. Fortunately, the article is long enough to share part of it with you and show you the link to read the entire article.

Below is the part I got out for you.

Few people have changed this world to the magnitude that Walt Disney has. He proves that circumstance and education do not dictate what you can become. His life lessons serve as excellent reminders for young entrepreneurs.

1. You must be a salesman.

“I’d say it’s been my biggest problem all my life… it’s money. It takes a lot of money to make these dreams come true.” – Walt Disney

Sales gets a bad reputation, but make no mistake, selling is the most important skill you can master. And as Walt said, dreams take money and money comes from selling. Walt believed in himself and his dreams and could therefore convince others to believe in him too. Halfway through making Snow White, Disney ran out of money to finish the film that was termed “Disney’s Folly.” Even his own family begged him to give it up, but Disney was undeterred. He personally traveled to different producers and showed them the raw footage and convinced them to finish financing the film. Snow White became an instant success and ushered in the Golden Age of Animation. To finance attractions at Disneyland, he persuaded the television studios to finance building the park in exchange for original Disney programming. Guess what the programming was? It was basically an advertisement for Disneyland! This genius plan not only financed the park, but by the time it opened there were millions who couldn’t wait to go! It proved to be one of the most successful media campaigns ever done and it helped grow Disneyland into the international destination it remains today.

2. Leadership is inspiration, innovation and focus.

“You can design and create, and build the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make the dream a reality”. -Walt Disney

The key to Walt Disney’s leadership is that he was an incredible storyteller. It’s one thing to tell your employees to do something, it’s another to inspire them to action. Walt would tell them a story. He would go into extreme detail and make it come alive for them. He would inspire his workers and make them a part of that story and as a result he would get more from them. When he was first pitching his animators on the story of Snow White, he went through the entire story, acting out the characters, even doing their different voices and movements. Walt had a unique ability to hire people more talented than he was and to focus and coordinate their attention towards a common goal. He admitted that he was a terrible animator. So he hired the best he could afford and focused on innovating the company. He also knew his workers. He knew what they were capable of and didn’t accept anything less than their best. He may not have been quick to compliment, but he was always clear about what he visualized and expected.

3. Always be constantly improving.

“Whenever I go on a ride, I’m always thinking of what’s wrong with the thing and how it can be improved”. -Walt Disney

Walt believed in the future. He insisted that Steamboat Willie have the sound synced and recorded, unheard of for a cartoon at that time. Before Snow White, there was no such thing as a feature length animated film. After it became a huge success and literally changed the film industry, it led to the success of several more beloved Disney classics like Cinderella, Alice in Wonderland and Fantasia. Walt Disney could have rested on his laurels, but that wasn’t his style. Instead, he completely switched gears and set out to build an amusement park where parents and children could have fun together. Once Disneyland opened, Walt would walk around the park, personally testing all the rides, noticing if anything was out of place and asking the guests their opinions. If he noticed something was wrong, he would personally see that it was fixed. As his animators could attest, good enough was never good enough for Walt Disney...

You can read the entire article on Lifehack
Remember my post on how I got introduced to forex trading last month. Since then I have been reading a lot about Forex and just recently took a webinar training by a forex guru based in the US. And now I can say I understand the basics of forex trading. And it is not as complicated as some people make it.

image: tradefxplus.com
Forex is simply what the Mallams at Broad street, Eko Hotel, Federal Palace Hotel and non-Mallams at Airport Hotel do. They buy and sell dollars, euros, pounds and naira. They will buy dollar from you at 177 naira and sell that same dollar to someone else for 180 naira. They make their money from the difference in the price they buy (bid price) and the price they sell at (ask price). This difference is called the spread. Then, the Mallam can decide to not sell any dollar today because he has heard that the dollar is rising swiftly against the niara. So he holds on to the dollar till the next day or two days after, when dollar is trading at a much higher rate to the naira. He makes a profit if truly the dollar rises as he expected or he makes a loss if he predicted wrongly.

You, as an online forex trader, will mostly do one of what the mallam does: you will buy and sell based on expectations of exchange rate movement rather than the spread. It's your online broker who will make money from the difference between the bid and the ask (the spread). And this is where everything can become complex. How can you correctly predict the exchange rate movement?

