GROWTH STRATEGY FOR BULEMBU WATER

All organisations aspire grow and be bigger, potentially to expand into new markets as well. This is not an easy process to undertake as there are many considerations to make before deciding how to break into the new market will entail. There are various growth strategies and it just depends on factors relating to the main strategy.

For this blog, I chose a local Swaziland brand of still water. What was initially a water cooler rental and bottling plant was later relocated to another part of the country called Bulembu and officially named Bulembu Water in 2009. Through a borehole, the brand bottles about 12,000 units of 500ml natural spring water, for local distribution. They also have a 5 litre size and water coolers as part of the offering.
The brand has a lot of potential to grow and do more. It is a trusted brand, with strong brand equity for price and value. Alongside its competitors, which are Valpre, Aquelle, Nestle, Bulembu Water is affordable. Most competitors are imported as well, so this makes it a truly Swazi product. They have built a regular clientele of organisations that have their water coolers and developed a relationship of trust and loyalty.
In making the decision of how best the brand can expand, I referred to the Product Market Expansion Grid, also called the Ansoff Matrix, below.

This is a popular model created by Igor Ansoff, one of the world’s most influential management thinkers. It examines the relationship between new and existing products, new and existing markets, and the risk associated with each possible relationship. The matrix aids growth plans through the introduction of existing or new products, in existing or new markets. It is designed so that as a company plots its new and existing products and markets, the amount of risk associated with that strategy corresponds with its position on the grid. Developing a strategy with existing products and markets is low in risk, but with new products and markets risk increases.
Out of the four strategies, I chose the diversification strategy. The company can leverage on it’s core technical know-how to diversify its current bottled water offering into new geographical areas by expanding the distributon network. Diversification involves the introduction of new products and reaching out to new markets that the brand is not available to now. In terms of new products, I would suggest the introduction of flavoured and sparkling water to the current range. My chosen strategy, however, also happens to be the riskiest of all. It requires the most resources and time. However, if done right, it would bring the brand maximum value. Currently diversification would require that Bulembu Water acquires new staff with skills that relate to the new products and that can reach the new areas where potential customers are. They would also need new techniques as these additional variants of water cannot be produced through a borehole. The production process and quality control is different. Even though the bottling plant exists, the facilities would need to be upgraded to accommodate the extra revenue streams. Out of the diversification strategies, this would be concentric diversification.
The brand extension strategy I would recommend would be a line extension. This is when an already existing brand comes out with a product that is similar or in the same category, as another one of the brand’s products. It is just used to enter a new product category using an established brand name. The strength of the Bulembu Water brand would help to launch the Bulembu Sparkling water and the Bulembu Flavoured Water into the market. This new extension would still maintain relevance in that space as the variants are not too far removed from the core brand.
The benefits of this approach is that should any of the additional variants not perform well initially, the others would still help keep it afloat. The main objective is to ride on the existing brand name to hasten adoption of the new variants. It would also minimise marketing and advertising costs, as the whole offering can be on the same marketing platforms. There would be no need to develop a new brand from scratch, just modify what is already available.
The line extension would be perceived as an improvement of Bulembu Water. The customer will now have more options and variety, depending on what their preference is. The brand would gain more awareness, reach and ultimately revenues. The strength of the parent brand is key, to help increase penetration levels and quicken adoption in the market. A horizontal line extension would just mean pricing the other variants of water within the same price range as the still water. The main objective for this expansion would be to enter into new markets and through increased numbers, grow profits.
The future benefits of this strategy would be increased dominance of the Bulembu brand name within the bottled water brand category. As more people become health conscious and deliberately cut down on carbonated drinks, there is increased demand for bottled water as a beverage of choice. The bottled water market is competitive, all for the same share of wallet. Brands like Bonaqua are imported, but better known because of their association to Coca Cola parent. However patriotic Swazis would support a local brand that proves over time that it can deliver a refreshing drink of great quality.

