Being an entrepreneur seems like an exciting path to pursue. You read about these guys who start a business and seemingly a year later, they are billionaires. I thought I would be developing “strategies” and “implementing plans”; lots of “high level” stuff.
The high-level stuff seems to take 5 minutes and the operations and administrative stuff takes of the rest of the day. Here’s a sample of the personnel issues I’m dealing with this week:
Last Friday, Mutala, my driver informed me that he was taking his sick sister to the North. He said he needed an advance of 100 cedis for travel expenses. No problem. “Here’s 150 cedis,” I offered.
On Monday, he calls to inform me that his sister has passed away. Part of me was thinking, That’s too bad. Another part of me was thinking, When are you coming back to work? I know that’s insensitive but I got a business to run.
That was Monday. He’s failed to call nor pick up our calls for the rest of the week. In his place, we’ve had to call a friend to drive in his place.
Mutala has been giving me problems for most of this quarter. He’s frequently late. I usually penalize my other staff for being late but for him I ignore it because he’s paying off another loan. He’s also disappeared for a day before without calling because he had landlord issues. He claimed he didn’t have the company number. Serious? He lost his phone so he couldn’t call. blah blah blah
I know it’s sad he lost his sister but I’m just so sick of him disappearing.
On Wednesday, I ordered Teresa II to go out and get customers. At first, she offered excuses as to why she wasn’t going to go that day. I just don’t get it how people feel comfortable telling their boss X, Y, Z as to why they can’t do something. In the US, people are afraid of getting fired. I remember being afraid to take too many days off for fear I wouldn’t have a job when I returned. Here, people are nonchalant about doing the minimum to get a paycheck.
Since the August Supreme Court decision, business has gotten worse and worse. Nonetheless, I thought I would keep one salesperson (Teresa II) and one operations person (Teresa I). The operations person would run the day to day operations while the salesperson could pick up on whether things were getting better. She would be close to the market and could let me know if things changed.
For October and November I asked her to stay in the office and make calls on former customers. No use on spending transport to run around town when the market was difficult. But she has hit a wall there. At the end of November I was saying that maybe she needs to go out and get some more customers in East Legon. She wouldn’t need to run around town. Now I think the time has come for her to be pro-active and try to be a salesperson again.
At the end of the day, I cannot pay for you to sit around the office and not do anything.
Ghanaian Work Habits
Even though people all claim they need work, I find that once you hire them, their desire goes out the window. My friend says it’s a human thing. She said that her staff in the US was just as lazy.
I do know that in Ghana staff can be quite inconsiderate. People can be extremely late to work for various reasons and not call. Sometimes people will not show up for work because “someone died in the village” or “they had to travel”. They won’t call to inform you. Furthermore, if they decide they don’t want to work for you anymore, then they will just show up for work that day and say, “This is my last day.” Presumably, they got a better job somewhere else.
Teresa II and Other Driver
Two weeks ago, I got a few texts from my other driver saying that he will not work for me so long as Teresa II works for me. Great. I can understand why he gets frustrated but I thought he needed work. And what do you expect me to do about it?
This week I haven’t slept well until Thursday night. I’ve been having vivid dreams bordering on nightmares where I wake up at 4 or 5 am. I don’t want to decide on the fates of anyone until I’ve had time to rest properly.
I’ve realized that to build a sustainable business you really have to be willing to devote at least 5 — maybe 10 — years to making it grow. The first few years your just trying to figure out how to tell your a** from elbow. For instance, Netflix was started in 1998 but they didn’t decide on their DVD rental model until 2002. In 2008, they introduced their streaming business and 2 years ago, they started their own programming.
More than a few friends have told me of near shutting down experiences before things turned around.
When I think of 10 years in Ghana, I want to gag. I’ve written about how living here is challenging. That’s how I know that my company has a limited lifespan. I can’t imagine being here long-term. It’s too hard on my family and me. A decade in Ghana…
“The horror! The horror!”