Advice from Omar Mandera the man behind Café Javas

spent the whole afternoon with a friend, mentor and father figure, Omar Mandela, the man behind the Mandela Group (Cafe Javas, City Oil, City Tyres but a few).

Couple of days back, I made a tweet about Cafe Javas that spread around. It is one place that consistently stands out for excellence. Contrary to what we think, Cafe Javas doesn't sell a product or service, it sells an experience and consistently replicates that experience everytime you pass by.

Mandela told me; "Son everyone will tell you it's about hard work, but that is easy. The hard part is honesty. If you can be honest not just to other people but also to yourself, you've cracked half of the puzzle."

If for example Cafe Javas says it's fresh juice, be certain it is 100% fresh fruits. Not 99% but 100%. They make that promise to themselves that they will offer you the best. And they do this by paying attention to the smallest of details. "Don't try to cut corners. Do the hard things while it is still easy. You take short cuts to money, those short cuts will swallow you at some point.

"My son, those things you see as small, over time, they become big errors. Do the smallest of things the right way."

He then emphasized; "Please don't rush. Young people want to go fast, but then they end up with a lot of scars. Know where you are going but focus on the work at hand, do it to perfection."

When he started off, it was spares. He focused on doing that so well and then moved to tyres. In a few weeks, he will unveil the next big project. It is state of art.

He told me of how we used to drive an old Corona for years even when he'd become rich and once in a while foot, and hear people speak behind his back; "huh, Mzee nga awedemu."

"But you see my son, I learned to close my ears.  Just close your ears as long as you are clear about what you are chasing. So what if your friends are buying cars and building houses? Stick to your plan. Don't panic to do something because everyone is doing that. I know it is not easy but if you train yourself to close your ears once you are clear on your path, it is the best longterm strategy. Most people that seemed to be going so fast back then are nowhere today. Get the foundations right."

And he consistently coaches his employees. He says it is okay to make a mistake, but rather than hearing someone apologize for it, they should tell him what they have learned going forward.

He kept emphasising; "Son, I beg you, don't rush, you will crash. Doesn't matter how fast your peers seem to be moving, doesn't matter what everyone is saying, consistently follow a certain path. But build everything on honesty, it will never go out of demand. It is the best and most sustainable competitive advantage you can have."

In just hours, I had a degree in business drilled into my head in the simplest of ways. But above everything, you can't help but admire his humility and simplicity.

When old men speak, you don't just hear, you listen!

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