To answer that question, there are two types of online forex traders. The one who relies on technical signals and the one who relies on fundamental analysis. The technical signals guy uses complex calculations like the Fibonacci sequence and software tools to determine when to buy and when to sell. He pays no attention to the underlying economic principles that explain why a country's currency will fall or rise in value against another country's currency.  But the fundamental analysis guy is someone, like me, who cares very little about signals and the candlestick shapes, he pays all his attention to the macro-economics of the countries he is trading their currency and make theory backed decisions.

To supplement my indepth reading of The Economist news magazine. I have a daily google alert for all the currencies I trade, I also have a Flipboard channel for them and I daily read The Economist Expresso. I only trade when I am sure that I know what the fundamentals are saying about the movement of a currency pair. 

For example, the Japanese government recently did a massive round of quantitative easing. They went on a bond-buying spree to artificially pump more money into the economy. And by economic principles this should lead to inflation and lower value of the Japanese yen compared to the currency of another country that hasn't made any drastic monetary policy. So on the news of this, I bought the USD/Yen pair. As expected, the dollar rose against the Yen so much that the Finance minister of Japan had to comment that the fall in the Yen was more than expected. I made money. (Though small because I put in a small amount in my Forex account, but big percentage-wise).

Again, from following the news of Euro economy and the reluctance of the ECB to do the obvious. Last week, upon the news of how the Euro economy is faring I was sure the dollar would rise against the Euro. I immediately sold the Euro/USD pair. At first, the market went against me but I didn't care. My fundamental analysis was spotless, and so I held on. After about 4 days, the market began moving in the direction I predicted and I have another nice profit from that transaction. 

I also bought the EUR/Yen pair. Currently the market is against me on it. But I know that it will have to someday move in the direction I predicted. The Japanese economy is experiencing a recession. The Euro currency economy is growing and slightly better than expected. Following the fundamentals, until the ECB does a quantitative easing, the Yen will not permanently rise against the Euro and should fall over time.

Finally, as sound as my explanations sound. Economics is like a Y-shaped fork. It always leads to more than one possible outcome, sometimes opposite outcomes. Just like the Japanese quantitative easing led to recession instead of economic boom while it led to economic boom in the US. That's why it is said that you can lay all the economists in the world end to end and they still wouldn't reach a conclusion. Due to my unprofessional knowledge of international economics, even my analysis can be incorrect. Then when they are correct, they may still not lead to the expected outcome. But in everything, having a consistent strategy matters more than being error-proof. I can't be oscillating between technical analysis and fundamental analysis. I stick to one. And more importantly, I trade with the money I can afford to lose. And be always on top of the global finance news.

I strongly believe that no matter how much you earn at your current job, as long as it's a job you hope to go beyond someday or you can be fired from, then you should have a side hustle. Have a little something you work on on weekends that might someday become big enough to provide an income large enough to live on.

image: laniletter.com

And the reasons are:

  1. It's dangerous to have only one income stream. Having a side hustle is one of the best ways of getting an additional income source. 
  2. There is no better way to try out your business idea than doing it as a side hustle while you still have a dependable monthly paycheck. 
  3. It is the best way to work on what you really have passion for, no matter how financially boring it may look. Maybe you have a huge passion for gardening, but you don't plan to quit your current career to become a gardener. You can still go ahead and do on a commercial level what you really enjoy even though you don't see a career in it. You will be doing it for the fun of it and to spice up your life. Think of the inspiration you will cause when your clients find out that you are a bank manager during the week.
  4. It's the only way to acquire certain skills. There are some skills you can't acquire by reading or thinking about them. You just have to learn them by doing. If you hope to become a motivational speaker someday, then doing it as a side hustle now is the only way to acquire the speaking skill you need. Same with fashion designing, photography and programming. To become good at them, you need to do them. I got the courage to go on my own from having done Excel consulting as a side hustle for over a year. I learned to trust my own competence and, at the same time, improve it.
  5. It can become your big break. I once stumbled on the story of how Elizade came into existence. Chief Michael Ade Ojo, the founder, was selling cars as a side hustle. Then one day he decided to test the waters, he took at month's (or so) leave at work and put that entire month into his side hustle. At the end of the month he found out that he had made multiples of his monthly salary (I think about same as what his salary gets him in a year). So rather than resume from his leave, he simply put in his resignation and started Elizade. His side hustle led to his big break.
  6. Jim Rohn, a personal development guru, once said, "Earning $5000 a month is fine, but making an extra income of $2000 is superfine. Profits are better than wages." He also said, "Formal education will make you a living; self-education will make you a fortune." And we all know that you get self-education by hustling and not by taking company sponsored training. There is a special joy in earning N100,000 without the support of a system that earning N300,000 from an established system doesn't give.
  7. And best of all, having a side hustle makes transitions in your life easier. Nothing (death apart) can abruptly stop your life. Not being fired from a job. Not having your salary halved. Not having to relocate and find a new job. And you can more easily make life enhancing decisions. Like quitting a terrible job. Or relocating to a better place without fear of losing all incomes.
For me, turning something as small as a Microsoft Excel knowledge into a side hustle has completely changed my life. Three years ago if I was told I would become a full-time independent consultant I would think of all those technical stuffs I had expensive certifications in (Oracle and Cisco) and my then current industry (Telecoms). Not in a million different thoughts would Excel have surfaced. So you never can tell which side hustle would turn out to be your main hustle. And forever change your life.

I have been invited to give a talk on Entrepreneurship at a youth program organized by a Church in Ogba, Lagos. It's this Saturday.

image: drshrand.com
I will like your suggestions on what I should talk more about. I'm meant to talk for 45mins and have a 15mins Q&A session. And I've been thinking hard about how to structure my talk and what to focus more on. I won't be projecting any presentation slides and don't want to make the talk in anywhere academic-like. I want to make it conversational and deep, with lots of real stories. So I want your suggestions, based on your knowledge of me, on what theme I should focus on and how I should structure the talk.

As much as I love to share my knowledge and stories, I avoid giving talks. I don't know enough neither am I someone enough to confidently talk to people about anything other than my faith and MS Excel. Being a professional speaker often requires you put up an air of superiority and overhype your successes. It forces you to see yourself in an unnatural light. It comes with the high risk of one doing no more than just talking up and down, here and there. 

It's the main reason I am no longer focusing on conducting Excel training. I keep saying almost the same thing, explaining the same features and answering almost the same questions. It makes me feel like I know all there is about Excel. And it makes the few projects I have done look like multitudes. I don't feel challenged or forced to learn something new or solve some tough strange business problems.

The real joy I get from what I do is when I take on a project that I have not done something similar to before and I am forced to think creatively and work hard from morning till the next morning. I prefer getting stuck at an Excel program code than getting praised during a training session (which happens all the time).

Luckily, this talk is a unique one. I was selected based on the recommendation of a friend who believed in me more than I believe in myself. And it's not a recurrent one. And this is one of the moments I have been training for since 2011 when I joined Toastmasters. Also my experience of conducting professional/technical training since 2009 (when I was working as a CCNA instructor) will be of immense benefit. It taught me the power of illustrating with things around and telling good stories. I had wonderful ways of explaining how a router works and the different OSI reference model layers. I always got great ratings and excellent feedback. So I am going to combine my award winning Toastmasters speech crafting expertise and educative professional training skill to deliver a great talk.

As a Toastmaster, what makes a great speech is more of feedback and rehearsals before the main speech day. And that is why I am seeking your feedback and suggestions. If you were to be part of the audience what would you prefer I talk more on and how would you expect I string together everything. 


No one is perfect. No one has only good sides and no bad sides. No matter how innocent looking and soft minded a person is, s/he will have a poisonous side. And I think it's perfectly normal. It's what makes us human: our imperfections. It's great to aim at perfection. Trying to limit the damage your bad side causes. But the one thing you shouldn't do is to fake perfection. Never fake who you are not. Be you.

image: theentrepreneurwithin.org

If you give the people I have had close dealings with, either as former colleagues at work or former classmates at school, a questionnaire asking them to write what they consider as the poisonous part of me, you will get one very clear answer: "Michael doesn't keep in touch."

