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Night and day

By Debbie Ogunjobi

THE past couple of years have been very busy and where previously I had invested a major amount of time in mentoring and giving lectures; stringent time management issues had meant that I simply did not have the time to go round the circuit.

I still received countless invitations some with very mouth watering honorariums but I had given my former assistant carte blanche to say a blanket no to all such requests; the new one had met the embargo in place so it was not till very recently that I located what seemed to be a paper mountain of requests.

The requests actually did not really make the impact that a piece of news I had received did. I had been informed by an agent that store space occupied by a very dynamic young lady was being offered up for rent and when I asked why, I had been told that she was throwing in the towel because times are hard!!

My initial reaction had been shock and outright disbelief! I guess I should have suspected something like that was in the offing as I remember a particularly embarrassing situation that had unfolded with the lady in question just a year ago. It was one of those days where every corner of Lagos was locked in a heavy traffic jam.

While in traffic I had spotted her car next to mine and I had quickly got her attention to exchange what I thought were pleasantries. After the customary greetings I had asked how she was and to my shock and that of everyone watching, she had burst into tears, she shook her head from side to side and mournfully answered me.

“I am not fine.” I had tried to say a few words of encouragement and I was a bit disturbed by her fragile state but as she was driving herself I didn’t want to upset her more by probing deeper. She seemed fine when I saw her a few weeks later and I had completely forgotten the incident till I got the news she was closing down her store.

By some coincidence shortly after, I received a letter from one of the foremost business training schools asking that I come to give a lecture to their enterprise alumnus in the retail sector who were also facing financial crisis.

Before I start, please let me clarify that I am also not exempt from the current situation; my counsel was only sought because I have experienced quite a number of similar crunches and what better way to rise than to learn from someone who has fallen severally but is still standing? So while I normally like to separate the many areas of my life; I will make this one exception to encourage those who are tempted to throw in the towel.

A brief introduction is the best way to begin. While writing the column is something I have done for five years it is not my job. What I am is an entrepreneur with close to two decades in retail sector and a lot more years in different lines of enterprise.

The economic atmosphere has been inclement for a while and I know most of us have felt and are still feeling the crunch but closing the curtain on our various means of livelihood is not the solution. A majority of the points I raise are best suited to enterprise but they are all general principles that should work in the lives of those in paid employment and in private enterprise alike.

The first and most important principle in business and even life is the one I like to refer to as the night and day principle what most of us recognize as profit and loss swings.

There is absolutely no field of enterprise that does not experience this and it has absolute no regard for the size and scale of business. A few decades ago I grew up knowing the richest man in the world to be the Sultan of Brunei, Sir Muda Hassanal Bolkiah; by the late ‘90s he was liquidating assets to pay creditors. If you check out the top 20 richest people in the world now, he is not even on the list!! Russia was home to a majority of the new set of billionaires at the top of the millennium but most of them are dropping off the list faster than flies being fumigated.

Loosing fortunes

Nigeria is also a great example of people building and losing fortunes. So any entrepreneur who expects smooth sailing all of the time had better wake up to the reality that successful people have a lot more failures in common than successes.

They deserve the accreditation of successful because they never give up. Donald Trump is the poster boy for rising and falling. It seems most people have bought into the idea of a sure fire formulae for wealth and while the goal of this particular column is to encourage and give hope, I will be sharing some hard truths that will be bitter.

They may not make me popular but they should challenge those who need it to keep trying.
Lesson one is simple: embrace failure; learn from it, identify what is wrong, what went wrong and how to avoid it and do better next time round. Painful as it is, failure is a better teacher than false or shaky success.

It’s a two sided coin; if you keep trying you can turn it around.
To be continued


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