Annoying people

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Red tape and government interference caused by unnecessary whistleblowing and sabotage. unImage credit: interferance

Depending on what you read or who you listen to, a thousand and one ingredients have been proposed as neccesary for entrepreneurs these days. Some will tell you all you need is resilience (I used to think that too), some will say you need solid financial backing, some will even say all you need is to know your market. Events of the past couple of days have highlighted the importance of a previously unknown or unspoken phenomenon…..  Opposition Inspired Nastiness.

Do you understand what I mean? If you don’t read on….

While rubbing minds with fellow Entrepreneurs based in Colchester Essex, it occurred to me that Opposition Inspired Nastiness (OIN) is a significant cause of business closures today. OIN comes in many guises, but the effect is the same… catastrophic.

Something quite bizarre happened the other day – a friend (and fellow entrepreneur)Queenette Cunningham staged an event for kids on a field beside her house and charged a token (£2.50) for kids to take part. The event was a water slide and the kids that attended had a whale of a time (see what I did there?)

This wasn’t the first event Queenette had staged on that field, she’s done quite a few this year alone. Easter Egg Hunt and Children’s Mini Olympics to mention but a few. Unfortunately, this time, Colchester Council showed up and demanded she needed a licence (at a cost) to hold events on the said field in future. Basically, she would need to ask for permission or have insurance in order to hold any event going forward.

Red tape in overdrive? Maybe. Bureaucratic kill-joys? Probably. Is the council’s right to demand for insurance and permission for a business woman to entertain kids on an open field? That is up for debate. BUT, from what fellow Entrepreneurs and experience tells me, the whole drama must have started because someone reported Queenette Cunningham to the council in the first place…. Opposition Inspired Red Tape.

According to Queenette (and I have no reason to doubt her), she had approached Colchester Council, who told her a licence wouldn’t be necessary since she wasn’t selling food or playing live music. So why then did they decide to object this time? Someone made a big fuss, trust me.

I put it to you today that most likely, whoever reported may have even attended the event OR was watching from their bedroom window. They are people who smile and say Hello when they see Queenette.

Like I mentioned earlier, OIN comes in different guises, in Queenette’s case its Bureaucracy, in some other cases, its damn straight sabotage.

I know of a friend who owns an Indian restaurant, quite a swanky one at that, and in keeping with openness, clarity and modern times, he decided to allow his customers review and rate their experience at his restaurant on a customer review site online. Sure as day is day, the majority of excellent reviews got contaminated with 1 or 2 really dreadful ones. Oh the negative reviewers went to town on this restaurant, so much so anybody reading these reviews would be forgiven if they asked for Food and Hygiene arm of the government to intervene and close down this restaurant. These reviews were as a result of sabotage, clear and simple. Anybody who tells me otherwise need to wake up, and wake up fast. This is a clear example of how 1 or 2 bad reviews can have catastrophic consequences for any business. In the case of my restauranteur friend, he is certain he did everything in his power to satisfy that customer (as well as other customers) who visit his establishment, he even waived their bill……. Opposition Inspired Nastiness

Another friend who ran a freight company experienced the same predicament, unfortunately in his own case, the consequence was quite finite. This friend’s freight business was thriving and grew in leaps and bounds in the space of a few years. It started making waves in the freight world and even some of the bigger players sat up and took notice. The problem with that is the business came to the attention of many….. most with dark thoughts.

Before long, 1 or 2 delays caused by ships far away in the other side of the world resulted in bad reviews for the company. This snowballed and gathered momentum especially from those who were hell bent on seeing the demise of the company. Eventually, one such customer took it upon himself to post daily reviews discrediting the company, even going as far as calling it fraud. Other customers stayed away, even the loyal ones and subsequently, the owner, not inclined to deal with that much drama, folded up the company. …. Opposition Inspired Nastiness

These are just a few examples of this phenomenon. Most I have spoken to have their own stories to tell. From a Hair and Beauty Salon proprietress in uptown Colchester who was told to her face her business was not needed in that area, to a Caribbean Food Restaurant whose owner was told her goat curry was too bony. Funny but true. In starting and sustaining a business, its tough enough to deal with rent, business rates and utility bills, it becomes tougher, almost impossible when dealing with OIN. When nasty people bring your business to the attention of the authorities for one reason or the other, from that moment you will basically start fighting to keep your business alive.

Be warned, this is not common only to the business owners in Colchester Essex, it happens everywhere.

Here, we call it sabotage, my Nigerian readers know it as BAD BELLE. Which literarily depicts someone with a very bad disposition to your welfare, in this case your business.

Authorities all over the globe cannot preach about encouraging people to start a business and then use the other hand to stifle it with red tape inspired by saboteurs.

In all above cases, government interference as a result of unnecessary whistle blowing cost or almost cost the demise of thriving businesses. In Queenette’s case, getting permission, licence and insurance won’t be cheap, which means, she’ll have no choice but to pass some of the costs on to the parents thereby defeating the whole purpose; which means the innocent children have lost out on a FULL DAY’s worth of fun, games and play on an empty field. My restauranteur friend will forever look over his shoulders because he doesn’t know where the next attack will come from.

