Starting A Side Hustle, Here are 5 Sources of Funds

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Some people are multi-talented and as such cannot stick to one job-hustle-duty. Still yet, others are forced to hold multiple jobs of create additional sources of income to supplement their income and meet their living expenses. Whatever your reason may be, the side hustle has become a fixture and norm in our lives today. We live in a world today where not monetizing your passion is very detrimental. Cue in the side hustle. What makes a side hustle peculiar is the fact that it’s run alongside your day job or main hustle. Its main aim is either to supplement income or to fuel a passion. Regardless of its reason; the side hustle like every business venture needs money is to thrive.

Sourcing for capital is a pain, particularly in Nigeria where you have to go through hoops with the banks and the interest rate is KILLING! There are some other sources of funds though, and regardless of what stage your business is at: Seed stage (start-up phase) or growth stage (scale an existing business); cash is important.

In order to ensure you don’t inadvertently kill your business with a cash injection from an unwise or expensive source, here are a few pointers on sources of funds to fuel your side hustle or business.

  • Savings

A large proportion of businesses in Nigeria are funded from personal savings. However, DO NOT INVEST ALL YOUR SAVINGS in your side hustle. Being that our society doesn’t have the safety net available in developed countries by way of health insurance, etc. It is advisable that you ALWAYS have back-up funds for emergencies, so you cannot afford to invest all of your savings in a business. Particularly because there’s a risk as with all business ventures, it can go south. Savings is however an interest free, stress free means of cash inflow.

My advice though is to treat whatever funds you inject into your business as an investment. Have a payback/ dividend plan, treat it as business funds and ALWAYS ensure you keep your personal funds separate from the business funds.  

  • Family and friends

Another source of funds is your family and friends. This source of funds will most likely be low-interest or interest free. However, as with all sources of income, we need to be careful as to the terms of repayment. Do not promise and unachievable payback period as that would have ruined the relationship. Do not also take your family and friends for granted; be honorable. And if they would rather treat the funds as investment for equity- be smart and business minded. Don’t be sentimental. Don’t sign over shares in your company for less than its market value due to sentimentality. And….. My personal favorite; always include a buy-back clause with every equity transaction.

  • Customers

Your customers are your cheapest source of funds. If you have customers willing to pay upfront for goods and services; that’s a great way to fund your business. Reputation however is everything. Do not accept payment for goods and/or services which you are unable to deliver. With Social media, there is no hiding place for bad service. You can find your business in ruins due to one bad customer review.

  • Grants

They are a number of local and international organisations willing to provide grants to SMEs. Do your research and apply accordingly. Some are grants with no refund needed, while others are meant to be refunded. Whichever you get, do ensure you read the terms and conditions and abide by them strictly. You won’t want your budding business to be associated with an organisation of questionable character, will you?  

  • Loans or equity

These can be bank or VC loans or investors funding your business in exchange for equity. With these, you have to be really smart and have a professional look over the terms and conditions. Even if you are one yourself, there is the value in having an independent agent look over the terms to ensure they are fair. Your sentimentality might cloud your objectivity, your desperation and passion might also cloud your objectivity. Have a professional look over T’s & C’s. Ensure it’s not a cash injection that may end up crippling the business.

Beyond the 5 options identified above, there may be some other funding options available to you. What’s important is that regardless of your source of funds, if there are conditions; ensure it’s looked over by a lawyer, to ensure its fairness and that it will stand the highest legal scrutiny.

Also, like I said above, if for any reason cash is being exchanged for equity; always include a buy back clause lest your company ends up in another’s hands against your will.    

As the year ends, some of us are already thinking and documenting our plans for 2020 and beyond (#teamresolution), others are making plans on how to scale their business. if your 2020 plan includes starting or scaling a side hustle, this article is for you. I will probably share another article on how to merge a main and side hustle seamlessly sometime in the future.

Asides the sources identified above, are there other sources of funds open to SMEs, please share with us.

