Are invisible scripts ruling your life?

Scripts are stories that are created from the perceptions of people we interact with on a daily basis. They range from our families, teachers and colleagues to the general community we live in. Scripts can also be developed through our experiences and culture. If you grew up in a community where finishing school was unheard of, then you might think that finishing school is out of limits.

We unconsciously allow our lives to be led by invisible scripts some of which are imposed by other people, while others are self-imposed.

The first time I went for a driving test, everyone I tested with passed. I failed.

The instructor told everyone who was willing to listen that some people are just too bad with machines to handle driving. It was quite a frustrating experience but I chose not to believe him. Instead, I improved my driving skills for a few more weeks and I passed my driving test the second time around.

I got my driving permit two weeks later. If I had believed the instructor’s words, I would never have got the courage to sit behind the driver’s seat again. I would have let someone else tell me that I could not never drive and as a consequence, lived my life according to a script that someone else had written for my life.

Now that has been said, let’s bust some negative scripts.

Script 1: Perfection

How many times have you failed to do something just because you thought you could not do it perfectly?

You wait for the best idea to execute yet, the people who are able to do great things execute ordinary things in an extraordinary way. You don’t have to read all guides about starting a business. There is nothing like a perfect guide out there.

We often let lack of experience or education deter us from achieving what we want in life. By focusing on perfection, we are not able to make much progress.

Script 2: There are no opportunities in my country

The most exciting thing about Africa is that not everything has been done. There is a lot of capacity for new ideas but you keep putting everything you want to do off just because you think there is no capacity to do what you want to.

If you don’t do something, someone else will. So, would you rather take baby steps and see yourself prosper or would you rather wallow in self-pity?

You can find ways of how to connect to your dream. The internet has made almost anything achievable whether it’s learning computer programming or starting an online business. You can achieve your dreams in your country.

Script 3:  I don’t have the time to pursue my passions

We have all used this line at some point in our lives. It’s the perfect excuse when there is something you have always wanted to do but you just have not got down to doing it.

Somehow, we can’t do the things we are truly passionate about. It could be writing a book, pursing a hobby, singing in a music band, or even going for further studies in a field you care about.

The way you spend your time really tells a lot about what you value in life.

Now that we’ve busted these scripts, here are steps to rewriting your life script.

Understand the scripts that you have put on your life

Understanding the life scripts you have placed on your life is the first step to changing them for the better. Be attentive to your thoughts. Listen to how you speak to yourself and to what you say.

Any thought that starts with “You can’t do that” is a red flag.  Write them down and get to the root of them. Ask yourself what could have caused them and how they are impacting your life.

For example, you might think that you will never reach top management level at your company because of a boss you had who broke your self-confidence through very harsh criticism.

This could be impacting your relationships with leaders who are capable of limiting your upward mobility in the company. Make a conscious decision to break free from negative perceptions of yourself. This will take some time but the most important thing is to take steps every day.

Create systems for the life you want

Systems make your life easy and they are what every organization needs in order to be successful. So, why not implement them in your life as a way of breaking free from negative scripts?

Say you want to retire by 35 but everyone else around you says you should work till you’re 60. You could create systems that help you save your money, pay your bills, budget and invest. These will make your goal much easier for you as you will concentrate on other harder aspects of reaching financial independence like earning more money.

If you have heard of the Pareto law, you know that 20% of input will account for 80% of output. You can drown out the noise from negative perceptions by creating deliberate systems.  Every day will be productive, taking you one step closer to achieving your goals.

What scripts have you allowed others or yourself to place on your life? What internal rules have you subconsciously ingrained in your mind and embraced as your reality?

Lessons from the demolition of small businesses in Lagos: Three steps to protect your small business

shehive lagos

Last week, we woke up to the news that Nuli Juice Company, Nuts About Cakes, The Drug Store —all small businesses in the upscale Ikoyi area of Lagos— were on the verge of being demolished.

The Drug Store had only opened for business a week earlier and Nuli Juice opened six weeks earlier. The owner of Nuli Juice only became aware of the demolition when the bulldozer showed up ready to reinstate her shop to what was once her imagination —she did not receive any prior notice.

She was shocked, as like most savvy entrepreneurs, she had obtained all relevant permits, licenses, paid her taxes, etc. In the midst of the chaos, she found out that the demolition was as a result of the landlord’s failure to pay N40 million in permit fees. The landlord was given prior notice before her lease term commenced. Within a few hours, the only evidence of the stores was rubble.

