I had a plumbing problem. The kitchen faucet had come off and there was a terrible leak. Add to that the other minor plumbing issues in the house, I decided to call the plumber ASAP. I called and shared the photos of the broken tap with him and also gave him an idea of the problem with the other toilets. He got back to me with what I needed to buy and we scheduled a day for him to come to do the repairs. He came as scheduled, fixed the sink and the other toilets, and I paid him. On his way out, he told me he wanted to show me something. He opened his phone and showed me a set of pictures. He told me that it was for a project he just delivered — Four duplexes in Lekki, all fully sold. When he told me what he made from the deal, I was stunned and totally speechless.
I was stunned, but also proud of him at the same time. You see, I had always known that he is an intelligent guy, good at his job and knew a lot about construction, obviously from the experience he gained from working on many construction projects and sites. Because he was the plumbing guy in the neighbourhood, I always saw him around in the evenings when I take my stroll and he was always happy to engage me in conversations. Many times during those conversations, I always encouraged him to be hard-working, and positive and to scale up his business because there is only so much he can make from what he was doing. Scaling up is where the big payday is.
Apparently, he took my counsel and decided to partner with some people to do a real estate project. They pitched to someone who had cash, and they were able to deliver on the project. The investor made a good return on his investment. A return that made him commit to another round of the project. I must confess that I was surprised he took my advice seriously because I have learnt to lower my expectations when mentoring. The vast majority never do anything with it.
I was also stunned because to all intents and purposes, he was now a “big boy” able to afford a better standard of living. Certainly, fixing sinks should be beneath him. But he still came to fix my sink. Quite frankly, it didn’t make sense to me. As if noticing my speechless hesitation, he said that he just wanted to use the opportunity to show me what he was doing in partnership with others. I couldn’t be more proud of him for his humility. He didn’t have to come, but I was glad he did.
I promised myself that I was going to share his story on Social Media because I know there are a lot of people like him who feel frustrated with the system and believe they have limited opportunities. For good reason. The moment you open your door to get out of the house in the morning, the likelihood is that you will be confronted with despair. You will find all around you enough reason to be angry, negative and obnoxious. It is very easy to get sucked into that negativity that it becomes your daily reality. If you are in that category, I have a few words for you.
- Be deliberate about what you consume. You need to be careful who you associate with because they tend to be the source of what you feed on. Filter what you read and what you watch every day. When your mind is filled with negativity, it is likely that negativity is the only thing you will see. There is every possibility that you will not recognize opportunity, even if it stares you in the face.
- Develop the capacity to scale up. I was at a friend's place in Ogudu, Lagos, and by the time I was leaving, a young man had washed my car inside and out in a way I have NEVER seen a car washed in my life. I immediately told my friend that we should set up a company to do home car wash services and employ this guy. We will discuss with estates and secure contracts with estate facility managers. They will include the cost of a car wash in their service charge, which means guaranteed income for us. We will make the young man a manager, give him a big salary and ask him to train other young men how to wash a car like he does. We could even offer him equity in an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). You see, he washed a car, but we saw an opportunity.
Scaling up is - this guy thinking the way we think by partnering with others with similar skills and pitching their idea to investors like us to invest. There are people and organizations with cash looking for opportunities to invest. Many are looking for double, triple or even quadruple digits ROI and are willing to wait years to get those returns. All they need is Trust and a viable business plan to commit.
This is where the Federal and States Governments can help, by creating a one-stop-shop — a business clinic to help individuals and SMEs scale up. It starts with simple things like the registration and incorporation process, assisting with legal support, access to financing and basic business governance education. There are a few examples out there like the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) and the FG’s MSME Clinic in States. These programs need to be funded and expanded to provide seamless support.
In truth, the average Nigerian is hard-working and entrepreneurial. He does not need the government to succeed. What he wants is for government to just provide the enabling environment and get out of his way. But because the government is not necessarily providing the enabling environment in terms of infrastructure, ease of doing business and security (even when they do, they are in his way), he is full of despair and beguiled with the feeling of hopelessness and sadness.
Nonetheless, in my opinion, the alternative to despair cannot be more despair. It certainly cannot be more sadness. It must rather be a conscious effort to create around you a consciousness of possibility and positivity because the alternative is pure anarchy of the mind, the body and the soul.
You and I will succeed, regardless.