References
1. https://product2market.walkme.com/product-market-expansion-grid-explained/
2. Klopper, H. B. & North, E, 2011. Brand Management. Cape Town: Pearson

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Brand Portfolio and Reputation: the VW story

For purposes of this blog I chose to focus on the Volkswagen brand. The first car that I bought was a Volkswagen. A red one; colour of passion and fire, danger too. Hence the bias. I was drawn to the brand by how it was marketed, cool cars for young professionals. It has a reputation of being a durable high quality brand, as German cars are known. It is known for value, a car that is fun to drive but affordable. So even though the company has 12 brands in its portfolio, each maintains its own individual identity. Their products range from motorcycles to low-consumption small cars and luxury vehicles. In the commercial vehicle sector, there are bakkies, buses and heavy trucks. The company’s goal is single; mobility, or everyone, all over the world. So each of their brands operate as independent entities in the market.

The fact that all these brands are distinctive to the market means the company has done a great job in managing their brand portfolio. The brand portfolio of a company is the complete range of all brands and brand lines it offers for sale in a particular category or market segment. When I say VW has done a good job in managing it, it means all their  brands complement each other in the product portfolio range. The main idea behind a brand portfolio is to maximize market each and to offer enough brands so that no potential customers feel left out, but at the same time to minimize overlap so that no two brands cannibalize each other. In brand portfolio management, all brands are viewed as part of the holistic view and how any action on them helps or destroys the others – efforts need to be linked across all of them.

Each brand has a role and objective to play within the VW portfolio. Marketing efforts are also consistent so there is no confusion on what each brand stands for. The core brand remains Volkswagen but there are;

• Flankers (or fighters): Positioned with respect to the competitors’ brands so that the flagship or more important brands are protected. This is Bentley in this case, which is a direct take on the rivals, Rolls Royce.
• Cash cows: these may be showing falling sales but still command decent profits despite less marketing support. In the VW family, this is the Audi brand.
• Low-end entry level: Relatively low-priced brands that attract new customers who can later be “traded up’ to higher-priced brands. Your SEAT and Skoda are the door into VW ownership for first time buyers.
• High-end prestige: Higher-priced brands to add prestige and credibility to the entire portfolio. Within VW, these are Lamborghini, Porshe and Bugatti, Ducatti

The flagship Volkswagen brand is dominant in western Europe, China and Brazil, even though it struggles a bit in the U.S., Russian and Indian markets. It has multiple offers from the small Polo to the mid-sized Passat and then the big Amarok. The master brand is relevant and is the main one, while all the others support it by targeting new market segments. In building the brand portfolio, VW was introduced first and all others. Bentley and Porsche were brought in through acquisitions and to enhance the strength of VW’s position. The portfolio is well balanced, and that is why the brand has been able to enter markets across all continents.

The strong brand reputation helped in 2015 when the fuel emissions scandal threatened the company’s worth and market value. The company admitted to illegally using software to manipulate exhaust emissions during government testing. VW betrayed their customers and the planet, at a time when the “going green’ has hit us all. The effects of corporate crises are profound and lasting. Volkswagen’s market value dropped by 23 percent in September 2015, and sales in the U.S. declined almost 25 percent in November 2015 alone. The invisible and long term damages to the company were the negative impact on brand trust and reputation, customer satisfaction, employee morale and loyalty, and investor confidence . Trust, once lost, is notoriously hard to regain. They tried to salvage their reputation though when the CEO resigned after admitting to this blatant lie and cheating that the company had done for 10 years. The honest and transparency on his end was admirable. They also took action and set aside more than $7 billion to deal with the problem. Yes it wrecked their profits but was also a display of remorse on their side.

Volkswagen has previously claimed the top auto industry spot in Fortune’s annual World’s Most Admired Companies list.  In July 2012, The Economist also praised the company for leaving rivals in the dust in an article titled “VW Conquers the World. There is need to rebuild the brand, consistently and continuously and be back on top as the “people’s car”. Consistent restructuring and repositioning will help the brand. The new vision “Volkswagen: Moving People Forward” is already a great start. Brand campaigns and advertising can be used effectively for this.

