Swapping Identities As You Journey Through Life.

Each person has multiple identities: as a sister/brother, daughter/son, colleague/boss, neighbour, alumni/teacher, friend. With globalization, the flow of people crossing borders is increasing and our interactions are not only an emotional experience. It is also about having new cultural experience shaping our view of the world. As a result, most people have “fluid” identities – moulded by life experiences, interactions with a variety of people, overseas travelling, job changes, amongst others. You also would tend to tweak your “personal brand” to fit your new personal and professional goals as you go into a new phase of your life.

Every industry or workplace or country has its own norms and values which must be understood and embraced if you hope to be considered as being “one of them”. It does not necessarily mean that you have to be a completely new person.  Remaining true to your core values and at the same time being open to new possibilities is a century old challenge to anyone who embraces change.

In integrating a new environment, you will probably choose those elements that enable you to “fit in” and that are, at the same time, aligned with your core “self”. Keeping your own sense of “balance” requires a constant management of uncomfortable emotions coming from a sense of confusion, being misunderstood, harbouring contradictory beliefs and a feeling of being “out of place”. In those times, it is important to have access to some kind of social support where you can voice out your anxieties and feel heard. This is also where your problem solving skills can help you to directly address the sources of your discomfort. Remaining open to suggestions made by people who have been in your shoes is another means to successfully achieve this transition.

As you constantly renegotiate your identity over time, your relationships tend to change as well. Most people would use their own personal experiences to make assumptions and behave accordingly. As a result, you will sometimes be perceived differently from your own self image. It is important to bear in mind that no matter how much efforts you put into setting things right, the outcome is largely to the discretion of the other person.

Using an approach characterized by dialogue can sometimes dissolve the misunderstandings. Dialogue is not about having a number of conversations. It is about being fully conscious of your own personal bias and having an understanding of what it is like to be in the other person’s shoes at the same time. It is creating the necessary space so that the parties involved can freely express themselves and be “seen” in their own personalities. Such engagement would become possible when the parties involved perceive that “the stakes are high”. Engaging into this “dance” to reach common ground requires personal commitment and a level of self confidence. Only then, the relationship can continue to flourish and evolve in a way that is both mutually beneficial to both parties.

There is always an element of risk when you go into a new career/country/workplace.  You can actually end up valuing more what you have lost. However, being curious about other people’s views and experiences can only broaden your vision and improve your interactive skills. Going out of your comfort zone is actually healthy because it is good to know what lies beyond and to test your own sense of self. No matter the age gap or difference in cultural background and/or in their career path, people, having experienced similar life situations, have much more in common. You will eventually make new friends and widen your network.

It is important to bear in mind that each encounter in your new environment is only a snapshot. People make up the very fabric of any environment and because people’s identities evolve,  making hasty conclusions can only validate your self doubts, strengthen your resistance to change and lead to self marginalization.

In the end, navigating through the twists and turns of your journey can only provide you with opportunities for personal growth and can help you develop a stronger sense of self.

Strong Resilience Equates Strong Self Worth.

As 2017 comes to an end in almost six weeks, some of you will be expected to make a review of your performance during your appraisal session by your team or by your superiors. There is nothing more exhilarating to remind yourself of all the goals you have achieved for this year. It would be perfect if you have been able to achieve 100% of the targets that you have set yourself to for 2017.

As perfection is a myth, there will be a few goals that are still not within your reach and you wonder whether you were too ambitious, not enough prepared or unforeseen circumstances turned them into moving targets. If these goals happen to have high stakes involved, this is where your resilience will be tested to the core.

Beating yourself up or blaming “others” and/or unexpected circumstances will not undo the fact that you have not achieved what mattered most: that 20% that would have made an 80% impact on your career. For some people, they will shrug it off and continue on with their lives. For others, they will mull it over and over and feel miserable. Alternatively, some people find it useful to discuss it with their friends, family members and mentors to find solace in the comforting words of the people they trust most.

Your approach to tackling challenges will largely depend upon the different “role models” you had, your underlying principles and values and what you have learnt from your past experiences. Shrugging it off is not the right approach and mulling it over is also counter productive. Any challenge has the potential for potential growth and development if you are ready to let go of false pride and learn from it. Sometimes, because of the complexity involved, it is easier to ignore it and convince yourself that this is just a streak of bad luck.

If you happen to be one of those professionals who self manage themselves, you will take this performance appraisal as an opportunity to carry out a critical self analysis. This personal review can act as a stimulus to bring about desired changes so that you are better equipped for 2018. You will allow yourself to question your existing values, beliefs and behaviour. You may initially experience mental discomfort as your commitment to your personal growth conflicts with your false pride.  True resilience is the ability to develop a productive dialogue during that performance appraisal with your superiors or team members.  A productive dialogue is when both parties are empathetic towards each other, are conscious of their personal assumptions of each other and are able to express their opinions in an equitable manner. It is also important to bear in mind that such efforts on your part is rewarded if the counter party is ready to listen and is able to create a safe zone where you feel heard and seen.

Such dialogue is facilitated if both parties consider themselves as being on the same side of the fence. If you always have that feeling of “me” and “them”, then it will be nearly impossible to create a productive dialogue. How you perceive yourself and how your superiors or your team members perceive you need to be similar for you to create strong rapport and turn this performance appraisal into a productive session for both parties. There are times when their perception of you differs from your own as relationships are fluid and evolve constantly. However, if this gap constantly exists, it implies that your values and theirs are not aligned and being part of a team who have not much in common with you is a waste of your time and energy.

Being unable to connect with your team mates or your superiors can be distressing. Such emotional stress can affect your communicative behaviours and you may perceive a lack of control which can severely undermine your performance at work. If this is the case, then your best option will be to look for another job or ask for your transfer to another team. Working for an organization or team that values your contribution is most rewarding, leads to a better atmosphere at work and reduces work related stress.

Your inability to achieve pre agreed targets does not necessarily imply lack of skills or knowledge from you. It does signal that there is a missing piece in the puzzle and it is best to identify this missing piece as part of your personal commitment to yourself. Your self worth will largely benefit from this critical self analysis.

