Wednesday, January 13, 2010

THE APPRENTICE IN ME

I love the apprentice show on TV and it is a high time for the TV guys to bring back the programme. At least it stimulates my brain to wholesome thinking, if you know what I am talking about. After being bombarded with local TV programs that to say the least keep me away from my box rather than glue me to it, we need something worth the while especially in a new year. I hope that those involved in the industry will see the point of sending some local programs to hell. I like watching the Apprentice show because it reminds me of when I was once a business management apprentice myself hahaha! That answers some of you who have been sending me insulting emails asking whether I have ever seen the inside of a classroom.

Like many apprentices we see on the show, I was fired before I was hired. That is how I ended up writing a silly column.

So we went to this apprenticeship- six of us straight from college. They told us that we were the best. That we would be trained to become business managers. They promised us that we would never be broke another day in our lives.

We were bussed into some exclusive place. I was excited because I was here not for brains but as a result of a typo. The computer just got hold of my name and it would not let go. We carried expensive suitcases. I kept checking whether mine was still in the bus after every stop. It is the kind of suitcase you want to keep for your children to show them the fruits of 'hard work' so that you can keep reminding them that a good life is not their right. Even though I will show it to them and claim hard work, it is all the fruit of a computer error. And don't you remind me of students who are now taking tough courses at the University because of a computer error with the KNEC two years ago. I got you marked. When I go to see a doctor I will demand that he tells me when he sat his KCSE and if he falls into that year, I will refuse to be checked out by him.

Sorry about that little yap but we can't base our faith in comps that much. Anyway, we were driven straight to the apprentice building and when we got off the bus, we were greeted by this burly and surly guy from up the balcony of the building.

'Hi guys, here's your first assignment. On the neat grass lawn you are standing are a billion bean seeds which you must collect and count and not one seed should be found and you complete the task before dusk'

With such a welcome note, you want to go back and start your Master's Degree immediately and hope that the reception will be more respectful next time. At the apprenticeship, you are bullied not by your colleagues but by the boss himself and there is no where to run to. After the initial shock, we started thinking and one of us suggested that we write a strategic plan for the task, then a mission statement and from there an action plan. I was the only one who was amused by the whole plan because, remember I was here courtesy of a typo and never been to a business class. While he was still on the suggestion, we had already collected several bucketfuls of beans. We thought it better to collect the beans and then count them. But referring to Michuki's encyclopaedia, I said we needed 31 years to count a billion and what a great motivator that was! We didn't obviously finish the task and we were told that the management was not sure there were a billion beans and the whole exercise was meant to test a skill which I can't remember what they called it. Me, I call it the skill of wasting time and believe you me we scored an 'A.'

On our second assignment (get ready), we were going to hawk on the streets of Nairobi, at Kshs1000 some musical cockroaches from Madagascar! We were told that the female cockroaches wax musical during the mating season. We were given 300 pairs per person to sell before dusk. So we hit the road with little boxes of pairs of roaches. Without even knowing whether they were male or female or whether it was the mating season. The strategic plan guy sat to write his strategic plan. I approached my first client along Tom Mboya Street, as cheerful as I could be:

Me: Hi, I got some cockroaches from Madagascar. They make music in the mating season. I will let you have them for Kshs1000

Client 1: You are a fool

Me to client No.2 (hoping that the other guy was just in a foul mood):Hi I am selling these little cockroaches from Madagascar. They sing lullabies for little children.

Client No.2 (looking at the sample): Gaaaaaaaaaaaaaaack (doing a Usain Bolt).

At that point I wanted out. I thought that if they had given me some venomous little spiders I could at least threaten a potential customer;
'Stand right there or I will let these spiders free from this little cage!' I would shout and the customer would buy as many as I wanted to just get out of my sight. Only the strategic guy sold all the pairs. I now agree that all those strategic things and action plans do work in real life situations and are not just theories.

I have a suggestion for Business Management Apprenticeship. The would be employer would do well to train the young business people how to wear their aesthetic eye glasses at intimidating angles, how to frown at departmental heads who have been doing their thing for decades, when to tap the pen with their fingers and when to roll it, indicating deep thought even when they mean that the departmental heads might as well be speaking Latin or another dead language, when to shout at hapless employees for no fault of their own and when to kick some little furry pets on their sides for no reason at all. After all, Isn't this what managers do?