Part 1: Advice To My Favourite SME: Listen To The Bed Bug

By EMEKA OSUJI

To say that the times are hard in Nigeria today is to put it mildly. We live in the kind of times that made Thomas Paine write his famous quote: “These are the times that try men’s souls”. This is the famous part but Paine continued: “The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman”. Indeed.

The first part of the quote describes the times and shows the impact they will have on people, including the gallant soldiers and trusted patriots. The second part shows the reward for patience and perseverance. It indicates that the hard times don’t last forever and those who persevere get rewarded. I think it is a constructive way to present a challenge, and that is to me, the main attraction of that famous statement and why I believe my candid advice to my favourite SME should be clothed with ideas embedded in Paine’s quote. Now listen, my favourite SME.

The present times will try your soul. I know your soul is already in the dock undergoing trial. You should be aware of that. But more important, the trial is not about to end. It is going to be with you for a while. Recessions do not end on a given date. Actually nobody knows when they end until people see the plants begin to give out fresh leaves”. Some people may have told you it will soon come to an end. Some very daring ones predicted it will last 18 months. By that calculation we are almost coming ashore. Don’t be fooled. It is not only one crisis. It is a chain of crises. If you are a Christian, you may have heard the story of Legion — that horde of demons that lived in a certain man. Put simply, the light you see at the end of the tunnel may be the headlamp of an oncoming railway engine. Don’t sit and wait for recession to end. The end of this crisis will mark the beginning of another. This is not pessimism. Have survival and expansion plans. What would you be doing in the next three years?

Stop talking about your potentials. Use them. I know you have been through lots of training in the past — Owner Manager, Senior Management, Finance for Non-finance Managers, and such. Take the skills out of your bag of potentials. Potentials have made many men, women, children and indeed nations, lose their lives by literally walking into the enemy camp. Read the history of your country and see how it failed to become a giant because it has too much potentials it does not know how to use. Remember the story of a man who attended a fund raising in his community and said he gave his moral support to a project for which funds were being raised. Some people mistook his moral support for the name of a foreign currency and asked him its equivalence in Naira. Nigeria has been showcasing her potentials since independence and has never exploited it. Don’t be like her. All your learning in Lagos Business School, Wharton and Harvard will come to naught if you continue to parade unexploited potentials.

Please learn from the ants and use this period, which they call recession, to wean yourself of the rampant economic rent seeking behaviour, to which you have become accustomed. There is a new wind of change blowing across the country. But don’t ask me the speed of the wind. The Nigerian Meteorological Services measure wind speed and can tell you if this wind will eventually turn to a hurricane or fizzle out as you probably think it will.

The deafening sound of billions of dollars being recovered from disused pit latrines and bedrooms of maternal cousins of public officials and the fact that nobody goes to jail in Nigeria for big crimes, may be killing you. However, from what I hear, things are about to change but don’t hold me to this prospect. At least they did not give us names of those who refunded money to government because it will damage investigation but now they are giving us full names like Yakubu, etc. My point is that the recession is not exactly as terrible you make it look. In many climes, people use the period to rethink and retool their business strategies.

Besides, there are still big time business opportunities out there. My research has actually uncovered one. It is called Whistle Blowing. The time has passed when loots were relooted and common people like you watched in awe. Not anymore. You are now in the loop, not to loot or reloot but to facilitate loot recovery as a business. Once you find aloot and tell us; you get 5 per cent of the loot. With NNPC still in operation and the Yakubus still working free, you could say there are great potentials — one last time I let you use the word potential.

I know you are concerned that civil servants may loot your 5 percent of loot and you may end up blackmailed with the threat of being revealed to the Yakubus by those who want to expropriate you. Don’t worry. Blow the whistle first. After all, “something must kill a man.” So a recession is not really the draught we are told it is. It comes with new business opportunities for those that think hard.

Use this low time to exercise your brain more constructively. Am sure you will find that there are cheaper and better ways of doing what you do currently. It is called innovation. Try to make, create or invent something of your own. And for your information, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can improve on what has already been done by others. In the legal world of Patents, Designs and Trade Marks, your invention is still patentable even if it is an improvement on existing ones. The problem is that you are too focused on trading and have no time to think. I know you stopped thinking because you discovered that your friends who spent their time pursuing public officials ended up wealthy by serving as conduits for all kinds of evil against your country. Please don’t be discouraged. President Buhari has come after them. Why do you think they unleashed marabouts, necromancers and poisonous prayers against him?

Let me warn you that Nigeria is not about to change. And this has nothing to do with the zeal of the present proponents of change. Someone may lead change but change will not happen because someone has declared it, no matter how sincere he is. Change only comes when a critical mass of change champions are empanelled and committed. I may concede to Buhari’s commitment to change but am yet to see yours. Until the 103m people in Nigeria’s labour force, according to the National Bureau of Statistics, including ministers, directors, managers, clerks and even security men, who are alleged to work more for oil thieves and smugglers than their country, commit to change, it won’t happen. Commit.

To close this first instalment of advice to you, let me remind you that the way you dress is the way you are addressed. Try to fix your looks before going to your bank for that financial support. It is time you began to see yourself as a proper company and behave like one. Do you have a bank account? Have you ever met your account officer? Does he understand what you do? Do you have a specific line of business or you wake up every morning, walk through the street looking for what you call business? That is a recipe for conmanship.

Igbo mythology has a story of the bed bug and hot water. What hot water does to bed bug is what recession is doing to business. The bed bug’s secrete of survival is in taking advice. Listen to the bed bug.


Originally published at SME.

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