Transition 101: Is the Ladder You are Scaling Leaning on the Right Wall?
If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster- Stephen Covey
If the ladder is not leaning against the right wall, every step we take just gets us to the wrong place faster- Stephen Covey
On the hot summer morning of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics men marathon, it was wonderful to watch Eliud Kipchoge break away at around the 31-kilometer mark. He went on to win the race with a nearly two-minute gap ahead of his closest challenger.
In true Kenyan hospitality, he immediately took on ‘welcoming committee’ duties, receiving the other panting runners as they crossed the finish line. It was as though he had been at the finish line all along. Media went abuzz with praise for this timeless wonder, a gentleman, hero and the greatest of all time marathon runner.
Let’s go back to 2012. Eliud Kipchoge was running the 5,000 meters then. He had shown great improvement in this race, winning bronze and then silver at the Olympic Games in Athens 2004 and Beijing 2008. Surely London 2012 was going to be the year of his gold medal. But that was the year he missed out on a spot to the Olympics at the trials in Nairobi, only finishing seventh in the 5000-meter race. He did not make the Kenyan team for London that summer.
That was the last time we talk about Eliud Kipchoge running the 5,000 meters competitively. Was his legacy set in stone now? Was he always going to be the 2004 Olympic bronze medalist, the 2008 silver medalist and the ‘did not qualify for the 2012 Olympics” runner?
What questions must have flown around media then? You take a guess.
I, like many of you highly driven individuals out here, have had to make a turn and start again after scaling heights. We know what it means to have dared greatly, won and lost. You all have had to make transitions and I must say, are in good company.
You see, in 2017, I stepped down as the CEO of a company I had spent 10 years providing an identity, voice, culture and hope to as I recruited others to join me in transforming the world.
Haltons Pharmacy had been a start-up, with its origins on Nairobi’s Koinange Street in October 2007. It became the largest corporate chain of pharmacies in East Africa, employing over 300 employees in 52 locations. It pioneered chaining and availing of affordable, quality medicines to rural and middle-class communities in a dignified manner.
Initially, some of our clients stayed away because they felt we were too dignified for them, but soon adopted and owned us, even naming bus stops after us. The value of local businesses rose as we became an anchor tenant to attract other aspirational businesses. Families started making decisions on where to live by including ‘near a Haltons’ as key selection criteria, and would even ‘scold’ slacking off employees who’d not serve them the ‘Haltons way’. The ownership culture we built had a similar impact on our partners, suppliers and landlords whom I am great friends with till this day.
Fast-forward to 2019. Haltons was fully acquired by a West African private equity (PE) backed group to continue with the work we had started. When my partners asked for my opinion on what they should focus on as I left, I said, “go back to the original ideals and vision, before all the money and the fame”.
I, too, took that same advice as I left to refocus and refresh on the founding principles, dreams and core aspirations around my spiritual life, marriage, parenting, financial, community service and life’s work. I am happy both took the advice seriously. Just like Kipchoge coming into the 2012 trials, I too, in 2017, was on a good progression. Then I sold the company and these questions now started running through my mind.
Who am I without Haltons Pharmacy? (Who is Eliud without the 5,000 meters?); What do I now do without Haltons? (What does Eliud do now without his 5,000 meters?); I am a pharmacy chain builder; not a people or technology platform builder. What makes me think I can do this? (Eliud, you are an average middle-distance runner, you aren’t not a long-distance runner. What makes you think you can do this?)
In what ways do these questions ring a familiar tune? Have you ever had to deal with a transition? Are you navigating a transition currently?
Please read on…
Eliud Kipchoge must have made a discovery that he was destined to run the 42-kilometer marathon. This required transition from the 5,000 meters, even though he was on a good trajectory. Some may even have seen his poor showing at the London 2012 trials as a failure. For me, that ‘failure’ may well have played an important role in pointing him to a different direction, allowing him to make the transition from one race to the other.
I felt I needed to pause, pull back from some activities and spend more time reflecting to gain a broader perspective on the direction of my life. I wanted more clarity on what would be meaningful and impactful in my life, family, life’s work and community what I could focus on going forward. I needed an overdue pitstop and I engaged a coach to assist me through this process!
Transition is a time to ask hard questions and give honest answers so that you can plan, get a guide and community to support, encourage and keep you accountable on the future that you aspire for.
In a nutshell, it’s a season of confronting ourselves: What is working? What is not? What do we want to do more of? What do we want to do less of? What do we want to be remembered for? What will give us 80% of our desired impact or build our legacy while allowing us to spend just 20% of our time on it? What would happen if we just focused on this 20% instead?
What relational or project crisis or barriers exist? What is driving the barriers? Who or what is the common denominator with the barriers here? Is the common denominator me? What can I do differently or what options are available to me to do it differently? What am I willing do now? Where do I start?
This is a process that can unfortunately feel painstakingly slow, especially if you have become accustomed to a highly paced life like I had. I’d, however, liken it to the slowing down of a pebble when it is pulled back to dig deep into a slingshot; the release and acceleration is coming!
