While standing in the queue for my visa interview at the American Embassy in Nairobi, on a chilly July 1st morning, I read from the embassy public TV that the quintessential CEO of Safaricom Kenya, Bob Collymore, was dead. I had never met the gentleman, professionally or socially, he didn’t know me, and I didn’t know him.
Yet, I was immensely touched by the news of the man’s demise. Perhaps – my personal feelings, are some kind of karma, depicting the good, beyond the corporate work that this Guyanese born quintessential CEO and socio-preneur, brought to Kenya and was about to extend to the broader great-lakes region and beyond.
If memory serves me right, I never have been witness to such outpouring of sorrow, as the case is for the death of the Safaricom Plc CEO. Both the corporate and social worlds in Kenya mourned a little more than is the norm. The newspapers, social-media outlets, radios, and TV all run the story when it broke on Monday morning and continue to do so, days after Collymore’s cremation. A typical case of ‘high-voltage’ mourning
Going by the photos in the newspapers and other online media outlets, this gentleman’s deeds touched every section of society – the Corporate, where he earned his bread and butter and an incredibly unique personal brand, children in school and slams, senior governance positions locally and globally, the advocate for the vulnerable, a socialite in Kenya’s high circles, etc. As described by many, Collymore was the titan in the Kenya corporate world
Yet even with such profound visibility and value to society – Collymore was simply a statistic at the company.
Only a few hours into his death, and before his cremation – the company, Safaricom Plc named Bob’s successor, albeit temporary, and also went ahead with a public announcement. Quite a statement on the effective running of companies and management of collective wealth – and why not? After all, we are talking laissez-faire economics
Those that are in charge of companies, Safaricom Plc, and others – have to address the immediate existential threat to the companies they lead. First, by ensuring stability and as little turbulence as possible; in the case of Safaricom Plc, attention had to be paid to the company valuation on the stock exchange before anything else – it’s blood for the company, and not one of us, especially when dead.
Yes, the above is a poignant reminder to you all, especially if employed by others. It doesn’t matter what you did, how you did it, when you did it, who you did it for – as long as you aren’t running your own company, upon death – you are quickly forgotten, and the company moves on with its other life.
From afar, in Natete Uganda, my baby sister Hilda was quick to remind me of the above; with the words, ‘Mzee kind reminder’ – and many of you, may have suffered the same fate from loved ones – i.e. standing warned:
However, warnings from loved ones aside, a properly run company, especially one of Safaricom’s ilk, would have done its homework on this matter. It surely had a viable contingency plan in place. Even Bob Collymore may have advised his Board Chair to have a contingency in place, especially when he entered the latter stages of his disease. These things come with the territory of leadership.
So, the truth for you all:
Companies matter more than any of you working for them. Companies are near ’immortal’; you die, and they continue to live. Effective companies have to look after the bigger whole that remains behind, after your demise. Indeed, classic companies are created for the significant good of generations to come and the quintessential CEO in Bob Collymore new that so very well.
So when you or loved ones die, please accept that it’s only fair for the company to:
- first and foremost create some limited time to pay last respects to your body and soul (note the word LAST)
- move on from the loss by forgetting and replacing you
- secure the wellbeing of those that still have life to live and can ensure value-addition at the company – and ultimately, its sustenance
This is a hard-hitting line of thinking, but the truth – right? You are simply a statistic at the company, and if companies immortalized you all in death, they would run out of space at the office, for shrines and would have to create whole departments to address matters of the dead.
So – what are we trying to say? Should we be miffed at the treatment by companies, when our loved ones and we, are quickly considered history upon death? Should we work less, and reduce productivity because we are mere numbers at the companies where we sell our labour? Certainly not. Working less would be a victory of ideology over experience. Please continue to give the company what is due to it; after all – the companies pay you for your labour.
Always remember that as long as the employee-employer deal is a quid-pro-quo affair, without one side taking advantage of the other, it’s in the nature of the relationship – for one side (company) to forget the other (you) especially in death, and move on. If not, companies would also perish.
Indeed, you, in the above relationship is and shall always be dispensable, especially in death, and the other party, the so-called company, with the benefit of malleable immortality, shall continue to live.
So – please appreciate that as long as you are rewarded, financially and otherwise for what you had to offer the firm, being forgotten and replaced after you die, even before you are buried, is not necessarily wrong.
Safaricom Plc merely is being effective at running its business. We are statistics
May Mr. Collymore’s soul RIP and may the good Lord grant his family the strength to remain steadfast during this very trying period
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