To Achieve Success, Be Prepared to Give, In Order to Get (Lesson from an 11 year old boy, and his 13 year old brother)

This photo, is of a handwritten “contract” of sorts recently sent me by my (11 & 13 year old) sons. It reads:

“Tayo, we will do anything you and mummy ask us to do without grumbling, but we need a deal. The deal is if we do anything for anybody in this house without grumbling, you promise to buy us a ball. If it is a deal, sign here (my name appears with a line over it!).

NB: The “cover” reads “To Tayo”. From: …and it was signed by the 13 year old “instigator”…LOL!!

This happened a few weeks ago, when I visited my family in Lagos – Nigeria

They dropped it on my laptop, and promptly went into hiding!

Not sure what to expect, they pushed their (9 year old) sister to say: “Tayo, look there’s a letter for you on your laptop”.

By the time I read it, I burst out in uncontrollable laughter. Hearing that, they came out from their hiding places, grinning mischievously.

But they still pressed to know if I agreed!

I thought back to the many tasks I’d given them since moving to Cotonou last April (2013), and how well they’d generally performed.

Their mother had already trained the 2 eldest boys to do most kitchen chores, including cooking for the others – even when she’s not home.

On my part, each time I came home, I tried introducing something new I wanted them to learn or do. I assigned them various sections in the compound to sweep and weed out weekly.

Then I also challenged them to make pineapple peel based drinks and cakes I taught them to prepare, and find ways to sell them.

They did most of it, though sometimes it became a battle, and tempers flared a bit…!

As these thoughts went through my mind, I also recalled how I’d told them to always think of ways to negotiate for whatever they wanted.

Even with adults…including ME!

To never accept the options they were given without trying to see if better bargains could be struck.

Again, even with adults…including ME!

By the way, here’s why I keep saying “even with adults”…

It’s because in our culture, sometimes the need to show respect to adults, creates a mental block in the minds of young Africans, when they have to relate with older persons.

This makes some of them get taken advantage of when they become business owners, and have to serve older persons who have a tendency to be exploitative.

That brings me to the issue of why they do not call me “Dad, Daddy or Father”…

Actually, they dare NOT do that. I mean, call me “Dad, Daddy or Father”!

Over 3 years ago, I made it clear to all – including their (now 4 year old) baby sister, that I would not tolerate having any of them refer to me that way.

My experiences in dealing with so many adult Africans, both in and out of business, was primarily responsible for this decision.

As I type these words, I have a near septuagenarian client, that I did multiple jobs for last year, but who still owes me N100, 000…and has SHOWN he’s unwilling to pay up.

During our interactions, he repeatedly used his age as a bargaining chip (directly and indirectly) to get me to grant him concessions e.g. letting him pay in 2 parts as against one time up front, like all my other clients.

Indeed, he paid that way for the first project I did for him.

Yet despite the fact that I gave him that concession, and finished the project, he NOW no longer takes my calls.

Out of curiosity, to confirm if it was deliberate, I recently tried calling him from a relative’s mobile.

Even though I only tried once, he called back about 3 minutes later!

When my relative said she never called him (I deliberately did not tell her I’d used her phone, until AFTER), he still asked her if she was sure!

Yet just one hour after that, I REPEATEDLY called him from my mobile line. He neither picked up nor called back!

Experiences like the above made me decide to prepare my kids to be assertive in relating with older persons.

And if they find anyone demonstrating poor integrity, they have been taught what to do.

By letting them call me by name, I’m demystifying the myth about adults being infallible, not lying etc, which are subtly propagated in our culture out here.

Where did I get this idea? From the late legend Fela Anikulapo Kuti…who did the same with his kids!

But most importantly, my kids are being taught to avoid trying to get something for nothing…like some others do so often!

In the past they would simply walk up to me or their mother and say “I want a Coke.” Or sweets etc.

They had absolutely no conception of where money came from, or that it had to be earned!

All they knew was that it could be used to buy stuff they liked. Mostly fun stuff. Nothing productive.

So, I began asking them to tell me what they were willing to do to get the money they asked for.

And soon, we had all sorts of agreements.

Sometimes they would wash my car, or run errands they previously ducked, for their mother.

We found a mutually acceptable way of measuring what N50 (fifty naira), for instance, was “worth” in terms of work done. And we would agree a task to be done based on that understanding.

When they completed it, I gave them what they asked for.

Over time, when I saw they always spent it all, I told them I wanted to see them use their money for something productive – that if possible, yielded more money.

Next thing I knew, they began saving and buying themselves new slippers, biros, notebooks. Things they normally would have gone to their mother for.

They continue to learn of course…

The above “experiences”, I believe, led them to write me that “contract letter”!

Taking another look at my it, as they stood waiting for my response, I realized my plan was working…

But I also could not help wondering what I’d started!

I however knew if I backed out from the “deal”, they could be demoralized, even though we were all laughing about it.

Yet I felt it would be wrong to let them believe there had to be a reward promised, before they did chores at home, or went on errands for their parents.

So I told them I’d give them my response in a few months.

But that until then, I expected them to do all assigned tasks without grumbling anyway.

There were feeble protests, but they agreed.

And to their credit, they have been doing that for the most part.

That’s why I know I’ll be signing that “contract” this month (June) – specifically on their mother’s birthday, which comes up in a few days!

And I’ll be presenting them their balls – on that day too – as a surprise.

They are thinking the process will start AFTER we “sign”.

But, for me, they have  already proven themselves worthy.

So it will just be for them to continue :-)

Now, even though this piece is based on relations with my kids, my message is actually for ADULT entrepreneurs!

Many entrepreneurs out here need to realize getting paid for work by a client, is ONLY the beginning.

That’s such an obvious fact – yet many act like they do not know it!

Which is why we keep hearing stories about persons getting paid to do a job, and becoming difficult to get a hold of right after.

Or, if at all you can reach them, they tell silly stories, delay in giving progress updates, abandon projects half-finished, or deliver poorly finished work…to clients who trusted them enough to pay up!

Some claim they do that because a client(s) did that to them in the past. VERY childish excuse!

I’ve experienced exploitative clients, and over the years developed smart strategies to protect myself

Every business owner simply needs to do the same.

There’s no need to turn crooked because of it!

If you don’t know how, go online and read articles (there are tons of them) written by others like you (including me – here’s one), about the subject.

My most recent experience with the elderly client has made me STOP letting any clients pay me in part. Except a client I have absolute trust in.

And there are a few like that – we’ve been together for YEARS.

But I also have some I’ve known less than 2 years, who have shown themselves trustworthy.

For the rest, they have to meet my terms, or we agree NOT to work together.

If you choose to take from clients, without giving what you promised, you break a natural law.

There are forces in nature that will ensure you pay for what you’ve done.

And when it happens, you may find yourself worse off, than you have ever been before.

So, like they say in my language (Yoruba): Se rere (Do good…ALWAYS!)

[IMPORTANT: This blog's contents are being updated following the transfer to www.tayosolagbade.com from my former domain - Spontaneousdevelopment.com. As a result, some parts of it may not work properly for now. Quick Tip: If a link contains "spontaneousdevelopment.com", simply change it to "tayosolagbade.com" - and it should work. This applies to article links as well as image links. Work continues to update the links(in over 500 articles). Tayo K. Solagbade.]

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