The story of Contractor Mike is the first in a series of Chizbeth Business Stories that will portray several Nigerian business personalities. Check back each week for more stories in this series.
*Quick disclaimer – The Story of Contractor Mike is not based on an actual person but observed lifestyle and business practices.* It is not the intention of Chizbeth to judge or condemn. We only aspire to create art that inspires, enlightens, cautions or mirrors society.
The Contractor - A Free Master
Mike heard the stories of an employee’s life and dreaded it – waking up early to get to work, meeting an ever-growing list of demands and requirements, contributing to an employer’s wealth; tolerating whatever attitude the employer exhibits - for a salary. Employers don’t have sentimental attachments to workers – if you die today, someone will take over the same job tomorrow! So why bother? Why not put that same time and effort into your own business? At least then you know it is for your benefit!
Right from University Mike had a conviction not to live that life. He was going to do his own thing! He had seen older cousins, friends and acquaintances hustle, get contracts and make huge sums of money! He would speak to his guys and do the business. It wasn’t easy at first, there was a lot of managing, borrowing and sharing before something finally clicked and the pay-out was massive! So this became the pattern. Mike would identify business opportunities when he heard of something - contracts that needed execution, promising ventures, and deals – anything that would bring money. He would find out the requirements and pursue it – sometimes it worked out and other times it didn’t – such is life.
The Contractor’s Business Model & Structure
The contracts and jobs Mike pursued often had requirements like office addresses, personnel numbers, qualifications, company profiles, tax clearance certificates etc. - depending on the source. Whenever there was a need Mike quickly did the necessary – put things in place or borrowed from someone that had. It’s good to have an office to operate from and hold meetings but unnecessary! Real business happens on the streets. Having the necessary permits/licenses is ideal but if you don’t have them you can always use someone’s business name and documents to do the jobs then settle them. Employing qualified staff also made no sense to Mike. It’s mere philanthropy – paying people to sit around and do non-existent work.
An employee’s day is set by work hours – be at the office at 8/9am and close by 5 pm or whenever your master lets you off. Mike is the boss! He can sleep in till noon, start drinking by 2 pm and party like a rock star most days. Business isn’t about being at the office or wearing suit up and down – it’s about knowing what’s up. Mike’s days were structured around meeting with people that could facilitate whatever he was pursuing at the moment. Due to the nature of these meetings they happened whenever and wherever he could corner the relevant people. It didn’t matter if the person was available by 5 am or 11 pm, Mike would be there! People that can show you the way often have full days so meetings at gardens and lounges where they unwind were standard.
Pros and Cons of Being a Contractor
The time freedom of being a contractor is unmatched! Mike could come and go as he pleased. Make, reschedule or cancel appointments by mood! Being in the street, a hustler, in constant search of business opportunities is a thrilling experience. Mike often went on exciting adventures in pursuit of potential breakthroughs! Mike and his business partners would travel to any nook of the country, entertain any personality and stake millions in pursuit of expected pay-outs!
The pay-outs didn’t always come on schedule; sometimes they didn’t cover the investments but worse of all are the ones that never come at all. Business cycles can be unpredictable, the interval between massive contract pay-outs can vary from months to years but reoccurring expenses are constant! Consistent requirements for money versus inconsistent cash flows are a recipe for borrowing and struggling!
It was easy to live free hand-to-mouth as Bachelor Contractor Mike! But Society has expectations; Contractor Mike’s peers have the same expectations shockingly! A man gets to a certain age and he should marry and start a family. So Mike found a nice girl to have children and play house. Being married, running a home, having children, funding clothing, feeding and education magnify the inadequacies of income that is unpredictable.
A Contractor’s Life Lessons
The financial obligations of raising children often made Contractor Mike reflect on his lifestyle and business model. Mike learnt that school fees season either humbles a man or wrecks his credibility. Some times it does both. Mike reserved borrowing from peers for emergencies but the emergencies became too frequent and repaying loans more difficult. The struggle is the norm in the 20s and 30s, it's even dignified. But meeting contractors in their 50s and 60s in the same waiting rooms for the same reasons made Mike question his future.
At Mike’s lowest point he considered 3 options. First, to continue as always and have faith that this season would pass and he would secure a big contract to clear all his debts. Second, to use his network to get a reasonable job that would earn him monthly income and keep the option to execute contracts when they arise as a side hustle. Third, to learn how to do things better. Mike considered understudying a structured contractor to pick up structures and processes or hiring a consultant to help him set up his business properly.
What option do you think Contractor Mike took? What are your thoughts on Contractor Mike’s story? Please leave a comment below and join the conversation on social media!
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