Image credit: Google.com

Black Friday: Don’t Go Broke Over Sales

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Every year, the last Friday in November is Black Friday; and all the stores ‘supposedly’ crash their prices.

Supposedly

Black Friday comes after thanksgiving and with Cyber Monday and Christmas around the corner everyone is in a festive mood- making merry, giving, shopping, etc.

Many have confessed to having bought unnecessary thing in the lure of lowest prices. Many have actually been caught in the frenzy only to realize later it wasn’t actually a good bargain.

Here’s my advice on how to navigate Black Friday, this is also a note to self, lol:”

  1. Make a list of necessary purchases: prior to Black Friday, draw up a list of what you need, and adhere to it religiously. Don’t move a little to the left or right. Don’t add any extras because you have gotten a good bargain on another. All it take is a little deviation and you’re lost down the drain of unnecessary purchases.
  2. Carefully research your purchase: While drawing up your list, ensure you know their prices- pre-sales. That way, you are able to identify what purchases are a save and which isn’t.
  3. Last and most important: Don’t Get Tempted. Do 1 and 2 above and do not get tempted to deviate from your list.

And…….. if you feel like you will be ‘losing out on deals of a lifetime’, remember there’s also Christmas sales around the corner.

Accept Changes and Stop Tracking

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The danger of Ineffective Communication

A colleague (madam) sent me a document which I reviewed, tracking changes. I sent the document back asking that madam review document to see changes I made, accept changes, stop tracking and send back.

Madam reported to our Line Manager, complaining on how nothing she does is ever good enough. On further probing, she cited the last mail I sent and said she had researched the meaning of ‘accept changes and stop tracking’ and it means she isn’t good enough.

After moving past the horror of what search terms could produce such results, our Line Manager had a serious conversation with madam; firstly, she sent out an unformatted document filled with errors, and is now crying foul after some review has been done for her and all she needs do is accept changes and stop tracking. It was clear there were some performance deficiencies such that madam’s feedback couldn’t even be clearly interpreted. Madam was advised to work on self-development which will aid career progression.

The teachable moment for me was that clearly I hadn’t communicated. Yes, there’s the skill deficiency issue, however, I also fell afoul of the biggest communication problem- which is the assumption that communication has taken place – George Bernard Shaw. I assumed I had passed a message, but I had not. In discussing this, I realized this is a very common communication problem.

Often, we find ourselves either speaking over the top of people’s heads with them trying to catch-up or on the flip side having to over-explain. It apparently doesn’t come natural to be able to explain in the right language and right terms such that there’s no question as to the meaning of the message. People and organisations that excel skill have had to hone the skill. However, it is an important skill nonetheless, as a lot rises and falls on communication- or a lack of it.

Due to my own recent mishap, I had to refresh my communication skills and here are a few pointers to aid official communication:

  1. Always be courteous but concise

Always be your best self; be polite and politically correct. Even with colleagues whom you are familiar with, be polite and with colleagues whom there might be some friction between you- be even more polite.

Eliminate endearments, keep familiarity to the minimum. Eliminate anything that can be misconstrued. Go straight to the point, don’t dither. Always assume the receiver is receiving the message- regardless of the means- in the midst of a very busy work day. Therefore, be brief and concise.

Even when emotions are running high and/or you don’t feel like it, be polite. Learn the art of politely telling people off courteously.

  • Plan

As with everything, planning is important. With official communication, you will need to plan what you want to say; to ensure it’s communicating the right message and it answers most questions that could arise. Planning official communication will ensure you do not have avoidable mistakes, faux pas, or that you aren’t caught unawares. We all have heard the saying ‘whatever you say will be used against you’, we are also familiar with the caveat when we call helpdesk lines that the call is being monitored for ‘training’ purposes. Always have these two statements at the back of your mind when communicating officially.  Don’t wing it. No matter how good an orator you might be, Do NoT Wing IT! Think before you speak.