Managing Your Personal Career Transitions

Most people have changed jobs at least once and for some, they have even changed career to start afresh in an entirely new role. For example, a number of ex military people have joined the financial services industry.  Change implies experiencing a certain level of discomfort and confusion, even though you have a successful track record in your past work experiences.

Working for a new company means meeting new faces and being part of a new team. Though you may know some of your team members professionally or personally, working with them on an almost daily basis would imply an adaptation period and learning curve to go through.  The novelty of the new workplace can be exciting and stressful at the same time. Coping with stress successfully depends on whether adequate resources are available and your coping style suits the needs of the situation.

Each company has its own culture with implied set of rules and behavioural norms. At the start, you may feel like “a stranger” learning to “fit in” with your co workers. You are hoping that, after a few months, it will no longer be “me” and “them”. It will simply be “us”. This period of adaptation comes with moments of discomfort at times when you ask yourself: “Have I made the right choice?” There are also moments of satisfaction when your personal contribution to the team is largely appreciated.

Some corporate cultures facilitate the integration of newcomers by allowing organizational boundaries to be permeable. Businesses add new people to their team in the hope that they will induce changes to the existing corporate culture. Such changes can be positive as it can lead to the emergence of new perspectives on existing challenges or innovative ideas about the business.  In this scenario, newcomers, in building rapport and trust with their fellow co workers, will perceive themselves as core organizational members over time.

At other times, you still feel like “an outsider” even after a year in the job. It may not be necessarily your lack of skills.  It can be your personal perception of things. It is also sometimes due to the corporate culture of the business that does not provide for the integration of new members.

A more challenging move for progressing your career is making a career shift.  Skills and knowledge are transferable so making career changes is doable. The perceived level of difficulty is higher as there may be no existing comparative framework in your existing repertoire of past work/life experiences. You may find many things to be challenging such as the “ways of doing things” and the “language used” in the new career you have chosen. Each industry has its own “jargon” or technical terms used.

As a result, you feel like a “Newbie” even though you have been working for a number of years. Having the status of a “beginner” can actually be an opportunity for you to bring a fresh approach and allow you to stand out. It is your choice of whether you would like to be “one of them” or being “you” and still be part of the industry community.

Perception with your set of beliefs and values sometimes determine how far you can go in your new career or in a new job.  In both cases, your successful integration relies on your behavioural flexibility, level of critical thinking, humility and openness. Your level of emotional intelligence is another determining factor. Reaching out to people who have had similar experiences or working with a mentor, whose career you would like to emulate, can help you assess whether you are on the right track or not.

It is also important to bear in mind that every culture is dynamic whether it is corporate culture or that of the industry at large. So, timing is sometimes critical and making the wrong choice once does not mean that you won’t be able to carry out the desired changes. It means that you would need to continue on looking for the opportunities that allow you to progress your career.

Gender Diversity – No Hard And Fast Rules.

Gender Diversity has been a hot topic for decades and being a woman, I must admit that I have not given much thought to it until recently. Gender biases have existed for centuries when it comes to involving more women in the workplace, in politics, in leadership roles, etc. Over the past few decades, gender diversity has taken on a new meaning. LGBTQ community, an acronym for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Queer are now voicing out their concerns of being not properly integrated into our society.

The reason why I have not often considered the issues surrounding gender diversity is because I think there needs to be a profound change in societal norms – something that can only be dealt with by making important changes in the school curriculum and more importantly changes in how we raise our kids.

Issuing and endorsing gender diversity policies at work or enacting laws that promotes gender diversity is rarely going to be enough for attitudes to change at work and for society at large to transform itself so that everybody feels a sense of belonging. There is also the fact that each individual has her/his own life experiences influencing personal life choices. Individual A can feel that he is respectful towards others whist Individual B believes that A does not have the right attitude. In other words, getting the right balance is complex. Bearing in mind that our laws and national policies tend to lag behind societal changes, there will always be room for improvement.

I believe that any changes start with our own personal journey. Teaching the next generation at home to be respectful of others is my personal contribution to the gender diversity agenda. The formation of the beliefs and values of an adult starts early. It has been proven that “a child’s perception of the world is directly downloaded into the subconscious during the first six years of life. The fundamental behaviours, beliefs, attitudes we observe in our parents, teachers: people in our immediate surroundings becomes hardwired as synaptic pathways in our subconscious minds.”(c.f The Biology of Belief : Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles by Bruce H Lipton). The subconscious mind always operates in the “now” whilst the conscious mind can travel in time: past, present and future.

In other words, the subconscious mind is the one who is in control. Positive affirmation can influence our behaviour and genes but only when they are in harmony with our subconscious programming. To change someone’s attitudes, there needs to be a reprogramming of the unconscious. According to Bruce Lipton, thoughts consume energy as surely as does marathon running. Rewriting programs in the subconscious mind can be achieved through the help of a number of modalities known as “energy psychology”. Some well-known modalities are hypnotherapy and body centered therapies.

However, whenever there is an opportunity to bring my personal contribution to promoting gender diversity, I would not hesitate to do so. The thing is that no matter how many policies are endorsed, it all starts with us making a conscious effort to change our own mindset. Our social culture is dynamic with people continuously making their own contributions. If we want to give a gift to our daughters or sons for Christmas 2017, we may want to give them something that will encourage less gender biases. Giving a boy something that will raise his awareness that “nurture” is as important as “winning” can make a difference in how he views the world in the next 10 – 20 years. Allowing a girl to choose her own career gives her the self worth she needs to succeed later in life.

There are no hard and fast rules as to how we can ensure that no matter who we are, we all feel that we belong to this current world. Inclusion and belonging is important for better social cohesion as past research have proven that they are critical for a human being to function optimally in terms of health, adjustment and well being. Improved social cohesion also implies less costs to society in terms of health care and social welfare benefits.


Businesses thrive when they are able to provide something not easily replicable by other players in the same industry or the same market segment. There are different sources of competitive advantage: cost savings, access to a critical source of raw material, first mover advantage, etc. These competitive advantages do not last forever. They have to be renewed over time. The weakest source of competitive advantage is cost savings, it is the one that is the most popular in many industries.

