My Story of Business Sense

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There is some sense in every business, including storytelling. I call it Business Sense. If you bake a cake, you need to finish it up with icing. Business sense provides the icing on the cake. If you are running your business without Business Sense, it is like baking a cake, and not putting the icing on it. People may well eat your cake, but the sweetness is not complete because there is no icing on it.

Whatever business you are doing, you need Business Sense to make that business flourish and reach its full potentials and yield maximum returns for you. And one tool that help you do it is storytelling.

How can you use storytelling as a tool for business sense? That is what we shall examine in the current series of this column. Before we get to that, first is to get an understanding of what is Business Sense? We shall do this by reading my story on how I ventured into storytelling.

I did not set out to be an author, business writer, and a storyteller. Early in life, I wanted to be a medical doctor, or so I thought. Little did I realize that decades later, I will crown my storytelling career as a Media Consultant seeking to operate with Business Sense. More on this later.

I can recall that my parents made great efforts to make me study Medicine in the University. Little did I realize that there was a writer in me, which I needed to develop and polish so as to achieve my vision ofย becoming a New York Times best selling author and a celebrated speaker. It took me years to realize this and I think it was providence that eased me into storytelling.

My dream to become a Doctor crashed when I could not get admission into any Nigerian university to study Medicine. The process was just too competitive; too many brilliant students competing for the limited spaces available. Finally I settled for science subjects when I gained admission into the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, to pursue a combined honors degree in Chemistry/Botany.

On graduation, I started life as a teacher in a Secondary School, the equivalent of High School in the USA. No way. I did not like teaching, at least, not at that level. And so I made a strong resolution to improve my lot, to become a professional, get a job in a reputable private organization where I would earn good pay and be fulfilled. That was how I made a U-Turn and veered into Marketing. I took the exams of the Chartered Institute of Marketing, (CIM) UK, which I successfully completed and gained membership of the Institute.

Shortly after qualifying, I responded to an advert seeking reporters in a reputable newspaper in Nigeria, The Guardian. I was employed as a Senior Reporter, and deployed to the Economy and Business Desk of the newspaper. That was how I entered financial journalism. The writer in me was stimulated and I enjoyed doing the job.

I rose through the ranks as a Finance Correspondent, and Deputy Editor, Guardian Financial Weekly. I left that stable in my fifth year in journalism to become, Editor, The Financial Post, Nigeriaโ€™s first financial magazine.

I have held many management and editorial positions in other publications. In recent years, I began to develop myself as a Storyteller, Motivational Speaker and a Media Consultant. To actualize this dream, I set up Infomedia Company to provide me the necessary platform for my media consulting work. In my quest to know more and develop myself via the internet, I stumbled onto the website of howtotellagreatstory.com and a relationship started. This is another story to be told later.

What Is Business Sense?

How you do your business. Not really. Strategies for doing business. Well you may be correct, but not quite. Doing business with the sixth sense. No you are off the mark for though Business Sense has something to do with feelings, it has more to do with wisdom.

But what exactly is Business Sense? It is the application of wisdom for today s business, or simply put, common sense in business. It is more than knowledge, facts, and figures. It is copious use of ideas especially those that are so simple, ordinary, or basic that they are disregarded. It is insight, the ability to interpret developments and the business environment differently, and to see, discern, and use differently and profitably, what others see but ignore because they look so ordinary or appear foolish. If you put your attention on those simple issues and things about they way you work and live, and use them for business, you are operating with business sense.

Business sense. Two words, So profound, readily available, so simple to learn and apply, yet largely ignored. You can call it common sense. Though it readily abounds, it is not so common in acquisition and application among the professional and managerial class who rule the corporate world.

They have studied in the best schools locally and abroad, acquired the latest technology and skills, and apply the best management methods, but are still struggling with the challenges in the marketplace. It is as if the more degrees, diplomas, and certificates our professionals acquire, the less they make use of common sense in business.

Not so for traders at the Alaba International market in Lagos, Nigeria. What they lack in formal education they make up with a copious supply of business sense. Little wonder, virtually all the banks flock to wherever these traders cluster to set up branches.

