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Businessman, Joel Aita: How I lost Shs 20 million in 20 minutes

By Joel Aita
During the formative stages of Joadah Consult, I learnt one lesson which has shaped my understanding of winning. I learnt that Image is an important aspect of any business. Your Image will win for you 80% of the deal.

A corporate Image or identity is the manner in which a corporation, firm or business presents themselves to the public, such as customers and investors as well as employees. It is a primary task of the corporate communications department to maintain and build this identity to accord with and facilitate business objectives. It is typically visually manifested by way of branding and the use of trademarks. But also includes things like product design, advertising, public relations and the like.

In 2007, A senior Engineer Eng. Alex Gisagara of National Water who got to learn that I had set up Joadah Consult and who knew my individual capability referred me to JOMAYI Consultants, a real estate company who wanted an Engineering Design for their Water Network in the Seguku Estates located some few kilometres outside Kampala City the Capital City of Uganda.

After receiving a phone call from the Proprietor of Jomayi I informed him that I will do the work at 60m Ugandan Shillings, of which he was fine since other more experienced firms had charged him more than 200m. He asked me to meet him at the site.

I quickly jump in a public Taxi and dropped off at the Seguku stage and grabbed a Boda Boda (Motor Cycle). After some few minutes of ride on the hilly dusty road, the Boda Boda came to a stop. Not because we had reached, we were 1 kilometre to the Location, but because his fuel was over. I had to walk the remaining distance during a hot day and on a dusty road.

Arriving at the client’s location, I resembled a walking dust cloud, drenched in sweat from head to toe. Despite my dishevelled appearance, the client, in his plush Range Rover, scrutinized me with a sceptical gaze.

Then he asked me series of questions. So you are the Consultant? What do you do with your money? (Remember this was going to be my first Contract, so there was actually no money), Should I really pay you the 60m? As the questions were increasing, panic set in and more sweat. To make matters worse, I didn’t have a handkerchief.

He then started lecturing me, he said young man, when you meet a client, never make the client to have doubt about you just because of the way you present yourself. The Lecture went on for a full 20 minutes and ended up with my fee been reduced to 40 million, which I still accepted. I actually needed the money badly. Just because I refused to hire a car for 100,000, I lost 20 million.

This became a very expensive mistake which remained in my brain. I said I went to the most expensive school. Tuition of 20 million for a 20-minute lecture. Meaning I paid 1million per minute. I treasure the teaching I got from him.

After I was paid the 40million, I immediately brought this Toyota Kikumi. This car took me all over Uganda. Amazing.

Summary:

  1. Numerous young individuals continue to make comparable mistakes. When someone approaches you with their startup, they often neglect to invest effort in creating an aesthetically pleasing profile that effectively conveys their company’s purpose. I consistently advise them that, prior to engaging in any discussions, they should dedicate time to enhance the visual appeal of their company profile.
  2. Your personal presentation affects your company’s image. I have learnt that the way you present yourself to a potential client will directly show the image of your company. It’s always very important to look visually presentable while visiting a client.
  3. The significance of your workspace cannot be overstated. When clients pay a visit, their primary concern often revolves around determining whether they can entrust their finances to you. A well-branded office, regardless of its size, instills confidence in clients. However, if a client questions the credibility of entrusting a substantial project worth 100 million to you based solely on the appearance of your office, then know you are in real trouble.

The writer is the Chairman, Joadah Consult, an engineering firm.

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