Cost savings do not imply that costs disappear.  They are actually transferred from people who have power and money to those who have nothing.  Operating a business based on cost savings actually signals, most of the time, the loss or a lack of creativity.  No business can be sustained over the long term by continuous cost cutting. Such strategy will eventually lead to the build-up of unseen risks that will arise unexpectedly, leading to more value destruction and thus to the closing down of the business activities. So, cost savings is more a race to the bottom rather than to the moon!

The recent fire at Grenfell Tower is an example of the race to drive down costs which led to huge loss of lives. It is important to bear in mind that organisations operate within a society, the impact of their race may spread far beyond their immediate operations.  Outsourcing activities to third parties in an effort to cut costs is another strategy that can lead to potential collateral damage.  It is true that outsourcing is a major source of employment in some countries which are known to provide excellent levels of service. It is unfortunately not always the case. It is the responsibility of business owners to ensure that any outsourced activity is being carried out with the same ethos as theirs because collateral damages to their business brand can be irrecoverable.

When activities are being outsourced hastily in an effort to generate “quick wins” without any attention given to risk management, it can be disastrous. It is to the long term advantage of any business not to get cheaper but to get smarter about what consumers really wants and how to make it well. According to Ray Henderson from Interface, “Sustainability is all about coming up with ways to meet our needs (not wants) today without undermining the ability of other folks to meet their needs tomorrow.” See his TED Talk.

Instead of seeing Interface as being separate from society, he viewed it as being integrally connected to the entire world. According to Ray Anderson, businesses need to identify all of their costs and then had to find or invent ways to eliminate them completely and permanently – not just pass them along.

In the extensive research carried out by Margaret Heffernan, “innovative institutions and organizations thrive not because they pick and breed superstars but because they cherish, nurture and support the vast range of talents, personalities and skills that true creativity requires”. A collaborative culture requires continued commitment from all parties involved and can be achieved with a genuine effort to communicate without status, awe or intimidation. Part of this collaborative culture is the permission to fail and to learn from those mistakes made. This is necessary if employees are meant to add value, give useful feedback and go the extra mile to make things work.

For decades, the theory of Darwin prevailed. It emphasized life’s competitive nature leading to a dog eat dog attitude in many spheres of life: business, social, political etc.  We now know the results: the emergence of systemic risks, the breakdown of conventional systems and regulations in various industries.

In Bruce Lipton’s book, “The Biology of Belief”, he explains that in the past few years, research in the field of epigenetics have determined that environmental influences, including nutrition, stress and emotions can modify our genes without changing their basic blueprint. In other words, if someone tends to live in a certain environment where certain core values prevail, over time that person will inevitably be influenced by those same set of values unconsciously. As a result, asking a group of people to team up and collaborate genuinely is not going to happen overnight. .

For a group of people to endorse values such as cooperation, professionalism, there needs to be a fundamental shift in the culture prevailing in the workplace. The business needs to operate on an operational model where people are encouraged to be supportive and failures are viewed as opportunities to create something new. For a few to be rewarded whilst the rest of the team are considered as “ordinary” or “losers” sends the wrong message that there are winners and losers. For outstanding performance to take place, there has been the correct flow of information, the right kind of infrastructure and the right sort of training. All this is the outcome of good collaboration between multiple parties who are “unsung” heroes.

Racing to the moon requires more than replicating successful business models or cutting costs. It is the result of a rigorous commitment to taking a long term view of encouraging a thriving collaborative culture.


The  following books have been used as reference for the write up of this post.

  1.  A Bigger Prize by Margaret Heffernan
  2. The Biology of Belief : Unleashing the Power of Consciousness, Matter and Miracles by Bruce H Lipton

Creating Value Within Your Organisation.

The Value Of Any Organisation Is In Its Sustainability. A business that cannot survive over the long term has no value.  There are very few organisations which can boast continued success from the day it was launched to the present date. Most organisations had to go through a number of transformations over time to survive. Those who failed to review and adapt, were either bought out or shut down. The most well-known example is Lehman Brothers. The main lesson learnt is size does not matter when it comes to survival.  Economies of scale if they can be achieved, eventually reach a point where they become counterproductive. According to Margaret Heffernan, “we need organisations that are robust, that can survive the vicissitudes of political, social and economic change. Expecting any organisation to be infallible is madness. What we want are organisations that are functional – but can fail safely.”

The belief that size makes you invincible has been disproved again and again. Yet, people continue to believe that there is safety in numbers and that scale commands respect.  Large organisations lead to organisational complexity which makes it difficult for the company to fix itself. The voice of those involved in the operations or having proximity to the market is not heard and they are sometimes discouraged to provide feedback due to the steep hierarchies involved in those organisations.  As a result, changes in the trends of the market are not taken into account in time so that the organisation adopts more of a reactive attitude rather than a proactive attitude.

For smaller organisations, succession planning is a typical challenge faced by most founders. Tackling succession planning at an early stage is recommended if you are looking to leave your business/organisation as part of the legacy for future generations or for society at large. It is challenging to create the right blend of people to succeed to the founder(s). Most owners of SME’s or of small charities would rather continue on their own than invest time, energy and money to building a team that will end up leaving them after a few years or that may not live up to their expectations.

According to Margaret Heffernan, collaboration is hard because so little in our culture trains, rewards or even seems to notice great collaboration. True collaboration is characterized by passionate curiosity, modest confidence and mild obsession. Creativity and innovation is derived from the careful nurturing of relationships and a commitment to the long term. Trust requires constant communication. There is a lot of give and take.  The more power you delegate the more people feel they are empowered and as a result, they take ownership and will not let you down. What we need is to build the structures and processes, the habits and relationships that draw it out and make it grow.

Creativity clearly challenges the status quo and this is how new ideas and concepts emerge. You don’t learn when people tend to agree with you. You actually grow and learn when people challenge your beliefs and your way of doing things. It is then an opportunity for you to make your self assessment and learn from their point of view.  Great leadership is not the result of the efforts of one single individual. It is the ability to acknowledge and integrate the contribution that each person brings to the team.