Unfortunately, Nuli Juice, Nuts About Cakes and The Drug Store represent a few of the many businesses that experience this issue on a yearly basis. Given the recent trends, it is evident that applying for a business permit, registering the business and registering with the tax authorities are not sufficient to safeguard businesses.

Business owners must take additional precautionary steps to further protect their businesses from unexpected disruption or in this instance, demolition. Below are a few additional precautionary tips.

1. Dig deeper

Treat your store lease like you would treat the purchase of new land. Before signing a lease, conduct a thorough search on your potential landowner, the land, and the building.

Tips:

  • Not every alleged landowner is indeed the true landowner. Ask people in the neighborhood about who owns the building. Investigate to make sure that the alleged landowner indeed owns the building.
  • Ask about the landowner’s reputation. Has the landowner had any brushes with the law (personal or otherwise)? If the landowner has a multitude of legal cases (personal or otherwise), it may not be wise to lease from him or her as the building might become subjected to legal processes.
  • Ask whether the property has been subjected to any extraordinary visits from government officials. Such regular visits could be a sign of disaster waiting to strike.
  • Confirm from the landowner that all relevant permits have been obtained. Thereafter, negotiate his or her assertion into the warranty section of the lease agreement. Do the same for licenses, permit fees, etc.
  • If the store has been recently renovated, ask the landowner to confirm, in the lease, that all renovations are in compliance with all relevant laws.
  • Ensure that there is a valid certificate of occupancy for the building.
  • Check with your local government officials to make sure that the neighbourhood has indeed been marked for business purposes and not strictly residential purposes. Your business will most likely be kicked out of the neighborhood if the area is strictly a residential area.

2. Negotiate

Many small business owners ignore the importance of negotiating the content of their lease agreements. Despite the fact that as a small business you may not have much bargaining power, you still owe it to your business to take all necessary steps to protect your investment. So, before you sign the dotted lines, negotiate!

Tips:

  • Include a clause in the lease agreement that covers you in the event that your store is destroyed or damaged as a result of the landowner’s act or failure to act. Such provision will allow you to seek damages (i.e. seek payment for losses) from the landowner in the event that something the landowner did or failed to do caused disruption to your business.
  • Most business owners assume that the landowner pays for repairs and often skim through the repairs provision of the lease. Please do not be one of those. Do not assume. Ask! If the lease contains a provision that requires you to pay for repairs, try to negotiate an exemption for normal wear and tear of the premises. Under such arrangement, the landowner will cover repairs for damages that are not caused by you.
  • Also, pay close attention and negotiate who will be responsible for big-ticket items such as plumbing, roof leaks, air conditioners, etc.
  • Review your lease agreement to make sure that it includes a clause that states that the landowner does not owe any duty to any other persons or third parties (e.g. taxes, liens, restrictions). That way, you will be protected contractually should there be any third party interference on the property.

3. Ensure your business is covered

Many small business owners underestimate the importance of business insurance. Business owners should ensure that their businesses or their buildings are covered by insurance. Such coverage will minimize the impact of a disaster to the business cash-flow.

Tips:

  • Consider obtaining business insurance that covers material damage to your business premises and their contents. This should cover malicious damage, strike, riot, flood, storm, burglary, and litigation.
  • Alternatively, consider requesting that your landowner purchase a building insurance that will cover your business in the event of a business disruption (such as a fire incident, obviously, not a fire you deliberately caused). Such insurance policy should be able to provide an alternative store location in the event that your current store is inhabitable.

This process might seem daunting. However, as the saying goes, “its better to be safe than sorry.” These steps, though not exhaustive, can add an additional layer of protection from undue external business disruptions.

If you would like insights on a particular topic, write to us! We are listening.

5 lessons learned from not protecting my business idea

WOCinTech chat

I am part of an entrepreneurial Facebook group (we’re now over 7,000 members strong). Let’s divide the group into two; techies and non techies. One of the most asked question by the non techies is, “I have an idea for an app and I’m looking for a developer. How I can I protect my idea?” In order words, how do I prevent a developer from running off with my idea, claiming it as his own, working on the idea himself and making millions of dollar off it? The response is usually the same; make him/her sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). This question always reminds me of my own experience with my second developer which I will share with you.

I first met him in the summer of 2014. I got to know he was a developer during our introduction but I was still poking around my idea so I said nothing. Over the next few weeks, our friendship grew. When I had figured out exactly what I wanted to do, I gave him a call and discussed my idea briefly. I also told him I wanted to build a small team; no more than four -including both of us. He said he could help with this.