They need to continue with their CSR activities but also focus more and prove that they are protecting the environment. They need to support “stop emissions” related groups. Their strategy includes becoming the world market leader in e-mobility by 2025 and to develop the industry’s strongest digital ecosystem.

Social media has also become a great tool to help brands bounce back into customers’ good books. Problems don’t go away when you ignore them, they get bigger. They need to be more transparent and engage more with customers on all platforms, even during a crisis. General Motors’ Mary Barra remains my model of how company leadership can use social media to salvage reputation.

Despite the scandal, Volkswagen remains one of my most favourite brands and I believe that soon all will be forgotten and the company will be “moving people forward” more than ever.

References;

https://www.volkswagenag.com/en/group/strategy.html

https://www.volkswagenag.com/en/news/2016/11/transform-2025.html

http://www.economist.com/node/21558269

Intergrated Marketing Communication – The FNB case study

Not just because I bank with them, but also because I love the way they have run their campaigns, I chose First National Bank for this blog. Recently voted South Africa’s best business bank, First National Bank has been around since 1838, and is the oldest bank in South Africa. It is one of the three major divisions of the First Rand Group, alongside Wesbank and Rand Merchant Bank. It now has branches in neighbouring countries Mozambique, Namibia, Lesotho, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana and my Swaziland. It is also in operations as far as India, Ghana and Guernsey and has expansion plans.
As defined by the American Association of Advertising Agencies, integrated marketing communications ” … recognizes the value of a comprehensive plan that evaluates the strategic roles of a variety of communication disciplines advertising, public relations, personal selling, and sales promotion and combines them to provide clarity, consistency, and maximum communication impact.” A central factor is IMC is that it assumes that the customer makes purchasing decisions based on their perception of reality, and not the reality itself (Klopper and North, 2011). Brands create and manage positive and negative perceptions through marketing communications. The bank uses Intergrated Marketing Communications profitably by running with a consistent brand message across all platforms. The focus is always on the customer and how best to talk to them one platform to the next. FNB’s messaging is always appropriate to the channel while still carrying the golden thread of the campaign across all platforms without wearing out the creative message due to increased frequency of exposure.
Digitally, the bank is a pleasure to work with. As a Swaziland customer, I still feel part of a wide network of customers in all the FNB countries. The website is easy to use and fully integrated to link accounts and banks in the neighbouring countries. Online payments reflect instantly for accounts within the bank, regardless of country. It is a truly dynamic website, with interactive graphics and always updated with the latest graphics. The bank also has an app that can be downloaded onto mobile devices, allowing me as a customer to access my money and use it anywhere. The First National bank brand has embraced social branding. Since customers are always online, it has made online platforms available for convenience and these deliver more than physically going to a branch.
When it comes to social media, First National bank is one of the model brands. Their Facebook and Twitter profiles are obviously closely monitored by “the FNB guy” who responds in the twinkle of an eye. Everyone loves RB Jacobs, even though we don’t even know what he looks like. We just see his credit card in all the adverts. He is actively involved on social media, highly responsive and pays attention; whether you post good or bad. His authenticity makes the brand relevant and has really become powerful in connecting with normal customers, across markets. His humour also makes him relatable and no mater how mad you are as a customer, you will find yourself appreciating whatever response he gives you.
The bank’s social media presence is aligned with the brand positioning. FNB is always pushing their slogan “How can we help you” and being innovative, it only makes sense that they embrace social media as a way to be helpful and demonstrate being techno savvy. They are now leaders when it comes to Apps, smartphone banking, iPad offers, Paypal so social media is an obvious element in there – their philosophy is in all they do. Their social media is in turn used to support other marketing activities like sponsorships, adverts, campaigns and even PR content. There are videos on YouTube of their CSI initiatives and sponsorship events. Their Linked In profiles also drive though leadership on matters relating to financial issues. The variety of content there keeps customers interested.
Even though the brand is highly effective in IMC, it falls short of the ideal by overpromising and then it underdelivers. Even though they are actively encouraging customers to “switch to FNB” you just need to look at the complaints on their Facebook page to realise that they have a lot of unhappy customers out there.
As much as the brand has done well on digital platforms, it is also not very friendly to customers who physically visit. Branches are not adequately resourced, there are always queues and the whole experience for a non-digital customer is not a great one.
A unique value proposition or unique selling proposition (USP) is a clear statement that describes the benefit you offer, how you meet your customers’ needs and how you are different from competition. The brand’s unique value proposition is being helpful on banking needs. Their slogan is “How can we help you?” and they pride themselves in that. This UVP is visible across all platforms and their accessibility demonstrates that. This evokes positive emotions to a customer who then develops affinity to a brand that is committed to helping them solve their problem – no matter what platform they choose to engage on. There is no media fragmentation.