It is also important to bear in mind that the success enjoyed by most organisations is the result of inspired teams made up of highly collaborative and creative individuals. The CEO or leader of any organisation can be a great visionary and highly charismatic individual but it takes more than that to materialise the inspired vision into a positive contribution to the performance of the organisation or to society at large. The idea that only a great leader can lead an organisation to success is not realistic. There is neither a single hero who can master the complexity of the economic environment nor one single brain who can comprehend the amount of data required to be analysed to make the right strategic decision.

As Margaret Heffernan explains in her book, A Bigger Prize, managing an organisation is not the same as running the 100m sprint where athletes can focus on short term goals to achieve perfection. “A competitive mindset may help you hit achieve tomorrow’s sales target or get through the week’s call sheet but it is a terrible way to manage complex projects over the lifetime of a business”.

Organisations are set up to implement a series of ideas be it for profit or for the greater good of society. Ideas come from people and people provide ideas when they are inspired. People are inspired when they are able to mix work with pleasure. 100% focus on work only creates a tunnel vision that does not have the necessary diversity needed for a human brain to think outside the box. Corporate cultures that encourages their workforce to stay long hours – exceeding 40 hours a week are actually putting a limit to productivity, Research has shown that working long hours for a number of years tend to lead to more mistakes and therefore, more resources spent to clean up the mess.

When the workplace is all about individual performances – the heroic soloist, the team is focused on competing with each other rather than competing with other companies. People are encouraged to “play safe” leading to “people pleasing” attitudes rather than striving for excellence and creativity, stifling innovation – much needed for the sustainability of any organisation. Every person craves for a sense of belonging and connectedness and an environment conducive to collaboration fulfils this very need. Employee loyalty and commitment is not solely linked to financial remuneration but also to the desire to belong to a group which personifies the values that they cherish and uphold as part of their overall identity.

The bigger prize is a creative activity that everyone in the organisation can own. People tend to focus on the bottom line when in truth; it is the implementation of a series of winning ideas that make an organisation thrive. Also, the most successful organisation has an inclusive approach when it comes to ownership. Employees, who have proved their commitment, are invited to be part of the shareholding of the organisation. When you own part of the organisation, you want everyone to be at their best. “When anyone wins, everyone wins”.

The book: “A Bigger Prize by Margaret Heffernan” has been used as reference for the write up of this post.

Managing Your Learning Curve

For the past few decades, the economic landscape has changed with the automation of many manufacturing processes. Online shopping, e books and internet banking has led to the closing of many high street shops/bookshops. Banks have cut down their number of retail outlets. Jobs such as running a printing press and shorthand are obsolete. Concepts such as digital marketing, tech entrepreneurship have emerged and their corresponding skills set are now “in demand”.

To survive in this new world, you cannot possibly be expected to have all the skills and knowledge needed throughout your entire career. Most people have had to adapt to the continuous change in their job requirements over the years. For one to have a successful career, you need to have retained the love of learning and exploration. Progress depends on new ideas and challenging the status quo. Having a creative and courageous mindset and being resilient when making mistakes are important. The ability to accept the unknown and to remember that we always have a choice of turning back and choose another route facilitates your learning curve. Being in touch your emotions allows you to check in with yourself and understand what your learning style is. Learning by doing is one approach. Mind mapping or listening to podcasts are other strategies used for learning.

As part of a team, you can leverage the collective wisdom of the team for your professional development. It is sometimes a good way to fast track your learning curve as each team member can contribute to the pool of knowledge and skills. This is why it is critical to acquire the skill to work within teams. A group of people with different skills set, personality types and life experiences working together allows for divergent thinking – generating as many solutions as possible.

However, not everyone enjoys working in teams and it takes a lot of hard work to be a great team player.  Groups of people may start as equals at first. Over time, a drift towards inequality of participation emerges with people segmented into roles and ranks: leader, moderator, chronic objector, advancing ideas, etc. Collaborative skills can be challenging to acquire for a number of people due to the nature of their personalities. Two most well known examples are

  • For some people, winning at all costs is what matters. Focusing on winning dampens creativity as trust, safety and fairness is not part of the equation. They are called “sociopaths”.They seek to dominate others and they fail to learn by experience.  Sociopaths are unable to change as they don’t see the need to and they tend to have poor judgement of wrongdoing.
  • People with Asperger Syndrome also have persistent difficulties with social interaction and communication. They process information differently from the “mainstream”. There are a number of strategies that they can use to communicate better. Contrary to a sociopath, someone with Asperger Syndrome can add huge value to a team if they are aware of their personality and have received training to make up for their lack of social skills.

Your learning curve can be fun if you are able to continuously fuel your internal motivation. For example: the energetic desire to make a great contribution or to make the most of what is given to you can facilitate your professional development.

This post has been inspired from the book: “A Bigger Prize” by Margaret Hefferman.

How Does My Dual Cultural Heritage Influence Business Practices?

How Does My Dual Cultural Heritage Influence Business Practices?

There are a number of us living at the cross roads of 2 or 3 cultures. We may have parents of 2 different nationalities and have grown up in a third culture. The most typical example would be that the parents or grand parents migrated to another country and have brought with them their ancestral heritage. Their children or grandchildren grow up with a mixed cultural heritage. Growing up as adults sometimes brings up a few soul searching questions as to who we truly are.

When Eny Osung and I met, our discussions inevitably led to Africa, a passionate subject for both of us as the continent brings up memories that have largely influenced our lives. I have spent a number of years travelling to various parts of Africa for work and Eny was brought up in Nigeria.

I have invited Eny to share with us how his cultural heritage has shaped his life.

How Does My Dual Cultural Heritage Influence Business Practices?

The Oxford Dictionary defines cultures as ‘The ideas, customs, and social behaviour of Ia particular people or society’. Coggins goes further in stating that ‘Culture is the values, attitudes, and ways of doing things that a person brings with them from the particular place where they were brought up as a child. By definition, culturally, I am a confused nomad as I have been brought up in two distinctly different cultures, United Kingdom and Nigeria. Perhaps you may conclude by the end of this post that I am better categorised as ‘culturally schizophrenic’ in my outlook and behaviours.

