Avoid Procurements and CREATE your own lane…

Hustling in a third world country and trying to make it as an entrepreneur can not only be tough but it seems the road to entrepreneurial success is already laid out and tends to be typical. The strategy employed when it comes to earning a decent living is somewhat uniform. In Africa the rhetoric is always “make sure you get a big tender.”

Tender/Procurement/Third –party supplier. Those are the buzzwords in Lesotho and whatever you chose to call it…make sure the one you are awarded is HUGE! For the sake of consistency, we will refer to the above as tenders.

Unless you have your “means” of acquiring these tenders, the steps to follow in being awarded one are pretty straightforward.

· Buy the weekly local papers and highlight the small tenders you can bid for. By nature of their size these tenders can be across many different industries and sectors of the economy.

· Get your paper-work ready and submit your application before the deadline

· Sit and wait to hear the outcome

· Repeat the above on a regular basis

Twelve months later after many applications this process may have afforded you a decent pay and a well-spread resume of small to large private institutes, NGOs and various government ministries.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this approach can work for many people….my problem with this arises when:

1) You are providing a good/service of which you are not particularly skilled for; or

2) Your company resume shows a variety of unrelated goods/services which don’t highlight your particular skill-set

All of this leads to little value creation, minimal innovation, and minor growth…which often devalue your brand as a company making it difficult to separate yourself from your competitors.

My approach is different. Instead of waiting for a tender, create work for your company and carve out your own lane. Showcase your services at the highest level and present your offering such that you are the only one who can execute on it.

Below are few steps of how I go about to get business in an environment where being an entrepreneur means being a “tender slut.”

Step 1: Pick an idea that involves your skill, and hopefully there is a shortage of that skill in the market. If you are going to supply a product, compliment that product with a service that will make your offering unique and bespoke.

Step 2: Pick a good company to sell the idea to. Typically go to the decision makers and get them on board before you even attempt to talk to middle management. DO NOT under any circumstance ever decide to do anything, by your own accord, for government. Government business can be great, but rather let them come to you versus you going to them.

Step 3: Don’t just sell your idea but rather sell a relationship. You want repeat business so think of it as a relationship from the onset. Before the ink is even dry on the initial project, start showing the client how the business relationship can grow beyond the first one.

Step 4: Provide VALUE upfront before you even get paid. This is a tough concept usually for most but in my experience I found this is how I earn the trust of prospective client. They already get to see my value add before they pay for it, now what more will they get when they are willing and able to pay. And this concept alone ALWAYS leads to referrals. This is Gary Vaynerchuk’s principle of Jab lots of times before you right hook. Love that guy btw.

Step 5: Treat the job like it’s your last one. This concept is drummed in probably in any decent corporate culture but very few live it. And I mean very few people do and I like to take it a step further. Not only treat it like it’s your last one…but go in having zero expectations of them giving you repeat business, therefore you should let your work speak for itself.

The above always holds true and consistent whenever I am looking to carve out jobs from corporates. Lastly, and this is not a step but a prerequisite for me, I need to have FUN doing it.