By Moureen Ojambo,
We had an opportunity to interview Wangombe Gathondu, Avantis Services Limited Chief Operations Officer on how one can achieve success and this is what he shared with the Business today team.
1. What is your name, where do you work and what position do you occupy there? What’s the business all about? What does it deal in? What makes your business unique?
Thanks for the opportunity. Call me Wangombe Gathondu. I work at Avantis Services Limited as the Chief Operations Officer.
Avantis is an aggregated service provider in the fields of IT systems, Insurance and fleet management.
Uniqueness in the business is twofold: first is the people we have, who are passionate and diligent; second is how we use technology in transforming how conventional industries such as insurance and fleet management operate.
The insurance services are tailored to organizations of all types and sizes, focused on their assets and people. The products offered may seem, again, conventional, but they have been structured in a manner that enables our stakeholders derive the greatest value from them. These include motor, property and plant, employee benefits, cargo and even stock.
The fleet management services enable our stakeholders to obtain valuable information about all the different aspects of their operations, with which they are then equipped to make rational decisions in line with their ultimate goal.
All these we do through an elaborate IT infrastructure that then accelerates achievement of the desired goal. We are going a step further in the near future to systematize our school systems. More information on this will be divulged as it developed.
2. What has been your greatest milestone and how did you come to achieve it? (Please be detailed with a personal example.) What lesson can people learn from this?
My greatest milestone is the fact that I worked for my first employer the largest leasing firm in the region. The firm was under the leadership of a great mentor and visionary from whom there was and still is a lot to learn from him. I consult him time to time.
The firm gave me the opportunity to interact with various corporate and industry leader. It gave me the experience I needed to get started at upward path. My legal background gave me the opportunity to lead most partnership agreements and therefore learn along the way.
Lessons: Humility and loyalty is key when working for and with people. This has been my greatest asset. We work in a tough environment however you need how to deal with every pressure that comes without burning bridges.
3. What has been your secret to building your career, business or wealth that you wish other Kenyans out there can learn from? How did you get where you are?
There is no secret. What works for me won’t work for you. However the basic ingredient of success in anything you do boils down to what I will term as PhD (Perseverance Hard work discipline. Success is not an overnight event. It is a process. I also dedicate a lot of what I have achieved so far to my supportive family. We have always leveraged on our competencies.
4. From your personal experience, what is the secret to making it? Where do you think many Kenyans go wrong?
I am still on the path to success, but I believe that a number of factors have to come together for anyone to achieve success. Good luck is an important one, but seldom acknowledged. Regardless of how much you prepare, are qualified, are connected etc, there has to be an element of luck involved. The people around you are another important factor. The team you work with, your suppliers, clients, financiers and other stakeholders in the business are all crucial. And for ultimate success, you need a solid family, from immediate to extended, it’s the unit on which the entire society is built.
5. What has been your biggest money mistake? What did you learn from this?
Biggest money mistake: when I was much younger, I bought some products that were part of a pyramid scheme because of how attractive the returns were presented. I lost my investment’, the rest is history. Of course you know in life we learn the hard way. As we grow up we have to make mistakes here and there. You know if you don’t make mistake you make nothing. We learn from experience some of the time.Lesson: there is no shortcut to financial stability. You have to make sound judgement before you invest.
6. What has been your biggest loss in your career and what did you learn from this? (Please be detailed with a personal example.) How do you think losses should be handled or mitigated?
Every person has moments of failure. I personally feel that failures shape you for the better. I have had my share of failures or mistakes in my life. The most significant one was I was heading Marketing department in a reputed organization just at the beginning of my career. As a young legal professional just fresh from school, I was charged with responsibility where I had to review all the contracts and ensure there is no loophole and at the same time communicate in person with prospective clients to seal the deal. We had a whole team working continuously to cold call as many clients as possible, for which each of us were given a list of client names and contact numbers. At the end of the day, we had to come up with three interested parties. On a busy day, I was done with two of my targets and moved on to the third. As I wanted to get it done as quickly as possible, I overlooked some details which were necessary to explain. Eventually, just before the end of day, this prospective client refused my deal which was a huge setback to our target. I understood the gravity of my mistake and contacted the client again on the following day, and I made sure to apologize and also cleared out each and every point with precision. The client eventually agreed to the deal after a week and the load was finally off my shoulders. Yes, I messed up in the first place but I discovered fresh confidence after clearing up the mess.
How do you think losses should be handled or mitigated?
It should be taken as part of the learning curve. However an error should never be consciously repeated. It is only a mistake the first time. Second time is not a mistake but ignorance. This applies all through when you are doing either a small or a big project. Therefore, risk mitigation strategies and specific action plans should be incorporated in the project execution plan, or risk analyses are just so much wallpaper. Losses mitigation plans should comprise;
Characterize the root causes of the losses that have been identified and quantified in earlier phases of the loss management process.
• Evaluate loss interactions and common causes.
• Identify alternative mitigation strategies, methods, and tools for each major losses.
• Assess and prioritize mitigation alternatives.
• Select and commit the resources required for specific loss mitigation alternatives.
• Communicate planning results to all project participants for implementation.
7. Looking back, if you were to start all over again, what are some of the things you’d do differently?
I would rather not speculate. Everything I have done so far has led me to where I am now. Would I have been better off if somethings were done differently? Maybe and maybe not, I guess we can never know. What to do is learn as much as possible from the experiences we go through and apply the lessons in the most productive manner
8. Which method do you use to save? Is it effective? How? Which method did you previously use that wasn’t effective?
I always believe the best way to save is to invest what you have in business. When you invest it grows faster than when keeping the money is some fixed deposit account. Also as an insurance crusader the best way to save to protect yourself in time of losses or great need is to take insurance covers and that is the reason I founded Avantis.
9. Entrepreneurship versus employment: which one would you advocate for? Why?
I would not be a proponent of either as a matter of opinion or advice. There are too many variables, but at the end of the day, it simply has to be a blend of both.
10. What’s your parting shot? What is that heart advice that you have learned on life and money from other senior persons?
There is no blue print to life. Everyone simply needs to assess their situation, analyse it rationally, and make coherent decisions based on facts and act. The rest should fall into place. If that place happens to have a bit of extra coin in it, invest in avenues you are passionate about and have an understanding in. The balance, go back to the reasons of success above, and use that balance to make life better for them.