In my previous life, my dress code was very simple and could neatly be summed up in four words: whatever I felt like. In the early years, this was often a pair of nondescript trousers and a T-shirt. Later, it morphed into jeans and the occasional khakis and short-sleeved shirts. The truth though is I could as well have worn shorts everyday and it would have been well. Especially in the early days. As a matter of fact, I clearly remember one of the expats, Keith, that played a huge role in the initial network rollout was always decked in the tiniest shorts I’ve ever seen. Together with his multi-pocket khaki shirts and safari boots, he always looked more of a game ranger or American tourist than the talented engineer he was.
Today (Monday) however, I spent the day in conventional gentleman slacks, a long sleeved striped shirt and a tie. Now, any of my friends reading this will no doubt struggle to visualise this and so I’m compelled to place the evidence below.
See – friends – life has changed dramatically from last week and my new world demands corresponding huge changes. Not just in dressing, but in how I & my team think and how we do things. At the beginning of last week, I was part of a team of hundreds (tens of thousands if you think of the entire Group) with millions of customers & multi-billion budgets. And we could rely on the input/output of partners and vendors with similar or greater resources. And for most of my time, my work was only about interacting with the “machines” as we Ugandans are wont to say. Never was I the “face” of the company; there were far more qualified people for that.
Today, it’s a completely different picture. Instead of being one in thousands, I’m one of three plus two part-timers. Yes, one-two-three. Like that beloved spreadsheet of old Lotus 123 :-). And, gulp, I’m the team leader. So there’s no two ways about it – I’m one of the faces of the firm. And today was all about starting to connect with existing customers. The product we’re selling isn’t new. It’s basically been a hobby of mine for a while. Unfortunately, a hobby is just that – a hobby. It is so easy for complacency to set in. And so, naturally, some of the customers we’d acquired haven’t been very happy with us. Thus the long sleeved shirt and tie. After all, if you’re trying to soothe nerves and establish long term business relationships, you don’t want that first glance to count against you. Even if your personal comfort is somewhat compromised.
One of the customers we visited wasn’t happy because of prior issues. How relieved I am that I can now devote 100% of my time and resources to win him over again. This is what was behind the decision to plunge into this world full time. It definitely won’t be easy but I’m relishing the challenge…