If asked, I would instinctively answer that I am more a man of rational decision-making based on the situation rather than conforming to any particular pattern of beliefs and behaviours. However, writing this post has been a journey of self-discovery, moving from assumptions through the process of analysing and documenting my ideas, approaches and practices in my life today as the owner and managing director of Small Business eMarketing Ltd, a growing digital marketing consultancy that I founded two years ago. I want to know am I quintessentially British or Nigerian in my outlook and behaviours? Am I the product of one dominant cultural influence or perhaps a mixed hybrid version of common beliefs and approaches of the two?

Answers to these questions matter in the context of Investopedia‘s assertion that “Corporate culture refers to the beliefs and behaviours that determine how a company’s employees and management interact and handle outside business transactions.

So within the context of being a business owner, the big question is whether the corporate culture I have developed, the way I treat people and run my company, is determined by the British or Nigerian culture? As with any journey of self-discovery, it is impossible to know exactly where I will end up. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the conclusion is that I am more of a freak than I care to believe.

Let’s start with a brief background of my childhood and how I came to be a British child raised in Nigeria and then living and growing old as a British adult into my now middle age. I will then examine the parts of my life where the evidence of cultural influences is clearly evident before concluding with insight into the effect of my cultural experiences on my business approaches and practices.


That’s me in the middle with sister (front) and uncle (right)


My story begins at birth to a pair of academically successful parents (Dad a doctor and mum a professor in a multinational food manufacturer) who moved to the UK in the late 1960s. Their busy work schedule and burning ambition saw my sister and I taken to Nigeria at the age of two and one respectively, to live with our maternal grandparents.

Mum and Dad soon divorced. Mum re-married a British man and started a new family. Inexplicably, she promptly forgot about us two children that were in Nigeria, apparently because we were safe and happy with our Grandparents. We had the good life in Nigeria, living as the privileged first grandchildren to a world-renowned Doctor and village royalty – Granddad owned several hospitals with orphanages for children whose parents were not able to care for them and was also a village Chief with large expansive compounds to boot. We spent our childhood befriending and playing with the children in the orphanages and the servants’ children.

After years of our father begging annually to be given custody of his children to bring back to the UK  we eventually left village life in Nigeria aged 11 (me) and 12 (my sister)  to live in Tooting, South London. Granddad would go on to be Nigeria’s Secretary of State for Health soon after we left the country. To our dismay, coming back to the UK soon saw the three of us living in one room in a Bed & Breakfast Hotel in posh Wimbledon Village. Spending the remainder of our childhood in state care as ‘looked-after’ children cemented this period as the most traumatic we had experienced up to then. My sister and I survived children’s homes and then foster care, before both moving into our accommodation (bedsits) on our 16th birthdays. So ours was a childhood of neglect as babies, followed by living in luxury with a sense of superiority over less-privileged children in Nigeria, to teenage years in the UK living a similar existence to the orphaned children we grew up with in Nigeria. At least we were somewhat prepared for the lifestyle reversal!

A degree and Masters later I have since married a British wife with whom I have three dual heritage children, Crystal, Perry and Kobias.


I am certainly thankful that my sister and I came back to the UK when we did as I fear the outcome of staying in Nigeria for even one more year and the difficulty that would have presented in my efforts to re-integrate into British society.

Looking back, I always identified myself as British even when I was a child because I was born in Woolwich, East London and always dreamed of coming back to the UK. In my mind, Nigeria was always going to be a stop-gap in my upbringing. I can admit that in my youth, I used my Britishness to justify my privileged status and lifestyle in my mind. I have often described myself as more British than most other British people because of my good spoken and written English as well as my enjoyment of British foods, values and general way of life.

Cultural influences

Now 30 years on it feels like the right time to reflect with eyes wide-open. Am I am more British or Nigerian in my outlook, beliefs and business practices?

Without a doubt, my childhood in Nigeria plays a large part in many things I enjoy and who I am. However, as I intimated earlier, I would like to think that my life experiences both in the UK and Nigeria define me in equal measure for reasons that I will outline in the remainder of this post. Let’s look at the evidence

Personal life

On a personal level, my upbringing in both Benin City and London has affected these areas of my life:


The Benz

Any Nigerian worth their salt is judged on one fact only: owning a Mercedes – it doesn’t matter how old or the condition of one’s Merc as long as you drive the car with that star on the bonnet. To paint a picture, Granddad only ever drove or travelled in his Mercedes. Furthermore, one of my uncles, Vasco was a very wealthy man who owned every Mercedes model from the two-door to the jeep, all gold-coloured, obviously. Yes, he had them all parked in his heavily protected garages every evening.

I can safely say that I achieved this Nigerian goal in my late 30s when I bought my Mercedes E240 Avantgarde. Now my quest for driving heaven has been satisfied, although admittedly, I break out in a cold sweat at the thought of what my next car should be – I cannot contemplate driving any other vehicle to make until my dying days.



I grew up with nine uncles and aunts in Nigeria – four doctors, two accountants, one architect and two lawyers. So education was always going to be a priority for the family and I. Learning and getting qualifications was even more of priority given the fact that Nigeria does not have free education at any level, so Granddad had to pay our fees. Furthermore, schooling is Nigeria is essentially a process of learning to pass exams as failure resulted in physical punishment, disapproval of the fee-payer and subsequently staying a year behind your age cohort, which could go on indefinitely. There was a 16-year-old man with disabilities, Elise, the Head servant’s son, who failed the end of year exams so many times and repeated year after year until I caught up with him when I was ten years old, for example.

I have approached and been relatively successful academically in the UK because I brought ambition to succeed academically as well as the skills to pass exams, thankfully. I lived for test and exam days at high school and university, with a little inherent interest in attending classes or the learning process itself. I was even awarded a Professional Doctorate at 21 years of age!



