Nothing is Odd in Crisis Times

31 Jul 2013

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Ayo Arowolo

I was at my guest's house at exactly 7.55a.m. that morning and we went straight into business. My area of interest was to find out how my he survived when nothing was forthcoming from anywhere. I had learnt that at a point, our guest had to convert his Mercedes Benz into a kabukabu to enable him to generate money to put body and soul together.

When I threw the question at my guest, his response was very swift: “My brother, you don’t have wisdom and experience if you don’t have crisis. I am talking of a situation where you are left with absolutely nothing -no influence, no privilege, no position and your name counts for little.

“And things can turn very rapidly. I remember a time when things were still very good, a finance leasing company invited me to be on its board. I offered to nominate someone to represent me, but they insisted that they wanted me because of my name and the goodwill I had built. That was gone during the crisis and my name really meant very little.

“I learnt this truth in a hard way. To get out of a crisis especially when your back is on the wall, survival is the name of the game. No job can be considered odd in crisis times and you will multiply your sorrow if you sit down brooding over your former position and privileges.

“You cannot get out of a crisis quickly if you start to look at your former position and privileges or start to compare yourself with other people. To get out of the hole, the wisdom is in looking at your current position and seeing what you can do gradually to build up from that ground floor. Come to terms with the fact that you are on the floor. You must flush out anger, bitterness, envy and jealousy.”

“When the crisis reached a head, I became a recluse. I did not want to see anybody again. In fact, nobody reckoned I ever existed. Getting out became repulsive to me. I used to focus on the great things my position could afford me when things were good. But when I started to reinvent myself, the first thing I did was to start to go out. I said to myself, ‘I am now ready to face the world.’

“It was during that time I converted my only Mercedes Benz to a taxi taking passengers from Ibadan to Lagos. I stumbled on some known persons a couple of times and they expressed surprise but I was not bothered. The key concern was survival.”

“Also, one other thing I did was to start to trek to where I normally took a car to before. There was an occasion I had to trek a distance of about 30 kilometres. While it was meant to be a cost-cutting exercise for me, there were additional benefits I never factored into the equation. As I trekked around, I began to see ordinary people who sold things on the road side. I noticed the way they cared for their petty trades and at a time, something told me that I could do better than that with my education and experience. It was in the process of interacting with the people I met on the roadside, those petty traders that I decided to go into edibles -bread. I met with them and got incredible business wisdom from them which I combined with my own wisdom to start baking bread.”

“Setting up a bakery would have cost me about N2.5 million then, but instead of setting up one, I decided to approach a person who had a bakery to sell a timeslot for me. With my knowledge of chemistry, I was able to come up with a superior formulation and that became a threat to the person hosting me. “Ultimately, he sent me packing. But by divine coincidence, shortly after that I stumbled on a man who had built a bakery that could bake up to 5,000 loaves of bread per day. He had relocated abroad but when he was contacted, he graciously allowed me to use the place and that was how I created the flavoured variants of bread I showed you the other time. We produce 5,000 per day and we cannot even meet demands.

“Again, I got involved in low-level construction work where I had to supervise the Areas Boys. Initially, I was ashamed but I had to brace up to face the reality. I was doing all that to ensure that at least I had something flowing for me to be able to survive the time.
“The message I am passing across here is that in crisis times, you cannot consider anything that brings in money odd. Whatever your hand can find to do, do it with all your might. Apart from the fact that this would build your confidence, it could also lead you to a breakthrough when you least expect. Without trekking, for instance, and interacting with petty traders I met on the road, there was no way I could have gone into bakery business which has now turned out to be a key means of livelihood to me.

“With my involvement in construction works, I also got high-level consulting jobs in that field which would not have come without the construction experience I had. If you don’t focus on the challenge you are facing but instead you are looking for what you can do to get off the ground, you would discover that you are better instead of being bitter. It helps if you understand the fact that your problem has an expiry date.”

o   In crisis times, focus on survival first.
o   Don’t close your mind to the opportunities around you.
o   Never regard any job as odd as long as it can bring cash.
o   With the little opening available to you, you can plot your way out of crisis.
o   Your problem won’t last forever; don’t allow it to consume you.

