How you grow your finance without quitting your job, by Pat Utomi
Professor Pat Utomi is not only a role model for the Nigerian youths, the political economist and business angel has continued to engage the Nigerian system through discourses, lectures, seminars and webinars. Recently, at a forum in Lagos on network marketing, the co-founder of the Lagos Business School wowed the audience with what he called his testimony. Beyond that, he unfolded the limitless possibilities of network marketing and the necessity for individuals to always have multiple streams of income. Nigeria Political Economist was there and captured his thoughts.
I will take a personal perspective in sharing this topic. I will give my personal testimony and how I have been able to organise my life which in the long run gave me soft-landings at every point in time. I go back to the systemic distress in the Nigeria banking industry. The banks have gone through systemic challenges, the first round of systemic challenges was in the 1920s. And in the 1950s was another round of failings which eventually led to the Banking Ordinance of 1959 and the attempt to regulate the banking industry, which meant that from the early 1960s until Structural Adjustment Program (SAP), banking was an extraordinary oligopoly of only government and foreign players. In the 1990s we had our first systemic crisis of the modern era.
I recall a gentleman coming to see me during that crisis, he just lost his job as a Deputy General Manager in a bank and his wife was an AGM in another bank, she also had just lost her job. He felt and looked so helpless and this touched my soul. It wasn’t as if he was going to the next level, this was a no level situation, and he didn’t know what to do as there was no income from another source. He borrowed so much to buy a house, cars etcetera and all I could do at that time was to tell him my story.
I’ve always believed in plan B. I have never lived off one stream of income not so much as a result of worry for income, but just a common sense way of life. When I came back from graduate school in the United States in the very early eighties, 1982 to be precise, I wanted to start my own business straight away. At first people thought it was crazy because I was in high demand. When I was writing my PhD thesis I had come home to do some field work. I had interviews with some prominent Nigerians then and one of them ( Alhaji Abubakar Alhaji) told me to come back and come take a position with him.
In those days if you come back straight home as a special assistant you’ll become a level 10 worker, and I would have moved into a very significant house in Ikoyi but I chose not to do that. I chose to start a business and everyone thought I was crazy. A few months later the government offered me a presidential advisory role but before that happened I had started a business and a few months after I was offered that position there was a coups d’état. It was as seamless as driving in my car to my home in Ikoyi and driving to Surulere the next day where my office was to resume in my own office. I did not feel jobless for a second. I didn’t realize something had happened and to some people it was the end of the world, they had invested all they had.
How I got government appointment
The story of how I got into government is funny. My views on issues of public policy were expressed very strongly even when I lived in America in the Nigerian newspapers. Ray Ekpu who was editor of the Sunday Times, was a good friend of mine that used to harass me to do opinion pieces from the US. When I came back the then Vice President sought me out and I was commissioned to do some report for him, I did the report and he invited me to the Vice President’s home. It was a second meeting with him in my life and he just casually asked if it has been approved for me to replace Professor Odenigwe. The only word I could think of uttering was ‘why’? Because there was no prior conversation in that direction, and the Professor was my teacher at the University of Nigeria Nsukka, why would I be replacing him? And he turned to his Special Assistant, “look at these young people, they said we don’t know what we are doing, we said they should come and they’re asking why”. So, I asked him if I could think about it, and he gave me leave.
As I was driving back I met a friend of mine from primary school, and he said he heard I was to replace the Professor, I told him I wanted to think about it. He got into my car and asked that we go to his house. He had tried very hard to get this same appointment and I was asking why? You can imagine if that kind of person got the position, what would have happened to him in the night of the coup d’état.
Always have a plan B
I have told these real life stories to buttress the need for everyone to give thought to a plan B in the course of any career. One of the nice things about the plan B is that it may appear attractive enough to make the plan A become questionable.
Many successful businesses we know happened because somebody got fired. The idea of a plan B for me has always been an opportunity to challenge myself. One of the plan Bs that has made currency in the last couple of decades is the plan B that takes advantage of our natural strength. When we do SWOT analysis and we are looking at strength and weaknesses to take advantage of opportunities and manage threats. We always pack up our strength. One strength that is very rarely played up is our natural strength; that is the fact that man was created a gregarious animal. I like to say very often that if God intended man to be individualistic he wouldn’t have created man in a society. Man is basically created as a gift unto others. If our gifting and associating with others flows naturally as part of our humanity, how about building on that to create economic value, because that is all that network marketing is all about.
Someone once told me that if he had to invest again he would invest enormously in network marketing opportunity building because what it does is, allow that natural strength to help cut a lot of cost in distribution channels and create profit for the persons who engage in that track. I’ll make a comment very quickly on why network marketing is sometimes challenged in our environment; it is probably because we’ve not managed to educate people well enough and to create institutional boundaries to regulate the context of network marketing. One of the things I have tried to encourage is the founding of an institute of network marketing, because it has not been properly grounded there are some who have operated network marketing initiatives more or less like quality skills and it has led people to be wary of that process. That is a wrong way to understand this great possibility for marketing, distribution of goods and services. I think another important thing to note about the challenges of network marketing is the terrible syndrome plaguing the country today which is instant gratification. We have built an instant gratification culture in a world where real progress is a function of delayed gratification. People are looking for their reward instantly, if the reward is delayed till three months’ time people become sceptical and that has been the major problem in our environment.