The next time we spoke, he informed me that one of the developers he had available was going to work for Google and would not be available. The other developer was working on a project. He advised me that the best way was to get started with just the two of us . In the meantime, he wanted a one page Word document about my idea. I wrote a one and half page explanation of my idea and emailed it to him -without a non disclosure agreement. For many other reasons, it all fell apart. We never got started; neither did I ever speak with his developer friends. Here is what I have learnt since then;

1. Execution is all that matters

Ideas are like opinions. Everyone has one. I know that’s not how the saying goes but you catch my drift right? Do you realize how many million people are in the world? Do you know how many million people are thinking of the same idea you are thinking of? Well, I’ll put it this way then. A person can steal your idea, but cannot steal your vision. Like the non techies in the group, I was afraid of my idea being stolen that I became worried sick, almost lost appetite and drove myself crazy with paranoia for no reason. Do you know how much willpower it takes to execute an idea? Even if your idea is stolen, the execution will be different. No two executions are quite alike.

2. You are the visionary

As the non techie, if your idea holds any depth, meaning, you’re not looking to make a quick buck. You truly want effect change in a particular industry and change the world, you are the visionary. As the visionary, it is likely that you’re more committed than anyone else will ever be. As it is right now, I am mentally, physically, wholeheartedly committed to OneSavvyDollar and creating value for my readers in ways I cannot even begin to describe to you.

3. Domain protection

I have always been an advocate of getting a good business name and buying the domain name. It is a relatively inexpensive way to protect your business. Most companies run domain name promotions periodically. Even if the developer steals my idea tomorrow, surely, it will never be named OneSavvyDollar. He is going to have to pick a different name.

4. Ideas change upon implementation

Until you actually begin to implement an idea, you never quite know how it will turn out. What I wrote as a one page document does not even begin to surmount to the changes and challenges my developers and I faced the moment we started working on this. But an idea does not necessarily stay in its original form from inception. The interesting part, the idea continues to change because I let my users guide me to what they want (to a reasonable extent.). You can only understand this when you begin to match action to words.

5. A rule is only as good as its enforceability

It’s one thing to have a non disclosure. It’s another thing to be able to be able to pursue it should there be any violations. We watch movies and believe the rules apply all the time. But it doesn’t quite happen that way. In the case of the Face book lawsuit between the Winklevoss twins and Mark Zuckerberg, the Winklevoss twins had the resources. Here are five fast facts about them:

  • They were born in South Hampton and lived in Greenwich (read as ritzy areas).
  • They attended Harvard.
  • They are Olympians and competed in Beijing 2008.
  • Their father is a professor at Wharton, an author and entrepreneur. He owns a technology and consultancy companies.
  • They hired a high power law firm.

Can you understand now what I mean by resources? Truthfully, you most likely do not have the luxury of the time or the resources to pursue developer should the idea become a hit; particularly, if you are the sole business owner. Don’t forget it’s a game of probability; an idea could either be successful or not. If Facebook wasn’t successful, they never would have bothered.

Copyright: Preserving your creative work in a social era

The last segment (here) was to follow with a detailed discussion on the non-disclosure agreement. However, conversations with some entrepreneur friends this week warranted a discussion about copyright protections. During the discussion, it was quite evident that some entrepreneurs believe the notion of copyright is all but a fictional concept in frontier markets like Nigeria, especially in a social era where creative works are easily available to the public through social media sites.

The comments during the conversation included, “no one cares about copyright, if my work is stolen, life goes on,” “but what courts in Nigeria have the time to resolve copyright cases when it has more interesting election cases pending before it?” and“I barely have enough time to run my business let alone go through the tedious copyright registration process.”

Image result

During the colourful conversation, entrepreneurs seemed to agree that copyright protection is alive and well in Western countries. However in frontier markets, copyright protection has been tucked deep into the judicial mountains, making enforcement merely a fantasy. The comments of these highly talented entrepreneurs were littered with elements of ambiguity about enforcement procedures, and most importantly, what constitutes copyrightable work.

1. Copyrightable work—Distinguishing the leaves in the forest

Copyright protects creative and original expressions such as images, music, and texts. In some jurisdictions, copyright protects particular expressions of ideas and not the general idea itself. For example, the U.S. Copyright statute dictates that “[in] no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work” (17 U.S.C. Section 102(b)).

