By Chris Ogbonnaya
I want to speak to the self-employed who is thinking of taking their business to the next level.
You’ve probably been working from home and have saved up some money and planning on getting an office this quarter and also to employ some hands.
Please do your groundwork before taking this step because if you do not get it right, it may cost you an irreparable loss.
You also need to understand the mindset of the average Nigerian worker. This is the most important part of the chain but you must also play your own role to succeed in this aspect.
Truth is, you work for your staff. They don’t work for you. This is a Hidden bitter truth. It is your business, not theirs.
Grow organically. Never start with a big office and huge numbers of staff unless you’ve provided the initial briefs that will keep everyone busy for the first few months (minimum of six months) before new clients are gotten.
In no particular order, I will further expatiate on some of the points listed above.
Of course, you’ve been working from home and need more visibility. You can’t continue holding meetings through zoom and eateries. No one is going to cut you a N40 million cheque without placing a proper face to the person and also running a proper background check on your office. But if you want to continue playing around N50,000 to N500,000 briefs, by all means stay where you are. You are doing just fine. You need not get an office yet unless you want to step up.
Get the cost of rent, furniture, office equipment, generator, stationary/consumables, initial government levies, and a minimum of 6 months staff salary. You MUST have these funds cash for cash and not expectations.
For generator, ensure you do a Power Audit. Some people buy generators by assuming that a 10KVA will be just fine. Get to know all energy-consuming equipment in your proposed office and get an engineer to advise you on the KVA you should purchase else you’ll be spending more money in repairs or replacement.
The average Nigerian worker is very phony. They’ve got two default personalities. They are extremely good and bad at the same time.
To get the best of them, you should do the following so as not to have a high staff turnover. Remember, you are taking your first step to expand and distraction is the last thing you need. Hence you must get it right on the first attempt else money will be gone down the drain.
- Provide a very conducive office environment. Nigerians love to associate with a beautiful office where they’ll be proud to invite their friends to just for bragging rights. This is our psychological default state.
- Ensure that the interview process is very competitive. It makes the chosen candidate appreciate the job.
- Pay competitive salary which must also include, HMO, Group life insurance and pension. These appendages are not expensive. There are HMO of 20k per annum, Group life insurance of N5,000 per annum and the pension is deducted from their salaries. A lot of self-employed do not know these things are very cheap and can help boost the ego of staff and make them feel secured while working for you. Do not base your remuneration on commission. Commission, if necessary, should be an addition to salary. People who earn just commission are not professionals and not wholly obligated or loyal to you. You end up spending time employing people and training them. That’s a huge distraction. Just remain in your house and do your thing if you are not ready to do the basics as a self-employed turn business owner.
- This is the most important. Ensure there is work for them to do immediately after they resume. Remember that you are getting an office to enable you to expand and also pursue bigger briefs. Meaning you are no longer meeting deadlines and demand for your product and services is hitting the roof at your present level. Those excess jobs you can no longer meet deadlines become your staff’s first project to handle.
- Attach targets. Targets only work if your staff see you as someone who is smart and also goal-driven. It also works when the salary is competitive and paid on time. The average Nigerian won’t put in his best if you do not meet him halfway. You do not pay someone 50k per month without any benefit and expect them to deliver a 1 million naira monthly target while you sit back and demand daily sales reports and at the same time fuming around the office. No, it doesn’t work like that. They’ll leave your job without even dropping a resignation. Remember the golden reason; you do not need any distractions in the beginning of this phase of your business life. When the Nigerian staff is guaranteed of a competitive remuneration and a conducive work environment, he’ll practically give everything even to the point of using public holidays to close businesses on the company’s behalf.
- Ensure that there is a weekly appraisal during staff meetings and a bi-annual appraisal that determines promotion, reprimand or sack. Even if you have just three staff, structure your biz in a way that it will have a corporate appeal.
Assimilate this for now before I continue next time.
I wish you a prosperous financial year.