A colleague once described a professional/ academic as one who knows very much about very little; a specialist. It occurred to me that in that case some us must be the ‘anti-professional’.
This is because as an entrepreneur I, by necessity, have had to do just the opposite; I must know a little about much. Entrepreneurs often find themselves in the envied but sorry position of being the ultimate bearer of responsibility.
They are the ‘last line of defense’ in the organization. How would you make good decisions if you had no clue what the various sectors of the business are about?
You have to be a ‘specialized- generalist’ you must understand a bit about every aspect of the organization’s operations. Not just any bit though…you must view it from ‘above’. You should know how each aspect of operations correlates with the other and how it contributes to the overall growth…the big picture. You are not just another generalist. You are certainly not a specialist; you are a ‘specialized generalist’.
In accounting; there is the prudence concept: You do not budget for your revenues (money coming in) till they are realized. In simple English, you do not count your chicks before they hatch. This is a very good and pragmatic way of doing things and I agree to an extent. It is sensible but in a ‘non-growth’ way. It lacks the dynamism that a good concept should have.
I hold the view that you can only effectively look for funding for an activity after you have defined and described that activity. I mostly come across people who speak of not undertaking this or that activity because of lack of funds. It normally rings true… until you ask them how much they needed.
Then, you are met by blank stares. Prudence is good as long as we don’t stretch it to the fear concept that is characterized by the thinking that money is everything, and if we don’t have it today we cannot do anything tomorrow. What I like about tomorrow is that it comes with its own matters that may be related to today’s issues but are, nonetheless, independent of today I insist that evidence abound that one who is very poor today can be very rich tomorrow. You have to work at it, though; consistently and persistently.
In the former (read traditional) African community set up, there was apprenticeship. The son of an ironsmith, for example, would, at the age fifteen, be quite knowledgeable in all matters iron. The demonization and destruction of everything African, even the good and very good is one of the quarrels I have with the western influence. In almost all cases, no one is mentoring our young people in the professions they have chosen or are about to choose.
They have to ‘damp in the dark’ and ‘re-invent the wheel’ over and over again. They shouldn’t have to do this. The government and other stakeholders may as well do one hundred percent of their role but before the everyday professionals like you and me get actively involved in this noble duty, not much will be achieved. We want good and competent service provision; this is our opportunity to see to it that it happens.
Happy New Year!
Sam Kebongo is a skills and business advisory consultant. He teaches entrepreneurship at Rwanda Tourism University College.