ALLAN MAIMBU: I view my failures as lessons to help me succeed in future

Allan Maimbu
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Photo credit: Francis Nderitu | Nation Media Group

Allan Maimbu is the General Manager of Faras Cabs (Kenya) Limited. The father of two holds a Bachelors degree in chemical engineering from Mombasa Technical University and a Diploma in Business Management from Mount Kenya University.

Mr Maimbu shares his career journey with Amina Wako.

Tell us about your childhood and family life

I grew up in a Christian family set-up and I’m the second born child in a family of four siblings. I’m the first-born son and therefore treated as the first-born child as it is in our African culture—which I think is not fair.

My parents were both teachers at the time we were growing up (now retired), and so you can imagine the kind of discipline my siblings and I were brought up with.

I wanted to be a politician when I grew up because I really used to admire the way the late David Mwiraria – the then finance minister – used to read the budget in parliament. I still carry that dream that I will be a minister one day.

Educational background

I started my school life in a local school in 1991 and I was lucky to have my mother as one of my childhood teachers in those early years.

I was not very good in mathematics and that made my younger brother catch up with me at class four. Being with my younger brother in the same class made me work very hard and I was determined not to let him defeat me in class. However, I did not succeed because he always came number one.

But competing with my brother really helped me; I put in a lot of effort and managed to move to among the top 3 best pupils in my primary school.

I did my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) in 2000 and I got admission to a good school. In 2004, I sat for my Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) and attained a C+ which was not good enough to take me to a university.

Because I did not want to waste another year repeating a class, I proceeded to Mombasa Technical University for a diploma course (Diploma in chemical engineering), which I advanced to a Bachelors level and graduated with Second-Class Honours, Upper Division.

I then joined Mount Kenya University for a diploma course in Business Management, and soon I’ll be graduating with an MBA - Management from Unicaf University.

Share with us your career journey

My first paying job was in Mombasa, where I worked as a quality assurance officer in a glass manufacturing company. I was paid a gross salary of Sh12,000. That used to be a lot of money since I was straight from the university. My work was to examine the quality of the product as they came from the production line.

A year later, I took a friend to a cyber cafe to apply for a job that was advertised by a microfinance. While seated at the cyber cafe, I got bored waiting and decided to apply for the same job. And that’s where my career journey started.

I remember when I was called for the interview, the panel was keen to know how I will use my engineering knowledge in the business world. I was given the job, and I did my best and shined. I was always on the list of the best performing employees.

How have you progressed over the years careerwise?

I carry a lot of confidence, which has helped me to achieve a lot in my career. For you to grow, just give your best in any work you are assigned and always dream to be a better person. Try to help other people to be better than you and automatically, they will make you a better person.

What do you remember most about your career journey?

Around 2015, when I was first appointed to lead a whole branch in the banking industry, I really did not know how to lead a team and I almost refused. I called my dad and told him about it. Him being a teacher, he told me ‘you don’t turn down a responsibility that you have been assigned because whoever gave you the position thinks you are up to the task’. That was my turning point. Perhaps if I had turned down the offer, I wouldn’t be here today as the general manager of Faras.

What have been key drivers of your growth? (Lessons learnt, celebrations and failures, attitudes, habits, principles etc.)

The main lesson I have learnt is that you have to be honest in what you do. Always be truthful and dispense honesty whether it will break or make people.

People will build trust based on their first experience in your hands. I celebrate myself of course and my pro-bono personal assistant – my wife – because she has always encouraged me to go to the top of the mountain even when the road is slippery.

I have also failed as a corporate leader before, but my failures have always been lessons for the next assignment. I have never failed to try because of fear to fail. That’s a grievous mistake one can do – you must give room to and prepare to fail.

Always have the right altitude because the possibility of anything starts from the planning stages. As you plan, planning to succeed should top the list of your plans. I have set strict principles that have propelled me to the person I am. Every successful career must be backed with strict principles. Career principles are like core values in business. You must follow them and let no one compromise them.

Which people or relationships can you single out as being useful in your career growth and how did they influence your trajectory?

I closely followed the life of Bob Collymore before his demise; may his soul rest in peace. I liked his style of leadership and his kind nature. He has greatly influenced the way I do things and I feel that that has helped me grow.

What is your leadership style?

Coaching – I focus more on recognising and nurturing the strengths of each person and working with them to improve their collective outcomes.

Your current role and scope of the role?

My current role is to oversee the Faras business operations in Kenya and to grow the business. Very soon, Faras will be a pan-Africa brand and I want to be part of the success stories.

What would you tell your younger self?

Never spend time worrying about tomorrow. Just do the right thing and enjoy life. Tomorrow will fix itself.

What would you advise the youth in Kenya?

Many youth want to get rich overnight. Yet, it’s a process. My advice is for them to be patient and work. Nothing comes on a silver platter.

What has Covid-19 taught you?

Covid came to me with two big messages: First, we live by the grace of God and secondly nothing is permanent; the status quo can change without your consent. So, let’s co-exist with people and always learn something new.

What keeps you awake at night?

Nothing keeps me awake at night. I have learnt not to worry about anything. When you let God take the lead, nothing will keep you awake.

Given a chance, what is that one thing you would change in your life?

I don’t have much to regret, but I think I would have married earlier than I did. As they say, “Mapema ndio best”.

What is that one thing people don’t know about you.

People don’t know that I have played taekwondo from my high school days. I am at Poom Belt, 1st GUP.

Future plans?

My only mission now is to make Faras a blue-chip company and change the mobility business dynamics. I also plan to get a Doctorate Degree after my Masters.

Anything else you would like to add?

Yes. If I was not working in the corporate word, I would be a teacher.

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