In secondary school, university and at every place I have worked I have had very close friends. I bond with the few I connect with extremely well. But when I leave it all ends. I don't keep in touch. It has led to the death of several promising/potential relationships. It's my own biggest imperfection. I have tried to change it with little success. I have tried to fake being perfect, it was a hell of a work. I have prayed about it. I have thought hard and long about it. All I achieved was to discover how deeply rooted in it I am, that it's part of what makes me me. And that it's not with everyone I completely detach, amazingly, there have been a few people whom I have loosely kept in touch with.

I find it hard to get too attached to anything or anyone. And it's partly because I put my entire self into whatever I commit to. I envy people who are members of different social clubs or organizations and not get tied down by anyone. In 2011 I joined Toastmasters without any ambition, just wanted to be more social and outgoing. Now it's almost a part-time job. I have, without intending and even trying not to, become so entangled in the club administrative affairs that I even don't fix business dealings or Excel training on meeting days. I have been trying really hard to become less involved in the club, but somehow my nature of doing my best at whatever I do is causing me more troubles.

Even while at university, I was active at the university chapel. Took everything very seriously: from the Sunday school to vigil. In the beginning I looked like someone doing a silent campaign for church leadership roles but after a while it became obvious that it was who I was. I don't know how to do things half-halfheartedly. I either don't do a thing or I put my entire self into it. But then it makes me break off completely from whatever I am not actively doing. Since leaving the university I have not being in touch with the chapel and almost everyone I was very close to there.

Now I save myself unnecessary troubles. Rather than fake who I am not or kill myself trying to fix my imperfections, I simply try not to get involved in anything I don't want to put myself wholeheartedly into. And I don't try to fake keeping in touch, it's exhausting and not me. Life is more about discovering the real you and letting it shine through rather than defining who you should be and forcing yourself into a mould that is not meant for you.

This month is the 8th month of going on my own, as my own boss. And looking back I am much different from whom I was 8 months ago. Being an entrepreneur is remolding me, surprisingly, structurally more than financially.

It has made me more bullish. More willing to take a chance. And less reluctant to try something new.

image: entrepreneur.com
I am also now more comfortable with facing my troubles immediately. Before, when something goes wrong in my life or at work, I think a lot about it and sleep a lot, hoping the situation would have improved  when I wake up. I no longer act that way. Last month I had lots of troubles and I had to tackle them immediately or they were only going to get bigger. Still I couldn't meet the deadline for filing my monthly VAT payment. Rather than feel zapped of energy and retreat when faced with big troubles, I now suddenly feel infused with lots of energy and run around more when I have issues to resolve or troubles to face.

I am also, now, more long term oriented. There is no more assured monthly paycheck. There is a proposal I have been pushing with a team that took me on as a technical partner, it's now 6 months and nothing very concrete yet. I am now less concerned with my bank account balance, it competes with the weather. I just make sure I am doing my best and delivering very high quality job. I'm now a company and easy profit shouldn't be my ultimate aim in my first year of operation.

I remember last year, I was learning a lot of things I wasn't sure how I would apply them in my professional or personal life. Now I can't seem to have enough time to learn the things I need to know for my professional life. Everyday now feels very short, like there are now fewer minutes in each hour. I have also managed to learn a lot in these 8 months than I have learned in any one year. I am now a proficient MySQL database administrator and on course to becoming a web app developer. And that is not to mention how my Excel competence has skyrocketed due to the various projects I have worked on and training classes I have conducted.

Finally, I no longer feel intimidated by the success of anyone else. Before I used to do a quick mental evaluation of anyone earning more than me and reach one of the following conclusions: they work in a higher paying company or they have spent more years in the corporate world. Now I'm too busy reaching my own goals that I no longer do such mental comparisons.

Being an entrepreneur is shaping me into a more responsible, highly motivated, always working and happier person.

Alibaba is the world's biggest eCommerce site. Think of a Jumia.com that is servicing the whole world and selling almost everything.

