Sunday, 24 January 2010

On any given day

(Strictly for the young)
BY TOSYN BUCKNOR
TECHNOLOGY is fantastic. I mean, look at me, not anywhere close to a desk nor even a computer, but still able to get this article to you.
Music in the background, voices in the other background, some soda to drink and a snack from my favourite vendor. Bliss.
But I have spoken too soon. Because now, that gentleman (also known as an ‘area boy’), and that other gentleman (also known as an agbero) are about to break bottles on each other’s heads because apparently, one of them touched the other’s bottle.
The one he picked up to quickly buy more fuel into and sell to that lady whose car has just died and who cannot be bothered to try and queue.
Yes my fellow Nigerians, I am at a petrol station.
There was a time we did not queue for fuel. This time is also known as, ‘in the good old days’. This was the time before Christmas was postponed, and before queuing for fuel became part of your to do list.
As in, ‘hey Tosyn, what are you doing on Thursday’, and ‘hey Shade, well after the show, I’ll grab a quick lunch, queue for fuel and get a pedicure’.
First we did it reluctantly, but now we blog about it, tweet while we are doing it, and of course, write an article in The Guardian because of it. And if we are not careful, we will actually get used to it. Like how we got used to there never being PHCN-generated power at home.
But while you try to adjust to it, I have moved on to other things, like turning it into a commercial venture! What? Aren’t the ice cream man that I just bought yogo from, and the vendor that I bought gala from also doing it?
And what of these touts that I spoke of earlier who have now made up and are jointly bargaining with the stranded lady? (I think they have asked for thrice what they bought it for. I don’t think she cares anymore).

Why can’t I create a Survival Guide to Petrol Queues, and make money from it?
I mean, everyone needs to know what he or she needs for a fuel queue. The most essential thing is an empty bladder. No one forgives the man who left his car to ease himself, thereby letting others jump the queue when the gate of the petrol station was eventually removed.
You must however stay refreshed and entertained so please have some water and snacks. But if you do not take any with you, do not fear. There will be a steady stream of hawkers urging you to buy everything and anything. And on that note... no ma, I do not need matches, stove and kerosene. I will not be making my dinner at the station.
Your vocabulary might be very good at this point, but you need to incorporate some new words. ‘Please’. Oga. Comot! Or Clearout.
Longer phrases like, ‘Turn by Turn’, ‘How Far?’ and You dey craze, and questions like, ‘Are they selling?’, also come in handy.
Murphy’s law warns you that at any given time, anything that could go wrong usually will. Remember this when you get on a queue that seems to be moving but stops moving when it gets to your turn because the pump is hot.
Or when you get to a station that is selling from only one pump, and is giving priority to people with kegs. When a fight breaks out, chances are something will hit you, or your windscreen. Dress accordingly; this is not the day for short dresses, heels or designer shirts.
Look out for our favourite regulars at petrol stations. ‘Mr. But-What-Are-You-Doing-Here?’ Who is at the station but is not buying fuel nor selling it. There is always that one guy that is mad at the world, and at you.
He spends his time grumbling, and if you spray perfume that he does not like, you will know! People pick their noses all the time, but there is something about a fuel queue that brings out the skills of even the most polished person, and there’s always that one girl applying mascara or blush... it usually is me.
Queues go on for hours, so ‘Mr. Never-Time-Wasted’ has asked his colleagues to meet him at the station for a meeting, and love or at least, friendship-at-first-sight occurs here regularly. There is nothing like bonding over petrol fumes and sighs.
Since the directive that petrol should not be sold in kegs any longer, the keg queues have grown even longer, but on a good day, there will be a random guy who has brought his ‘I Better Pass My Neighbour’ generator to the station.

Laugh hard. These are the little joys you get at times like this. And ‘Mr. If-I-Was-President’ provides the social commentary.
He knows why there is fuel scarcity (although he never says anything strongly nor clearly enough for you to also understand why), and has an opinion on everything, from the Super Eagles (it is the defence), to banks. This guy is your most valued asset at a station, when your battery runs down and you can no longer listen to the radio, or when you are just so starved of human contact that any one would do!

Congratulations! You have been armed with some essential tips for coping with petrol queues. The other tips can be found in my book, complete with a complementary Keg-Disguise bag, for those silly stations that actually comply with instructions not to sell petrol into kegs.
Remember too that anyone can write a book, as it starts with asking the most basic questions:
• Why is there fuel scarcity?
• When will cars run on urine?
• How can I increase my urine output for when question two above is answered?
• Why is my car suddenly lighter?
• Where is my spare tyre?
tosinornottosin@yahoo.com




The single most potent reason businesses fail (1)

(Biz tool Kits)
BY BRIDGET OLOTU
I GOT this interesting mail from a reader and it hints at the issue I want to address this New Year.

“Your weekly contributions … have been a wake-up call for me. Thank you Madam. I am a Pharmacist working in a Federal hospital. I have always wanted to open a community pharmacy shop that is ICT compliant and driven, to meet the medical needs of our people, as never seen before. I procrastinate a lot; it seems I do not know where and how to start. Any advice from you is worth a million to me.”
A. O.

This was my reply to him:

“Hello Mr. A. O. I thank you for your compliments and humility to admit that you needed to take bold steps towards your dream but have been hampered by procrastination. One advice I will readily give you is this: to start any form of business, you need information so you don’t increase the casualty rate of failed businesses. As an employee at the moment, you are venturing into the world of business and need to be armed with the information to avoid making a shipwreck of your foray into business. I am not surprised that the whole thing is mystifying... It will remain as such until you speak with a Business and Management Consultant who can help you birth your dream…”

The Statistics from the Small Business Association in the US and Canada also confirm the scary outcome of failed businesses. These statistics say that 95% of start-up businesses die 5 years after they have been established, while another 90% of the remaining businesses also die after another 5 years. In real terms, this means that if 1,000 businesses start today, from the analysis they gave, after 5 years, 950 businesses would have gone under, and 5 years later, out of the 50 businesses remaining, another set of 45 businesses would suffer similar fate. This means that after 10 years, only 5 businesses would remain standing out of the 1,000 businesses that started out altogether. This is really no mean threat but a real fact as we all are witnesses of the rising mortality rate of big and as well as small businesses.
But from my experience as a management and business development consultant, businesses whose owners did some form of market survey, feasibility survey, environmental scanning, business planning, etc, tend to survive the booby traps that ensnare many start-ups in the marketplace. For instance, in 2007, we were given a brief by a client to carry out a market survey for him regarding the right location for siting his microfinance bank. We were looking at either Lagos or Abuja. Our representative immediately left for Abuja for the survey there. Already we had prepared a questionnaire which was to be administered in the two locations. After having worked tirelessly for days in Abuja and Lagos, we came up with relevant facts that we shared with our client and which informed our conclusion in the research.
From all indications, our client wanted the bank in Abuja because he is of Northern extraction. There is nothing bad about investing in one’s homeland or community. However, the brief we were given was to look at the viability and profitability of having an MFB in Abuja or Lagos.

Our criteria for selecting the right location for his microfinance bank business were as follows:
• The right location must be close to the target market.
• The right location must be close to a large human population
• The right location must not be too expensive in terms of capital outlay
• The right location must address the needs of the right market
• The right location must make it easy for access to a pool of professionals who will work for the bank
The right location must provide healthy return on investment (ROI) for the business.
Olotu is the CEO/Lead Consultant, DEAIM Innovative Resources Ltd., bridgetolotu@gmail.com

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