Dear Mr. Arowolo, I read your reply to the question posed by a pastor as regards investing the church money in his care. I was surprised by the illustration of the Parable of the Talents you used in answering his questions. It is not correct to have used it that way. The parable as told by Jesus Christ simply means that God created us with different abilities or skills which he expects us to use wisely for maximum yield.

The owner of the talents never expected them to put the money into banks, but rather wanted each of them to use his IQ (Intelligence Quotient) to make use of the money which two of them used wisely and made two-fold gains. Factors used were IQ, self-efforts and the will to carry out the project. In the Apostle’s day, money brought to the church by the people from the sale of their belongings was redistributed to others according to their needs. Why are you saying that pastors can invest such money in their hands? Let us preach the Word as it is written in the Gospels. Thanks and God bless you.

Thanks for the observations. However, I do not think I invented anything that was not written in the Gospels as you indicated. Quoting the master verbatim in Mathew 25 vs. 27: “Then, you should have invested my money with the bankers and at my coming I would have received what was my own (principal) with interest (Amplified Version).

Let us make some remarks here. The master was actually talking about money. Hebrew scholars reckon that a talent is equivalent to $1,000   and that means five talents would be $5,000.  The interpretation was that even if the lazy servant could not double the owner’s money, he could have placed it in the bank (in a fixed deposit may be) and earn may be about 10 per cent on it. That was because the servant wanted to play it safe and not wanting to be aggressive as the two other servants were.

I am persuaded that if the parable were to be rendered in today’s language, the servants would have mentioned something like the stock market, real estate market, etc. What is wrong if a pastor puts in a fixed deposit account a sum of N40million and earns decent 10 percent on it? The money still belongs to the church and with that increase the church can execute more projects. I would consider that a common sense approach to personal or corporate finance. Not too sure if the pastor would be committing a sin. Thanks for your view all the same.

Double A, I need insight into how to handle this embarrassing situation. I took some money from my bank to buy shares, but unfortunately things went contrary to my calculation. I am now indebted to my bank to the tune of N10million. Interestingly, the loan was used to buy the bank’s shares at a double digit price which has now dropped far beyond one-digit level. The bank is breathing down my neck; I am confused. At a point I felt like simply disappearing from the bank and jetting out of the country, except for my concern for my wife and children. It is still an option. What do you think?

I don’t think you need to accept that you have come to the end of the road. Running away will not necessarily solve the problem. I believe you should walk up to the appropriate officer in the bank and ask for discussion. Let them know the situation on the ground. You can negotiate both for a deep discount on the loan and a more relaxed payment terms for the loan especially since you are still a bona fide member of staff of the bank. Above all, the banks won’t want to lose you and the money. There could be a shifting of ground if the negotiation is done properly. This has worked for a couple of people I know. All is well with you.

Double A, I am of the opinion that most of the books that are being recommended are foreign and are not applicable in the Nigerian situation. Don’t you think it would be a waste of time to read those materials?

I don’t think that is completely correct. The examples used for illustration in some of those books may not have been drawn from Nigeria, yet, I believe the principles are universally applicable. Saving 10 per cent of your income on a regular basis is not a wealth law that is restricted to foreign countries alone. I have seen many Nigerians who have applied such law to their personal finance with great reward. The thing to do is to extract the principles being taught, make them relevant to you and these become your own law.

Double A, I have worked for seven years and in seven companies. I am likely to change job again next January. Is this a good career practice?

It all depends on your strategy. If all you are interested in is in gathering experience from as many companies as possible, this may serve you. It is, however, good to understand what you want to make out of your life first, and design a career platform that can take care of that. Don’t you think there is wisdom in it. 

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