For over a year now I have had my services listed on Alibaba, unfortunately, I haven't gotten any serious foreign buyer. Also, I haven't made any purchase on the site. Until yesterday. This week I should be receiving my order of an FM Transmitter. In Nigerian English: my own radio station equipment. 

I plan to someday have a radio station that plays only music. Good music. 22 hours a day, 7 days a week (the missing 2 hours are the total advert play time). So yesterday I decided to start small and in a fun way. I went on Alibaba Express and ordered a portable stereo FM Transmitter that comes with all I need to start a home radio station. Or office radio station. But what I really intend to use it for is to start a bus radio station. For a weird reason I enjoy taking public transport than driving to anywhere (except meeting a big potential client). And if you've been a long time reader of my blog, you would have come across a couple of my posts where I mention that I hate listening to our radio stations. Well, when you are in a danfo or cab you wouldn't want to tell the driver to switch off his radio because you don't like all the radio stations. 

My biggest intention of getting this portable FM transmitter is that I am going to set up a radio station right in the bus and make it transmit at the frequency of the radio station the driver is listening to. I might even make it transmit the conversations in the bus. Or I make it transmit my favorite songs. Then I will make sure the driver freaks out when he changes the station because I will keep overwriting any new station he tunes to. And the other fun part is that the other cars on the road will be hearing everything we are discussing in the car or my favourite music, for as far as half a kilometer radius. That's the possibility of over 1000 cars on the Third Mainland bridge at 6pm on a weekday! Then I can do my own voice over broadcasts. Make a shoutout to a friend in the same traffic after telling him to tune to Cool FM.

Traffic time will no longer be just reading time for me but also fun time. The FM transmitter complete gadget is just a little bigger than those old Nokia phones with antenna. It has a battery that can last for hours (4 to 10 hours depending on how far I want the signal to go). And it has a mic I can speak into to do voice over and an audio in cable to connect to my phone. And I'm going to be as creative as possible.

Whenever you are in a traffic on Third Mainland bridge or Lekki or Oshodi -- Ikeja, Whatsapp me on 08063125227 or send me an SMS. If I am nearby you can gladly request for the station I should jam and the song you want to hear, and also a shoutout too. And if you have an audio recording you would want me to play at a particular time in a particular traffic, then mail me. If it will cost me a lot of stress I am going to bill you for it.

The greatest reward a job can pay you is to help you become who you've always wanted to be. It's never the money you get but who you become by it. And there is only one way to achieving that: get a job you are passionate about.

And to encourage you I've compiled the following great quotes.

"You've got to find what you love. And that is as true for work as it is for lovers. Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it." Steve Jobs

"There comes a time when you ought to start doing what you want. Take a job that you love. You will jump out of bed in the morning. I think you are out of your mind if you keep taking jobs that you don't like because you think it will look good on your resume." Warren Buffett

“Just don’t give up trying to do what you really want to do. Where there’s love and inspiration, I don’t think you can go wrong.” Ella Fitzgerald

"Your work is to discover your work and then with all your heart to give yourself to it." 

"A man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do." Bob Dylan

"If you don’t wake up in the morning excited to pick up where you left your work yesterday, you haven’t found your calling yet." Mike Wallace

"If you don’t build your dream. Someone will hire you to help build theirs." Tony Gaskins.

"Forget the risk and take the fall, if it’s what you want, then it’s worth the fall." Anonymous

"Wanting to be someone else is a waste of the person you are." Marilyn Monroe

"Go where you are celebrated — not tolerated. If they can't see the real value of you, it's time for a new start." Anonymous

“The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.” Mark Twain

"It is never too late to be what you might have been." George Eliot

"There is no passion to be found in playing small — in settling for a life that is less than you are capable of living." Nelson Mandela

"Too many of us are not living our dreams because we are living our fears." Les Brown

Yesterday I came across an excellent article on LinkedIn and I have decided that it would be great to share it -- actually, part of it -- on my blog today. It's by Liz Ryan and the full article can be read here

Liz Ryan's Human WorkPlace company

Stupid Attendance Policies
Salaried people don't need attendance policies. That's why they're on salary. If you're still dinging people for getting to work ten minutes late when they commonly stay an hour late every day, you don't deserve them on your team.