No economic sector or concentration of businessmen/women or professionals who exchange value have been able to attract such corporate attention from the financial services sector in Nigeria. These traders thrive while many other sectors are complaining. Do not blame the banks for chasing the traders. They badly need the cash which these traders generate daily. That is why they gravitate towards the traders. No other group maintains such a gravitational pull on a sector as formidable as the banks.

A teenage boy who moves into this market to learn the trade begins from the fundamentals- book keeping, retailing, pricing, and delivery of goods. Within four years, he has polished his negotiation skills and with the dexterity he has acquired, he can sell coal to a tourist form Newcastle in the UK. He is well equipped to deal confidently with consumers who are becoming very articulate and demanding. The hard times has made them to be very price sensitive and value conscious in their purchases. Patriotic messages may not move them anymore to vote for your brands with the dwindling value of their money. Neither will promotional hypes do that anymore.

What business sense tells you is that consumers want more promotional information to guide them in their purchases. Two decades ago, a nursing mother in Nigeria would hardly glance at the nutrition facts on a tin of baby milk. Today, before she buys, she picks up tins of SMA and other brands of baby foods to determine the one that offers the best value for her money. Now you can understand why Nestle Nigeria Plc mounted a promotional campaign to teach consumers Nutrition Facts . That beverage and baby foods maker has caught the vision of business sense.

Business sense means that corporate bodies, the professional and managerial class must bend down from their ivory towers; go back to the fundamentals of doing business which we so often ignore, and get connected to the consumer. These fundamentals or common sense are readily available but hardly appreciated or used.

Business sense teaches vision, mission, ethics, corporate care, charity, courage, humility and defining your business properly.

Business sense is not taught in the real sense in academic institutions and managerial courses. The approach in these places is more academic that real.. This sense is acquired more through real life experiences, insightful observation, and learning the hard way in the School of Wilderness Experience. That is the essence of this article series, to complement the teachings of these unique business schools , and prompt professionals to use common sense and what almighty God has deposited in them.

Dan Thomas, founder and president of Focus, a management consulting firm in Polo Alto, California, USA, wrote a book titled Business Sense. In the book, he shows how managers can use core management processes he calls Five Freedoms, to achieve success. As Dan s book moves through the offices of corporate America, see how Ken Blanchard, co-author of One Minute Manager, described the book: The biggest problem in business today is that common sense is seldom common practice. This book is all about using common sense in business. If you have any sense, you will read it and share it with others . No need commenting on the common sense remark of Ken. The message is clear.

For you to acquire and apply business sense in your business, you need to humble yourself, have a large heart, be of lowly spirit, keep an eye on business fundamentals, and above all be close to your creator. That put s you in the right frame of mind to recognize and apply common sense. If you are fixated on your academic achievements, total quality management, best practices and all, you will not apply common sense. No one is jettisoning these management methods. They are very necessary. But you need to lubricate their application with common sense. That is what brings lasting results.

You may be agonizing how to deal with that management, production, or marketing problem not knowing that the solution is one common sense application which you have not considered.

As I sign off today, take this classic example of a common sense solution to a big problem from the scriptures which most of you know more than me. The story of David vs Goliath. This giant had instilled morbid fear into the entire army of Israel. The solution for Goliath was readily available, yet no Israeli soldier or General saw it. Even if they did, they must have written it off as some managers in the corporate world are doing now as they confront the many Goliaths in the marketplace today.

The Israeli soldiers who lacked faith in God put all their trust in their spears and other armoury which paled into significance against Goliath s. It took the courage and common sense of a teenage boy, David who trusted almighty God. He dipped his hands into the brook there, picked five smooth stones for his sling and ran towards Goliath, hurled the stone at the giant and he crashed. You know the rest of the rest of the story. That was a simple solution for a big problem.
The common sense approach is even more real for todayโ€™ s marketplace. Storytelling can help you do that. Dear professional, this is my call to you today: begin to apply wisdom in your business today and it shall be well with you.


Eric Okeke is a storyteller, editor, business writer, motivational speaker and author of the best selling book: I Want a Husband. He is one of Nigeria’s most experienced financial journalists. He has published several articles in local and foreign publications and in websites such as http://www.ezinearticles.com, www.ezinearticles.com and www.writingcareer.com. He is currently running Infomedia Company, a media consulting and information marketing company. Visit his blog at http://sallywantsahusband.blogspot.com

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