The major takeout in all of this is that it is important for all your marketing communication efforts to work together towards one goal and tie together. There should be no media fragmentation. The brand message sent out to a brand’s audience should be consistent, irrespective of the medium used.

HOW NIKE HAS MASTERED BRAND POSITIONING

My second blog post is about brand positioning and differentiation. I have decided to stick to my favourite brand, Nike, for this one as well. Even though it plays in a space that has other strong brands (Reebok was bigger than Nike at some point), it has managed to build itself to become the leading sports brand globally. Consumers have too much choice in this category, across all demographics and the market is a battlefield.
Having to deal with different brand and product categories, consumers’ minds are cluttered. Keller (2008:98) defines brand positioning as “the act of designing a company’s offer and image so that it occupies a distinct and valued place in the customer’s mind”. I say Nike has a successful positioning strategy because consumers know about the brand, and why it is different and similar to other brands.

The Positioning Process
In positioning, 4 steps need to be followed. These are;
1. Understanding the context – which space are you playing in?
2. Find out what makes the brand different. – that branded element that is meaningful for customers
3. Be legitimate – Nike delivers what it promises, quality to help you “Just Do It”.
4. Communicate the difference

Nike’s positioning has been key in how they have taken over a valued and distinct place in the customer’s mind. Also, the brand has successfully influenced us to think of it as a performance and winning brand. For effective and competitive brand positioning, there are two mandatories;
– Define and communicate the competitive frame of reference
– Choose and establish their points of difference (differentiation) and points of parity (similarity).

Competitive Frame of Reference
It is key to categorise Nike amongst all the available products in the market. Nike is a sports brand. It competes with other big brands that sell sports apparel, equipment and accessories. It has communicated its category membership by communicating the category benefits. All of Nike’s advertising and communication demonstrates how the brand fits into success in the sporting arena.

Points of Parity and Difference
Nike’s point of parity is that it is a global sports brand playing alongside Adidas and Puma etc. They are all associated with famous athletes as brand ambassadors, and that makes them popular and aspirational. These brands also use individual electronic performance technology that allows consumers to track performance.

We have a lot of reasons why we choose Nike over all the competing brands in the sports category. The unique selling proposition by Nike is good quality comfortable products for all sport categories and it has helped give the brand a sustainable competitive advantage over the years. NikeiD series allows consumers to customize their shoes and gear, and this makes it appealing to customers who want a unique style and identity. The brand also has a quality casual-friendly product line that allows people to wear Nike-branded products in their everyday life outside of sporting activities.

As a result of its successfully positioning, it is now the world’s leading brand for sports shoes and apparel, recognized several times by Fortune Magazine as one of the “100 best companies to work for”. It is also among the 50 most innovative corporate companies globally for their watches, music players etc).

