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The confession of a sales agent

Victor Mochere

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The confession of a sales agent

“Cling! Cling!” I heard my phone ring over the bedroom, “These people who call you when you are having a meal, somewhat have the minds of cockroaches”. I called it a missed call, they literally say a missed call is not a rejected call, neither is it an ignored one. I remember once confronting my mother when she failed to pick my call, she rebuked me with the phrase, “Mtu akikosa kuchukua simu, si eti amekataa kuchukua simu”. The phone rung up again, I walked slowly and picked it up, she was my friend, at least for the time I knew her. “Hello”, I started what could be a short but nosy conversation. “Victor, I’m done”, in a low tone she startled, “Done with what”, I inquired. “That shit of a job. Si tupatane nikupe udaku”, she chuckled.

 

We met over a cup of tea, at an eerie tea room hotel. She sat adjacent to me. “Waiter, I need a cup of green tea with extra cream, lemon, ginger and no sugar, please”, she made her order. I stared at her as if trying to figure out how green tea looks like, as she glared at the floor, her hands shaking. For about ten minutes after her order was served she still had her eyes fixed at the same place.

 

“A cup of special tea for me”, I told that short black guy with a pumpkin face. He took out a note book and stood there looking at her, pretending to write something maybe doodling her face, captioning it, ‘life is too short, bitch!’

“What is wrong with her?” He asked.

“Oh! It speaks!” I berated him, “That is not your problem”

“Sina shida na mtu”, he answered.

“Is it part of your job description to snoop into other people’s lives? Well, if so, you see that old woman over that table, she is crying, maybe you want to know what is wrong with her too, but in the meantime just serve me my damn order!”

 

She raised her hand to grasp the cup, took a sip, cleared her throat, “You know Victor, the reason I joined that organization was because I wanted to be independent, make a life of my own. So I made an application, got shortlisted and called for an interview.

 

During the interview I asked them a simple question, “How do you gauge and recognize good performance. And what are those most important KPI’s that you use in doing that?” They told me, “You will be answered at the training, that’s if you even pass the interview”. Okay, well I did pass it. At the training they only stressed on how they determine and appreciate good performance. I was not satisfied. So when I was posted to my work station in a remote weird semi-arid place, I tried to survive, I became motivated to gain the appreciation part. But clearly that was a failed mission. You know, Victor, failure is a mentality in the mind of a dreamer but they made it a possible reality before my eyes. And when I failed to prove them otherwise they disowned me, curved my tombstone and decided to bury me alive. My career tainted and my future utterly ruined. They rubbed it on my face, “Lady, here you play by the SOPs, for the SOPs and with the SOPs”. They used me until I was unusable, then dumped me like a pig. So here I’m.

 

Ideally, I thought by joining that place I would progress professionally to greater heights, but regrettably I have regressed than I could possibly imagine. Over the course of the seven or so months that I was in that company I learnt that there is no place for professionalism there. Professionalism is considered a taboo, a mistake and you cannot thrive on it. Typically it doesn’t exist, a vocabulary you may say. Working there was a waste of talents, resources and brains.

 

My father warned me, “Ati unataka kuchukua mwili Kitui? Is your brain made of a relaxer? Wee enda tu, lakini nisikie ata ukisema ng’wee, ntakuua”. “Instead of just sitting at home counting days off the calendar, at least I have the guts to do something useful to my career and life”, I answered him back. Little did I know, I would come to regret that move.

 

I didn’t pursue sales or marketing in campus neither did I have any experience or clue on how to maneuver about it, but I was drawn by desperation to taste the waters. I was totally blank when I walked into that interview and with a five day training I was deemed fit for the job, given targets and cast into the field and expected to perform and deliver to expectation. It’s like throwing an inexperienced swimmer into the ocean and wait for him at the shores. We were given fancy titles, Loan Officer and Collection Officer with a beggar’s pay, paid Ksh 600 bob a day and told not to live together even if it’s to share costs, the job description ruining it all, the work of a peasant – a high school leaver. Two days to the job, someone they told me was to be my pair (LOCO pair), called it a quit. Alone, I survived doing double work without any appreciation or support. When I asked for support they rebuked me that I was not ready to do my work and when I didn’t, they called my work mediocre and admonished me for sidelining them. Yet again I survived, survival became my specialty, achieving my targets, day in day out.