While I enjoy tasty fish and chips, Sunday roast, bangers and mash as much as any other British person, I have to admit that I would climb mountains for good old jollof rice and meat stew! Give me a plateful of incredibly slimy okra soup and pounded yam and I will be your friend for life! In fact, I am a sucker for anything with chicken and gizzard stew and rice or yam with cow foot stew (See pictures).

My passion for spicy Nigerian food is so strong that I keep healthy relationships with some Nigerian people for no reasons other than the fact that they are willing to cook my favourite dishes every so often.



Distrust of government

You’d have to be living in a very deep cave not to have heard about the plague of corruption that is virulent in Nigeria. In fact, David Cameron was recently caught discussing this with the queen. My experience of living in Nigeria is that corruption has and continues to cripple the country. It is endemic at all levels of Nigerian society from the average member of the public right up to government levels. Put simply; you have to pay someone a back-hander to get anything done.

Consider an entrepreneur who wants to open a new petrol station in the oil-rich country, which sounds straightforward, but is nothing of the sort! He would first have to buy the land for the petrol station, which cannot happen until he pays a bribe to the local chief to stave off unwanted attention from the authorities and criminal gangs. A bribe also has to cover the local Police for them to guarantee the safety of the enterprise. The risk includes staff, facilities, products, deliveries and operation. The State Governor obviously has to be paid off to give permission to the business, as does the relevant Secretary of State. Depending on how far the materials have to travel, it is likely that other chiefs, state police and regional officials also want their cut too.

Indeed it is hardly surprising that few people start innovative businesses in Nigeria.

The putrid corruption machine in Nigeria led me to have a deep distrust of government and authority as a child. For better or worse, this distrust is now part of who I am today. The effect is that I can’t bring myself to vote for any government that I believe is not on the side of the average man on the street -not the squeezed middle class but staunchly socialist and firmly on the side of ‘benefit man, wife and children’, even if that bankrupts the country.



My youngest son can’t help but accept his is partly Nigerian as he has a Nigerian middle name that he happily recites to my delight when asked his name. I have done my best to drum being the Nigerian into my children, spectacularly unsuccessfully in the case of my older twenty-something offspring.

I have deliberately stayed off the over-controlling practices that many Nigerian parents typically exhibit behind closed doors. They include routinely physically chastising children, believing that children should be seen and not heard, and assuming that they know best what is right for their children. The over-zealous parenting does not stop there. Add the dreadful insistence that the children must go to fee-paying private schools in Britain and a ridiculous demand that religious belief must be part of children’s control mechanism and you get the picture of ‘healthy’ love for children in Nigerian culture!

You will see the most Nigerian part of my parenting  in two areas:


  1. Good manners

My kids also know that I am a fanatic for manners – that the quickest way to cause a meltdown in the home is to forget to be courteous to anyone older than them. However, a simple ‘hello’ ‘good morning’ or ‘good afternoon’ virtually gives them a free pass to have a joyous day.


  1. Ambition and academic effort

Another essential part of my Nigerian identity that my children cannot ignore is my focus on academic effort. Again while I accept individual differences, they know that I will not accept anything less than them trying hard to do well in any academic task. Admittedly this has been a challenge for my two older children. Initially, I sought to make them adopt my values but quickly realised that doing so would require me to be everything I hated about the adults in my life when I was growing up – over-dominant and resorting to corporal punishment at the drop of a hat when they didn’t do things my way. However, it quickly became evident that taking a harsh stance with them was placing an enormous strain on our relationship so for better or worse, I chose to back off and used a light touch parenting technique instead.



One part of my Nigerian heritage that I have sought to leave behind is the irrational religious belief that appears to afflict Nigerians. As a child, I dressed up in my best clothes and went to church with the family every Sunday. I have to admit there was a sense of status turning up in our Mercedes and sitting in our allocated seats; such was my granddad’s influence and status in the community. I also admit that I regularly failed to put all of the money that grandad gave me into the collection bucket. Instead, I would sneak out to the shop to buy sweets/snacks.

My reasoning was simply that the church did not need the money given that the priest had his own Mercedes, a lovely big house and dressed far too smartly for a poor man. As I grew up, I began to see the church as a corrupt organisation that was part of the oppression of the people rather than a force for help and good. Materials I read about things like the slave trade and colonisation of the third world when I got back to England reinforced this belief. The incredible sight I witnessed when I went back to Nigeria as an adult in my early 20 further reinforced my doubts about the church. I saw the entire village trooping off to church several times a day with all of their worldly goods, including food, to give as offerings in exchange for Holy Communion.

The following poster beautifully captures my distrust of the church.

This distrust has fuelled my passionate belief in taking action to achieve anything in life or business. Never will anyone hear me pray to a divine being for anything, much less when things do not go as planned. My belief in taking action is one of the most important things I have actively encouraged in my children. We live by the mantra of self-sufficiency and taking personal responsibility for everything that happens; we never resort to praying or hope for divine intervention. I believe this has a massive impact on our outlook on life in that every day; we strive to be better and achieve more each day.


Impact of cultural heritage on business

Picking out discernible cultural-specific business practices is difficult. However, I will highlight three here that are important to me: Business with a conscience, customer service and management.

From as long as I can remember I have always had an entrepreneurial streak in me. My uncles and aunties reminded me that as a little boy, I started a business reselling sweats and food to other children with a huge markup, naturally. My struggle to understand why I am so determined to succeed as a business-owner in my current business was the hardest part of writing this post.

I eventually found the answer many months after I started writing in an article by Bisila Bokoko. It is that “African entrepreneurship is unique and laudable in the fact that at its core, profitability and gain are not bigger than the will to substantially improve living conditions of local communities… providing the impetus for economic growth and social equality.

Here’s how this entrepreneurial mindset plays out in my my digital marketing business.


Business with a conscience

Having spent most of my childhood playing with children in the orphanage in Nigeria, it was a stunner to find myself living on the other side as a child in care in the UK. I am enormously grateful to Social Services for actually raising me, regardless of the challenging experiences that go with the care system.  Both of these experiences have resulted in me having deep empathy with people, especially children, who are less fortunate. I turned my back on the typical Nigerian parent’s ambition for their child to be a doctor, accountant or lawyer, much to my father’s annoyance – determined to put right the wrongs of my childhood for children in care and disabled children. In fact, I spent 15 years (most of my adult life) managing Advocacy Services and doing business development roles for the charity until I set up my digital marketing consultancy.

