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Up from the Ashes

- 10/01/08  

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Trainer Network | MAI


October/November 2008

In This Issue:
Up from the Ashes in Côte D’Ivoire
Best Practices for Goal Setting
Marketing 101
Write to Reconcile: LittWorld 2009 Writing Competition
African Leaders Learn to Pass on Publishing Skills

Hi, !

Bookstores struggle in countries where civil war has flattened the economy and infrastructure. When bombs destroy shops or road blockades prevent delivery of new stock, how can books and magazines reach readers eager for hope? One bookseller in West Africa was about to close the doors forever of the last shop in his chain. Learn how the prayer, faith and  business mind of one man helped turn the store around.

- Dawn Herzog Jewell, editor

Up from the Ashes in Côte d’Ivoire:
Bookstore Goes from Bankruptcy to Success

At MAI’s writer and bookseller workshop in Mali last spring, 50 writers and booksellers from French-speaking West Africa honed their skills with trainers Tony Collins and Lawrence Darmani. Here’s the story of one bookseller by Lawrence Darmani.

Ghislain Canteih Yao ran a successful business importing and exporting mangos, papayas and other tropical fruit across French-speaking West Africa. But, he longed to engage in full-time ministry and was praying for God’s direction. When Yao heard of a Christian bookstore that was about to collapse in downtown Abidjan, the capital of Côte d’Ivoire, his vision crystallized.
“I saw the Lord opening a door for me to put my desire for missions into effect through the bookshop,” he says.
The bookstore owner, Adbo Rene, and his wife, were set to declare bankruptcy and emigrate to Canada. Rene’s chain of six stores had almost all been looted and razed during the country’s six-year civil war. Aleph Librairie, the last store in the capital, was a shell of its vibrant past. The aisles were empty, old books lined the shelves and unpaid bills piled high. 

Yao offered to help Rene and his wife revamp the  bookstore. Despite the couple’s plans, they dreaded the business’ closure and its impact on their witness. Born and raised a Muslim, Rene had practiced Islam among the local Lebanese community until his wife, an evangelical, led him to Christ. As a result, family and friends shunned him completely. If Rene’s last Christian bookstore flopped, it would fuel their scorn forever.

The couple offered Yao six months to revive the shop, despite their skepticism.

A Strategic Mission
“It was the biggest challenge of my life,” Yao says. With his young wife, he left the fruit business and they dove in. They prayed, moved, consulted and took multiple risks. And to the amazement of Rene and his wife, the bookstore began to turn. 

“Where there is a will, there is a way,” Yao believes. He knocked on door after door, seeking customers at schools, government offices, non-profits and even in residential neighborhoods. He stocked popular products like textbooks and stationery and offered discounts to school principals. He spoke on the importance of reading at meetings of Parent-Teacher Associations. For every potential customer who declined Yao’s offers, several others accepted.
The U-Turn
In six months, the turnaround was visible and Rene’s debt had diminished. Parents and school staff began adding Christian books to their purchases. Yao built relationships with many parents who now number among some 200 shoppers a day who visit Aleph Librairie in the city’s main business center. 

Customers buy CDs and DVDs, calendars, gift items and stationery. Yao says these “bait products” draw people to the Bibles and Christian literature.

“I praise the Lord that parents are noticing the role Christian books play in the lives of children and youth,” he says. But his hunt for literature written by Africans has confronted him with the stark reality of their scarcity. As a result, he hopes to help produce and promote locally-authored Christian books soon. “That’s one reason I’m in this workshop,”
he says.

Lawrence Darmani is MAI's Africa Regional Trainer.

Best Practices for Goal Setting 

Carefully selected goals guide your staffers toward better  performance. Take the following steps to set motivating, challenging goals – and to ensure follow-through:

* Hold individual goal-setting sessions at least annually with each staffer. Gather your group to discuss plans and goals whenever circumstances change.

* Invite employees to join you in setting worthy goals for the entire team or department.

* Trust proven employees to devise their own methods for reaching goals.

* Require workers to set personal goals for their own growth and development. You will learn what they want out of their time on the job.

* Incorporate goals in appraisal sessions.

* Give goals the “realism” test. Don’t turn workers loose to attack goals until you know that they are convinced that meeting their targets is not only possible but also likely.

* Check periodically for understanding. Make sure employees understand the performance standards for which you will hold them responsible.

-Adapted from Successful Team Building, Thomas Quick, American Management Association. Reprinted from Communication Briefings; July 2007; phone: 570-567-1982.


Marketing 101

All creative business ventures start and end with the MARKET. When writing, publishing or bookselling, the first step is to identify your customer and create a plan to get your product into their hands. What are your customers like? Consider how age, gender, education and faith might affect their purchasing habits.  You may need to research your community’s preferences and tastes so that you can sell them a product they can use. 
Customers will buy your book or article if it meets a need, solves a problem or offers a benefit, preferably an immediate one. But the goal is not to fool customers into believing that you are serving them; the goal is to serve. 

Market to readers by providing books that you would enjoy reading. Give truth and a fresh perspective. Give them a story that says: this is why you are here, this is where you are going, this is what you need for the journey, this is the meaning you desire. Then your reader will pick up the book, turn the page and make the purchase.

This material was taken from MAI's marketing workshop for booksellers in Mali, led by trainer Tony Collins of Lion Hudson Publishing.


Write to Reconcile 
LittWorld 2009
Writing Competition

Read a diet of only news articles overflowing with conflict from around the globe, and you’ll quickly despair. In a world often divided along racial, ethnic, tribal, socioeconomic and even denominational lines, we Christians are called to be God’s agents of reconciliation.

Write an article of 1,500 words or less telling a true story of the power of Christ to achieve reconciliation and forgiveness. Your story should show how the Gospel can bring healing in a hurting world—testifying to God’s power to create understanding and love where bitterness or divisions once dominated.

See the complete guidelines.

African Leaders Learn to Pass on Publishing Skills

MAI will host a four-day "Train-the-Trainer" workshop for 20 African publishers, editors and writers, November 6-9, in Accra, Ghana. 

Participants will learn new teaching methods and principles for organizing training workshops.

Faced by the continuing challenges of AIDS, poverty and political and ethnic conflict, Africa needs more locally authored Christian literature that applies Biblical truth to today's issues and offers truth, hope and reconciliation.

Pray for:
- Safe travels for workshop participants

- Wisdom and clarity for workshop leader, Dr. Richard Crespo

- Strength, inspiration and courage for Africa's Christian publishing

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