Nine Years after my sojourn into advertising and marketing communications, the economic meltdown in my country Nigeria ensured that my office could not sustainably and profitably run with fat cats (figuratively and literally speaking) like me on the payroll.
I resigned, took a sizable severance cheque, and in my ‘infinite’ wisdom, decided it was time I put in all my years of experience into starting my own business.
I looked at the Marketing Communication “Red Ocean” in Nigeria, and identified a “Blue Ocean” and leapt into it, putting every other project in my life on hold.
Some offers came occasionally, but I did not accept any, claiming it did not excite me enough, or that the pay was not good enough. But in my heart, the main reason was because I badly wanted to own and run my own business.
I had some savings, but six months down the line, while I still had tangible savings, the constant ‘debit’ alerts from my bank, and no corresponding ‘credit’ alert began getting to me.
By month nine post- resignation, I had had enough, and for the first time in my ten years post tertiary education work experience, I began actively searching for a Job.
Those ten months between my resignation and resumption at a new job was and is an ‘MBA’ course from which I learnt a lot about entrepreneurship from personal experience, lessons I share here now.
1. PARTNERSHIP IS BAE
While your personal savings is cool, having a business partner who you can share ideas and risks with is very important. I went to presentations alone. And while my potential clients loved my ideas and my experience, there was this body language that they were not comfortable with committing their entire approved project budget into the hands of this seemingly ‘one man’ company. I guess that is why tag-team wrestling matches are more dramatic and more fun.
2. NO RUNWAY……NO TAKE-OFF
This is literally clear. What do an egg shell and a female womb have in common? An incubation space! The original sperm is a potential organism. But if it is spilled on the ground by the male specie of the organism in question, it would be asphyxiated by the natural elements. Hence, just like the sperm, every business needs an incubation time to allow for organic growth and development. Like the aeroplane taking off, the business should rev her engines, move slowly, pick up speed, begin to take off and finally climb into her space above gravity.
3. YOUR (ACTUAL) PERSONAL NETWORK = BUSINESS (POTENTIAL) NETWORTH
I tried to grow my business from ground zero. I pitched my brilliant idea and my work experience and achievements at the places I had worked – TO STRANGERS!
There was no soft landing. The ground was granite hard. All defences were always up during my presentations. I had to sell and sell, and depend on the brilliance of my presentation, and the sharpness of my suit. It was never enough. Business is mostly a relationship thing. It takes someone who has some kind of previous knowledge of you, relationship with you, or any affinity to listen to your pitch with defences down. Before resignation, I was an all-the-time in the office person. Fiercely disliked by subordinates, because I was the ultimate task master who had no life, and was bent on keeping all his subordinates in the office till whenever the job was done. There was no human-ness to my work approach. No industry fraternization. No professional body affiliations. I felt my work would always speak for me….And it did during interviews for another paid job. But never for my pitch as an entrepreneur. Do you plan to be an MD someday? Start fraternizing with potential clients today. That extra time at clubs, parties, weddings, burials and whatever other social meet, will come in handy when you branch out.
4. DESPISE NOT THY MONTHLY ALERT
To think that the preceding 2 years before my resignation, I used to despise my bank salary credit alerts! I always viewed it in the light of what I could potentially earn as the owner of a business. I was looking at the cup as half – empty instead of half – full. What I and most other entrepreneurship-trigger-happy-folks did not realize was that the despised alert was the only reason why any plans whatsoever could be made to build and grow a business in the first place. No entrepreneur can build a business when living on the streets, or with an empty stomach, or with a nagging Nigerian wife! The thinking should always be “How can I add to the value of this business in incubation from this salary, without necessarily compromising the integrity of my family’s demands on the salary”
5. DATE YOUR GIRLFRIEND BEFORE MARRYING HER
It is funny how common sense may not be common sometimes.
See your business idea as a girlfriend which needs to go through the normal growth phase before evolving into your wife. When you jump, you come back down. But, when you grow, you stay up. The first 1 – 3 years of your business should be dedicated to developing the film of your idea in the dark room, where it is nurtured before you expose it to the light of life. Organic growth should be the thrust then. When it goes beyond showing promise in the organic growth stage, and begins to conveniently yield at least more than twice your monthly earning monthly, then, you can seriously considering devoting more time to it.
Written by: Anthony Onyemauwa, ACIM (Marketing Communications Specialist/Product Marketing/Loyalty Solutions)