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Guest Post: Reasons why the smartest people aren’t the richest

Have you ever paused to think about why you are so smart, talented and amazing yet you’re ever broke? Maybe not, or you could be rich already, but here’s a few reasons why the world’s smartest people aren’t always the richest.

We’ve seen smart guys win app contests, business competitions and listened to great ideas but not all of these become success stories in business. Where do most go? What did they do wrong? How come they are still broke, freelancing and hustling?

1. They don’t want business partners

There are loads of smart people out there doing cool stuff, with amazing business ideas, but they will never grow. These people are local heroes in their state, county, province or nation, but one thing that they lack is that strategic partner to catapult their businesses to national or global markets. One major reason is greed, these guys want full control of their ventures! They want to own 100 percent of 10 million rather than get a partner, allocate some equity and own 60 percent of 1 billion. How dumb. These partners could be distributors, well known people with the influence and connections an entrepreneur needs to grow or could even be a financial partner. The other reason why smart people fear partners is that they are afraid of losing their business. Well, that’s a valid point, however there are lawyers to assist in this, but most guys simply want total control over their businesses. Most of the successful business today sought partners. From Facebook to Instagram, to Microsoft; successful companies had their co-founders, with a good team in place then investors will come in!

2. They don’t know people

Not all the smart people are blessed with connections and networks in the right places. Having the networks doesn’t necessarily mean you’ve got to be from a rich family, however to succeed in business you need to be known! How do you get known? Befriend the press, get social, and attend forums, hangouts, seminars and events where you are likely to meet the bigwigs in your industry. If you’ve got a nice cool product people will like it, you may get new customers, coverage in the media, meet potential partners etc. So go out there and seek contacts, do not chill out and bum all day, seek help out there and, most importantly, don’t be selfish; always approach people with a clear value proposition. Remember it’s not all about you, always demonstrate clearly “what’s in it for them”! Basically offer a solution and you’ll get the audience of anyone you want to meet.

3. Lack of Information

There are loads of smart guys out there who do not have the information on what’s happening, current/updated data that they can use to their advantage, how they can benefit from various organisations and platforms. As entrepreneurs complain of lack of funds, there are very many government, private sector bodies, trusts and other non-governmental organisations that disburse funds, either in the form of soft loans and grants, or offer non-financial assistance to business owners. There are also loads of other business clubs and networking forums that you could take advantage of. Just ensure you are in the loop, seek to know who’s doing what, where and when, then analyse whether you need to participate individually or as a business.

4. They never see the business angle

If you’ve met a few smart people then you understand this point clearly. These guys simply don’t see the money in what they do! For one reason or the other these people do not want to commercialise what they do! They just want to do ‘cool and edgy’ stuff. What happens when they don’t see the business angle? This is what has led to the creation of agencies, brokerage firms, agents who manage talented people like artistes, athletes and such. Brokers for example will go out and seek business, come back armed with a deal and loads of cash and are paid a small percentage to do the work. The brokers live large and happily, the smart guys struggle to make ends meet! That’s the world! If you are lucky a multi-national will hire you to work on their vision and you’ll do that dutifully for a salary. These smart people have fallen for rogue guys who steal their ideas and implement them. Why? If someone is sitting on diamonds but doesn’t see the cash in the stones then someone who does takes the opportunity, because they can see the business and thus the huge returns from what the smart guys are ‘sleeping on’!

5. Lack of customer focus

Smart guys tend to think everyone in the world is as smart as they are; well it’s not the case. These guys are very innovative, they do really cool stuff that no one else understands how to use or operate. Whenever Facebook changes its design people complain, when we moved to the timeline people wanted the old Facebook! Why? People want to use simple, easy to understand gadgets and appliances. The literacy levels in the world are still very low, In Africa we still have people who haven’t touched let alone seen a mobile phone! M-Pesa and Equity Bank are some of success stories we have locally, for M-Pesa they made it easy for one to use, solved a certain problem in the society and made money. There’s nothing so innovative about Equity Bank but they focused on the bottom of the pyramid where majority of Kenyans were and banked them.


At the end of it all ask yourself the following about your idea, app, business:

a) Is it economically viable,
b) Which specific need does it address?
c) Is it scalable?
d) Who is the customer and how big is the market?

6. They simply don’t want to be rich

These guys simply do not want to be RICH! For one reason or the other, some of them want to be popular and well known, others want to change the world, be recognised and win global awards. However in a capitalist world you need money, if you can do something to change the world, make some money out of it. Have a revenue model to ensure your business is sustainable, monetise some of your services or products, make some $$$$. We are on planet earth, you need money here, probably if we get to the next world where the Bible tells me everything will be free then we can chill out and enjoy but for now you’ve got to pay your bills. The only free thing we get today is the dirty air we breathe; well someone has been selling clean air (oxygen) and very soon you may need to buy some from him should we keep burning more carbon and cutting down our trees!

Muthuri Kinyamu is the business director at Social Edge Africa, a social media agency that handles strategy, monitoring, evaluation and management of brands on social networks. You can follow Muthuri Kinyamu @KenyanMarketer and reach him through [email protected]

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