My digital marketing company is motivated in large part by this empathy for those less empowered small businesses and start-ups who are handicapped my market forces in the digital marketplace. Put simply; most consumers are online these days, and if a business is not online, they are as good as finished. However, most local small business owners do not have the expertise to make the Internet work for them. Neither can they afford the exorbitant prices that many professional marketing agencies charge. As a consequence, local small business’ Do-It-Yourself (DIY) marketing typically leads to wasting ridiculous amount of time to stand still or worse still, lose money and sink. The alternative option is no more palatable because it involves spending a king’s ransom that they cannot afford with digital marketing agencies that do the bare minimum and more often than not, does not bring a Return on Investment.

You have to know Rachael’s story to understand what fuels my perspective.

Rachael’s story in brief

  • Child in care
  • Became her advocate at 13 years of age to secure funding for university course in contemporary dance
  • Advocated successfully on her behalf of financing for books, materials, course trips, accommodation on school holidays, etc.
  • Paid Rachael’s’ tuition fees for Masters course
  • Rachael starts company making handmade Union Jack brogues
  • Rachael can’t get buyers despite having a website, mentor and bank loans

The reality is Rachael is not the only entrepreneur with a brilliant idea and products for whom the Internet seems rigged against getting customers online, making a profit and growing their business. The plumber and electrician you know, and the local shop near your home, have the same problem as Rachael. The Digital economy is passing them by while the big businesses with large marketing budgets and teams dominate every sector – do a quick Google search for any area you like and you will see that only large companies appear in the top results!

I am driven to change the equation by providing professional results-driven digital marketing that will enable local small businesses to compete with the market leaders!  The challenge is finding the digital marketing formula that gets sales online consistently and replicating that cost-effectively to clients. My mission is to give 500 businesses the knowledge and services to reach their ideal customers online and get sales by 2020.

The following graphic illustrates the current situation of the company at the time of writing this post, two full years into my mission. 

This graphic is significant in highlighting the reality that the road to achieving our mission is a journey that involves continuous improvement and frequent changes of strategy based on applying the best knowledge and expertise that we have at any particular moment in time.


Customer Service

I am a staunch believer in exceeding customer’s needs and expectations. I exist to delight my clients and leave every one with better systems and processes to benefit in the digital marketplace. To that end, I am probably more American than either British or Nigerian in that sense as I feel both are lacking when it comes to delivering exceptional customer service as a norm.

My customer service ethos comes from some Harvard Business Review articles I came across in my early days in management consulting. We reflect this in our firm by the enormous sense of failure that we feel when a client leaves because we have not delivered to their expectations.

A forensic examination of what went wrong and ways to improve for the future typically follow these experiences. To be honest, it is usually one of many reasons that are not always down to our poor performance. The issues include not being clear about what we can deliver, and not explaining the complexity of achieving the client’s goals. On the other hand, the issue could be not being forceful in getting the client to do their side of the commitments to make marketing work, etc.

As you will see in the following section, we actively take steps to address the issues that arise in the business.



I have been to the proverbial entrepreneurial well and drank from it! I have lived the startup life in which every day was a challenge full of ups and downs, feast and famine, etc. To be honest, I quickly realised that trying to do everything myself was getting me nowhere except exhaustion and burnout. Something simply had to change!

That change came from talking to other business owners in the digital marketing sector and beyond. Perhaps business coaching has had the biggest influence on the way I run my business today. One of the first and best pieces of advice I got was to read books. Michael Gerber’s E-Myth was a massive eye-opener that gave me understanding of my journey up to that point and how to move forward.

I have since read many books and attended many coaching sessions that have emphasised being deliberate, structured and consistent in behaviours and actions being the foundations for growing a business. Implementing the strategies have involved getting rid of my lax approach to time that results in being late to every appointment which I blamed on African time.

Another essential part of managing my business is empowering my team by using participative management style. Other effective business practices I adhere to include documenting/testing/refining systems and adding more structure to everything I do by working to a set weekly diary, building a team, delegating tasks and working on my business.

I feel it is important to emphasise my dislike of paying tax –in fact any mention of the word or indeed HMRC brings me out in a terrible rash. That is not to say that I avoid paying the tax I have to pay. However, like most small business owners, I am happy to take advantage of any opportunity to delay and reduce my tax bill by any legal means necessary!



This post has been a therapeutic self-reflection in which I hope you agree have kept my promise not to be my judge and instead leave it to you to decide if my Nigerian or British upbringing primarily dictates my outlook and behaviours. Maybe you can see a mixture of both cultures or perhaps neither. I totally accept that I addressed this topic (cultural influences) based on personal and therefore anecdotal evidence. Doing so runs the risk of irking British and Nigerian people who may feel that my representation of the culture does not do justice to them. Rest assured, my aim is to inform, educate and entertain in equal measure.

Am I a cultural schizophrenic? It is over to you!



Eny Osung is Founder and Managing Director of Small Business eMarketing Ltd (http://smallbiz-emarketing.com), a Croydon-based digital marketing consultancy that provides email, social media, search optimisation, Pay-Per-Click, Video, and Mobile App marketing as well as coaching for small businesses to reach more people on the Internet.

He is passionate about helping business owners get essential services, knowledge and skills – which he satisfies through his marketing business, business networking group (South Croydon Omni Local Business network) and his podcast show: Eny’s Happy Hour that goes out on www.businessradio.co.uk at 12 pm every Wednesday





Bâtir Le Relationnel Sur Du Solide.

Aujourd’hui, l’interaction humaine prend une toute autre dimension. Il est facile de “se faire des amis” grâce à Facebook, Twitter, Instagram. On a l’impression de voyager à travers les continents en se liant à des gens habitant à l’autre bout du monde. Les relations deviennent éphémères et ne se construisent plus sur le vécu et sur le temps. Ce sont désormais les intérêts communs tels que le sport pratiqué et les loisirs qui sont mis en valeur par les photos prises et partagés en ligne. Se rencontrer pour prendre un café et discuter de tout et de rien n’est plus aussi important pour bâtir des liens solides.

