Alex Muriu is a business innovation consultant. Alex Muriu is also the Convener of Un.thinkable, a members-only community of business leaders that has successfully facilitated business exchange worth over Sh. 50 million.
Greatest milestone: Two years ago, we started inviting guest speakers to our sessions. Some of the top executives and business leaders we have hosted include Radio Africa’s Patrick Quarcoo, Suzie Wokabi, Joanne Mwangi, Ronald Osumba and Ken Njoroge. We hosted Njoroge about a month after his company successfully raised Sh. 4.5 billion from investors. These business figures have given credence to our networking and business facilitation pledge. In the process, I have also learned that successful people are keen to share their knowledge.
On building a business: I have successfully turned every failure into a learning and opportunity for growth. Un.thinkable for instance was inspired by failure in my last business, where my partners and I lost millions due to a risky business model. I wanted to create a platform where business leaders could exchange lessons and experiences to reduce the risk of failure. Don’t allow business failure to define you. It’s the best business school you could ever attend.
The secret to making it: Humility, resilience and focus. We want to look like we have made it even though we are still on our way up. This can cloud judgment. Every successful executive I have spoken to says that they have failed more times than they have succeeded, but they kept chasing their goals. That’s resilience. If you want to make it, there’s no room for Plan B. It’s either Plan A works, or Plan A works. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, talks about staying persistent with your vision, while staying flexible with your pursuit. That’s my mantra.
Biggest money mistake: I founded a company called Farm Capital Africa several years ago. We won awards, raised millions in capital and were on our way to success. We were young and ambitious, and as the CEO, I took some pretty bold investment bets, without applying what Warren Buffet (Berkshire Hathaway founder) calls a margin of safety. When the inevitable challenges cropped up, we were too leveraged to weather the storm and fix our mistakes. We ran out of cash, creditors started coming after us due to delayed payments, investors pushed for their returns and we couldn’t raise more capital as our books did not look promising. We lost Sh. 12 million. Always do your homework. Talk to experts. Test your hypothesis in smaller controlled experiments . You will inevitably fail as that is just life, but if you have done your homework, you will have a chance of rising out of the rubble.
If I could go back in time: I would never stop going to school. After finishing my undergraduate, I thought I was done with school, and didn’t step into a class again for 10 years. But continuous learning is how you stay competitive. Certifications, Online courses, Executive programmes, Specialized trainings, all exist to make professionals better at what they do. In the last 3 years I have attended at least 10 different training programmes, and this has made me pretty amazing at everything I do. Stay foolish, stay hungry as Steve Jobs said, and you will keep growing, and fail less often.
My saving method: I once had a landlady who told me that I should treat savings like a bank loan. It’d give me the discipline to pay monthly, failure to which I ought to charge myself interest. This is the model I use.
My parting shot: Never stop learning. If you go to sleep today without having learned something you didn’t know yesterday, you are doing yourself a great disservice. The sources of learning in this informational age we live in are immense; from books to YouTube videos to podcasts to magazines to blogs. Soak in information like a child.