 

The worst part of it all was collecting money from defaulters, I recall one notable defaulter, an old woman in her late 60s whose head could barely balance on her neck, with cataract, one foot into her grave, yes the one that you had to shout the hell out into her left ear for her to grasp a half of what you said. That one when giving her money knew English with many questions about interests, profit margins, percentages… but when collecting from her she didn’t even understand Kiswahili, leave alone English, claiming she had never gone to school. But now thin as air, you could easily see her weak bones scrambling to get off her skin. She who tells you “Mitoto yangu, mizee yangu ilikufa na mimi ilikuwa migonjwa” But you are forced to harass her because the branch manager will remind you that your job is to give out money and to collect it no matter what. You are not supposed to sympathize even if at a funeral.

 

We did our best, but all our hard work was sandwiched by one guy. God forgive me, but that self-proclaimed ‘boss’ was a true imitation of the devil, haunting our lives, making a living hell out of them. He forced us to go against what we have been taught all our lives, our values and virtues just in the name of work. Making evil and good the same. And there he sat his job description interpreted as warming the chair, making endless calls to imagined ghosts, admonishing, abusing and backstabbing us. That old imbecile fraudster in over-sized faded mitumba suits, a little ironing could help, counting his years to the death penal, and I mean that literally, converting as many souls as possible to his faith, not ready to go to hell alone. Eyes smaller than his sockets with a natural odor, the idiot who said age is just a number must have been really drunk. You know he once harassed me, then claimed that I cry when angry and cannot handle pressure. He went further to say he wants a male dominated branch because he was more comfortable working with males than females, can you imagine that? The one who ought to be a team leader, lost in ‘power’. A technologically challenged junk, who didn’t even know how to use a laptop or a printer, leave alone using the integrated system. When writing my internship report, that shapeless he-goat was asked which post he could recommend me for, he answered “None”. Not taking into account my effort, hard work and loyalty. He added that, I’m unemployable.

 

You know that urge to be something, to be someone. The audacity to keep the fire burning, to keep the hopes high even when the promise of tomorrow is not certain. Hope is what makes people going, creates dreams and achieves success. That is what kept our orb rolling until when we couldn’t take it anymore. We resorted to be the pain in the asses. Ours was now to argue, sabotage and insubordinate. The infighting brought down the branch, it killed our morale and spirit. We were left with phrases like “Ata kama hatutafika target, si watatulipa tu”. Just occupying space and passing time. Everyday coming up with stories about our commitments for the day and plan on how to achieve our monthly targets, stories even dogs would laugh at. The first month we achieved 98.5%, went to 125.25%, 103.42%, 94.33%, 84.08%, 66.94% and when I left we barely reached 59.90%. Continuing to stay there was career suicide. Character assassinations, lack of leadership, running the branch remotely, overstepping mandates, doing other people’s tasks, crippled teamwork, favourism, biasness, negativity and gender profiling rocked our lives for the seven months. If you smile they say you’re being rude, if you cry they say you’re emotional, if you look gloomy they say you’re a poor team player, if you fail to achieve a task they termed it sabotage… Inspecting us even on the size of our hair. If you do the right thing he, ‘the boss’, will have to look for a mistake to pin you down with, just because he can’t stand to give credit where it’s due. Divide and conquer. Feeding on assumption and thriving on fear.

 

I came to full realization when he framed my colleague and they ‘his bosses’ from the headquarters failed to accord him a fair hearing, taking sides and believing everything they heard. He was forced to quit, not that he wanted to but because they gave him no choice. Leaving us to face him alone. That is when I realized we were meat ready to be roasted anytime or before we knew it, eaten raw. I decided that I had over stayed my welcome in that foreign land and it was high time I started packing. Worse of it all after getting me through that shit, they refused to give me my hard earned commission.

 

When you give it all, endeavor to deliver the best, achieve your targets and people fail to notice, then you are forced to switch lanes, leave a spot that they will remember for ages. A footnote in your career. Now let me dust off my resume and go back to the job market.

 

“That is my story, Victor”, she concluded. “What’s yours? Tell me what you have been up to”. Looking timid with my eyes watery, I drew a deep breathe and started off my horrific tale.

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I’m a literati savant, altruistic, queer laughist, critique from the non-core academia and above all it’s my conviction that in all my papers the rule of three applies.