  • Review for content, context, errors and language

Probably the most important and tiring job we do is revision, its common place to see a document having different editions until the final edition (well, final for the time being). This happens in order to ensure that we get the content right such that it’s relevant to the targeted audience at and that time. Imagine sending out a beautifully crafted holiday email after the holiday!

Content and context are important because therein lies the meat of the message. Language of delivery is also important- this has to do with both language and lingo. If the message is in English but the audience only speaks Swahili, you will need to translate. If you are speaking legalese terms to a room of Pharmacists; you will need to break down certain terms. Same way a sentence might suffice for a PhD holder, but you may need a paragraph of more sentences to explain to O’level holders.

Ensure your message has the right content and situate it within the right context.

  • Put yourself in the audience’s shoes

Sometimes, a lot of times, you need to put yourself in your audience’s shoes and pull off yours. Reason is- you the originator of the message probably have some background such that with just a few choice words you would understand the message, majority of your audience might not be at the same level of comprehension. So, you need to tailor the message such that the audience will understand and it conveys the intended message. 

  • Always ask for feedback

Feedback is the food of champions. For every official communication, where its most likely that not all of the recipients will understand the message, you need to always provide room for questions, feedback, or in a one-on-one scenario you could always ask the other party to explain what has been communicated in his/her own words. What is important is that with each mode of communication ALWAYS ask for feedback. Never assume the message has been lucid enough; never assume communication has taken place. Always confirm.

With official communication- verbal or written, always assume Big Brother is watching, always assume someone is listening, blind-copied or the email will be forwarded or someone is recording the conversation and if you will need to explain it; Do NoT Say IT! Do Not Write IT!

I Just Want to be CHAIRMAN!

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A Guide to Human Resourcing for the Startup and SME

During an interview, one of the questions posed to the candidate was to explain- in his own words the relevance of his course of study in a Manufacturing company. In other words, how relevant is his schooling to our operations.

The candidate- a graduate of Business Administration- in explaining said: a Business Administration graduate can work in any business, as they are trained to manage businesses.

While the rest of us had the ‘why’ question on our lips, one of the panelists drew his attention to the fact that he had previously said Accounting was his least favorite course as ‘he doesn’t find it interesting’. Accounting is however key in managing a business, so how do you manage a business if you cannot understand Finance.

His response was he will hire a ‘strong’ accountant to handle the finance bit.

This got the panelists laughing and we joked that his management style will be to hire people to do the work, while he will be Chairman!

We moved on from that interview but then it got me thinking: there are two ways of analyzing the young man’s ideology. Firstly; there’s the school of thought that believes to effectively manage a business you have to be able to understand finance and most of every other aspects of the business. This is both very true and very right. You need to be able to understand the numbers and what they mean for your business. This is truer if you are running a start-up or small business; because in the early days you might not have the necessary funds to hire the needed Finance professional- or to outsource. You may need to wing it for a while and if you are unable to build a simple cash-flow system or understand how best to utilise your funds, your business may be in trouble.

On the flip side; there’s nothing that says you as a business leader or a founder needs to be able to do everything: finance inclusive. The rule of thumb for resources is to: buy (hire), borrow (outsource- in-plant or consultant), or collaborate. For a going concern with funds, all of these options are available, but for a young business there are slight modifications which can still work for you. The following are some of the options available to start-up.

  1. Of course there’s always the option to hire. At the early stages you may not be able to afford an experienced hire which equals expensive. You can however hire someone relatively affordable but good (you however either need to know what good looks like to deduce someone is good or you work with a recruitment consultant to source for the best candidates within your budget).
  2. A second alternative is to outsource – there are many affordable but standard financial institutions who can handle even the basics of your operations leaving you free to do the creative- which is most likely your forte.
  3. Collaboration is similar to outsourcing- this is collaboration between 2 firms where both might exchange services. Pretty much like trade by barter- a cleaning services firm can exchange its services with an accounting firm for a duration. A caveat on this is- as with all contracts, both parties must be clear as to expectations and where possible (but strongly recommended); have an independent law firm draw up the contract such that it’s fair and binding.

