When I started a consulting business in early 2004, I felt on top of the world being my boss. I thought to succeed as an entrepreneur was all about starting a business. I was naïve. Running a business is not as easy as I later found out. The good thing is that it helped me face reality and understand it takes hard work, persistence to make it. If you live in a city, you know how tough life can be without a job.
I made one of the worst career mistakes –resigning a full-time job without another job and a clear plan. I had a bank loan and several bills to pay. Within three months on the streets, I began feeling the impact of my decision. No one was willing to give me a consulting job. And to be honest: I lacked the skills needed to be a consultant. People in business (prospects) were already smarter. They needed role models with reputable names like the ‘big four’ audit firms, not the newbie consultants that had no experience.
Consulting is a business of confidence and self-worth. I lacked this quality.
I spent over seven months plying Kampala streets looking for any consulting project, just any project, in vain. It was tough. I defaulted on my car loan. My house rent was in arrears. I needed the money and now.
To make matters worse, I got an irresistible offer from the owner of a restaurant I used to frequent for lunch. “I have noticed you love this place. I am looking for a business partner what if I gave you an offer?” I said sure, I would love it. He said “I am giving 20% shares in the restaurant for Ugx 10m (US $4,000). I told him “let me think about it.” The truth is I did not have that kind of money. I tried calling a few friends for a loan in vain. I tried banks, but without a full-time job and collateral, no bank was willing to give me money.
On 5th August 2004, I boarded a taxi heading to Kireka (a city suburb where I used to live). In the taxi, I sat next to an old man. He had an Obote like a haircut and looked well educated. I just sat quietly. As we were approaching Spear motors junction, after a 10 minutes’ drive, the old man tapped on me and said: Hi, young man. What do you do? I looked at him and intoned: “I am a consultant. I help people solve their problems.” He looked at me and quickly replied: “You look worried, why not fix your problems first?”
I said I need capital but no bank is willing to give me the money.
The old man looked at me and said: “don’t neglect to do this. Go, write down the top four things you are good at and focus on how to use them to raise capital.” He added: “once you do it, use the principle of positive float –always think about your strengths.”
For long, I thought I needed capital when in fact I had the capital. I was the capital.
When I reached home, I got a paper and a pen and wrote down my strengths. I don’t know why it was tough writing my strengths. And come to think about it, I had never looked at what I was good at. I always looked at problems.
Writing down my strengths helped me discover that I was good at writing, healthy and a Certified Chartered Accountant!
I thought, what about visiting Universities and trying to teach accountancy on part-time. I tried three training institutions in vain. Reluctantly, I tried the fourth one. Thank God they had a department of professional programs and they welcomed me with two hands.
Now, I had a part-time job as a lecturer paying me Ugx. 150,000 (US $ 60) weekly.
Finally, I had some little income to help me pay my expenses.
I also remembered that as a consultant, my capital was my brain. What if I offer free consulting services to the restaurant in exchange for the 20% shares offer. The next day, I went to the restaurant and met the entrepreneur and told him how I could offer professional advice to turnaround his restaurant. “With this kind of setup, you don’t need capital. You need ideas to grow, and I am willing to put in my best.” He agreed. The rest is history.
Now to you
Don’t neglect to do this: write down your top five (5) personal strengths. How are you using them to make money? Error on focusing on your strengths or positive float. But that is not enough. Think deep about how to use your strengths to make money. That will make a difference in your life.