Four important points every youth should keep — Chris Kirubi

Chris Kirubi is one of Kenya’s wealthiest businessmen. His holdings include a 27% stake in Centum, a $460 million (Market cap) Nairobi Stock Exchange-listed investment company, a 49% stake in Haco Tiger Brands which manufactures food and beauty products, the DHL franchise in Kenya and extensive commercial and residential real estate in Nairobi.

Mr Kirubi gives out four important points every youth should keep with them if they want to be successful in business.

Here are the points:

Your grammar will cost you.

Watch out young people, your grammar will cost you and most likely be the barrier between your business proposal, resume or meeting request being acknowledged. I am seriously concerned about the grammar young people choose.

dear chris,

how r u? am looking for an appointment to meet u coz i hv a great biz idea. I finishd skul bt hv no job. plz gimme 5min of ua tym. am lukin 4wrd to ua response. thx.

There is everything wrong about such a message.  Anyone in their right frame of mind will ignore it simply because the author has chosen to forego the formalities of business communication and instead use familiarity to express him or herself.

Businessmen like me often come across numerous requests from young people. Unfortunately, most of them go unread simply because of the grammar used on the subject line or in the body of the email.

Your and you’re (you are), its and it’s (it is), am and I’m (I am) all mean two different things. These are some of the few examples I have seen on emails. The Web gives you the resources needed to correct your grammar but you totally ignore this. This not only tells me that majority of us are ignorant but are also not willing to equip themselves with knowledge that will better their lives.

My young friends, any sensible person will continue to ignore you should you choose this mode of communication. I have no business wasting my time on those who do not wish to respect me or observe business ethics/etiquette.

Why should I trust you with a role in my organization or with funds for your business yet you cannot be responsible enough to use good grammar when it matters the most. How will you handle you daily responsibilities if you cannot communicate effectively?

I am aware that social media has simplified our way of communicating but this should not be an excuse for you to use short forms or slang when you are seeking professional guidance or assistance. It is a crime to write a professional email using short form or any form of slang. When it’s business, let’s do business. Keep your personal life and actions away from business.

Lao Tzu once said, “Watch your actions for they become your habits…”. Additionally when you continuously execute a certain action or way of doing things, it becomes habitual. If you continuously write using short forms, more often than not you will realize that you have embraced this mode of writing. Thus, you are better off sticking to the usual grammar and the thought of being referred to as old school so that your grammar is not affected.

Business aside, I still would not tolerate this mode of communication. It costs you nothing to write proper grammar so you may as well use it. Besides, it’s pleasing to the eye as opposed to the short forms.

Remember, when it comes to business, we are not friends. It pays to be formal and courteous when you are seeking guidance or assistance from anyone. Do not conform to what you see. Be your own person because in the end, you will sit alone in the interview room or when meeting potential investors.

Do the right by yourself and those around you. If you want to be taken seriously then be serious, sincere and focused in everything you do.


Don’t let ‘the paper’ limit your success.

Early in the year, some of you came across the article with the headline;

“Ernst and Young drops degree classification threshold for graduate recruitment.”

This came as a shock to many of us but for some, it was a wake-up call. This move saw other ‘Big’ employers and recruitment firms in the world remove degree classification from the entry criteria. Most companies cited that, there’s ‘no evidence’ University equals to success. I somewhat share the same sentiments, however I would not like to disqualify the need of pursuing education at a tertiary level.

Don’t let your degree or lack of having one define or limit you. It’s what you do with the knowledge you have that matters.

While most of us had or have the opportunity to go to University, there are those who did not. If you have the opportunity to pursue University education then by all means do so. Do not be ‘misled’ by the above because you have an opportunity to acquire knowledge. However, choose a course that is in line with your passion because we do not want you wasting time and resources in the name of just getting a degree.

Specialization is key and the knowledge you convert is more relevant than if you studied general studies. General studies are good up to a certain level but learn to specialize and be valuable in one area.

For those who did not have the chance to go to University, all is not lost. A lot has changed over the years. Gone are the days where your papers were the only qualification for getting a job. Nowadays, companies take in young people and train them. Learn to maximize on that.

I have always said that, “I employ for attitude and train for skill. If you have a guy without the right attitude, their skill will not help you because they are irrelevant to your business.” I pay attention to your attitude, body language and tone of voice in an interview because they communicate who you are and tell me if at all I can work with you. Let me employ you because of the passion and persistence you display.

How you market and present yourself will always determine whether one will want to employ you. This also includes internship and contract jobs. At the end of the day, what value are you adding to the company and those you work with?

The Internet is your best friend and best source of information. You can use it to empower yourself with knowledge. Your success in life will be determined by how well you use the knowledge you possess.