Councils and all other government agencies are well-oiled robots set up to follow a system. Many times this system break down causing a need for these agencies to take a step back and let common sense prevail. It is not entirely their fault I must say, however, it must be said that because people know that a system has to be followed, they automatically weaponise it and use it against other business owners for the flimsiest of reasons. It is whistleblowing gone mad. It is uncivilised and the precedence is dangerous and taking over that of natural coexistence and healthy competition.

As sure as rain, some will read this post and call it the dreaded ‘Race Card’ . Is it? I don’t think so, but incidences like this seem to happen mostly to business people of colour. So is it a Race Card? You tell me.

Im sorry, but as a minority, you do need an extra layer of  strong to survive in this business world.

So what is the solution? Well, its simple, you MUST be able to predict your competition and your detractor’s every move. What they think, what you think they will do next. You must insulate yourself, your business and your staff from their prying eyes. More importantly, you must be prepared at all times for their move, don’t be found wanting when the authorities come knocking on your door step. Are your electricals PAT tested? is there sufficient foam in your fire extinguisher? Is your fire exit accessible?  These are elements your detractors and enemies can exploit. Any weakness in this regard will automatically be preyed on. Business is nasty these days trust me.

I learnt something when I was in employment, when detractors or stubborn clients make it impossible for you, don’t fight them, but be prepared to nice them to death.

Kole Obasa

www.thiskoleobasa.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

From social media to customer service advisers, there’s always someone out there who’ll make you wanna eat the content of a bin.

Someone said Twitter can be defined as you writing down your thoughts and hoping someone resonates with it. I guess that means that Facebook is you writing down your thoughts and having the damn world scrutinise it. You would be amazed the amount of people who can string a few heavy words together, jump on your status and comments and make you feel stupid

Its not you, believe me, its them!! Facebook asks you a question: “what’s on your mind”, you tell it, and then comes running along, a crazed, finger hungry facebooking bastard tearing your thoughts and your comments to pieces. All you did was answer Facebook’s question. You try to use the platform to test the market for your new product or service. Your family and friends very wisely tell you the product is ‘fantastic’ or ‘its good’ which really means its shit, but NO, some dude, 500 million miles away picks the biggest bloody hole in your idea and months and months of you trying to perfect the concept turns to days upon days doubting yourself, while the bastard is sat in his room with a greasy shirt watching Transformers with a bucket of KFC beside him. There’s always 1.

Nobody wakes up in the morning wanting to call a premium number, wait in the queue for 30mins because you want to renew your car insurance. But it happens, and just when you thought life couldn’t get any bloody worse, the idiotic customer services person on the other side tells you: NO! You can’t pay online, you need to pay right now, and with your credit card. All i wanted was a password reset, so i can go back to my stress free life and pay everything i need to pay online. He repeats himself 10 more times; because you are stupid and didn’t hear him the 1st time. You got no choice but to curse him out and slam the phone down hard, perhaps hoping he has a headache as the phone comes crashing down on its cradle. But no, he’s not having a headache, infact he wont be having a headache today at all, actually he will enjoy being a jerk to 5 more customers he’s suppose to be helping today. Only problem is that your problem has not been resolved and you are forced to call back the number and wait another 30mins praying its not the same prick that picks up the phone. Guess what? It is. There’s always one.

You start your new dream job and make it known to everyone from the start that you just wanna do your job to the best of your ability and go home. You are quite good at what you do, excellent as a matter of fact. All of a sudden your boss starts to pick faults in tiny little things. At first it’s a trickle, then it becomes a daily thing. You are wondering why things cant just be, you are wondering how this jumped up white boy in a suit can’t just live and let live. Everyone else is getting on with their jobs, its a stressful job at the best of times, why add your own shit to make it even more unbearable? He pokes and pokes till you finally snap and tell him to go stick it where the sun don’t shine; Yes! you tell your boss to take a long walk off a short cliff. In the end you have to leave the job, because you cant swear at your boss and expect to hold on to the job. You cant go jobless and hungry either so you take the company to court, they settle out of court and because they don’t want to be seen as such a bad company (run by pricks), they also relieve him of his duties. So who lost? There’s always one.

Quite difficult finding parking these days, especially in built up areas, it’s a well-known fact. So much so, when you take your partner for an urgent appointment, you have no choice but to park in one of the reserved bays. A bay that is empty and not being used. Thousands of pounds is paid by the companies for these bays which they allocate to their staff. Every staff who work in the complex walk past, minding their own business because you are minding yours; besides, you are not troubling anybody, just sitting in the car with your kids waiting for your partner. You will promptly move the car if anybody need to use the bay. Then she comes walking out of her office, walk past your car on her way to hers, she looks at you, looks at the bay and look at your car. They bay is not hers but you can sense all the busybody juices in her body going into over-drive. As you expected, she picks up the phone and rings the complex management who very quickly lock the gates and lock you in. Making life incredibly difficult for you, as you have to search the whole complex for the individual that has the key to let you out. There’s always one.

