I was having a conversation with a friend one day and she told me this wonderful story. It taught me a vital lesson about risk taking. We are both present-serving corps (NYSC) members and I was telling her about a wonderful idea I had but that could not execute because I was thinking about some things. I had to eventually tell her I had been over-thinking. It was this that prompted her to share her story with me in hopes that I could learn something from it. I did, and I hope you can do so too (the story is written in her words):
I went home to Lagos for the weekend from Ibadan, my primary place of assignment, and had no money to return when my weekend break was over. My mother refused to give me any money and encouraged me to go out and make some. I realized I had some Organo Gold coffee products for sale, so I went out to start marketing. I’d been introduced to these products by my mother who made me sign up involuntarily. Today, it was to be my saving grace.
After roaming for hours with no productivity, I was just about to give up. However, my friend who had been marketing with me encouraged me not to. Few minutes later, we came across a tall building and she suggested that we go in. Reluctantly, I went in with her and we climbed up to the first floor where I did a bit of marketing but met stonewalls who had no interest in coffee. We headed up to the second and third floors but still, we made no sales. At this point, I told my friend that if we made no sales on the fourth floor, I was never going to market anything again.
Funny enough, in this magnificent, tall building, there were no elevators, hence, our use of the stairs. As we advanced to the fourth floor, we saw this odd-looking middle-aged man wearing flip flops, climbing the stairs. My friend immediately approached him (remember I had already lost the motivation to continue) and I can remember thinking to myself that my friend must be mentally unstable due to too much exposure to Lagos sun. “Why on earth would she market Organo Gold to a scruffy looking man in flip flops? (Organo Gold products are quite expensive. The cheapest coffee pack is 5,000 Naira). How on earth can he afford Organo Gold when he can’t even afford some shoes?”, I asked myself.
As she walked up to him, she said “We want to market our products to you.” His reply: “If you want to talk to me, follow me to my office.” I hissed! “What office could this one be talking about?” Reluctantly, we followed him. When we entered the first door, we expected him to sit at the secretary’s table but he didn’t. He kept on walking until there was a massive main office in sight. Just as we were about to enter, two assistants stopped us and directed us to seat at the lobby. After some time, we were asked to come into his office. The first three things that caught my eye were encouraging enough: a shelf with different volumes of encyclopedia, a large aquarium to the left and a coffee maker. Jackpot! Later, I got to know that the ‘flip-flops man’ was a lawyer, and in fact the owner of the firm. Apparently he had just returned from the airport and came directly to work because he couldn’t go home to change.
He asked us why we had come and we explained to him. We took time to talk about the benefits of our product and he asked to taste some. At that time, I had run out of samples and so to let rip one of those expensive packet was something I had to think well about. Eventually, I did open one pack and he tried it. Then, asked us to open another, telling us that he didn’t like the first one. I almost said no, but my friend hesitantly opened another pack. He didn’t like that one either and asked us to open another one. I began boiling within. In my heart, I had already cursed him in 501 languages. He told us that if we weren’t ready to open the third pack, we should leave his office. “Horrible man!” That was the most expensive pack I had and would cost me about half of my NYSC allowance. After fighting the battle in my head, I decided to succumb and open the pack. And he didn’t like that one either. Finally, he asked us to leave his office, telling us that he didn’t like our products at all. I was pained, pissed, angry and a-thousand-other-fiery-emotions. As we got to the door, he called us back. “How much for all your products?”, he asked. We told him the price and he wrote us a cheque. I was dumbfounded. It was at that moment he taught me the most important lesson I’ve ever learned about business: Never be afraid to take risks.
That’s what business and marketing are about. Risk-taking. If you over-think some things you’ll never make progress. He advised us that the risk of travelling from Lagos to Ibadan is more than the risk of opening a pack of coffee. “Weigh the benefits,” he said. I made a good amount of money that day and I learned a great lesson to go with it. That has encouraged me till today never to stop and never to be afraid of taking risks.
What’s that idea you’ve been over-thinking? Or that decision you’ve been procrastinating for so long? Take the step and take a risk. I mean, what’s the worst that could happen?
Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Michael Zhang