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How reality TV turned around a young lawyer’s fortunes

Deox TibeinganaDeox Tibeingana: After appearing on the Apprentice Africa show, he is now calling the shots as a succesful lawyer and a big time real estate player,  writes Edgar R. Batte

What were you doing before you came to the limelight, thanks to Apprentice Africa?
I was a small time Mukiga lawyer struggling to make my dreams come true. I had a law practice but it was very small.

What inspired you to join Apprentice?
A friend of mine Paul Sserunkuuma, had given me The Apprentice (Donald Trump series) to watch and I fell in love with the show. I researched about the participants and was awed to learn that the show had changed their lives. The eventual winner (Bill Rancic) went on to become a superstar and is now a multi-millionaire thanks to the airtime he got on the show.

What was your experience in there?
It was the most nerve-wracking experience of my life. We hardly slept and the contestants were bright. One had to survive by working hard and smart. We often referred to ourselves as frenemies. We were friends one minute and enemies the next. The fact that most of the tasks were held on the streets of Lagos did not make it any easier.

Did you think you could win?
Oh yes. If you did not think you would win then you had no point participating. Win or lose, I always told myself I would not take up the job offer that came with winning. I would turn it down and return home to my law firm and grow it. I knew I would leverage on the media coverage to take me to the next level.

What did you come out with, in terms of lessons?
The only thing I learnt from the show, which the show’s CEO, Mr. Biodun Shobanjo always told us was that it’s not enough to be the best. It is the only thing. I try to be the best at whatever I do. I am an intense competitor and achiever. I always want to distinguish myself as different from the ordinary.

When you lost the big prize did you feel heart broken?
Out of 18 contestants, I was the fourth last to be fired in episode 15 (week 15 of the job interview). By that time the pressure to win was so much that when I got fired I felt a whole load off my shoulder. You only have to be there to appreciate the pressure one is under.
What would you say you gained from Apprentice?
The show changed my life. I came back determined to squeeze maximum benefit from the media coverage and boy did it all go according to my plan? I am what I am today thanks to the show. It sprung me decades ahead of my time.

Where did you pick up from when you left Apprentice?
I found the office struggling but with my renewed charisma and the huge expectation from my family, I dug deep and got it to where I always dreamed of going. Remember, when I got the invite to participate on the show, I left everything for nothing. The structure of the show was winner takes all. There was absolutely nothing for the losers. It was a huge risk but one I was willing to take.

When you got into Apprentice Africa you were another ordinary citizen but then you were on television, how did this change your life?
I was able to walk into offices and get business simply because people had watched me do my thing on the show and that is what I wanted. I always portrayed myself as the solution guy. I never whined when the team was presented with a challenge. The show helped me create a brand of myself which I jealously protect to this day.

You were already a lawyer at the point when you went in, did this affect your work in any way?
Of course, it did. I had a junior lawyer, Victoria Nakaibale, who did a tremendous job in my absence. She managed to keep the office running with no money and no clients.

Society looks at lawyers as elitist and learned fellows, did society or colleagues look at you differently when you returned?
I was told by mates that at first people were jeering in pubs wondering what had become of me. Some said I loved money so much that I had gone into acting Kinigeria. Others apparently said I had become gay. Others still said I was ashaming lawyers. All this idle talk was born out of ignorance. Some Ugandans are yet to appreciate opportunities and taking them by the horns. At the end of the day people look back and appreciate that I had an eye for a life- changing opportunity.

You run a respectable law firm, when did you set up?
June 2007.

What was it like starting it up?
It was tough and scary. We live in a small town and all clients seemed to be taken. It was not easy.

How have you been able to build it to where it is today?
Thanks to the Apprentice show, I got some blue chip clients who kept coming in one at a time. I also surround myself with the best. I only work with the best and this has helped me deliver to clients’ expectations.

