Introducing our first “Karisimbi Associate”

Karisimbi Partners aims to help clients reach the pinnacle of their potential, and this is one of the reasons we have named our company after Rwanda’s highest peak. Given some of the business sectors we have initially engaged, however, it is clear that some of our clients require the guidance of someone with particular technical skills we do not possess. As such, we have invited people we call “Karisimbi Associates” to help us guide our clients toward their full potential. Below is a story about Kiah Jordan, the first Karisimbi Associate we invited from North America to work alongside one of our client companies. Kiah works in commercial property management and financial planning in Santa Barbara. He is also a former student of mine and I recently worked with him on a consulting project in Santa Barbara, California, so I knew he could make a significant contribution at Misteph & Co., a client of our with a residential real estate firm poised to become one of the first “property management” companies in Rwanda. We hoped he could offer industry-specific insights that were critically needed at just now as this initiative was launched. The following brief interview highlights how things progressed over the 10 days Kiah spent in Kigali working with Misteph & Co.:

What did you want to do or expect before arriving in Rwanda to work with Karisimbi Business Partners?

I expected to use my career specific skills in a very focused environment, with a short time to accomplish a lot. I planned on working with Karisimbi Partner’s client on my own for the majority of the time and to be resourceful in quickly adapting to the needs of the client and the culture. I expected there to be very little structure in the client’s industry and that I would need to build the process and procedure within the context of the client’s needs. Lastly, I expected Rwanda to be much more primitive and more like the barren dry pictures of Africa that we often see in the western hemisphere.

What did you find when you arrived in Rwanda?

I found that Kigali was a relatively developed city and Rwanda was green and had many key resources and a climate that could sustain agricultural development. There was a market already created for real estate, however, it was unregulated, informal, and lacked consistency and efficiency. The specific needs of Misteph & Co. were split between targeting initial clients and building the processes and structures to support them. Misteph & Co. had a great vision and passion for future development, but needed the practical tools that would allow sustainable growth within the company and expansion of the company’s role in the forming real estate sector.

What did you do in Rwanda with Karisimbi Business Partners? 

I went to Rwanda to work with Misteph & Co. to provide the specific skills they needed… establishing a new company in a new sector. What a thrill to work with the first real estate company in Rwanda specializing in sales and property management! I spent a significant amount of time learning about the Kigali real estate market, initially meeting and trying to understand the various ‘players’: the builders/developers, sellers, financiers, property owners, and potential clients. I trained the office administrator in Quickbooks and setup the proper accounts for bookkeeping. Since government regulations and industry guidelines have not yet been fully developed for this sector, there are no standard contracts, so I helped create contracts for leasing, listing, and property management. I helped a website developer create the company website. My time in Rwanda was full and there was so much more to do than could be accomplished in the time available, but the contribution to Karisimbi Partners and their client was substantial and the experience to me was priceless.

Indeed, being able to mobilize our contacts and friends like Kiah turns out to be one way we can propel clients toward their potential in a short period of time. Kiah proved particularly valuable, given his deep experience in a particular sector, familiarity with living in a developing country, and possessing the humility and other character traits required to adapt his knowledge in the best way possible. As a way of saying “thank you” our client treated Kiah to a day trekking through the mountains to see gorillas (Rwanda’s #1 tourist attraction). Also, the founder of Misteph & Co. may soon visit a real estate brokerage (another contact of ours) in America to understand how things are done in a more mature market.

We find ourselves uniquely situated to connect real business experts to the real business needs of our client companies. It is difficult to think how our first Karisimbi Associate could have been more effective, and we are convinced this is something we should do more often… so drop us a line if you feel you our clients may benefit from the excellent business competencies YOU have to offer.

Onward and upward,

Time Flies Differently Here

For many years, scholars in the field of international management have highlighted the significant cultural differences one must face in understanding various orientations to the concept of time. In countries known as ‘sequential’ or ‘monochronic’ (e.g. the United States), appointments are kept, one thing leads to another and schedules generally do not deviate from the plan. In ‘synchronous’ or ‘polychronic’ cultures, appointments may be held simultaneously, start late, and end even later. The latter group of cultures tends to place a higher value on relationships than on meeting deadlines or pre-determined schedules. In case it isn’t already clear, Rwanda is a polychronic culture. Perhaps nowhere is this clearer than in surveying the meetings we have (or do not have) on the calendar each day. To give you a glimpse, allow me to share some of my favorite reasons scheduled meetings have been missed in recent weeks…

Ranking (Time Explanation Received) and Rationale for Delay

#12 (30 minutes before scheduled start)“Actually, because of the Umaganda holiday, we are not allowed to meet until after noon”

#11 (During meeting) “I apologize- the medication I am on makes it very difficult to stay awake”

#10 (1 hour after scheduled start) “We could not meet this week because of the death in the family”

#9 (3 hours after scheduled start) “He has a delegation of Americans he is showing the factory… stay there and he may come eventually”

#8 (45 minutes after scheduled start) “The line at the bank was terrible this morning”

#7 (1 hour & 2 hours after scheduled start) “I’m on my way coming”

#6 (2 hours after scheduled start) “His Excellency, the President, urgently asked to see a report today from my (govt.) agency”

#5 (8 hours before scheduled start) “I forgot- I need to drive two hours to see my dentist at that time”

#4 (15 minutes after scheduled start) “I was waiting for the rain to stop so I could catch a moto-taxi”

#3 (1 hour before scheduled start) “He would like to be there, but he must organize his daughter’s wedding today”

#2 (30 minutes after scheduled start) “My house and business burned down last night… could we re-schedule?”

#1 (15 minutes after scheduled start) “I know we confirmed the meeting last night, but I forgot I’m getting married this morning and need to submit some documents”

Thankfully, we have learned to laugh and roll with such delays. On any given day, it seems four scheduled meetings will materialize, two will not and at least one will be added impromptu. Any given in-person meeting may be interrupted by between two to eight mobile phone conversations or texts. For us, patience and flexibility is key. Thankfully, Rwandan businesses are aware of their need to honor schedules better if they are to be deemed serious. In a small country like this, ‘gatekeepers’ are rare, and there is perhaps nobody you could not schedule a meeting with if you tried. But no matter which Rwandans you intend to meet, you should not be surprised to hear excuses such as those we’ve listed here.

Onward and upward,