At 48, I finally found and followed my passion
By Mona Ombogo | January 29th 2020
“There is no single specific habit or quality that defines a good leader. The best way to be a leader is to thrive out of your personality,” says George Nuthu, a leadership development coach and consultant.
“Study the leaders you admire and ask yourself, which of their traits work for me.”
George Nuthu, formerly a lawyer and executive pastor, started his consultancy, B&G Consultant Ltd, with his wife Beverley Simiyu-Nuthu in 2011.
Nine years later, the company continues to flourish, operating globally by offering training and coaching services to businesses and individuals, particularly when it comes to leadership.
George, who’s now 53, speaks to Hustle about transitioning and how entrepreneurs can discover, monetise and maximise their passion.
You’ve changed careers a few times and taken great risks doing it, would you say that’s the mark of an entrepreneur?
I think risk applies to anyone who wants to follow their passion. But it needs to be calculated, particularly when you have other responsibilities to fulfil.
I resigned from being a pastor at the age of 48 after 15 years in ministry. I did it because I’d started feeling unfulfilled in my role. In fact, I’d become a killjoy.
Young people would come to me with ideas and I’d shoot them down, telling them we’d done that 10 years ago. But even when I gave the green light, I felt like I wasn’t experiencing anything new. I’d been there, I’d done that.
Would you say that’s usually a good indication that change is required?
It’s definitely one sign. When you start dreading getting up in the morning, are operating on autopilot, the job doesn’t thrill or challenge you anymore, or you just feel a sense of restlessness, it’s probably time to move on or transform. This isn’t just beneficial for you – your moving out can give others room to grow.
How do you make the transition as seamless as possible?
You follow your heart, passion and point of knowledge. The mistake most entrepreneurs make is that they jump into a space they know nothing about or have very little interest in. It’s not enough to do something because it will make you money – you have to do something that you love enough to push through and survive, even when the stakes are high.
I had always known I wanted to work directly with people, I’m a sanguine, so I derive my energy from people. As a pastor, I also realised I had a passion for building leaders. After 15 years, I had the experience to transform that into a business, not just because of the networks my wife and I had made, but because we had learned firsthand, what works or doesn’t work when it comes to leadership.
So, what works?
You have to be self-aware. Who are you? And how can you use that to better build your team or business.
There are many different types and styles of leadership. An extrovert for example might be happier being hands-on, talking consistently to their people, being very involved in the process. An introvert might be better at coming up with creative plans, innovations and back office implementation because they work best alone.
But what if my role requires me to integrate with people, yet I’m an introvert?
Then you staff your weakness. That means that if an introvert finds it hard dealing with people, they need to hire an assistant or human resources manager who thrives among people.
If they are not in the position to hire anyone, then they need to maximise on their strengths. Staff your weaknesses and maximise on your strengths; do both, if possible.
What has been one of the biggest lessons for you as a leader and business owner?
I was in an office the other day, and they asked a group of us if we were to wear a T-shirt with one word that described us, what would it be? Mine was, ‘learner’. I’ve learned both from successes and failures. Never stop learning.
When you do what you love, it’s easy to constantly stretch yourself, because no one has to force you to do it. In my bedroom, for instance, I have an entire bookshelf full of leaderships books. I’m always engaged and asking, what else can I do? Where else can I go?
And how have you managed to reinvent yourself?
Technology. Do you know, 50 per cent of the companies that existed 20 years ago don’t exist anymore? Many of these failed to keep up with the times. Companies like Kodak and Xerox had to do it or cease existing.
Technology, for Bev and I, has taken us global. Today, 90 per cent of the work we get is from Linked-In, and 80 per cent of this is international.
There are many companies in the West these days with branches in East Africa, and they don’t want to fly in trainers. First because they’d be spending more money, and secondly because these trainers would be coming into a culture they don’t necessarily understand.
They hire us to facilitate their training because we are on the ground. Sometimes we even train their international offices via webinars and teleconferencing.
Now, if we never ventured into the Internet to source for work, we’d be limited to getting business from our immediate surroundings only.
What are your charges?
For individual coaching, it depends on the level of ability. If we are dealing with a top-level manager, we would charge between Sh250,000 and Sh500,000. If we are dealing with a mid-level businessperson, we’d charge between Sh100,000 and Sh200,000. The packages are tailor-made and last for six to 12 sessions.
For workshops, we charge approximately Sh200,000 a day, dependent on the needs of the client and the number of people attending the workshop.
Is there a market for this business?
It’s seasonal but it definitely has demand. Last year between April and September, we trained 90 people and coached over 50.
I am a strong believer that if you match your passion with the gap in society and fulfil a need, you will always have a market. But to effectively and consistently monetise what you love, you must also be willing to venture beyond your comfort zone.
If a market is overcrowded, or you feel opportunities are low or dwindling, venture further out. Look beyond your immediate surroundings and you will find new unexplored markets for the product you’re offering. Opportunities are endless.
What’s one last nugget of wisdom you can offer entrepreneurs?
This goes across the board to anyone in employment or running their own business – you have what it takes to be what you want to be. But you must own what you’re doing, don’t rely on others to build your dream for you.
Whatever your area, listen to your clients, listen to the market, but remember you have a vantage point because it’s your area of expertise, so guide people to what will be beneficial to them and they will follow you.
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