To successfully navigate any transition, we have to question our mindset, our beliefs and values and determine what needs to change. This process, like running a marathon, requires time and very possibly a skilled coach to journey with.
“[Transition] happens when the pain of staying the same is greater than the pain of making a [transition].” Paraphrasing from Tony Robbins
What the public may not know was that the greatest of all time (G.O.A.T.) marathoner must have privately questioned himself to successfully transition from an average middle-distance runner to a long-distance timeless wonder.
For me, the 2017 to 2021 season has been an amazing private victory one. Coaching empowered and equipped me to reflect on and become more aware of the joy of building, process the mixed bag of emotions of letting go of my company, and accept the peace of moving on with amazing learnings.
The freedom then helped me put some intentionality to getting clarity on my values, identity, beliefs and SWOT. Where I want to go (my vision, mission and goals), the why of this journey (purpose) what tools I need (guides & templates) as well as how to set up the support structures I need to get there (resources, advisers, mentors, sponsors and coaches).
“Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.”
Five years later, my journey ahead and the backward process are now clear enough for me to use as tools and guides to provide an unfair advantage to any leader wanting equipping. I am more conscious of my competence and more aware of who I want to empower and equip. I know what sort of work, projects or causes I want to take up, where I am useful, motivated and challenged, and what I should say no to.
As a second-time founder, I have invested in financing, tooling and coaching a cohort of start-up pharmacies. They utilize a healthcare platform that links the marketplace, pharmacy and doctor SaaS tools in response to the challenge of quality vs access and demand vs supply mismatches. I am currently recruiting partners to scale this healthcare platform technology company across Africa.
In my journey of serving, from sector-representative bodies to faith-based ministries, I have had the privilege of being mentored, reverse mentored & coached as well as mentoring and coaching leaders. Together, we have set up structures and projects that are fixing systems or changing for the better the worlds we are part of.
I currently serve on the boards of various social impact organizations that are empowering youth, couples and entrepreneurs within community set ups. They are willing to learn and challenge each other on shared values of serving, giving back and building businesses or structures that solve real problems and outlive us.
In collaboration with a leading university, I am writing a case study. This is a tool that will teach and open dialogue on “What structures and approaches can give investments, mergers and acquisitions an unfair advantage in yielding improved returns in Africa?” In December 2021, I am releasing a book that aims to challenge entrepreneurs to reflect on the dreams and options they have for themselves, their families, their life work and communities. Then take some actions.
In 2020, my wife and I, after years of being coached, were certified as coaches. She provides executive performance coaching to the teams she leads globally at the multinational company at which she works. I position myself as a leadership coach with relatable and practical experience in the healthcare and business world.
We hope to one day shift our energies from building companies to building, empowering & equipping young leaders with practical, relatable life wisdom through a family coaching practice.
Transition Coaching has transformed me. It has empowered & equipped me to crystallize my own life journey and develop life messages that I now use to support and empower entrepreneurs and executives to strategically apply themselves in contributing to the vision of their organizations from a place of personal awareness and alignment.
I am more grounded and a different leader than I was 10 years ago.
I am more conscious of what worked, what didn't and my role in it. I know where I needed growth, celebrated and grieved how far I have come and realized passed successes. I appreciate my core driving values and embrace how different I want to be as I lead people, processes and the product.
Basically, I am leading more strategically in my spiritual life, marriage, parenting, life’s work, finances and community service - than just by execution, sheer brawn, blood and sweat (which are all great, but nothing without conscious leadership).
“I now want to prove that every single business or business leaders’ life can be reinvented. I believe as an entrepreneur & leadership coach that I'm well suited at walking with them to navigate a successful transition.”
Dr. Louis Somoni, Founder and ex-CEO, Haltons Pharmacy ☆ Leadership Coach
Slowing down has given me a great deal of perspective, resources, templates and tools to speed up. I now use these examples and tools as a practicing coach and entrepreneur to equip & empower my clients make sense of their own transitions.
I can tell that reflecting on these real-life cases, you must be wondering whether it is even possible for you to make a transition – quite daunting, right? Do you have to leave your job, the ladder you are on, sell your business or even run away to make a transition?
Part 2 of the series will give us some questions that we can use to challenge some common mindsets and see what options you may have, some of which you didn’t know are available for you!
Best known as the founder of Haltons Pharmacy, Dr. Louis has become an advocate for empowered & transformational leadership. The business he built, the impact of his work on job creation, systems innovations and patient-focused care has won him numerous awards.
After 10 years of a highly performance life, he transitioned from CEO of Haltons which he later successfully sold two years later in 2019, launching him into a personal reflective & growth journey.
He is currently leading a healthcare platform and technology company, Medkit Network, while empowering business owners, CEO's and Executives to build impactful, more innovative and resilient startups, change-focused and growth-focused companies. He consults for organizations seeking to invest and build solid teams in the African healthcare scene.
He serves in and gives through various boards aligned to the causes he believes in, he’s a pharmacist and current President of the Pharmaceutical Society of Kenya.
He currently lives in Nairobi, Kenya with his wife and three children.