The word ‘business’ is a cliché, the relevance of which has attained gargantuan proportions in Nigeria. Business meetings- anything from seeing an ex-girlfriend that one has sworn to his current girlfriend or wife that he is not sleeping with to paying your carpenter for the side stool he fixed- are sacred. Business partners typically have the most intense form of relationship. “Businessman” or “Businesswoman” is the nebulously omnibus job description that solves the problem of having to explain why one is idle or why one has so much money without any visible or legal source of income. Being ‘into business’ can mean anything from importing cheap substandard goods from China to having a rich generous lover. Some statistics say that the majority of Nigerians are into agriculture. That is a blatant lie. The majority of Nigerians are into ‘business’. Now, you may be forgiven if you don’t have an actual business in Nigeria. But it is a mortal sin, not to have a business card otherwise known as complimentary card or just card.
It goes beyond sinning to not have a business card. It is an existential issue of the highest degree. It questions your identity as a Nigerian. Recently I have been going about my normal business, pun intended, without a business card. When I say I don’t want children, people greet me with surprise. But when I say I have no business card (not that I have run out of cards) they greet me with horror. I get the you-are-an-evil-alien-that-deserves-to-die look. That look isn’t nice. You don’t want to lie in bed wondering why bad things happen to good people. To avoid this, you must understand the business of business cards.
Whether you are a ‘General Contractor’ or ‘Friend of His Excellency the Executive Governor’, the business card can prove to be more important than the business. Consequently, you must take care in its production. A floppy, dull looking card can be an instant business death sentence. Your card precedes you. Many times that will be the only contact you will make. Make it nice, firm, glossy. Or gold embossed if you have anything to do with His Excellency the President or His Excellency, The Executive Governor
Make sure you have at least three phone numbers on the card. This shows you have at least three phones. No self-respecting business Nigerian takes this for granted. True, one of the phones may be a cheap China dual-sim phone but nobody can tell- three numbers show you don’t muck around with your business. It is not your fault that not a single network provider in Nigeria can be relied upon. Whoever criticizes your three phones, may their own businesses collapse.
You need titles. Every academic qualification must be clearly printed. If you are a lawyer for example it is not enough to write your name and call yourself a legal practitioner. That is a waste of space on a business card. You need to add Barrister in front of your name and Esq behind. Then you must add LLB (Hons), BL and any other acronym you have acquired including all those management and arbitration courses they advertised to you in Law School and during NYSC. Below all of this you will write out your full title: Barrister and Solicitor of the Supreme Court of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Only another bad-belle lawyer can fail to see the significance of all of this.
You must keep your business cards handy. You never know when you will run into someone rich, famous or extremely beautiful who has no time to wait for you to search your six pockets and fat multi-layered wallet for your business card. Get a nice card holder. Or arrange them nicely in your breast pocket.
Striking up a conversation using business cards is an art that takes you everywhere from doing business to someone’s bed. Meet a total stranger on a plane and as you look into their eyes, put your hand in your breast pocket and slide out your business card in time to coincide with ‘Hi, my name is Emeka. But you can call me Mekus.’ It will not matter if you are as useless to each other as a condom to an impotent man. A proper introduction is all that counts. They will take your business card and stare into it pretending to care, by which time you will have gotten their attention. The rest, if you are smart, will become history.
May the good god who guides all things Nigerian, guide you and your business cards to people who will bless your hustle.