He has closed his eyes so that we may open ours.
How to start your own business in Botswana, make something special out of nothing and start doing real work that matters.
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Combi drivers. We love them. We hate them. We love to hate them. But no matter how you feel about our local public transport professionals, there’s a lot they can teach you about success in business – and in life.
By CELIA AJUBA
‘Main Mall! Main Mall! Hurry Mama. I’m going your way. Main Mall! Main Mall! A re tsamaye. A re. A re. Let’s go now, Mama!’
I remember my first year in Gaborone. I had to learn the ropes and take combis everywhere.
We may take them for granted, but I have so much respect for these street-wise entrepreneurs.
Combi drivers get an A* in perseverance. Every day, at every main opportunity, without fail, they do everything they can make sure their vehicle is full.
They keep jockeying for the best spots, all the while calling out to every person who comes remotely within earshot – until every seat is occupied.
The combi driver understands that his is a volume business, and he knows that even one empty seat is revenue gone for good. A few pula here. A few pula there. It all adds up.
Maybe you too have a volume business. Or maybe you don’t. Either way, nothing, and I do mean nothing, is more important in business than perseverance.
Combi drivers advertise themselves relentlessly.
The constant horn-honking and calling-out tells pedestrian that a seat is available. If there is a combi with space available in your vicinity, you know all about it.
Do they do this only some of the time? Just when they feel like it?
No. All the time.
And that’s how advertising should be done: all the time. Invisibility is not a good business strategy.
Prospecting for business
Combi drivers, and their right hand man, the condi, are constantly on the look-out for business. The have the observation skills of an eagle, spotting potential passengers from side streets, across busy main roads, or emerging from offices and school gates.
Are you making the most of your prospects? There’s no point in complaining about your lagging sales if you’re not doing much to keep your funnel full.
Collect business cards.
Don’t let shyness or demotivation prevent you from putting yourself out there.
You never know where all this might lead.
Focus on the customer experience
Customer service, on a minibus? Certainly. I’ve been on combis which have made detours down side roads, onto dirt patches, and occasionally practically to someone’s front door, to pick them up. They make it easy for the customer to buy. Combi drives know that this is important.
Unless your customers find it easy to deal with you, they’ll look elsewhere – to one of your hundred other competitors.
Go the extra mile and you will be rewarded.
You might not be used to using the words considerate and minibus in the same sentence, but I have witnessed a significant amount of generous behaviour.
Combi drivers acknowledge their role in the community and often give free rides to young school children and the elderly. They’ve helped me when I’ve been on the completely wrong route, stopping the vehicle, re-funding my money and flagging down a compatriot to take me in the right direction.
Are you also known for your acts of kindness? How does the community see your business? Remember, your reputation follows you everywhere you go.
I’ve worked in the offices of many private companies, NGOs and Government departments. I often hear office staff complaining about ‘fatigue’. Interesting.
The combis start running before sunrise, and come off duty well into the evening. One driver – one shift. That’s the longest working day out of any profession in this country.
Successful entrepreneurs generate more wealth than those who follow the crowd because they do things that others just aren’t willing to do.
They spend more time honing their craft and perfecting their business skills. And they do it every day – even when it’s not fun. (Especially when it’s not fun.)
There are lessons in life and business everywhere you go in Botswana. All you need to do is open your eyes and appreciate them. A re!
How long would you be able to survive if you lost your job tomorrow?
Think about it. A month? Maybe two?
If you’re in this shaky position, it’s a sign that you haven’t done enough to secure your financial future. Simply put: you haven’t saved.
Economic data shows that Batswana do an especially bad job of holding on to money once it gets paid to them.
Last year, the International monetary Fund (IMF) even issued us a warning: the P16.1 billion that households owe to banks is seriously threatening the country’s macroeconomic goals. (Approximately 67 percent of this debt is unsecured – meaning not covered by any tangible asset.)
Simply put: Botswana is a nation of people who spend beyond their means. Let’s take a look at the top four reasons why this is so.
In December last year, I met up with a friend who was driving a brand new Mercedes. As it turns out, this new car wasn’t actually his. Far from it. He had just hired the vehicle for his annual drive back to the cattle post. Talk about an expensive way to impress your granny.
Here’s another true story. An acquaintance of mine is tall and lean and athletic looking. Fantastic physical condition, I would declare.
I couldn’t believe it when he said to me, ‘Wilbert, I wish I had a rounder shape like you. When I am slim like this, people think that I am suffering financially.’
With mindsets like this, no wonder we are broke.
If you want to enjoy financial health and sustainability, my first piece of advice is this: forget what the neighbours think.
If you need to buy the love, respect and approval of others by spending money you don’t have – then its time to re-evaluate your relationships.
Do you know the unifying quality of all the rich people I know? They plan.
Unfortunately, many of the Batswana I have met really struggle with this concept of financial planning.
These are smart people. They have good jobs. They earn more than enough. And yet their money slips through their fingers like grains of sand.
Well, of course you don’t know where your money goes if you won’t write it down. Of course you’ll never have enough if you refuse to compile some kind of budget.
Saving is easy. However, if you aren’t interested in a plan or a system, holding on to any money at all will impossible for you.
Collective poverty syndrome
Many of the clients who come to me for financial counseling are the victims of collective poverty syndrome.
You know the deal. For years, you work hard and study hard to score a better job with a better pay package – finally pulling yourself out of the dust.
And then comes an unfamiliar knock at the door: people needing money.
Your sister with two kids but no man. Your uncle with a drinking problem. Your old roommate who you haven’t seen in years.
Do not be another casualty. You can nip collective poverty syndrome in the bud if you realise these plain facts about lending money to friends and family:
I just got off the phone with a prospective client. We will not be doing business together, and that’s just fine by me.
He said, ‘I want 100% return on my investment in the next six months. I have heard of XYZ scheme which multiplies money quickly.’
This guy will never get rich because getting rich takes time. It takes consistency. And a little sacrifice. The older generation of Batswana gets this concept.
I wish I could say the same for the youth.
Saving is like farming cattle. You need to give your cattle some time to breed, right? What would happen if you sent all your beasts for slaughter in one go? You’d have nothing for the future. In the same way, your investments must take time to mature and your savings must take time to multiply.
Be patient and get rich slowly like everyone else. None of us is above the laws of wealth creation.
So, how much money can you save today? A thousand pula? A hundred? Only five pula?
I don’t care! So long as you get started today.
You can do this, I promise.
WILBERT MUTOKO is the author of Fifteen Secrets for Personal Financial Success – a Simple Step-by-Step Plan for Financial Freedom. A member of the Association of Botswana Financial Advisors, he is also a sought-after speaker who addresses seminars on successful money management.
Connect with him on Facebook here.
Does it open a door? It’s an ACTION.
Does it talk about opening the door, yet the door remains closed? It’s a WORD.