By George Marenya
Publishing is one of the oldest trades known to man. After man had developed a set of words and thought pattern to constitute language, the next thing he did was to write. So critical is the written word that it has been said that life is made up of time, space and word. Yet word, survives them all. If it is not written down and published, then it may as well not have existed.For this reason, the battle for the narrative, the story and truth about events is usually the real battle ground.
Depending on who is talking, either the Russians or Ukraine are having the upper hand in the current conflict between them. Now if the truth can be contested while these events are current and live, imaginewhat kind of storm they will kick decades from today.It has been the same for us at Biashara Leo. We have had a fruitful and eventful 15 year long journey sharing with Kenyans their history, their lives, their joys, milestones, fears and even a few tears here and there.
We have shared with Kenyans the climb to the top during the halcyon days of corporate boom that characterized the Mwai Kibaki years. Interests were low, there was money in town and people were atunned to spending. Executives did not take forever to make decisions.
Now that is the juice, the very life-blood of business. When clients sign the contracts and the cheques as well. The global meltdown of years 2008 onwards came with its own challenges. We survived these tragic periods though.
Staying at the top
It has been a good journey talking to startups, small and medium enterprises and even the big conglomerates. We have seen how much skill it takes multinational corporations with excess skills to navigate their way to the top and stay there.
The skills of Dr. James Mwangi, Bob Collymore and those who have hit the strastosphere are not the same as those needed by the business owner who cannot afford accountants, marketers and executives earning six-digit salaries.
This is where leadership becomes art, science and spirituality all rolled up into
one. We have low inspiration which can boost morale of employees to do that which even they themselves could not imagine.
Communication – the only raisondetre of publishing – is a tool that permeates throughout the body of the corporate organ and any breakdown spells doom from which an organization may never recover.
Talking to Kenyans has brought us joy in seeing their spirit of determination and endurance against all odds. We have met landlords who started with a single block and later build complete units. We remember the joyful experience of mango farmers in Kitui whose faces lit up when they saw the pulp turned into juice by their own co-operative society.
Infact the Kenyan co-operative movement is one of the most vibrant in the world. From milk to tea, coffee, sugar cane and lately horticulture (mostly avocado), we can attest to the hard workof the Kenyan farmer and place in our economy.
Indeed, the greatest joy about publishing is that you are always talking to people – one on one – and getting a peek into their spirit. They tell you about the things they have read, seen and done. They have made certain mistakes and are willing to warm you in advance. Usually, they don’t want you to become another statistic.
It may be the case of Mr Kimani Rugendo of Afia Juice fame insisting that in business, it is never prudent to walk alone. That partnership and onboarding of talent at the level of directors is crucial. And when you look at how far he has come with his Kevian Company, you are bound to believe him.
Dr. Mwangi once challenged us that it is his job to mint millionaires. Since I was sitting in front of him ( together with my editor), he frankly asked us : “ Marenya and Gichuki, don’t you want to become millionaires?”From there, we made a beeline to his managers to see how that journey could be launched right away.
The printed page in the meantime refused to go away. For all the arguments for digital copy, the street vendor is still alive and well. Maybe they were right when long ago they insisted that the newspaper is a substitute for the morning prayer.
The convenience of shoving hard copy into the hand of the recipient and starting a conversation straight away has no substitute. That power of quick demonstration and the vividness of the hardcopy is what makes it most appealing.
Again don’t forget that the human being is a conservative animal and is also very nostalgic. Those we call old habits are actually his DNA. These tendencies are what form his basic core. So our experience is that hard copy must still go side by side with soft copy.
So shall we tackle the elephant in the room? Yes we shall. In comes advertising. That piece of the pie coveted by everyone. If only it could be elastic… yet it is forever shrinking in light of other pressing demand on the company budget.
Without the advertising budgets, the publication dies a natural death. This is where loyal clients with relationships cultivated over the years come in handy. They understand what you have to offer. They have seen you deliver over the years. In many cases, they are willing to walk side by side through the difficult times.
Flight to London
And as if to prove that the world is a truly a global village, Covid-19 came calling. What started out almost innocuously in faraway China was to have far reaching consequences in every corner of the globe. Life is lived out there. Covid -19 turned that on its head with lockdowns and extremely restricted travel arrangements.
Businesses took a nosedive. Some will never recover and others are buried for good. But we braved it! That is the advantage that comes with age and longevity. Never again will it be so important to catch the overnight flight to London for an important business meeting.
People can meet online and achieve the same results if not better. Reporting to the office will no longer be a life and death matter. Life will simply be never the same.
On this score, the Almighty has been kind to us with very loyal advertisers over the years who in the best of times have even signed yearly contracts with us – and for years in a row.
We are thankful for the 15 years of our eventful existence. We intend to remain strong as we look straight to the years ahead.
We have taken extreme pleasure in the journey of our customers and associates without whom we would not have been here. The micro-economic environment challengeshave called for diversification into video production and documentaries.
Publishing is about story telling. As long as we live, there will always be a story and the need for someone to tell it.We look at that as our calling. We will be here to talk about your birth, rebirth and maturity. Those corporate stories are about our country. Life is about what we do. Out of this we earn a living. As we earn we spend and grow the economy.
This is why we are here waiting for your story.