Nike also uses innovative advertising and branding that has enhanced top of mind awareness and brand recognition. From the initial selection set, consumers already think of Nike as an option when looking for sports apparel. Not just as an option but as the preferred choice. Even though Nike’s pricing is not the lowest, their brand loyalty is high because of good differentiation.
Even though Nike’s current position is good when it comes to brand value, there is need to continually differentiate itself from the other competing brands. Brand differentiation occurs when a brand offers something different to the consumer, and a customer is likely to buy an item that offers them something unique. Various strategies have been used to convince the customer that the brand is unique and different. The brand has a strong corporate identity and even though the sportswear market is so competitive, Nike has held its own. The other brands are introducing new techniques and innovation, and this poses a threat alongside the fake imitations and replicas.
Nike has successfully used aspiration as a positioning strategy. The verbal and visual language of the brand, including its tag line, inspires people to greatness. Even their brand association is with leading international sports teams, players and events and showcases success and self-improvement. The brand mantra is “Just Do It” and serves as a brand promise. It is simple, inspires and communicates what the brand stands for.
Growth opportunities exist in certain product lines e.g. sunglasses, brand affinity can be increased through sports academies across the globe and increasing online accessibility for customers.

Exploring Nike’s Brand Positioning

I am such a loyal consumer of Nike, a huge fan. As long as it has that swoosh on it, the only barrier to having it is price. And I have actually been fascinated by this brand for as long as I have worked in marketing.
So when I was asked to choose a brand to discuss for my ongoing brand studies, the choice of brand wasn’t a hard one.
Nike is one of the leading brands locally, and has a high brand equity. It’s brand recognition and awareness is at 97% globally, and this has boosted the brand image immensely, It has a strong brand identity that it has built and maintained consistently over the years. The brand name; simple and memorable and the brand logo; represented by the swoosh, is highly recognised and unique, setting it apart from all competitors.

The visual and verbal language of any brand is the final element of it’s brand identity system. It just shows how the brand “sounds” and “looks” at every customer touchpoint. Whenever consumers get in touch with a brand, how they feel about it at that point has a positive or negative effect on their relationship with it. Therefore, it is very important that the brand is consistent in how it “sounds” and “looks” and this still needs to be aligned with the brand strategy, it’s values and personality.
There are three (3) elements of verbal and visual language that ensure consistent and coherent brand behaviour. I will discuss each briefly;
TONE OF VOICE
If Nike was a person, how would they sound like? This has been clear and recognisable to us Nike consumers. Getting the tone right has benefitted Nike, their customers relate to the brand positively, in the way it was purposed. The brand is about great performance, about heroism. The tone of voice is confident, competitive and inspiring. Their slogan “Just Do It” is iconic and pushes one to go against all odds and go after what they want.
BRAND SYMBOLS
The Nike brand symbol is the easily recognisable and unique swoosh. Every brand wants to look distinct from every competitor out there. The swoosh gives character to Nike both visually and verbally. The Nike logo is widely regarded as one of the greatest and most popular logos in history. It was created in 1971 by a graphic design student but has grown profitably to be worth more than $26 billion.
BRAND STORY
One of Nike’s successful strategies is how they have told their brand story so well and emotionally got consumers hooked. The Nike story connects all the brand stakeholders to the brand purpose.
The brand history shows how the brand came into being after Phil Knight, who was a University of Oregon track runner, was desperate for a running shoe that would help him excel and be good for his feet. Together with his coach, Bill Bowerman, they created the famous “waffle iron” sole which helped with speed but also avoided injury.
From this brand history, it is clear that the brand focus from the onset was top athletic performance. Everyone identifies with this man who wanted to succeed and how the brand took him from a place of disadvantage to winning status. Everyone wants to win, hence how we connect well to Nike.
The brand strategy is one of a well-executed emotional branding of heroism. The brand stands for competition, winning and superiority. The brand association with famous athletes that are determinant and achieving great things in their space brings out the personality of the brand. So even as a normal consumer, you feel like you are set to win when you are wearing Nike.
The brand strategy carries throughout the brand identity. Nike’s customer loyalty is inspired by the emotional marketing that have successfully infused in us. So even against our toughest battles, whether internal or external, we still want to go there and Just Do It. The imagery is of people jumping, running or doing exceptional things in the sporting arena and this inspires us to beat all odds. We want to be the hero in our story, even if we are just battling with laziness and not necessarily always external factors.