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Opinion

The bitter story of Mumias Sugar Company

Victor Mochere

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The bitter story of Mumias Sugar Company

Have you heard the bitter story of Mumias Sugar Company?

 

Regarded by many as Kenya’s most successful sugar miller, Mumias Sugar Company was a disaster waiting to happen.

 

Many pointed out how Mumias Sugar Company was a fortress in the wreck that is Kenya’s sugar industry, only unaware that it was just a matter of time. As the old wise men said, “Ukiona cha mwenzako cha nyolewa, tia chako maji”.

 

The proverb means that if you see your neighbour’s head getting shaved, your head will soon be undergoing the same – you’d therefore better wet your head for a smoother shave, otherwise you will be forced to undergo a painful, dry, shave.

 

But what ails Kenya’s sugar industry?

 

The Kenya sugar industry is under legal siege. The typical Kenyan issue of coming up with laws to tackle a problem is evident here.

 

Many of Kenya’s sugar factories are owned by the government, and have slowly declined under mismanagement and corruption. The appointing of political cronies and tribal management to such firms means that unqualified people are appointed to lead these firms. The same management can hardly resist dipping their fingers in the sugar jar, and end up slowly eating the factories to a level where they can’t operate, or if they can operate, do so at very high costs.

 

Elsewhere, sugar industries in other places are owned by business people who take good care of them, only eating profits. To increase the profits, sugar factories in other countries are run at lower costs, and at a higher efficiency, that maximizes on costs while also trying to keep their product as affordable as possible in a bid to fight off competitors.

 

This has eventually resulted in a situation where you could somehow convince a Portuguese speaking Brazilian to sell you sugar, in your mother-tongue-afflicted English.

 

You then board the sugar on a ship, where it will spent 6 months in the high seas, and another month or so in the inefficient port of Mombasa. It then gets loaded onto a truck to Nairobi, in what is a proportionally costly.

 

On getting to Nairobi, Kenyans will still find your sugar cheaper than sugar from Kenya’s sugar belt, just a few hours away from Nairobi.

 

When the bitter truth of this dawned on us, our hapless farmers cried foul, and our politicians reactively ground into gear. With everyone keen on keeping on eating, a familiar “win-win” solution was found. We would come up with a law banning or limiting the importation of sugar, to protect “our farmers” and tax payer factories.

 

Genius, right?

 

Wrong. In Kenya, laws are for the poor, the rich consider laws as merely a suggestion that they may choose to uphold or ignore.

 

As the inefficient cost of Kenya’s sugar production went up and up, the difference in price of Kenyan produced sugar and that of imported sugar grew.  The chaps who drive dark tinted big cars figured that if they could somehow import sugar into the Kenyan market, and sold it at the Kenyan price, you could double your money faster than a prophet could by promising to act as a godly middleman.

 

Meanwhile, Alshabaab, all the way in Somalia, figured out that if they could import sugar and sell it in Kenya, they could easily fund their war on Kenyans. In Kenya, they found a ready market in businessmen who find sugar a fast means to riches.

 

The government agencies meant to uphold the ban on imported sugar were nowhere to be seen. They had taken shelter from the money that was raining on them as bribes. After all, if someone slaps you on the cheek, with a bribe, you offer them the other cheek….

 

It did not stop here. Those appointed to run our sugar factories found that they if they imported sugar and repackaged it as local sugar, they would need to stay up all night just counting all the money that came in.

 

Thus, a law to protect Kenya’s sugar industry has only resulted to helpless Kenyans being forced to pay double what they should for sugar. The poor farmers who were to be protected by the laws are now owed billions by sugar factories. Kenyans are still being asked to fork billions to bail out these sugar factories, in readiness for their next, inevitable cycle of collapse.

 

Furthermore, Kenya, being part of COMESA, is bound to allow neighbouring countries to sell their sugar in Kenya. However, Kenya has perpetually requested for the extension of the deadline, year in, year out, under the guise of putting our sugar industry in order.

 

A man finds himself in a dessert, with neither water, nor food, stranded with all his belongings. Luckily, the man is found by a helicopter, which could rescue him, but the man has to leave his belongings in the desert. The man argues that he can’t leave his belongings since he will be left poor.  The helicopter leaves, and the man gets lost further in the desert. Another helicopter comes, and another, but the man is still not ready to abandon his belongings. This man is Kenya.

