Journalism in the service of society

How to start a business that will fail (1)

‘The lesson here for any business person is not to use another person’s business as a yardstick. Clarify your vision, articulate your own strategic plan and design a business model that fits your strategic objectives if you want to start, operate and run a sustainable growing business. Until all these factors have been put in place, it is not a good idea to rent an office space or a shop space. It is very risky to put the cart before the horse in business’

HER statement jolted me. I stared at her wondering if she was not being mischievous.

“Yes. The elder directed me to see you. He told me that you have the anointing to pray for businesses to prosper in new shops.” The woman in her early forties emphasised.

“I am not sure I know why the elder will make a statement like this madam.” I could not mask my surprise. However, I can confirm to you that he is my mentor on Productivity matters.”

“Hmm. He is right then. You have a passion for seeing that people maximise results with available resources. He said something like that too.” The woman grinned peering into my eyes as if they had become a mirror.

“Even then, I don’t know why he talked about anointing for prayers. I am just trying to understand his intention. The elder is a deep man. He is not flippant at all.”

“Anyway, he has sent me to you. I had gone to tell him to give me some money to stock my new shop. He is the only uncle who has a large heart and open hands in our family. He has been quite helpful…”

“Give you some money to stock your new shop?” I interrupted.

“Yes o. I just paid for two years rent in a shopping complex around Lekki, here in Lagos. It is very spacious. You can do any kind of business there and make super profit within six months. It is my dream shop.” The woman talked like a school girl holding a box of chocolate cake.

“How strategically located is this shopping complex madam?” I quipped.

“Its location is very strategic. It is located behind the popular plaza in Lekki on your way to Ajah. You just need to make about four or five turns to your right and you are there. The beautiful thing about it is that its gate directly overlooks the lagoon. You can feel the freshness of the breeze from the lagoon from the shopping complex. I wish my husband and I can build a retirement home in the neighbourhood.”  It was obvious that the woman was in love with her new business environment.

“Congratulations madam. I am sure it must have cost some thousands of naira to rent this shop. How much do you need to stock it?” I asked, looking at her diamond studded wedding ring. The woman’s elated countenance fell.

“That is the problem my brother. I paid through my nose to get the place. Everybody in Lagos was interested in having a space in the shopping complex. The rent went up about five times within three months. When there is a high demand for a product that is in short supply, the price goes up. I just believe God will help me to recoup my investment.”  She wrung her hands like a kindergarten, not answering my question.

“Amen. How much did you really pay for the shop madam? Besides, how much do you need to spend on stocking up the place?” I looked at her blood shot eyes.

“It depends on many factors. I have exhausted the money that I realised when I closed my former shop. Even the two million naira that my husband gave me went into the rent too. I spent over four million naira to rent the shop for two years. Of course this included agreement fees and agency fees. My only consolation is that the place is in a serene environment where there is no congestion and noise. Anyway, whatever amount I’m able to get will determine how much I will use to stock the shop. That is why I have not decided the actual line of business I want to pursue there. How much I am able to get will determine what I will sell.” The woman said convincingly.

I chuckled.

“Abi? I don’t want to build my castle in the air.” The woman was blunt.

I smiled, thrusting my tongue between the upper and lower set of teeth.

“This economy is too harsh. If someone is not careful one will just die of stroke. I did not have hypertension until I left my banking job seven years ago and started business.” She blurted out. Her phone rang. “Hello, Tessy. Please, let me call you later. I’m with one of my pastors… Ehn. Yes. I’m already discussing the issue with him. He is really anointed and helpful… Hmm… There is no problem about that. I will book an appointment for you to see him too… Okay. My Pastor, I’m sorry sir.” The woman tapped her telephone handset to end the call.

“Madam, I’m sorry. Please I’m not a Pastor. I’m just a brother in the church. Stop dressing me in borrowed robes. Besides, what we are discussing has nothing to do with the church.” I clarified.

“I disagree with you sir. Every good brother in Christ is as good as a Pastor. Besides, you don’t need to be a Pastor to be anointed to serve God and His people. Anointing equips children of God for Christian service.” She pontificated.

“I agree with you ma.” I adjusted my seat and placed a plain sheet of foolscap paper on the table. I brought out my pen.

“You are surely an apostle in the marketplace.” The woman smiled. She must have thought I wanted to write a note for her to go and pick some cash somewhere.

“Madam, I want to tell you some reasons why small businesses fail from the viewpoint of productivity.” I announced.

She turned her face to the wall on her right. She obviously lost interest in what I wanted to say. However, I thought it was important to tell her the truth that would enable her to build her business. One of the things I discovered, while carrying out the assignment the elder gave me, about small businesses is that over seventy five percent of the ones owned by women are spontaneously financed with the support of their husbands and family members respectively who make regular donations. The second discovery is that twenty percent of the women owned businesses are financed with the savings, gratuity and funds the owners realise from contracts on an ongoing basis. Painfully, only five percent of the women owned businesses are financed from seed invested or borrowed funds which must be recouped from the business. This explains why most women owned businesses collapse or relocate to another shop after two years.    

The lesson here for any business person is not to use another person’s business as a yardstick. Clarify your vision, articulate your own strategic plan and design a business model that fits your strategic objectives if you want to start, operate and run a sustainable growing business. Until all these factors have been put in place, it is not a good idea to rent an office space or a shop space. It is very risky to put the cart before the horse in business.

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