If you were ever in doubt about the importance of strategy in adapting and producing future fit solutions for your company or brand, there are no better real life case studies.
There is no difference between:
– Skinny Sbu Socks (link)
– Ndalo Media
– The Advertising Industry
– Toys R Us
– Lest we forget brands or businesses like Nokia, Kodak, Motorola. The irony with Nokia and Motorola, and I suppose Kodak as well, is that they are technology companies that couldn’t keep up with technology. So what went wrong?
Why the collapse (So what went wrong?)
Adapt or die is the motto. No amount of “Black Excellence” will save any business. The thing with Khanyi Dhlomo and Ndalo Media is that it doesn’t mean that they’ve gone dumb or stupid. They are still excellent, what is happening is not happening to Khanyi, it’s happening to the business. Nothing personal. No amount of “Market Share” or “Privilege” will save a business. Nokia was the market leader in the cellular phone business. At some point, it looked like Nokia would be in business forever. Kodak had the world taking pictures and every moment captured was a “Kodak Moment”. Even rappers would use “Kodak Moment” in their songs or rhymes.
Toys R Us? What kind of “toys” are now appealing to kids? Distribution, do people still buy toys at toy stores? Kids certainly haven’t stopped playing or learning, so what went wrong. Running a toy business is like running a toilet paper business, you’ll never run out of customers. So what went wrong.
Skinny Sbu Socks, the business of socks isn’t a bad one, but all investments were tied into a dying retail organization, Stuttafords. This is no fault of Sbu. If I run a business and my only source of income is from the SABC, when the SABC tanks, whose fault is it? It’s just business.
Business is cruel, the only way to minimize the cruelty is to be consistently strategic about your business with grow and thrive.
Could Ndalo Media have been saved? Of course. If so, how?
Adapt or die
Adapting means consistently finding news ways of thinking and doing. New ways of getting to the same solution. For example, what is the basic business model of Ndalo Media? Story telling.
How many formats does story telling come in? Many. See a post I posted in one of the WhatsApp groups when we discussed the issue of Ndalo Media in mid-November. This was a month before the news of the company shutting down came, meaning, it was already too late.
Strategy is an imperative investment, all businesses need it.
No strategic outlook = no growth = death. Everything needs strategic thinking and planning.
When I say strategy saves lives, this is exactly what I mean. Now people will be jobless. Strategy is important, as part of your business meetings, make sure that you are having strategic conversations about how you are going to grow your customer base, your revenue, how you are going to create more demand for your business and brand. Which other industries can you infiltrate? These are strategic conversations/questions and topics that should be discussed regularly and not when it is “time”. Anytime is a great time to discuss strategy. Jack Ma, the founding partner of one of biggest companies in the world, Alibaba, said that the best time to strategise is when everything is going great and you are happy, because you are won’t be desperate. Any day is a good day for strategy.
Final thought: From Black Excellence to Black Business Excellence (BBE)
I think it’s time we move, or rather, transition into what I call “Black Business Excellence” (BBE). With that, “Black” is still imperative as it is important and critical that businesses owned by black entrepreneurs rise and thrive, and survive for decades. We must support black businesses, it’s a must. Equally imperative, perhaps more so, is “Business Excellence”.
“It’s business, it’s nothing personal”, there’s no truer business truth. The market will always favour those with the right thinking. There’s a saying I heard recently, but I can’t pin from where I read or heard this; “nobody ever buys Coke because they are black or white”. People buy Coke because they are either thirsty or they are going to have a meal. People buy products and services for two reasons; rational/functional or emotional.
Ndalo Media didn’t fail because black people were not supporting it, it tanked because it failed to transform. The business model was not conducive nor feasible for how things work today and where they are going. Print isn’t a sustainable and viable market for growth in business.
Personally, I don’t remember the last time I bought a Destiny Magazine, but asked when last I read an online article. I could give you the time and day. The point is, as a people, technology is shaping how we consume content or information, but for some reason, Ndalo Media failed to recognize this change and failed to be agile. They did things the way they started a decade ago.
I implore black entrepreneurs to interrupt or interject “Black Excellence” by including “Business” in the middle, and start speaking about “Black Business Excellence”. Why? Because at the end of the day, that’s what it is all about.
Why I say the issue is not black people not supporting black people E.g.:
Spaza shops in the townships? Who buys from spazashops? Black people. I’ve never seen Indian, Coloured, White and Chinese people flocking into any black township to go buy from Spaza shops. Growing up, we used to buy from local Spazas. I’ve seen many spaza shops in the hood, but none of the spaza shops I grew up going to and playing video games at exist today. They never grew to become conglomerates. They never grew to become the Shoprites and Pick n Pays of South Africa. Why? Lack of vision.
Q: As black people, do we really know business? No, seriously, this is not a question based on the assumption that black people cannot engage intellectually in business, but we have so many black businesses that get started but quickly fizzle out. Khayi is educated, well connected, but her business is closing down. Why? By the way, business failure is not unique to black people, but Indom think this is something we have to address as a people. We are always talking about “means of production” and “opportunities” or “5% of the population controls 95% of everyhlthing”. Well, Ndalo Media was a man made gold mine that could only produce a limited amount of resources. Now the gold mine has run dry and has to shut down.
So, the question I’m asking is not to question ability per se, but hopefully the answers will give us insight into where we need help. The truth is, with our background, where we come from, our parents, grandparents and great grandparents, our history is mostly of us being labourers, and not business owners. This gets me thinking, if in our lineage, we have a history of workers as opposed to business owners, as a new generation into democracy, what is our reference for running successful businesses? I could be wrong, maybe I am, but I do think we need to engage and talk about this issue or topic.
Almost every black child is encouraged to go study and work, rarely encouraged to start businesses, to build empires.
I don’t know hey. A wise old lady once said; “…You cannot solve today’s problems without context of the past.” So maybe a look into our past as a people may give us light, insight, and help in mitigating against us taking things for granted, especially when it comes to businesses.
PS: Thank you, Khanyi
Thank you, Khanyi for not just talking, you took action and built something when for many, publishing wasn’t even a concept close to home. You have inspired many young people into action. You have helped inspire multiple generations. Ndalo Media may be shutting down, but your spirit will never perish. You have not failed, the business became unsustainable, and for that, I’m truly sorry. You remain a true beacon of hope for many. Your job and purpose was not to build Ndalo Media for yourself, but for every black child, and especially women.
We love and respect you even more for staying strong during this time. I wish you peace and comfort. I have never lost a business before, but because I am human, I know what’s like to lose something, but your pain is greater because you this battle in front of everyone, with the entire world watching.
Is it not possible to run online platforms of Destiny and Elle?
Thank you for reading my writing. I’d love to hear your thoughts.