Sunday, April 29, 2012

HOW TO RUN A ONE MAN BUSINESS


You are the type of person that our president loves, that every well meaning capitalist government loves- an entrepreneur. You are the future of the middle class. A business owner. While your lazy classmates (if you even entered a class) hustled with CV’s in brown envelopes for government salaries, you built a business from scratch. I praise God for your wisdom and wish you many more years of productive insight. 

Because I am a supporter of your success, I have undertaken to give you free advice on how to succeed.

You need to get good, honest workers who can work long hours with little pay. If you run a small operation without the need for any special skills apart from basic arithmetic and physical strength, and need just one or two workers, my advice is to talk to your mother or aunty in the village. There is no better way. She will suggest a very distant cousin or some destitute from the neighboring village who will be grateful to come to the city. Because you will have saved him from the village- from possible guinea worm, being killed by village juju, addiction to ogogoro or early marriage (by impregnating a farmer’s daughter)- you will not need to pay him a salary at least for the next many years. 

I know you are wondering where he will sleep when he comes. Not to worry. Provide a little mattress and pillow and he can sleep in the shop. Unless you have excess room in your boys quarters (that you are not using to store your children’s old toys), there is no need to spoil this new village person with running water, a toilet that actually flushes and his own room. Otherwise you will wake up one day and he will want to drive your car or share your wife. 

Now you may have to reach an agreement with his village guardians to free him from your service in some years and give him some money to start his own business. Don’t panic. As a lawyer I can tell you it is safe to sign.  First, five or seven years is still a long way off and when the time comes to part with your hard earned money something miraculous will happen to save you from your duty. The guy who has been working like a bull for many years will suddenly become dishonest and steal your money or goods a few months before he is due for his compensation. Then you can send him packing and find another one. 

Ok, say you have a more complex operation and need a bit of skill. Not too much because you know you cannot pay for too much skill. Type the job ads on A4 paper, (landscape orientation) and paste at junctions, on electric poles, on other people’s signboards and one at your place of business. Put a contact phone number below. You will have more applications than you can deal with. The general understanding here is that where the ad reads, “Computer Operator Wanted” or “Secretary Wanted”, the job description goes much further. 

Feel free after employing your Secretary to send them to pick up your kids from school, to buy you moin-moin, wash your plate after you finish drinking garri, wash your car or buy a ticket and book a quiet hotel for your girlfriend coming from out of town (even if he is a born-again Christian). Your employee might grumble under his breath but he will understand; that is how things are done.

Never do things that will make your employee take you for granted. It is your duty as a business owner to maintain the pecking order for all of us. Never pay salaries on time. In fact avoid paying salaries and look for excuses either not to pay or to cut out some part of it. They come late to work, cut their salaries. They break something, cut their salaries. Don’t feel bad about this. In Nigeria nobody, except big corporations, oil companies and those in charge of amnesty for militants, pays or pays on time. Normal business owners complain: no money, no sales, business is bad, no fresh air- anything to avoid paying.

However, remember that the fact that you do not pay or pay on time does not mean that your slave-worker can work as he or she earns. They must meet deadlines, come to work every day and on time, and never openly complain. They should be grateful that in the Nigeria of today where everything is crumbling you are kind enough to offer them a job. In fact you deserve an award for being an “employer of labour”.

Those who think you are a bad guy should try running a business in a country with no electricity, infrastructure or security. God bless your hustle.

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