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What good is what you know if you don’t apply it?

What good is what you know if you don’t apply it?

All through our lives we go through the education process, formally and informally. In school we are taught several laws, theories and history. At seminars, short courses and workshops we are exposed to further learning or at least exposed to new ideas. As we read books, we come across new ideas and concepts too. Informally, through discussions with friends and colleagues in social circles we learn new things. (Photo: Essa Thaim Kurugba)

Through the media, we are also bombarded with tons of information. At our religious groups we are constantly taught how to behave, relate with our creator and our fellow human beings. At almost every minute of our lives we come across situations that one way or another challenge either what we know or reinforce our earlier knowledge. At work, the learning process continues. In business, irrespective of your preferences, you are forced to learn. When you consider how much of the learning process you’ve passed through from childhood, it can sometimes be perplexing to realize that there’s so much we don’t know.

At other times, we are convinced that we have actually acquired enough knowledge to get us through any situation. At least for the realistic expectations you have! Unfortunately, situations occur that make us look so very stupid. Situations that make you strongly doubt if you know anything at all.

Although all of these scenarios are possible, the ones that can make you feel most miserable with yourself are those incidents or failures that you realize is entirely your fault. Not because you don’t have adequate knowledge, skills or competence but simply because you failed to apply them.

The experience I have had my fair share of such experiences. In the course of my career, I have been fortunate to get the highest levels of added training and certification in strategy formulation, risk assessment and management systems. As a result, within Africa, the United States, Europe, and Asia ,I’ve led or facilitated risk assessments, loss prevention studies, cost benefit analysis and related studies for corporations and business with great success. Our clients have benefited immensely from the results which include significant cost savings, more profitable strategy decisions and improved reliability.

Even through informal discussions and reviews with friends, similar savings and improvements have resulted. Can anybody understand why I would invest tens of millions into businesses without first performing basic risk assessments? Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that I set up about three additional businesses besides our regular technical/engineering and Project Management companies.

Restaurants, Grocery stores and clothing outfits were involved. What were my crazy assumptions at the time? Simple. These were basic businesses that did not require much to run and which I considered ‘cash cows’ to add to the revenue stream. Afte rall, there is no big deal to such organizations. Nothing could be further from the truth. Although detailed, well written operating manuals have been produced for these outfits together with the best of recruiting plans and strategies; it took only a few months for the reality to hit home.

A series of negative incidents followed which included heavy financial losses. At the height of the crisis, I was forced to apply my strategic analysis and risk assessment skills to my own business group.

The results were a rude awakening for me. The only way forward was to close all three companies immediately. If I did not do it, the operating losses will grow bigger and the debt will pile up. I realized that the analytical techniques that I applied consistently in stock trading that contributed to my escaping without a lost Naira when the market crashed was completely ignored in the setting up of these companies. But because of the knowledge and experience I have in the subject area, I knew that the result of the analysis was correct.

The major flaw was that although the concepts were viable on their own merit, my strong focus on other areas meant that I could never give these businesses what they needed to thrive. I was never going to abandon the other consultancy roles to meet the demands of their critical success factors.

The intricate aspects of preservation, fast changing trends, prompt client response, constant client monitoring and feedback were challenges that an owner needs to be fully on the ground to drive performance. And I was never going to have the time to do this. Although our top supervisors pleaded for more time, I reluctantly allowed two more months. By this time, they were convinced that my analysis was right. Several millions went down the drain as we closed the outfits but it could have been worse. Much worse. I felt really stupid. But I was never going to allow a repeat of such mistakes in future.

Today, in our organizations, no task or new venture will get approval without a risk assessment. On closer observation, I realized that many people were making similar mistakes on a regular basis. Rent shops or offices before thinking of what to do with it.

Assume some businesses are easy, so they invest millions and wait for profits to roll in. Disregard planning or analysis until way into the venture with committed funds. Open businesses for wife or spouse without confirming there is an interest/competence/skill match for the business. Start businesses and assume a relation will run it well. Business Risk Solutions was set-up to prevent or minimize the occurrence of such losses in others.

The pain is not what you want others to experience. Billions are lost annually in failed business ventures and start-ups. Our clients’ success stories and the impact of risk assessment applications on our businesses have been very positive. A good number of these failures we realize occur because adults tend to take a lot of things for granted. Including what they already know.

It is for similar reasons that our educated elite who although are well travelled and versed in the western cultures that has served the west well, simply refuse to apply what they know in Nigeria. The result? Collected retrogression. Fortunately, such failures that are impossible to ignore serve one good purpose: re-calibrate our senses and set us right. A few learn through formal teaching. Majority learn through failure experiences. Choose your path. Or your path will choose you.

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