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February 20, 2019

Listen and learn

‘Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching
‘Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching


I saw a good meme the other day. It said ‘Never stop learning, because life never stops teaching’.

This struck home with me after two months of unexpected loss, with an unwelcome number of friends and acquaintances passing on before their time.

It also resonated last Friday when I went to listen to a man who isn’t dead yet. A blessed relief – as he is a friend of longstanding, and someone who has demonstrated exceptional ability in his successful business life.

The name of the man will be familiar. Roger Steadman has built a business that spanned Africa, first in media monitoring, then in consumer research. So an encouraging number of young marketers had gathered last Friday to attend a ‘fireside chat’ with Roger.

I’m sure that if they were listening carefully they will have learnt a great deal from the conversation, expertly facilitated by Dr Wale Akinyeme.

Not least that you always get more out of a networking event if you switch off your mobile phone, and give the speakers the courtesy of your attention. So Roger spoke, and Dr Wale drew out the most important insights, and most of us listened. The objective was to understand what behaviours drive long-term business success.

We live in a world that seems to admire building an enterprise quickly before ‘flipping’ it for loads of money and moving on. The entrepreneurial equivalent of the sound bite. So it is refreshing to listen to someone who can hold a conversation – let alone a business endeavour – on course for longer.

Roger Steadman has always been an innovator. He has noticed gaps (primarily in access to information) and moved to fill them. He has been driven by, in his words “wanting to find out why.’

Along the way he has helped marketers to ensure that the advertising space they buy is delivered. He has helped media professionals understand which audiences are captured by individual newspapers, magazines and broadcast stations.

In my personal experience, he has clearly identified media properties that deliver very little beyond an ego boost for their proprietors. I can’t say he has managed to make the selling of advertising space any more professional, but that was probably beyond his remit. Commercial change doesn’t happen unless the principals see a need.

And in the case of East African media, there are none so blind… Roger Steadman’s innovations have often proved unpopular by changing the status quo. So another behaviour that has clearly contributed to his success is moral courage.

His anecdotes were peppered with stories of business problems that gave him sleepless nights, and in every case he decided to take them head on.

Appearing among his detractors to make unexpected presentations of rational arguments that confounded prejudice. Doing so without delay, and with the courage of his convictions. That to me was truly admirable.


Chris leads the Brand Inside’s African operations.

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