 

It’s time Kenya’s government left the sugar industry to private sugar companies, like West Sugar Company (Kabras), and allows other companies or individuals to take over the failing sugar factories. Laws protecting the sugar industry should also be done away with, alongside those that determine how and who can run a sugar factory.

 

The laws just but a flimsy hatch trying to stop a barraging flood of cheap sugar from everywhere else other than Kenya. The only beneficiaries are the crafty and powerful business men, who are eating on our behalf.

 

As if we have learned no lessons, the same mess is set to repeat itself in the maize industry, where the government is setting up flour milling industries to “protect consumers”. Importation of maize is also banned to “protect farmers”, and government owned National Cereals and Produce Board who is a major buyer of maize, is now to become a miller. De ja vu, you have heard something similar before, haven’t you?

 

As is said, history is bound to repeat itself for those who fail to learn from it.

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Opinion

Everyone is (should be) an entrepreneur

Victor Mochere

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Everyone is (should be) an entrepreneur

Entrepreneurs have often been described as people who add value to products or make products with value, either directly or indirectly, and sell them at a profit to customers. While those people who do not impact any value to products they sell are basically ordinary people in business. Therefore all entrepreneurs are business people and not all business people are entrepreneurs.

 

Each individual alive today has a product that they sell to their customers, and that is the human labour either physical or mental.

 

If you are an employee, then your customer is your employer, to whom you are selling your product labour. If you are a student, then your customer is your examiner, to whom you are selling your mental labour. If you are a business owner, then your customer gets the products or services upon which you have spent your labour on. If you are not employed, you still have your product which is your labour, you can choose to either sell it to your potential employer by being employed or use it to create other products or services to sell to your potential customers.

 

The key pillars of entrepreneurship majorly rotate on creativity and innovation, therefore for your labour to be very competitive and to be bought, you must invest in those pillars so as to make it better than that of others.

 

It is a sad tragedy if you don’t think that your labour is a product, or at extreme don’t consider yourself an entrepreneur. It is also a sad reality that most employees lack the entrepreneurship mind-set and prefer rather to remain with employee mentality. Most employed people often think that value creation is the work of their employers, through assigning them specific tasks. That it’s their duty to perform those tasks, and that’s it. They think they don’t need the passion, drive and stigma to create value.

 

Most employees see their current work as a necessity for survival rather than an opportunity to advance themselves through value creation. So they will keep working, day in day out with an anticipation of payment for their labour and if they are not paid, they will resort to industrial action. Others will humble themselves, keep their heads down, perform tasks assigned, follow the routine, and hope that they will get a promotion or salary increment for time served while praying that they don’t get laid off.

 

Think of Steve Jobs, the co-founder of Apple Inc., imagine if he has treated the buyers of Apple products (his customers) as most workers threat their customers (buyers of their labour services). They keep asking and buying Apple II computer, why don’t we focus on producing them. Then he would never have developed the iMac, iPod, iPhone, iPad, etc. The world would never have had better and advanced products, and he would have remained much poorer as a result.

 

There are also the bureaucrats, the non-entrepreneurial bosses. A bureaucratic boss expects the employee to stick to the routine, any deviations would be treated as insubordination, and as needlessly creating extra hassles. Such a boss is receptive to value-adding innovations, and would readily give the employee a bigger role to facilitate and tap into his/her quest to create a lot of innovations. A bureaucratic boss would also know that other entrepreneurial bosses would try to poach the innovative worker’s services given a chance, he/she in a bid to prevent that, would increase the employee’s pay.

 

In pursuit of value creation, an entrepreneurial worker will have to be intelligent and assertive, in doing so will enhance his/her demand in the industry, improve his/her career credentials and ultimately as a result be served with better opportunities in terms of compensation, working conditions, more fulfilling work and life.

 

Shun away from the mentality that you are not an entrepreneur. Every person should have the mindset of self-employment. For those employed your boss is your current customer. For those still in school, your customer is your examiner. For those employed on wage contract, your customer is the market. In any case, whichever path you choose to pursue, you will have to invest heavily on creativity and innovation which in other terms can be perceived as entrepreneurship, the consequences of satisfying your customer being deriving some gain.