Success does not mean that you must have certain qualifications. It is inbuilt and according to what your drive is. Everyone has a dream but not everyone has the courage, tenacity and persistence to see their dream through. You must push yourself each day to achieve your dream of success.

Lastly, there is no end to education. Life is a learning curve and you can never stop learning. You cannot do today’s job with yesterday’s methods and be in business tomorrow. You must keep learning new methods and ways of doing things to keep abreast with the world’s ever changing trends.


Leave your ego at home.

What’s your attitude towards others particularly those not as smart as you or in the same social class as you? Do you believe you can learn from them or identify with them? Additionally, are you ready to take instructions from those younger than you, of the opposite gender or those brought in to work with you on certain projects?

Nothing is constant at the workplace. Your boss may bring in another employee or team to assist you in managing a project or for particular tasks. This does not necessarily mean that you are not a high achiever or capable of handling the work load. It only means that he/she believes that your work output will be much stronger together and wants the best from both of you. It does not call for competition.

Working with others is not easy and at the same time, not difficult. If you have a know-it-all attitude, do not appreciate correction or only think you can learn from those smarter than you, then your learning opportunities will be very limited. You must learn to humble yourself if you want to keep learning and achieve success.

When I got an opportunity to go abroad and pursue further studies, I found myself in a classroom where majority of the students were younger than me. It may have taken me some time to adjust but it was important that I remain open minded for the sake of achieving my purpose. Learning from people’s experiences and sharing knowledge makes it worthwhile. Your area of weakness could be someone else’s area of strength. Working together in harmony will help you achieve more and hasten your learning process.

Generally, learn to be secure. Those with low self-esteem try to put others down to feel good about themselves. Don’t be one of them.

Be open minded. There is a lot to learn from others including your juniors at work, subordinate staff or someone in a lower social class than you. They may not be dressed in the latest designer wear or be well educated, but their experiences have made them wiser and you can learn a lot from them. All you have to do is give them the opportunity and let them feel good about themselves. Humility is not about you but what you do for others and how you make them feel. It’s about others experiencing ‘less’ of you.

The last thing the workplace needs is a competition of egos because that will get in the way of productivity. Work alongside those you are made to work with and when you are in a team, give everyone a chance even those less vocal, to make a contribution

Seeking help doesn’t necessarily mean that you are weak. You just lack information about a particular subject or situation and would want some sort of clarification. You have nothing to lose but if you let your pride and a low self-esteem get in the way, you may as well have everything to lose.

We all have something to learn from each other. Don’t bring disgrace to your life because of pride. Embrace humility/ modesty, for it comes with wisdom.

No job is too low or too little.

“No job or opportunity is too ‘little’ or ‘low’ for you to do and be successful. It’s all in the mind.”

I once said this owing to the fact that many young people do not want to start from the bottom of the food chain. It is sad when graduates would rather stay jobless than accept an offer that has a small allowance or no pay at all. I am not advocating that you should work for free but I need you to understand that starting out as a volunteer, intern, reliever etc., could get you a job in the same company. What you do with that opportunity is what really matters.

No one ever started from the top. Even heirs of royalty had to go through school, work hard and probably go through internships for them to graduate. Our starting points may be vary but we all began from somewhere and soared to different destinations.

It takes time to improve your skills, build a credible image and gain the experience you need to climb higher. Starting small humbles you and makes you appreciate the opportunity you have. This pushes you to work hard and aim for that which you want to achieve. You need to have a plan and see how that opportunity can make you successful.

The so called ‘odd’ or subordinate jobs are jobs like any other. People are trained and as they continue to carry out their duties, they enhance their skills the same way you do each day behind that desktop. You should not look down on anyone because of their job or pay grade. You never know where they will end up or when the tables will turn.

Many of my employees began as interns who did not earn a single shilling at that time. Some took up ‘odd’ jobs just to earn a penny but that did not deter their hope of becoming successful. Currently, most are now senior employees and Directors in various companies and multinationals.

Even when you do not have the necessary education qualifications, you can invest your time in gaining as much experience as possible and build an outstanding portfolio. Get your feet wet by looking around for opportunities that will make you succeed. Use the internet to better your knowledge and skills

It does not matter if you are a businessman/woman, CEO or whatever your pay grade is. Your level of passion, determination and hard work is what will push you to succeed. While you shouldn’t let ‘the paper’ limit your success, you shouldn’t let the type of job limit your success.

Work with pride knowing that what you do today will determine what will happen tomorrow.

No job is too little. Start from somewhere and grow to the top. If you are that good then the type of job will not limit your potential. Success will be so eminent that people will recognize you.