Another way you can collaborate is to partner with a co-founder who has the desired skills and is willing to perhaps provide services in exchange for some stake in the business. Same caveat as the above applies- everything needs to be neat and tidy contractually such that neither party is left holding an empty basket in future.

  • A fourth option is to train; working with the available resource and providing training to bring the resource up-to-speed. This builds some form of loyalty; your people grow and develop with you. A downside to this is; unless the people are aggressive about their own personal development, they may not develop beyond the training which you provide; which might not be good for your business.

While all of these are available options, it doesn’t negate the fact that as a business leader- be it a start-up or a Plc.; you cannot get away from understanding some Finance, Law, HR, Operations, Business Development, etc. Creativity alone isn’t enough. Neither is it enough to throw passion into the mix. You cannot be creative out of a labor law issue if you do not understand the tenets of labor laws or have an adviser who does.

There are a few incubator labs and boot camps for start-ups associated with certain reputable organisations from which you can learn some of the rudiments of running a business. You can also take advantage of a mentor-advisory scheme when growing your business, be mentored by someone who has walked the path you are on now and can guide you through. Another option is to maintain contacts with peers who are on the same path as you are; you all can help each other navigate the obstacle course which is entrepreneurship. There are many options available to you, explore them and toe the path which works best for you. What’s important is to ensure you aren’t going about it blindly.  

Are you loyal or laid-back?

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A lot of us- and organisations place emphasis on longevity of service- attrition rate is built into the HR department’s KPI. Exiting staff are seen as being disloyal and staff who have been with an organisation for years are termed ‘loyal’.

The objective of this article isn’t to hypothesize on their loyalty or otherwise- well, maybe not in the way we would expect, it is rather a call for introspection on the employee’s part.

Picture1

Are you with your current organisation because you have keyed into the organisation’s objective and see yourself as a co-traveller on its journey or are with the organisation because you haven’t found something better and or cannot be bothered to search for a job?

Earlier in this year- 2019, a colleague and I had a conversation around work- we established we had learnt a lot in our current organisation and were developing even as our career was growing. However, a burning question was- do we know enough to thrive in the field of HR- regardless of which organisation we were practicing in, or do we know just enough to thrive in our current organisation?

That is a question anyone who is serious about career development and growth should ask themselves.

We ended the conversation with a resolution to seek for ways to test our knowledge and experience- apply and interview for positions to ascertain if our knowledge and experience can get us better offers or if we were just ‘local champions’.

It’s been a few months and a few tests and we have embraced the experience as learning opportunities. Areas of improvement have been identified and are being worked on. It is important to note that we are both still with our organisations as the objective wasn’t to move, but to identify areas of improvement.

This however isn’t a method I would widely recommend lest we be tempted as in the famous words ascribed to Babatunde Raji Fashola- Former Governor of Lagos state, Nigeria (2007 – 2015)- ‘May our loyalty never be tested.’ But then, maybe it should! Perhaps to sieve out the loyal from the laid-back.

It has been proven that only a minor percentage of the Hi-Po’s start and end their career with an organisation. This in my opinion is attributable to the fact that the top is narrower than the bottom. For example- if there are 4 Hi-Po’s from a class of 10 hired on the same day in different fields. Because of the conditions for career progression which can be roughly summarized to be- the individual has to display the skills and behavior for the next level and there has to be room for progression people will naturally drop off as they go higher and of course it’s narrower on top. There can only be so much room for progression- eventually some of your Hi-Po’s will need to leave to excel elsewhere. This exit will be termed by most to be disloyalty and the laid-back staff, content to continue doing the same thing over the years and progressing slowly will be deemed loyal.