 

Only you, are ultimately responsible for your own worth creation, the pay you want and the career path you desire. You are the person and in essence the entrepreneur responsible your own labour producing company called “Me, Ltd.” It’s worth noting that everybody is a potential entrepreneur and entrepreneurship is for everyone.

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Opinion

I need a Kim to my Kanye

Victor Mochere

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I need a Kim to my Kanye

Awhile back, my folks were all over my ass. They wanted an insight, an update, a grapevine if you may, anything that resonates with my love life. They literally made my phone a ‘ticking time bomb’. But am single, and for quite a long time I have been. At that moment it struck me, in a couple of years I will be clocking 30, so I need a Kim to my Kanye.

 

If you are interested in a junk like me. Then you must be tall, short ladies will have to forgive me on this. Be modest, mature and civilized. I don’t like socialites, or at the very least slay queens. I don’t want to be with someone who takes selfies with their tongue out. It’s important that you look presentable. Know how to package yourself. A God fearing lady will be an added advantage. Maybe with a price tag, ‘made in Heaven’. I’m not a church person so you might be forced to drag me to sermons, once in a while. I’m not an anger management consultant, so don’t bother if you are irascible. In a nutshell I need someone who is emotionally strong, and not a wet or green crap.

 

You must be young enough to be a lady and old enough to be a woman. In fact, if you think 23 is old, then you are the right fit. A very loving, caring, patient, tolerable person. Also you must be a very responsible person, hardworking and relatively smart. Which means you should be a logical thinker, intellectually secure and not myopic. A very support woman who is ready to be a wife and a mother. You must not be a drunkard, smoker or do drugs. For crying out loud am trying to start a family. Not unless we’re both drinking, lightly, and we will from time to time.

 

I’m in my mid 20’s. Four months ago I marked my quadranscentennial birthday, so ideally you can guess my age. I’m averagely tall, very dark and arrogantly looking. I do get comments like, ‘ugly’ ‘weird’ ‘trash’ whenever I post a picture of myself on social media. Though I do believe that beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Thanks to my mother, am an affable person. Shy but romantic and often attached to sex but I have never dated before.

 

I love movies, music not so much. Sometimes, more so on weekends I might extend into the night watching my favourite TV series, I hope you won’t be bothered by that. I don’t watch soap operas. I’m a fun maker, a joker, thrice I have choked on my jokes. But I will caution you if am making a joke about you. I’m a sound sleeper, so I will appreciate if I get someone who doesn’t snore at night or keep rotating in bed. I do read, but mostly about technology and politics. Once in a while you will find me blogging, that is something that fascinates me.

 

I love eating, and do cooking, though the only person who approves my cooking is my uncle. I might be forced to share your kitchen or displace you entirely, when that happens please bear with me, cooking is one of the very few hobbies that grace my résumé. I don’t like sports, not at all. So if I happen to give you an excuse of going out to watch football, then I must and will certainly be lying. I’m an open person, but that doesn’t mean I don’t keep secrets. My life is a secret itself. I love kids, I hope and pray that we will have ours too, at most four. I have this notorious nephew who usually comes to my house to play video games or watch cartoons, I do give him his space and I will appreciate if you do the same. I have a very strong bond with him that I won’t like to see threatened or jeopardized.

 

I love coffee, very much. In the morning I usually take a cup of coffee with cream while in the evening with lemon and sometimes with ginger. I take shower twice a day, a cold shower in the morning and a hot one before bed. I don’t like riches or poverty, I live a modest life that will be part of you too. I must warn you that I have a killer instinct, more so when it comes to achieving what I want.

 

I don’t prefer a public life though the name ‘bigwig’ has been used on me before. I’m an introvert to some extent, so in case you want to bring some friends over, please have at least one who can initiate a conversation. I don’t smoke or do drugs, the far I have gone is some two or three buffs of a joint. But I do drink occasionally, once every month I go out with my friends to have fun and catch up. I will explain what I mean by fun on our first date. But the good thing is that I usually come home. Sleep overs are only when I have traveled.

 

Before you get too excited. Kindly note that am a nobody, in fact my father once called me a ‘useless baboon’. I don’t know whether he meant it literally or metaphorically. And I must insist that I don’t own much worth calling wealth. But we can start small. Won’t we?

 

If you’re interested or know anyone interested, rush to my inbox IMMEDIATELY!

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