You have a good footing in real estate, what do you have to your name?
No I do not. I am just a small time guy. Have a few units which I rent out for a few bucks a month. We have Rivonia Suites in Mbuya which houses a leading gym called Health City, a restaurant, a salon, conference facilities, a few hotel rooms and some apartments. I have also been doing a small-gated community estate in Munyonyo which will be ready for residents end March 2014.

How have you been able to build your businesses?
It is not easy. You borrow from banks, individuals, do joint ventures name it. You have to mix it up, otherwise it is not easy.

How much did you inject in these investments?
I cannot disclose that.
What business ethics do you uphold?
I am a man of my word. However, long it takes I will always deliver on my word. Those who know me well will tell you this about me.

How are you able to balance between work, as a lawyer and businessman and family?
You have to prioritise. I am working for my family so it’s only fair that I make time for them every day. Otherwise, it will be pointless working and soon you will lose focus. When I see my family happy, it urges me to work harder to settle the obligations sooner than later so that I firmly secure their future.

How would you describe yourself?
I am a semi-introvert. I am very reserved to those who do not belong to my inner circle. I have learnt to keep to myself over the years but on the inside, I love working hard and achieving goals I set out to achieve, challenges notwithstanding.

What is your average day like?
I have the best job in the world and my days are very enjoyable. I wake up at 6am and normally leave my house at 7.30am. I always tune in to CNN, SkyNews/sports to catch up before I head out. I am the overall supervisor at office but because I work with smart people, I do minimal work.

When not working, how do you like to enjoy your leisure time?
I do movies, club once in a while and play soccer. I also watch TV a lot.

What is your wish list for the next five years?
I only wish for life and stability in Uganda. We need stability to enjoy life. This is perhaps the one thing the current government should be lauded for. People are able to go about their lives as was meant to be both in the Bible and the Constitution.

The Apprentice Africa is an African version of the original American Reality TV show, The Apprentice, hosted by Donald Trump. The show was hosted by Biodun Shobanjo, an advertising magnate, co-founder of Insight Communications and CEO of Troyka Group, a marketing communications conglomerate. It featured 18 contestants from across six African countries: Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, Cameroon and Guinea. The show premiered in February 2008 and ended in June 2008.

The premier edition, shot in the Nigerian commercial capital Lagos, had 18 episodes where contestants competed in 17 business tasks requiring street smartness and corporate intelligence to conquer. Contestants were arranged into two groups and in each episode, the winning team was rewarded while the losing team meet the CEO and his associates in the boardroom to explain why they lost. The Project Manager for that task would choose two teammates perceived to be the reason for the lost or the weakest link in the team, one of whom would then be fired.

Isaac Dankyi-Koranteng, a then 31-year-old Customer Account Manager with Huawei Technologies from Ghana, won the first season. He was hired by Biodun Shobanjo and joined Bank PHB in Lagos, Nigeria, from 2008 to 2009 as a member of the Corporate Execution Team. He later returned to Ghana and joined Airtel Ghana as the Corporate Sales Manager. He later worked as Territory Sales Manager for IBM Ghana and is now the Managing Director of Resourcery Plc, a leading IT firm in Nigeria.  The show only ran for one season.

the other  ugandans?
Nancy Kalembe: Nancy Kalembe wasn’t new to TV having starred in the soap Hand In Hand and anchored news on UBC. After spending 10 weeks on Apprentice Africa, The former Miss Ugandan contestant landed a job as an Investment Analyst at Bank PHB, one of the show’s sponsors. She is now into private business and is the Managing Director of her own firms Spring Clean Ltd and Springfield that makes items like pineapple jam.

Oscar Kamukama:
Prior to joining Apprentice Africa, Kamukama was a Marketing Manager with National Insurance Corporation. He was the eighth contestant to be fired from the Apprentice Africa show, but went on to land a job with Keystone Bank in Lagos, Nigeria. He served in several capacities including Retail Assets Manager and Retail Product Manager, before returning to Uganda as Head of Retail Banking at Orient Bank.

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