Stupid Frequent-Flyer Policies
Business travel is a grind. It takes years off your life. It's not easy being on the road and leaving your life behind. Your employees earn every frequent-flyer mile their business travel entitles them to. Those miles are theirs, not their employer's.

Any company stingy enough to steal its employees' frequent-flyer miles is not an employer that can grow your flame or take you to the next step on your path. Get them to change that Scrooge-y policy, or run away.

Stupid Dress Code Rules
We write dress code policies because we'd die of embarrassment having to talk to an employee face-to-face about his or her excessively club-by or beach-y attire. Too bad for us. We're managers, and sticky human topics are part of the job.

Get rid of the insultingly detailed dress code policy and simply remind your employees to dress for business.

You can add "If you're on the fence about whether or not to wear a particular ensemble or article of clothing to work, err on the side of caution and don't wear it."

Bell Curve Performance Reviews
Performance reviews in general are a bureaucratic waste of time, but the ones that force managers to fit their teammates into pre-set slots on a Bell Curve are disgusting and unworthy of the brilliant people on your staff.

If you truly don't trust your managers to hire wonderful employees, why did you make them managers? Bell curve performance reviews only encourage the hiring and retention of so-so employees, or worse. Get rid of them in 2015 and celebrate your team's briliiance!

Stupid Bereavement-Leave Policies
There are still employers that require their employees to bring in funeral notices in order to be eligible for a few days' paid bereavement leave. That's shocking and horrifying.

No doubt some employee way back would falsify a family death to get some time off, and ever since then the company has been writing its policies to prevent such a fraud from re-occurring.

That's idiotic, and heartless. It's never smart to write policies directed toward people you wish you hadn't hired. Trust your employees, and they'll trust you back.

Stupid Approvals for Everything
We'd expect any employer to require approval from higher-ups before you're allowed to spend a lot of money or hire someone new. We'd expect some required approval before you launch a project or put someone on probation.

Do we really need a manager's written approval for an employee to replace his ID badge?

We have taken nearly all the latitude away from the talented adults we hire. That's stupid and a waste of shareholder's money. More bureaucracy only slows us down.

Can we trust the people we chose to join our team to do simple things like order a new stapler without requiring a manager's written permission? If not, can we call ourselves leaders?

Stupid Disciplinary Rules
The idea of discipline comes from the military. We don't think that it would ever be appropriate to put our kids' piano teacher or our plumber on probation, so why would we do that to the employees on our teams? The idea of progressive discipline makes no sense in the Knowledge Economy we operate in now.

We are all adults. If someone goofs up, we can have a conversation about it. We can figure out where things broke down. If we don't trust a person to represent our brand, what good will probation or a written warning do?

Don't listen to people who say "We have to do this stupid stuff in order to fire people if they don't improve." That's completely false. I was a Fortune 500 HR SVP and I'm an expert witness in employment matters now. Anyone who sighs "We're forced to follow these old rules" is either lying to himself, to you, or both.

Stupid Feedback Mechanisms
Employee Engagement is a crock and a slap in the face to your teammates, most of whom would be happy to tell you to your face what your company is doing right and wrong. All you have to do is walk up to them and ask them, face to face, and listen to what they have to say.

Annual employee engagement surveys are a weenie's answer to the question "How are we doing, and how's the team?"

Do you ask your wife to fill out a survey and tell you how you're doing as a husband? She'd have a sharp answer for you if you proposed that approach.

Why should the valued collaborators you work with see things any differently? Lose the engagement survey and make it easy for your teammates to tell you what's working and what isn't, in the moment.

Stupid Hiring Processes
It's easy to fill job openings when you do these three things:

Write job descriptions in English or your local language rather than corporate zombiespeak.
Treat job applicants like valued collaborators rather than interchangeable machine parts or pieces of meat.
Make the interview process fast and friendly, and remember that job candidates need to be sold as vigorously as your customers do.
It's hard to fill job openings when you use Black Hole applicant-tracking systems to screen resumes by means of keyword searching.