Kole Obasa

Graduation

It always occurred to me that even though there are so many of life’s fundamental questions that remain unanswered, there still seem to be an active support or following for a particular course of action.

Why do a degree course when you could simply get into the work force and build your way to top management in a couple of years time? Or why do a degree course if you will end up in the middle management sphere at most? Reasons for this ‘anti’ argument vary greatly. There are many reasons students find themselves tied down to academia for 3 (maybe more) years of their lives.

It is fascinating sometimes to hear the various reasons people give for being in higher education. Many of us have no other option than to study. African and to a large extent Asian parents find it sacrilegious, a taboo even to not attend and successfully complete a degree program. Some even have their career paths and indeed degree courses chosen for them. Having a ‘good Degree’ represented a sense of pride; a sense of belonging, and an opportunity for a social standing that is unparalleled. A tidal wave of consequences would normally await the wards of many who wouldn’t rethink.
This stance can be justified though since in many parts of the world, a first degree is not even enough to get you through the ever revolving doors of employment, talk less of not even having one at all.

I use to think I was one of the lucky few in this regard; My father, being an Air force pilot always either made me believe my career in life was completely left to me to decide or he didn’t participate in any discuss regarding it. This made me feel somewhat empowered to do what I felt was right for me. So if I decided not to do a degree, so be it. Right?

Looking back now, it occurred to me the little remarks and innuendo about the Air force being ‘A great way of life” a motto I carried with me and recited all my life was not just a motto, it was me being buttered up to study and either join the Air force as an officer, or study and become a pilot. I remember how as a reward for ‘good behaviour’ my brother and I were allowed into the cockpit of huge military transport planes (C130) almost on a daily basis. We weren’t that well behaved, at least not daily. He would talk about flying and the Air force non-stop and he still does. This wasn’t a punishment, neither was it any form of reward, he was simply nudging us towards a career path he felt was best above all. So much so, I nurtured an ambition to be a pilot all my life (I still do) I also ended up in the military for a short while. My brother came very close.

Some of us do it because it’s the next logical step; it follows a set pattern – primary, secondary and tertiary education. Something that just has to be done. Not because of any kind of pressure from any quarter, but simply because its logical.

Believe it or not, some others do it out of sheer curiosity. Why is 1+1 really 2? What really is the General Theory of Relativity and what does Einstein mean by this? It is true that some in academia will forever strive to conquer the summit of learning. Many are successful! If you think that attaining a Doctorate Degree is the end of true education, think again. Education is constant and continuous, and knowledge is never lost.

There is also the ‘clubbing and drinking’ culture, which also makes higher education appealing to many. Heck, who wouldn’t relish an unsupervised and wild social life? Putting the appeal of this into perspective, one can see a reason for the influx of many to Universities. Party hard, drink harder, play hardest; by the way, there’s the small issue of a degree course to consider.

The harder economic times, the recession as many know it forced the hands of most employers who somewhat unfairly subsequently attached stringent measures to their recruitment drive. One of these measures and in order to be able to stand out from the rest of the crowd was a ‘good University Degree’ as a minimum for entry. Some go as far as requesting professional courses as well as university degrees. The reaction to these sometime draconian measures was an increase in undergraduate numbers. But, there is research that supports a steady increase in salary for recent graduates; so it’s not all bad news. Keeping ahead of the competition has never been more justifiable.

Regardless of the motive, motivation and end result, certain school of thought continually refer to statistics that indicate a steady rise in graduates (at least in this country) Their argument, one might add, also lends credence to higher education being seen as the benchmark of the political leadership in the UK, a standard which is unchangeable or undiluted. To even consider going for the top job, the British Prime Minister, political acumen is and will never be enough. It is surely the norm these days to have a leader who is ‘Educated’ and this extends to leaders of mainstream political opposition as well.

But believing the above statement would mean the land is and will continue to be ruled by the educated elite. This is simply not true. On the other side of the divide, you will find strong argument supporting the notion that so many (particularly entrepreneurs) have made it to the very top without spending a day inside a lecture room. Two or three British names will continually spring to mind when laying down this argument – Sir Alan Sugar, Sir Richard Branson. If we want to go global, then Bill Gates and Steve Jobs will complete the list of names of giants of industry who did not attend university. But are they uneducated? Honorary degrees aside, could even the most worthy academic match these Billionaires toe to toe in any current, global or business issue? I think not, simply because learning and qualifications are 2 separate entities. These guys have learnt their ways to be qualified enough to hold their own in their respective industries. Truly fascinating wouldn’t you say?

This article is pregnant with questions and surely provokes a bout of self-reflection, but then it was designed to be. One thing is clear though, choosing higher education is increasingly no longer a luxury, it is gradually becoming the norm and an undeniable fact is that regardless of your rationale and reason(s), there appears to be no downside to it. It is sure! You win a prize at the end, which helps you massively in your life, and you lose nothing.

So, why are you in higher education? I can’t speak for you, but I can speak for myself. My answer is unpretentious, I have always operated on a simple ethos in life – I have a dream not a plan. In order to attain this dream, I need to attain a good degree. It’s that simple.

Kole Obasa