Just a man: There’s nothing wrong with being an assistant

Mountain climbing

Being a dream assistant is not playing second fiddle; it’s playing the part that is suited for you to propel the dream forward.

Photo credit: IGAH | Nation Media Group

We’re living in a time when being self-employed is the best thing since sliced bread. Most of us are all about owning our hustle; lock, stock and barrel. We want to be the boss. And there is nothing wrong with that mind-set. But some of us are called to be assistants to someone else’s big dream.

The story that illustrates this analogy is that of Timothy Mungai aka Kamande, the oldest shopkeeper in my old ‘hood', Jericho Estate. Kamande opened his shop in the mid-80s, starting with a small rented mabati shop. He was extremely industrious. His rented shop was perched on nine-by-nine stone blocks. The shop was so full that one day it fell down from the weight of the stock inside it. Kamande built a bigger shop behind the one he had rented. He has been there since, outliving the old guards he found there.

Kamande hired several shop assistants. The turnover of assistants was affecting his business. As it is with such businesses, honesty is the best policy. Dishonesty makes such shops to crumble faster than a house of cards in a whirlwind.

The assistant who has stuck with Kamande since the early 90s is Frederick Muchina. This unassuming man was 21 years old when he joined Kamande. Muchina says he decided to stick to grow this business with Kamande.

Muchina was a bachelor, a couple of years out of high school when he got the job at Kamande’s shop. He is now a husband and a father of three, with ages ranging from 26 to 16 years old.

Opposites attract. Whereas Kamande has some rough edges – which have become smoother with age – Muchina is the consummate diplomatic type. Kamande taught Muchina the tricks of the trade and, instead of bailing out and setting up his own hustle, this trusted assistant decided to pour his all into another man’s business.

Kamande has grown in leaps and bounds, and has got into other businesses, such as real estate. His rapid growth can be attributed to, among others, a trusted dream assistant who knew his place and did not try to outshine the vision-bearer. I don’t have the facts, but I believe this entrepreneurial partnership has also made Muchina to grow economically. No wonder he has stuck with Kamande for three decades.

I am sure Muchina had his dreams. But being a dream assistant means finding where your dreams fit into your employer’s vision. It’s about knowing where your stars fit in into the big picture, and helping the entire vision to shine.

Being a dream assistant is not always glamorous. Especially if you know in your heart that you are better than your boss. Sometimes our strength is best served and our resources are put to their greatest use when we are under someone else’s wings, instead of flying alone.

Being a dream assistant means respecting the vision-carrier and his headship. Someone once said the only thing with multiple heads is a monster. Yeah, you can respectfully disagree with visionary; but insubordination is akin to mutiny.

Being a dream assistant is not the ground to prepare you to be the vision-carrier’s competition. It is not the hunting ground for you to beguile the vision-carrier’s customers and connections, and then take off with them. Instead, it is the place for you to complement the vision-carrier’s resources and, together, take the venture to the next dimension.

Being a dream assistant is not playing second fiddle; it’s playing the part that is suited for you to propel the dream forward. Whether in sports or business, even GOATs (Greatest Of All Time) cannot do it alone. They need assists.

Long story short? It’s not about the size of your role, but the impact. Play your role, player. Wholeheartedly.