Isio Knows Better is an attempt to capture the shocking and highly entertaining conversation within myself. The conversations between my mind (the sharp witty one), my soul (the lover and the spiritual one) and my body (the playful one concerned with the more mundane things of life). She is the eternal referee between the caustic mind and the sensitive soul. This is Isio. So, here’s to making private conversations public.
Something happened yesterday, and after musing about it in private, I decided to share it with readers and get your contributions on what you think is just.
Okay, here’s a brief overview of what I do. I design, and the client approves the design. Then, I gather a team of “professionals” best suited to interpret the design with the allocated budget (retailers, suppliers, structural contractors, electricians, tillers, carpenters, artisans and so on). I manage the project. Work is done. Everyone is happy.
I had taken a client of mine to a supplier’s store. In the interest of full disclosure I have to say that this store is not Nigerian-owned and is run by a foreigner. In the past he had bid as a supplier for another project of mine, but he wasn’t chosen by client. His company didn’t show up at the allocated time and but chose to show up a week later on site on a Saturday morning. It was locked. The client would not be disturbed, of course. There was nothing I could do. They lost the bid.
This is not a big deal. It happens quite often. Designers, architects and contractors bid against each other for jobs. One person gets it. We are still cool. Usually we have a database and network of good suppliers and artisans we share amongst ourselves. It means that a certain supplier (In this instance, an art gallery) can have me as a client, and have ten other designers they supply to as clients. If I approach them to give a quote to supply art and the client feels that they can’t afford that, I simply get from a gallery that the client can afford. The next design project of mine might be different. The new client may want all high-end pieces- I simply go to the gallery and pick up those pieces. Like I said, it happens… it really isn’t a big deal. We all understand this, and there is this rapport between suppliers/artisans and designers.
Okay, so back to the koko of the gist. I took this client to this supplier’s store. I showed him around and went off to get the manager so we could talk about the client’s needs. I met him in a corner with two of his staff, and after greeting everyone, I re-introduced myself to him because he didn’t acknowledge my initial greeting (my thinking was that didn’t recognise me because I looked really different that day – hair change and all).
This is what he said to me, “Of course I remember you… you are the interior architect. The one who made me go on site and it was locked.”
Made you ke? See wahala o.
“But didn’t you call the client like I asked?”
“I did,” He snapped back at me “he told me he was sleeping.”
“My apologies for your inconvenience. You know that I am the designer for that project, not a staff. Only he could allow you access on a weekend morning.”
He mumbled something about being sure the client had already given someone else the job, and looked at me with such cold eyes then he just looked away.
I was shocked at his manner which was especially tasteless. The client was a friend of his, which was why the client asked me to use him for the job in the first place. Not to be deterred, I told him why I was there. I had brought another client of mine, a representative of one of the biggest multi-national corporations in the country. Perhaps he would like to have a talk with us, so we could talk him through what we needed from his company.
Once he heard the organisation my client represented, he was immediately different. Breezed over there like say na im sabi everything pass. He put on his best sales-man attitude, and he and his staff started fawning over my client. Watching people kiss-ass is always painful to watch. I just separated myself from the mix and browsed the store leisurely.
Now he began to grasp the scope of work. It is so huge that the contract for his department alone could easily bring his company tens of millions of naira. I noticed that he gave his contact to the client and tried dealing with him directly, but the client told him that he had to talk to me, as I was the designer, and that every aspect of production for the design had to pass through me. It was left to my judgement.
You know eh, as a young female business owner in this country, (and women please testify to this if you fall into this category), we see/ hear all kinds of things. It is not always palatable, yet we push, and work hard and strive. It is harder than it looks. I don’t want to bring race, age, physical appearance or marital status into this, but trust me… it is harder than it looks. The belief that “oh, you are a young attractive female, it should be easier for you than for young men…” is a big FAT LIE. It is harder. It gets harder when you are building something of yours from scratch. If you doubt me, please talk to any successful young career woman or female entrepreneur (especially those who have managed to thrive in Nigeria).
Even before I started this column, I have always wanted to write on the reality of this (especially for young girls who want to transform their dreams into a business, or for female 9-5ers’ who want to quit their jobs and plunge into entrepreneurship, or for returnees who have no contacts and just want to “come back and conquer Lagos”) Aunty and madams, don’t buy the hype. Pull your ear well-well and study this market and be very aware of the pros and cons.
So, anyway… back to the gist. He managed a stiff goodbye to me when we were leaving. Na wa o. I was sorely disappointed in his behaviour. Maybe because I wore my shaka-shaka natural hair there o, abi na because I no wear six-inch loubs go there o. The guy don take small-pikin eye look me sha. Just erase me like that. Oga no vex. Na from site I dey come. Now I have to decide what to do. The client has asked if I would rather not work with him.
His was a very personal reaction to a professional problem. I am determined not to react in such a petty manner. Personally, I may not care much for one, but will continue to work with said one if they also put emotions in check and deliver to me the very best of their professional service. Yes, I am wired that way. Business is business. It is what it is. We don’t have to fraternize.
My gut tells me that the manager cannot detach himself long enough from his emotions to give me that. And that he would not be able to handle my authority. But, at the end of the day he is still just an employee. Is it just to hold his boss’ company accountable for his behaviour?
What would you do?