I want to start this week by addressing something we all tend to do or have done. Consciously or unconsciously. I hope it strikes a nerve. Enjoy!!!
“He looks so . . . ordinary” the guy three seats way from me whispered to his friend. He must have thought I wouldn’t hear him.
“Yeah. So young too” his friend replied. I tried to hide my smile as I waited to be called to the podium. I have had this habit of sitting with the crowd instead of in the designated seat whenever I am to give a speech. I come early, sit and let the crowd flood in. Most times I am lucky to not get noticed, apparently today was not one of those days. The moderator, a very pretty lady was giving a brief summary of my background and the stares which I have grown accustomed to, started coming in my direction.
“. . . he is going to be talking on “Understanding and Respecting Success”. So please let us now welcome, as he comes to the stage, Mister . . . ” before she called my name, the crowd was already on their feet clapping. I stood up, waved to the crowd as I mounted the stage and walked the short distance to the podium. The moderator gave me a quick peck, shook my hand firmly, and gestured towards the podium for me to take over.
“Thanks . . . ” I had to smile, they wouldn’t stop clapping. I waited for some seconds and still they kept clapping. it was now getting uncomfortable. I raised my hand in that familiar manner of politicians. It shows both appreciation and a call for order.
“If una no calm down we no go leave here oh” I joked in pidgin English. A mixture of shock and laughter filled the place as everyone began to settle down.
“Thank you all, I am so humbled” I said, “It is always a pleasure to be in the presence of great minds and no, I am not flattering you. I want to thank this fine organisation for giving me the honor of talking you you all today.”
There was a round of applause.
“I chose this topic today because of a notion that was proven just a few minutes ago before I left my seat.” I said my eyes drifting towards the two men who had been whispering to each other about me.
“Through the years, I have heard it all: ‘He is too young to be this successful’ they would say, ‘She is obviously an overnight success, used her father’s wealth’ they would say. ‘They are young CEOs? They look so ordinary’. People assume, and most times wrongly too, how people who are successful got their success” I said. I knew I had struck a nerve, there were whispers and nods of agreement.
“So I am going to give you two stories, I will explain both and I will leave you to ponder on them.” I smiled, the hall became quiet and I began.
I finished NYSC with one hundred and seventy-five thousand Naira in my account, I was just twenty three years old. The largest amount I had ever had to my name before, I had painstakingly saved through the twelve months I served and it was an achievement for me. I was a ‘big boy’, moved to Abuja to live with my brother. The dream was to go to the big city, get the grand job and live large. I felt I had started off well already. Three months later, no job, no prospects of a job and worse, no money. Up till today I can’t explain how I spent it.
So there I was, unemployed, broke and in my brother’s house, depression flirting with me. Then I get this invite to a network marketing presentation by a friend. And my life changed. I was introduced to a sale’s pitch that involved what we called ‘sowing for the future’. The product was a daily consumable so it was just to give it to people to try out. I quickly borrowed money to join and I started off. In two weeks I had made two hundred and fifty thousand Naira. Seventy five thousand Naira more than I had made in a year of NYSC, I quickly paid back the money I borrowed. By the end of the first year I had made over a million Naira. They said it was too good to be true and it seemed so. But I was blessed to have met a great woman, mentor and friend in the business. she taught me the tricks of the business, but she also taught me about life. She said something that for me, has been the key to my success.
“In everything in life, you have three choices. You either go in first (i.e early), go in fast or go in big. Any other thing won’t do. And remember, nothing lasts forever“.
So I did my research. As legit as network marketing outfits come, there is always a loop hole and once found, it is exploited and the inevitable crash of the system happens. With that knowledge, I started diverting funds to other profitable ventures and only used spare cash to maintain the network marketing business. By the fifth year when the network marketing company I was involved with finally crashed, I had created a consulting firm with a large clientele and had stocks in two major telecommunication companies in the country. My net worth was almost 20 million Naira. A lot of people called it luck and every single time I heard that, I smiled.
This is my eleventh year as an entrepreneur. My consulting firm just successfully opened our latest branch in the US. I and on the board of directors in one of the telecommunication companies I invested in, and I am thirty five years old. If I can know that you can too.
I paused and took a long look at the crowd as they all got up and applauded. Everyone had that ‘wow’ look. I took a sip of my water. The expected reaction.
“That is my marketing story,” I said smiling. “What do I mean by marketing story, you may ask. Well in network marketing, to make a person buy from you, you need to win them, and the truth is you don’t make noise about the product. NO, . . . you sell the dream of what the benefits of getting into the business will give them. Selling the product gives you a customer, selling the business gives you YOUR business,” I said. There was another round of applause.
“So, you tell them your story,” I said “you let them see through your successes that they to can be successful. You make them believe it is possible, despite the hardship in the country. You create a seed of belief” I paused for effect.
“But what most people don’t do is tell the WHOLE story and that brings me to the second part of my story.” I left the podium and walked into the crowd.
“Why do businesses fail? Why do you think most Nigerians think all network marketing companies are scam? Why do you think most people actually believe there is such a thing as over-night success?” I asked.
“I will tell you” I said and I started the second story.