Malgré ce changement social au niveau de l’interaction humaine, on se rend compte au fil du temps que certaines personnes vous ont influencé inconsciemment. Vous avez changé de perspective sur certains sujets. Vos habitudes quotidiennes ont évolué dans le temps, non pas parce que vous l’avez souhaité, mais par les conversations que vous avez eues avec vos amis.

Le relationnel a un effet catalyseur pour la connaissance de soi. Il y a eu de nombreux philosophes tels que Socrates qui ont prêché la connaissance de soi pour faire des meilleurs choix dans la vie. Aucune personne n’arrive dans votre vie par accident. Il y aura toujours un échange qui aura lieu. Cela peut être des leçons à tirer ou un partage de connaissance ou des moments inoubliables à partager.

Toute personne rencontrée est un miroir de votre subconscient. Votre subconscient régit vos attitudes, vos croyances et valeurs. Chaque amitié ou relation met en valeur un ou plusieurs aspects de votre subconscient. Vous avez un choix d’en interpréter et d’en faire usage de la leçon à tirer ou de ne pas en tenir compte. Certaines leçons reviennent sans cesse jusqu’à que vous soyez prêt à bien les retenir.

En jetant un regard sur votre passé, vous allez peut être vous rendre compte qu’il y a eu des moments où vous avez souhaité prolonger une amitié sans succès. Il est possible que certaines personnes existent dans votre vie pour une raison quelconque. Une fois que cette raison n’existe plus, la personne part de son propre accord. Il arrive que les liens se détériorent et, malgré tous les bons moments partages ensemble, il est mieux de laisser partir la personne. Vous faites ainsi place pour d’autres personnes pouvant contribuer positivement à votre vie. C’est toujours douloureux de terminer une amitié qui n’a plus de sens. Il est cependant souhaitable de continuer votre route avec des personnes pouvant mieux vous comprendre et vous soutenir dans vos efforts.

Se culpabiliser pour avoir “abandonné” certains de vos amis ne vous apporte rien. La vie est faite de choix difficiles et nécessaires à votre bien-être. Construire votre vie en renforçant votre confiance en soi vous donne les moyens d’être heureux et de faire des rencontres qui valorisent votre bien-être émotionnel, intellectuel et physique.

<emLibérez-vous des ressentiments que vous pourriez avoir à l’encontre de certaines personnes, ceux qui vous ont blessé dans le passé. Les rancœurs n’amènent à rien de bon. Construire son avenir sur de la colère ou l’utiliser pour se motiver à aller plus loin est la même que bâtir les fondations d’une maison sur du sable mouvant. Prenez votre temps à vous pardonner d’avoir fait le mauvais choix ou d’avoir été aveugle aux comportements malsains de certaines personnes.

En écoutant votre cœur et votre instinct, vous sauriez au fil du temps vous entourer de personnes ayant les mêmes perspectives de vie. Votre instinct vous poussera des fois à faire des choix difficiles et c’est en les faisant que vous allez être plus en contrôle de votre vie.

La vie est un lieu d’apprentissage et c’est en faisant des mauvais choix qu’on devient plus sage!

Doing What You Do And Why.

Your life is always made up of a maze of relationships: how you relate to people you meet, how you relate to your business or job, how you interpret events going around you. Everything in your life is all about managing, building and letting go of relationships. Some relationships are easier to let go and some others come around smoothly. Relationships are great places to learn, to raise self awareness, to acquire new skills. So pace your learning and be kind to yourself if you have made the wrong choices in the past. The most important thing is to begin with a sincere intent.

The Law of Attraction states that you attract what you are. It means that you attract clients, business associates, co workers or friends having similar emotional states as yours. There are times when you think of someone and that person just happens to be calling you. You are both at similar emotional states and given that you have thought of that person, you both meet “accidentally”. It is the same principle when it comes to explain the state of your business. Life is, generally, a reflection of who you are. It is sometimes difficult to interpret from what you see, feel and hear. Put this need of understanding aside. Let things be until clarity comes. It will always come at the time you most need it.

Any relationship is, therefore, the product of your thoughts and your emotional state. If you don’t like what is happening around you, change your thoughts – something that is easier said than done, I agree! You won’t always get it right and you may have to try it a few times before the desired changes come around. There are times when you won’t even achieve your goals. It is important to let go of the need of being always on target.

There will be days when you will feel you have not given your best or your ego has got the better of you. It is OK. You are learning to honour your personal power. Your personal power is your ability or should I say, your skill to create desired opportunities. You are not waiting on the sidelines for things to happen. You are actively co creating by focusing on the actions that you can do to make it happen.

Your ego, sometimes, gets in the way. It will tell you “why are you doing this?” “You should not be the one having to do this” or “What right do they have to treat me like this?” It is true that mutual respect should be expected from your interactions from others. However, you don’t control the attitude of others nor can you impose your will on others for your own vested interests.

Resilience is one of the most useful traits to have when you are moving on from past mistakes. Resilience is about being determined to pursue a balance between the heart and your ego. Both are needed in this world to succeed and live fully. There is no way you will find satisfaction or happiness in what you do and achieve if you are constantly led by your ego. Happiness is a state of mind. You can be happy right now or you can continuously postpone your happiness for the sake of your ego.

Your daily interaction with the world forces you to do a reality check every day about your why. It is important to remind yourself why you are creating this maze of relationships. Is it worth all the efforts you are putting in? Is it to impress some people or is it because your heart is in it?

A few people would rather give up at certain point and choose the easiest option – to be driven by their ego, fears and doubts. This is because, for many people, running a business is a means to an end. When this end has been met, they don’t understand why they can’t go any further or why things become a chore. Doing business should be something that your heart feels part of. It can actually be a work of art for you – something to be proud of and to pass on to the next generation of entrepreneurs or a source of inspiration and learning for others or it can be a driver of positive changes.