Columnists

How to avoid misery and an early heart attack as an entrepreneur

BDBusinessRisk

As a supplier, you can hang over the edge of a cliff, have your work stopped in a second and stop sleeping for weeks, and it’s all just fine. PHOTO | POOL

Can I be honest about life as an entrepreneur? If you want to avoid endless misery and an early heart attack, the first vow you must take is to choose your clients and customers and keep those off your books who are going to ruin your life.

For many will seek to put you straight onto a path of scarcity. The first strike is through the rates they offer you, where they never slash down salaries in the same way.

They can house well-paid staff and offer heartfelt financial support for ‘their own’: yet every third-party supplier is too expensive, in their view. It all just needs to get cheaper and even cheaper, and it can never go up.

The second strike lies in paying you. Unlike employees, you are expected to provide your customers at least a month’s extra credit on your work.

Most want you to complete the work first, then invoice, and then give them one, two or three months to ‘process’ it, to achieve the gargantuan outcome of getting it settled by the bank. The idea is that you can be an extra credit provider, instead of the bank.

Sometimes, so long as you understand the hugeness of the favour, which can also negate basic civility, you may achieve prepayment.

Although be warned, that may include doing six times the work commissioned, as the job was paid for ahead and, so, too bad if it took extra hours to complete.

The key to all, in these relationships, is that suppliers don’t pay rent, have children, or suffer inflation. They don’t get sick, or need holidays — all of that lovely HR stuff about looking after your staff to get the most from them is gone.

As a supplier, you can hang over the edge of a cliff, have your work stopped in a second and stop sleeping for weeks, and it’s all just fine.

For there are no ethics, for most businesses, in how they treat suppliers. It’s just business: what they need, when they need it, and if you die in the process, then, oh well, they will find a new supplier.

Of course, it’s short-sighted. If you, as an entrepreneur, are producing anything of worth, and have any competitive advantage, losing you actually will hurt your customers.

Even our largest supermarket chains found their own businesses collapsed once their suppliers, who had just kept sending more and more goods without payment, stopped.

Look into most businesses and good suppliers are essential to their success.

As an entrepreneur, the only ones you should supply are the companies that know that, and don’t throw you off cliffs, because it would hurt them too.

The writer is a development communication specialist.