Similarly, the Nigerian Copyright Commission noted that a “work is ‘created’ when it is ‘fixed’ in a tangible medium.” Thus, in some jurisdictions, copyright protection does not reach beyond the protection of the specific form of idea.

To illustrate, if you and a friend both decide to independently create a painting of Mount Kilimanjaro, your two paintings could qualify as copyrightable work if you both expressed your work in your original forms. To this end, it is not the idea of painting the mountain that is protected; rather, the original form or the painters’ expression of the mountain is what is protected by copyright.

Simply put, copyrightable work is analogous to the leaves in a forest; each leaf appears in a form that is distinguishable from the other despite having similar characteristics with other leaves.

Image result for beyonce pay me gifs

The second point raised during the conversation was the lack of time to register their work. The good news is that in some jurisdictions, this is not an issue because protection is automatic once one’s work is released into the public domain. In such instances, registration becomes a mere formality and helps put the general public on notice.

Registration also has the added benefit of making enforcement and seeking judicial remedies easier. Thus, depending on one’s jurisdiction, registration of one’s work may not be a prerequisite to benefiting from copyright protection. Nonetheless, formal registration is highly recommended.

2. Copyright protection is well and alive, even in African countries!

Recent developments this month reminded me that copyright protection is alive and well, even in African countries! Last week, The Nation newspaper reported that “[a] Federal High Court in Abuja, on Friday, February 12, dismissed the preliminary objections filed by former winner of the Face of Africa pageant, Oluchi Onweagba, who was contesting a copyright suit filed against her”.

The Nation noted that Chudi Charles, an executive officer of International Pageant and Films, filed the infringement suit seeking N780 billion in damages on grounds that the defendants used West Africa’s Next Top Model, his registered brand, without his consent. Indeed, the dismissal of the preliminary objections does not necessarily predict the court’s ruling on the matter.

Nonetheless, judicial decisions over the past few years signaled the judiciary’s commitment to enforcement. For example, in November 2015, a federal high court sitting in Lagos awarded an artist, Dr. Sunday Adeniyi Adeye a/k/a King Sunny Ade, damages in the amount of N500 million for copyright infringement.

In 1997, King Sunny Ade filed suit against African Song on grounds of using his master tapes to produce duplicates of his work for public sale without his consent and any remuneration. Several years later, the court ordered the defendants to pay damages. (Sunday Adeniyi Adeye vs. African Song FHC/L/CS/196/97).

Similarly, in Angella Katatumba v. The Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (ACCU) (H.C.C.S No. 307 of 2011), a Ugandan high court ordered the Anti-Corruption Coalition of Uganda (“ACCU”) to pay damages in the amount of UShs. 25 million to Katatumba, an artist, on grounds that ACCU incorporated Katatumba’s song into an advertisement jingle without her consent.

Likewise, in Nonny Gathoni Njenga & anor v. Catherine Masitsa & 2 ors Civil Case No. 490 of 2013, a Kenyan high court ordered the defendants, Masitsa et al., from reproducing, translating, or adapting the plaintiffs’ literary work, “Wedding Show with Gathoni” into the defendants’ TV Show “Samantha’s Bridal Show.”

Despite the fact that “Samatha’s Bridal Show” was running prior to “Wedding Show with Gathoni,” the court’s ruling was made on grounds that the defendants “changed their old running order [of their TV show, Samantha’s Bridal Show] and copied the plaintiffs.” Thus, although copyright cases may not make headlines very often, this does not necessarily mean that enforcement has been erased from the judicial fabric.

Image result

3. Practical tips

  • As an entrepreneur, you should register your original expression with your copyright registration office.
  • Use copyright notices, e.g. ©, on your copyrightable work. Such notices not only puts the public on notice but aids in preventing an forger from making an innocent infringement defense—a defense whereby the forger claims that they were not aware their act constituted copyright infringement.
  • If you are using photos, music, or other third-party material for your new venture, seek appropriate consent. You do not want to be subjected to a copyright lawsuit that could potentially cost your business millions.
  • If your employees or contractors’ scope of work involves providing you with their original expression of an idea, ensure that you have their written consent to use their work and, if appropriate, seek the rights to any such copyrightable work.

To summarize, copyright remains an enforceable doctrine in African countries. Indeed, embarking on the enforcement process will require a heightened dose of patience. You have worked hard to create your work; protect it judiciously! If you would like insights on a particular topic, write to us! We are listening.