Their brand ambassadors, from even the guy that inspired the shoe, are just normal people like us who started from humble beginnings and challenged all limitations to triumph at the end. Everyone is the hero in the story.

Happy Birthday To Me – Lessons on Life

Today is my 37th birthday and I am grateful to God for all of them. I just decided on this big day morning to put together my 37 life lessons based on my journey. 

1. God is good. And Faithful. All the time.
2. You are unique, you are enough, you have everything you need to fulfill your purpose on earth. All things work for good eventually, just trust the process.

3. Trust your instincts. Your gut is never wrong. 

4. Do not kill yourself toiling without enjoying the fruits of your labour. A healthy work life balance is key. Give yourself a quality life. 

5. Protect your peace – always. If it makes you anxious, rattles you emotionally or sets you into panic just RUN. 

6. Do not live beyond your means. Do not feel the need to impress by buying stuff. Save for the things you want, you will thank yourself later and your kids will appreciate you more. 

7. Every year, travel to a new place. Those who do not travel only read one page of this life book. 

8. Whether you want to keep an 8-5 job or start your business, be in love with your decision. Do not let anyone define how income should be earned. 
9. Money doesn’t buy happiness. However, financial freedom gives you more choice and people’s opinions cease to matter much. That is a slice of happiness. 

10. Be comfortable in solitude. Be your own best friend. 

11. Most mean people are just projecting the darkness in them. Do not allow yourself to be drawn into that dark world. Give them love, and if it fails, remove yourself as much as possible from them. 

12. You are the company you keep. Surround yourself with people who feed your soul. 

13. Laughter is the best medicine. Never pass up an opportunity to laugh or make someone else laugh. 

14. Read good books. There is plenty of wisdom hidden there.  

15. A generous giver never goes hungry. The more you genuinely give, the more blessings rain in all areas of your life.  

16. Some friends will be closer to you than family. Love and cherish them. Let them know you appreciate them. 

17. As you grow you will lose friends. Don’t feel bad or guilty, growth comes with change. Don’t be bitter towards people that walked away, do not chase. 

18. Comparison is the thief of your joy. Run your own race, at your own pace and enjoy the view from your lane. 

19. Self love is key. Cultivate it everyday, despite the disappointments and guilt and the million times you have let yourself down. 

20. Find your passion. That one thing you would wake up and do everyday – the one that sets your soul on fire. If you find a way to get paid for doing it, awesome.
21. Some things are your business, you do not owe the world an explanation for everything. Not because you are hiding something, not because you are afraid of jealousy or sabotage. Mystery is necessary.

22. True forgiveness is tough but possible. If you work on it hard enough you can release people eventually. Forgiveness doesn’t always mean taking the relationship to its original state. 

23. Gratitude attitude is key. 

24. Remain humble and authentic. 

25. You do not lose anything by wishing others well. 
26. No one has the formula for this life and love thing. You will learn as you go, lessons are plenty. 

27. Celebrate other people’s gigs. Be authentic, do not do it for hype, do it because you truly believe they are doing something good. And don’t let anyone make you believe you have to support everything they do. 

28. Even at the bottom of the bottom point in your life, believe that things will get better. There is always hope

29. Is is okey not to be OK. You don’t owe everyone an explanation too. 

30. Love is a very personal thing. If you love someone then go for it with all your heart. Do not let others define that picture for you. 

31. There is no right and wrong way to grieve. Go through it, accept and move on. 

32. Do not judge people before you even engage with them. The best friendships are forged out of unlikely alliances. Do not miss out on great friendships because you have put people in boxes for their gender, race, religion, financial status, sexual orientation etc. 

