It’s funny how simple decisions lead to big achievements, and big trials. Here I was ready to change the world and create a better place for me and mine. So armed with my little crusading sword of truth, integrity and commitment to quality, I stormed my beloved Naija with a vengeance in January. I quickly hooked up with an acquaintance with whom I’d (earlier in the year) discussed the modalities of placing structure into my career.
I went to visit the gentleman in his office and was met by his effusing staff at the reception. I was asked, very politely and apologetically, to wait a little while as their boss was in a meeting with some clients. That was okay with me as it was only 11am and the traffic was still moderate enough for me to dispense with a few other things before going home. You see, I have a healthy respect for Lagos traffic and always take her into consideration when going about my business. Come out at the wrong time in this city and you’re fried! You’ll spend hours trawling through traffic, jostling for position with irreverent drivers brazenly trying to cut into your lane and at the same time being careful not to hit them, or should I say trying not to let them hit you, in the knowledge that they, with their battle hardy Danfos and cabs, have nothing to lose. On hitting you, they’d simply alight, prostrate before you or, if the damage is considerable, they’d think nothing of laying down in front of your vehicle and beg you to run them over as compensation for the expenses of fixing your car which you’d never get from them. Or to be stuck in traffic going uphill behind an aged petrol tanker that’s lilting precariously to one side. You sit there wondering if the tanker will lose control, roll backwards and depend on you and the ten cars behind you to stop it or worse still, should it be leaking fuel from a faulty valve and a smoker somewhere in the queue throws his half spent cigarette out the win....
I was ushered into his office five minutes later and the man stood up from behind the desk and enveloped me in a warm hug. Feeling very good about things to come I sat down and surveyed the place. It was a nice office, more so because it was so alive from the large windows that generously admitted the daylight without being overly intrusive. The colours of the walls were a quiet serene pastel light green and the tiled floor a muted gray. His desk was expansive but did not dominate the room. The posters of movies he’d funded on display on a wall on one side of the room, while noticeable, knew their place. It was a good meeting. I listened attentively as he enthused about his plans and structure he’d put in place to skyrocket my career through the glass ceiling. Leaning forward, he told me, in confidence, that the people he met with earlier were from a bank and had come to seek his help with a project and was toying with the decision of accepting or rejecting it.
He then proceeded to regale me with his clientele list; two of them very respectable and the others… Well, they showed quite a lot of promise otherwise they wouldn’t be worth his time. He pressed a buzzer on his desk and a waif like man appeared whom he introduced to me as his accountant. He rattled out a series of instructions to him and dismissed him telling me on his departure that he had to bring the accountant on board in anticipation of the impending work load that would be coming in the weeks to come. (The travails of a much sought after man I could see.)
Observing and taken by his self assured nature and optimism I agreed to sign the necessary documents, hand over my contacts of producers and directors and begin a new phase of my career.
A week later, my contacts called me up to let me know there was work and I, in adherence to my contract, and to their amazement, referred them to my manager to talk. They, understandably, asked what happened to our usual arrangement, whether they’d done anything to offend me to which I replied that I had a new structure I was working with to give them the best possible service. They agreed, met with my manager, and called me back! They complained that he was being difficult; He wasn’t even willing to listen to what they had to say let alone concede in any small measure to their requests with a view to finding some sort of balance to do business. With a promise to find a workable relationship I promised to have a word with him. I met with him and asked him how it was all going, if things were going according to plan, and what the outcome of the meetings were. He began by bemoaning the illiteracy and unprofessional nature of the marketers and how they were not up to par with his level of understanding. Opening and then shutting my mouth, I thought the better of what I wanted to say and humoured him by presuming not to encroach upon his field of expertise.
A month went by and with some anxiety I confronted him, demanding to know what had become of my state of affairs. In his typical grandiose manner, he haughtily replied that it was not his fault but theirs. He was the architect of his well thought out structure and if they were not going to bow to his structure and his way of doing things then so be it! I stared at him in silence. I looked at him again and saw a man that loved being the boss but was not prepared to climb up from the mailroom. He did not seem to understand that as a manager he ought to have his clients’ best interest in mind and to avoid burning bridges- In short, the man ‘burned my cable’ big time!
The next few months were spent clawing back the confidence of the people I worked with. Some of them are still out in the cold and there’s still a lot of work to do, fences to mend but hey, the road to greatness is all roses; one has to get past the thorns first. How have I been able to claw my way back? Enter Nkem, my new manager, and boy, does she have her work cut out for her! The poor Gem has been making do with three to four hours of sleep every day trying to plug holes I blew wide open. Hope she knows I appreciate all she’s trawled for me.
For me, this was the dawn of my first lesson – never entrust anyone with your hard work until they prove themselves to you…
This bit has been particularly hard for me to write especially as I’ve had to admit to my errors in judgment and the challenging time I had last year. I do so in the hope that I might in some small way encourage someone passing through some challenge or the other. In saying this I am glad I have gone the same path as my good friend the Agama lizard who, after jumping down from the top of the iroko tree, acknowledged to himself that he had indeed accomplished a great feat even if no one else would. Have a wonderful week ahead everybody!