Who or what is an entrepreneur? Everyone that wants to create a business must try to answer this question even before starting out. I wish I had done that when I foolishly outsourced my fruit farming business to a bunch of cowboys. This is a story of what I have learned and a warning to those who give too much credit and power to “professionals.”
They are supposed to know how to do their job, right?
That is what I assumed, too. Here were young men (and woman) with good college degrees from a respectable university. They seemed smart, enthusiastic and committed to the job. I had my own tentative plan but they told me it was all wrong. Apparently, I had too much ambition and too little expertise. They assured me that they had a bank of “experts” that they could link up to me for free. All I had to do was trust them.
I begin my nightmare by changing my business plan
To this day, I am at pains to understand how I could have allowed some ignorant chancers to ruin my plan. A plan that I had been working on for the best part of a decade, working with excellent advisors and financers. In an instant I was off apples and into cabbages and watermelon. They were good, I will give them that at the very least. Suddenly I had a business plan which was not my dream and certainly not my idea. My friends said I was mad; I thought I was smart. My tormentors knew I was hooked.
Stand and deliver the money or we will split
I believed I was this sophisticated hard nut who had seen it all. I was a veteran of time-wasters and could spot them a mile away. Sadly, my “fraud meter” went limp on me at the crucial moment. I thought that by paying installments, I could retain control. They had a solution for that; everything was done half way. So, I was caught in this limbo of a pipeline of projects. If I pulled out, I would be losing close to $100,000. If I stayed in, I would also lose roughly the same amount. It was a magnificent Catch-22 situation, at least from their perspective.
Cutting my losses and moving on
The truth dawned on me when I suddenly got an irate call from a laborer, complaining that he had not been paid for weeks. Apparently; my new business consultants had diverted my wage and salary budget into more priority areas…like a business trip to do some further research on their proposal. I was furious and asked them to leave my farm immediately. I then started the expensive process of clearing up the mess. In the end, I got nothing but grief from my adventure with these consultants.
Learning from my mistakes
There is no guarantee that I will not be a victim again. After all, we are human and there would be no charlatans if there was no mug being born every day. However, these are some very important lessons that might help other entrepreneurs. They are my new rules for business:
- Do not hire amateurs, newbies and chancers if you are handling a complex project. Work with people who have proven experience.
- Do not let anyone kill your dream and replace it with their own. You are the entrepreneur, not them.
- Always follow the money because nobody can make payments for you. Cash is power, promises are an illusion.
- Have your lawyer check everything before signing on the dotted line. If and when you are disappointed, don’t get mad. Get even by suing your tormentors.
- Stay away from agriculture unless you know what you are doing. This is not a bad industry but it requires a lot more expertise than I had at the time.
Author: Menard Mutingwende is the founder of StartupBiz Global, a blog for entrepreneurs. He loves writing about business ideas, business plans and tips for small businesses.