33. Drink lots of water. 

34. Your friends don’t have to tell you not to repeat something they told you in confidence. You just know. Don’t betray their trust. 

35. You will not work for everyone, you are not money. Some people love tea, some like coffee and some just drink champagne. 

36. Friends do not compete. They push each other to do better. 
37. Proudly. Do. You. 

Tough times don’t last, stay in your magic baby!


Who would’ve thought a Twitter DM could get me out of hibernation and get me writing again? People always talk about sliding into the DMs for different reasons, see how special I am? 
Not that i feel like i owe people an explanation for everything that takes place in my life, i have perfected the art of being selective about what i share. It just came with my 30s, and i perfect it everyday. However, i hope that it makes someone realise that it is okey to allow some events in your life to change you. One has to go through the process, and we need to let ourselves feel. All emotions, good or bad. 

So on 4th August 2016, that was my life-changing moment. I slept with my phone charging in the lounge and woke up to 5 missed calls. From my mom (2), sister, my Ma Mkhokheli and from my son’s school. A day I don’t wish on anyone, when as a parent you just lose your mind. The funny one in me just called my sister back and asked “did you  

dream about me today, why the early call?”. Then she told me that there had been an accident and my son’s school bus had overturned. The next 2 hours would be total drama and the wheels of my life came off completely. Not to ever come back into good position again. 

In short, Lwandile had died on the spot and the next time i saw him his body was lying on a mortuary bed and they just opened his face for me to see. I still have that face firmly etched in my memory, and will carry it for as long as I live. 

So i went through a phase where i lost all love for certain things; kids, blogging (😛), certain foods, bags and shoes (unbelievable), Hip Hop music and lots of meals that I had previously enjoyed. I also put on new eyes and started looking at things differently. That bucket listed was dusted, i resigned from everything that wasn’t feeding my soul anymore at that time (very unpopular decisions there) and loved with more intensity. I also saw how much my family loved me and how complicated and diverse my friendship circles were. 

And i also got the black dog from wherever it was hiding after so many years. Oh my God! The worst! That crippling feeling of not having enough strength to even draw the curtains. 

But here I am now. It’s #FieNixRising season, I am rejuvenated and very optimistic. There are a few chess pieces moving nicely into place and for that I am grateful. And 2018 promises to even be better. I live beneath open heavens, and am drowning in blessings.  

Part of what has helped during the dark days has been the Grace of God, therapy (and i even changed therapists twice), reading, running, golf and just surrounding myself with positive people. One of the major lessons out of this season in my life was to be conscious of what I spend time doing and the quality of those engagements. I’d rather take a nap than attend another pretentious event that won’t feed my soul. So i stay home more and my best company is myself, living alone and being comfortable with solitude. And i find that i spend time repeatedly with the same crowd, because they are the ones who make me feel appreciated. And i also take it upon myself to engage positively with others and guard my mouth and my thoughts to exude positive energy always. It is a continous journey and i get better everyday. 
I still have days when i need 2 hours of crying just to empty my tear ducts (is that what they are called?) before my day can start. I discovered that if I don’t deal with that urge, i’ll start crying uncontrollably during my morning drive to the point of shouting it out, and no one looks good when they walk into a meeting or office with sunshades on and asks to use the bathroom first. So i just do what needs to be done – consider it a morning ritual; others go to gym, i cry. 

So i guess this is my comeback. I have a lot of things to write about; work, travel, school (yes, am trying to worm myself back into that), family (and mine are a true blessing), friendship and everything else. Life has it’s ups and downs. For me, any of that is worth writing about. 

So for anyone that is going through a tough time remember; tough times don’t last, learn the lesson and pick yourself up. I can’t say how because everyone’s journey is different but the most beautiful roses do grow through the concrete. Storms do make trees take deeper roots. 

“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you” – Isaiah 43:2