The year to ask questions
It’s threatening to be a frosty year. In Their Eyes Were Watching God, African-American author Zora Neale Hurston wrote: “There are years that ask questions and years that answer.” This is a year that asks questions – tough questions, like where will this nation be in 20 years?
Gloom is good because it is a natural selection process. It gets rid of the weak that contaminate the species – whether they be human beings, companies formed by patronage or organisations whose time is up.
Although most people would prefer evolution as a means of change, they do not realise that it is deceptively ruthless. A revolution is quick and decisive, but evolution is a slow and painful extinction caused by factors that can neither be controlled nor avoided.
Make sure that you are not frozen by strife and discontent. Remember that there are only 24 hours in a day. Decide how much time you want to allocate to paying attention to racist idiots and give no more. That way, when they distract you, at least they don’t take up your whole day.
Give enough time to South Africa’s favourite pastime: complaining. Make sure you moan about everything there is to moan about. Call the radio stations and tweet about it, making sure that your tweet is linked to all your social-media platforms. Don’t forget to include corruption and the weakening rand. Go back in time, starting when the rand was R2 to the dollar. Tell everyone that you’ve seen this movie before, and it looks exactly like the start of another African blockbuster called Zimbabwe.
Complain about poor service; complain about the poor; complain about government grants; complain about refugees. Complain, because already many people complain that South Africans don’t complain enough.
As you tilt your heads towards depression and put one leg into the abyss from which there is no rescue, try to remember that man’s number one enemy is himself and that the greatest battle you’ll have to fight is between your own ears. If you lose that battle, then you will be the worst prisoner of war – a state where you have no rights or sympathy. You will watch free men and women live their lives, while you are blindfolded by envy.
If, on the other hand, you choose to look at life like a protea, you will look forward to the brutal fires that will help you thrive. When you hear others complain, you will go down on your knees and touch the ground with your forehead, thanking the Lord for showing you another dinosaur that is about to die because it is unable to make sense of the new world. You should revel at their cries, which should sound to you like the sound of children playing – a sound of hope, an inevitable future where there are no adults with toned down ambitions.
Paint the picture of success in your mind, and think about how you could benefit from the follies of the present. Draw up a list of your top nine competitors and write their weaknesses next to each name. The bottom three should be companies that are the same size as yours – that is not where you want to be. The next three is a list of your bigger competitors, and that is where you should wreak havoc. The top three should be the biggest customers in your industry, and that is where you eventually want to be.
Improve your service levels and phone your competitors’ customers daily. Market yourself to the biggest players. Let them know you, and tell them what you can do better than their current suppliers. Don’t worry about “no”. After all, it takes 12 contacts to convert a customer.
It’s tough times, yes, and only the tough survive … the ruthless … the cunning ... and those with the will to live even when the grave looks more inviting. These are the people who know that life does not owe them a living. They understand that once their mothers had breast-fed them, they were entitled to nothing more.
You have to be Darwinian about this, but know that it is not the strong who survive – dinosaurs were big and strong, but not smart.
If you manage a big company, know that you are on the dessert menu. Your costs will be higher and your customers won’t like that, and your competitors will be calling them. Use this time to clean up your business and cut costs.
While everyone savours the snobbery of failure, prepare for success. Work hard. When the good times return, they’ll think you’re a clever bugger and buy your business for a fortune. Kuzwayo is the founder of Ignitive,
an advertising agency