That's the world's worst way to hire people. Any employer that complains about talent shortages is barking up the wrong tree. Humanize your recruiting process and watch the talented people flow in!

Stupid Forced Ranking
Forced ranking, sometimes call Stack Ranking, is a process of lining up your employees and comparing them to one another, Best to Worst. It's easily the stupidest idea corporate and institutional weenies have ever come up with.

You can't stay and work for a company that treats like you like a two-by-four stacked up against other pieces of lumber, not when there are wonderful organizations that could use your help!

Your teammates deserve better. People are unique and whole in themselves. There is nothing to compare between one person and another -- thank goodness! Smart employers have always known this. Any organization that doesn't get it doesn't deserve your talents. Get on your path and find the people who do!

Don't forget to read the entire article on LinkedIn Pulse.
As much as possible I try to limit my use of VBA/Macros. Macros require the user enabling the macro to work, doesn't work on tablet and phone versions of Excel (even on Windows RT) and can be broken when run on a Mac version of Excel. 

I find that it takes some fun creativity to do complex tasks purely with Excel formulas than building a macro. And there is the added advantage that formulas auto-calculate, out-of-the-box, and gracefully while macros have to be programmed to run whenever particular cells are updated.

I have made lots of dynamic dashboards using purely formulas, but often a weird mix of IFERROR, INDEX, MATCH, INDIRECT, AND, OR, IF, TEXT, SUMIFS, COUNTIFS, LOOKUP, ROW, COLUMN and RANK.EQ.

Today I will be sharing with you the combination I use in sorting and picking the top records from a list somewhere else. And it always monitors that list and updates to consistently give the top records always. The combination is very simple, uses RANK.EQ, INDIRECT and MATCH.

So lets see how it works. 

I have made a sample table (downloadable) for illustration.

And I would like to show in another sheet or entirely new worksheet the top 3 sales by sales amount. Ordinarily, I would have to sort the list by sales amount in descending order and copy out the top 3 records. It would work but it won't be dynamic. When the records change, my top 3 list will still be showing for the old list. Showing non-current values.

We will now attempt to do this entirely by formulas -- from the sorting to the picking of the top 3 records and it will always show the top 3 records even when the list records are changed.

Step 1:
Do a ranking of the records by the sales amount in descending order using RANK.EQ. As shown below, for the first record, BBQ Chicken, the formula entered is =RANK.EQ(C3,$C$3:$C$18,0)

Step 2:
On the sheet we intend to display the top 3 records, we type out the fields.

Step 3:
We'll use INDIRECT and MATCH to pick the values with ranks 1, 2 and 3, as they represent the top 3 records.

Let's examine the formula used to pick the first record and it's Pizza Type field: =INDIRECT("'All Sales'!A"&MATCH(1,'All Sales'!$D$1:$D$18,0))

INDIRECT("'All Sales'!A" tells Excel to reference a Sheet named 'All Sales'! and the column A. This is actually the sheet with all the sales records and the column A is the Pizza Type field. Next is to figure out the row to pick, the row that corresponds to the highest sales amount record. Rank 1 record.

MATCH(1,'All Sales'!$D$1:$D$18,0) tells Excel to give us the row position of the record that has 1 in column D. Column D holds the ranking. So we are asking Excel for the row of the record with rank 1. For this particular list the row is 7 (Chicken Feast).

 =INDIRECT("'All Sales'!A"&MATCH(1,'All Sales'!$D$1:$D$18,0)) evaluates to  =INDIRECT("'All Sales'!A"&7) and finally, ='All Sales'!A7 (cell A7 in sheet 'All Sales')

Now you should be able to figure out how the formulas in the other cells work.

And that's how you pick the top records from any list. And it's dynamic.

Let's change the sales amount for BBQ Chicken, from N620,000 to N1,620,000 and go check if our Top 3 table has updated to reflect the change we just made.

Yes! Our Top 3 table is now showing BBQ Chicken as the topmost record.

Don't forget to download the practice file here

Now you can do one more useful task with Excel. Congrats!