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You are only as good as your team

By King Kaka | January 8th 2020

In all my features, my readers will testify that I put great emphasis on the fact that while vision drives whatever project one wants to undertake, capital is also very essential. But today, I want to focus on the third thing that makes vision and capital meet their end.

In the past, I’ve been told by close friends and mentors that I allow people to get too close to me. That I am too invested in my employees’ welfare.

I always argue that the core of my business is family. I relate with my employees like family. I’m hands-on at work and that requires some level of closeness with my staff and it blends us just like a family. However, I can admit that working like that has its pros and cons.

Don’t wait until success comes

If you have previously worked with me, you will notice that I have a couple of people around me most of the time. And they each play a certain role. For example, my disc jockey, DJ Junior. I met him many years ago when all I had was a dream and an ambition to take over the world.

At the time, I ran a shop in Nairobi’s Imenti House and he operated from across the street. I was fascinated by his skill and enthusiasm for his job. Interestingly, I had read in some magazine that all established artistes had personal disc jockeys.

So one day I walked up to him and told him that in the future, when I became a famous musician, he would be my deejay. And so when I got down to starting my empire, and I needed to look professional because, well, perception attracts opportunities, I took him on.

Most young entrepreneurs wait until they are well known before assembling a team, and that is where they err. I can confidently say that all my core team members were there before we began raking in the money.

Perception counts for a lot

This reminds me of a time, still before money and fame rolled in, when a guy offered me a gig. He was going to pay me Sh5,000. He called me up and I gave him my location. He came to my shop and my manager and deejay were there waiting to formalise the deal. My manager pulled out a contract and the guy was surprised. The first thing he asked was, “Are you sure you want me to sign a contract for a Sh5,000 gig?”

What he didn’t know was that for me it was not just about the money. To me, the contract meant a couple of things. It meant that I was professional. It meant that I was on the right path when it came to legal matters. It meant that I can reflect on my growth as an artiste and also that our agreement was binding. It also meant that I had a functioning team around me. I am still in touch with that client and he always reminds me of that contract and how I had seen into the future.

I had studied international record labels and how they function, and noted how they capitalised on even the smallest of opportunities. But take away all the frills and you will see that the backbone of these successful record labels is the team.

And if you are observant, you will notice that most times, a popular artiste will fade once they drop out of the record label they started out with. What the record label does, apart from pumping the necessary finances in, is putting an effective team around you that makes sure you get the most opportunities.

Let go with grace

I assembled a great team around me from the beginning, and over time, most of them have wanted to leave and build their own empires. They want to emulate what I have been preaching over the years.

In all honesty though, at the beginning, when some of my integral team members asked to leave, I wasn’t so gracious and took it hard. This was because I trusted them and we had grown together and that is not easy to replace.

But I’ve learnt to let go. After all, their success and confidence make me happy. And my mentor taught me that you should put measures in place from the word go so that when a true soldier leaves, the company doesn’t suffer and you have replacement options on standby. It isn’t easy, but you can do it.

My questions to you today are, what happens when your current partner decides to leave your dream and to start their own? Will you crumble? Also, do you have a great team around you? And is it moving in the right direction?  

The writer is an award-winning artiste and entrepreneur.

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