Advantages of network marketing
One advantage of network marketing is the possibility of passive income when we’re not strong enough as we used to. When we look around us, I think one of the most frightening things is the reality that we are getting old. As we get older the things we take for granted that we’re doing now we won’t be able to do again.
If you’re a businessman, getting a lot of contracts now and executing them, even if you’re physically strong you’ll find out in 10-15 years that your connections have become irrelevant; the people who will be happening then are your children’s mates. You’re not getting business any more not because you’re less strong but they’re looking at you as someone that is old fashioned. I say this particularly because I’ve been in a very sad situation in the last one year of having had to be part of a network to contribute money for a friend whom 25 years ago we thought was one of the richest boys in Lagos, to go abroad for treatment. This is depressing.
Old age is inevitable
Many of us live like we’re going to remain the way we are forever and it is not true. The window is very short, it is not just a social thing it is true. In the changing world there is an axiom in organizational learning which says, unless the rate of learning in an organisation is equal to or greater than the pace of change in the environment, the organisation is progressively becoming a dinosaur. Many of us will find out that the knowledge we had yesterday that made us relevant is actually the reasons we’ll be irrelevant sooner. Learning involves two things; unlearning, we have to climb the unlearning curve before we climb the learning curve. What this means is that unless we’re one of those extra ordinary people who manage to keep learning as change is taking place, within a space of 15-20 years we’ll no longer be happening people.
How do we survive when we’re no longer happening people?
The corporations of now will be getting rid of people much earlier even when you’ve been a great guy in that corporation. They look at you and say you’re no longer near the goal of what they want in the new direction they’re travelling, and you’re settled handsomely with may be N20 million and you think it’s a huge sum, but one year later the money is gone.
It is very important that we ask ourselves what we can do to ensure that after working for money, money can work for us. As we get older the work we do today can now work for us in the future. The way that this has been emerging is through investments, carefully building up your investments portfolio. Before you know it someone in New York has over extended in mortgage lending to some people and they’ve been able to package some risks in some manner that there’re managing to spread the risks out and they call it securitisation and because people in Japan are buying into this, one day the excesses of people who are trying to get bonuses will overheat the system and you get a systemic blowout and all that your portfolio comes to zero.
A practical scenario
A man has just retired, he is 60 years old and can live for another 30 years, but has no capacity to continue to think for himself and just out of worry he is dead within a few years. If he wants to build other platforms, to be able to ensure that those later years are going to be such that the work of yesterday can carry us today. I think we need to be thinking of opportunities. There are people who think that the ultimate investment is in owning properties. Less than 50 per cent of the houses in Ikoyi today are occupied. For many people that is the ultimate safe investment. It is safe quite alright but there is no income. This means there should be a little more than owning some houses. From the stock market we learnt some lessons as most people sold their properties to invest in the stock market. This is a time to diversify a little bit more, and essentially with network marketing, It is high time you used this natural strength to get people into a network and build this pipeline up line.
Different models for different people
One of the things I have said to people who are managing network marketing enterprises is that if you can teach some to accommodate the possibilities that different type of demographic profiles seek, because many of us come with completely different needs profile. There are those of us who need income every January to pay school fees. Some need income long after retirement. What this means is that network marketing companies have to be more environment and culture sensitive. Move from the Eurocentric to be more African. Profile members; get a sense of what their expectations are and what their goals are and develop products, processes and systems that are more in tune with the needs of the people that are part of this network, if that can be done, you can imagine that many of us who are working professionals can find that we’re in touch with so many people and when we bring certain goods and services to those people they take advantage of it and there is mutual benefit.
You can be your own boss
One of the real benefits of network marketing in today’s world is that it allows you to run your own business completely. Network marketing organisation provides an electronic platform which also gives you the opportunity to have your own business there which you would not have been able to set up as an entrepreneur. In today’s world, when I first started talking about globalisation and illustrating it in my classes, it sounded esoteric, I remember in a class in 1994 in the Lagos Business School and I was talking about the convergence; the three streams of technology, computing, telecommunications and broadcasting and that the effect of convergence will allow some small player to play with ease, competing against major multinationals anywhere in the world. It will help also the small player to be able to go down to the specific needs of one consumer.
When a network marketing platform gives you the opportunity to go online, take your own business there because there is already a network of say sixty thousand people already on the network and when you put your business there, it means you have a first hit of sixty thousand customers, and then those people can extend it to other people. This is a remarkable opportunity to build one’s business. And what’s even more interesting is that you can actually be building this while you’re still working for other companies and not stealing their time. There are many genuine network marketing schemes out there, take advantage of this unfolding opportunity before it is too late