My thought is- we need to get to a place where we can accurately measure results. Did Mr. A achieve more in 6 months than Mr. B in 5 years? If the answer to that question is yes, then Mr. A has done the organisation more good than Mr. B.

Or perhaps, Mr. A is just loyal to aggressively growing his career and slow progress isn’t an option. There is absolutely nothing wrong in being loyal to yourself, like it’s said; we are all CEOs of ‘Me Incorporated’ and we need to run our lives like a business ensuring we are yielding fruits- returns to our stakeholders. Lol.

As employees, I believe- this is perhaps because I am not yet up there having to defend attrition rate; however; I do believe it is better to give your best within a defined period, learn; soak-up as much knowledge as possible, and when the time comes for you to leave- leave on a good note, with your head held high. This I believe is better than making up the numbers and doing the bare minimum under the guise of ‘loyalty’.

The question for every employee today is- are you loyal or laid-back?

Your Colleagues are NOT your Friends

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Or maybe they are!

Friendly colleagues

Most organizations are high pressured. The 8-5 thingy is long gone and has been replaced with 5-8 or 10pm (depends on office-home proximity) and for organizations that are still compliant to this timeline, to resume for work at eight means you must have left your home by 7 at the earliest. And if you live in traffic filled Lagos and have to do the Island-Mainland commute, chances are you have to leave your home as early as 5am in some cases and you’re getting home by 8-9pm on a good traffic day. So if you factor in your commute time you see your job isn’t really an 8-5, more like a 4am to 10pm (preparation time included).

For some who are lucky to live in the same neighborhood as their colleagues, carpooling is an option. This in effect will mean you are with your colleagues from as early as 5:30am as the case may be until about 10pm. The argument is; since you spend most of your time at work and with your colleagues, why can’t you be friends with them? Valid question.

Also, there is the fact that the long hours we spend at work as against anywhere else necessitate the forming of a bond that transcends work. After-all, how and where are friendships formed- isn’t it often at places where people meet very often and find themselves to share similar ideals? Places like- schools- nursery to tertiary, places of worship, leisure and WORK.

The thing however is, the work environment is very competitive and you can only be friends in every sense of the word if you don’t report to the same boss and there is never a reason to compare you both. Which in most organizations with cross functional teams is almost impossible.

I cannot totally rule out office friendships, being that the strength or otherwise of any friendship is dependent on the level of maturity of the parties involved. But the thing with the variety grown in the office is it’s subject to all the roforofo that goes with the office environment. Can you objectively assess your friend (if the relationship is across cadres), or if there’s just a spot to move up as there often is; will you let your friend get it or will your friendship be done in as a result of the competition to move up?

I have friends which the friendship grew in the office space. friendships that transcend culture and sometimes age. i have friends whom we’re no longer colleagues but have remained friends. But some friendships haven’t been so successful. Take the story of Jane and Mary* who were colleagues, friends, and sisters. They both resumed for duty on the same day, their husbands knew each other, and everyone knew them as friends. Until their immediate supervisor resigned and their manager needed to make a decision on who will step into the vacant role. The manager chose to place them on a rotational probation; they took turns being supervisors. Before long, cracks appeared in their relationship. It was obvious a decision will be made one day and each of them wanted the decision to be in their favor. They began competing, each trying to outshine each other and when the decision was made in neither of their favor, the friendship had been ruined.

Like I said earlier, the office environment is one filled with intrigues, drama, competition, etc., and it’s easy to see how friendships will be lost in a bid to get ahead. The male folk tend to be able to manage this things better (guys don’t have wahala). Like someone said to me; ‘if I can’t make friends with my colleagues whom I spend the greater part of my day with, then I won’t have friends’. I agree totally, but with a caveat; remember, you are colleagues first before friends.

This article isn’t meant to scare you off friendly relations with your colleagues, for like every relationship; the work space relationship has its own challenges as well. It’s rather meant to remind you; Your colleagues are NOT your friends.

Have a great day.

xoxo chinma

*Not real name