By Abdulkabir Olatunji
The world is in turmoil, if anybody is suggesting that there is a particular part of the globe where people are balling without working hard to create value, just know they are being economical with the truth. Don’t get me wrong, there are stupendously wealthy people around the world living luxurious lifestyles, the type many people dream off. I am only saying that most of these people have had to work hard to build their wealth or at least sustain it if they are heirs to a fortune.
Having got that out of the way, let’s talk about value. Value is an intrinsic or extrinsic benefit that at least one person can appreciate. It is often suggested that to live a comfortable life, what you need to do is to add value to others and you can expect a decent income over time. This line of thought can be difficult to accept for people living in extreme poverty — someone that might not be able feed for days, does not have a job or home. Yet, it is true — even for them.
The secret lies in understanding a simple principle — money is a representation of value. Money by itself is only as useful as the value attached to it. Once, you understand this, you are likely to accept that the solution to poverty is giving greater value.
So, while you might be dirt poor, you can create value with your time (like a guard, nanny or gateman), with your skills (like a footballer, artist or entertainer), with physical exertion (often through manual labour), your ideas (just like I am doing with this article) and your expertise (like doctors, lawyers, accountants and lecturers).
For the poor individual, the value you add in the beginning might be low. Hence, your earnings are likely to be low. However, there are things you can do to increase value and your earnings over time.
1. Build Trust
This is perhaps the biggest way to increase value. Let’s take an example of a cleaner — this is one of the most humble jobs you can have and doesn’t pay much. But let’s assume you do it well and are honest. Two things are likely to be the result of your quality and attitude to work. People might refer you to others who need similar services, or you may be given higher responsibilities that increase your worth and the value you can deliver. A logical progression if you refuse to add major skills might be to become, Head of Janitorial Services in a company, having a team you supervise — not everybody’s dream job but your value would have increased and indeed your earnings. You could also create your own janitorial small business — demand for your cleaning services could be so high that you find yourself recruiting other cleaners to work for you. Some of your superiors might even partner with you, they bring funding and other expertise while you supervise the core operations of the business which is of course — cleaning offices, homes, event centers and so on.
2. Develop Better Skills
There have been stories of security guards who went for higher education, returned to their former places of work as graduate executives and then rose to managerial positions. This is not just because they obtained higher certificates but the higher education they got is trusted to have improved their skills and they have goodwill from the value they delivered at lower levels. Of course, not every person will return to their former employer after improving themselves in terms of education and skills. Even if you apply to different organizations, your previous experience in lower positions that can be verified is a plus for you in the competitive employment market.
3. Grow and Diversify
Many people come to big cities like Lagos and Abuja with a few clothes and a big dream. Some might start with selling pure water for example with a small margin of profit that is consistent and can be accumulated. They might graduate to selling soft drinks, then snacks like sausage rolls, plantain chips and biscuits. Over time, they might have people learning from them and become mini-distributors of the said products. They know what moves, when and how it moves, these are market insights marketing managers of the fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) they are selling value. The really smart street traders are quick to advance themselves in the distribution network and some might become major distributors of these products in a few years. Another example is interstate transport company drivers. A good number of the drivers end up planning their exit as drivers into entrepreneurs — they know the routes, the best vehicles for such trips, the best spare parts for them and how to purchase with some form of financing from lenders who can be banks, other institutions or private individuals. They also have access to new entrants into the profession that can be groomed. This is actually how some of the biggest interstate bus companies in Nigeria were built.
Yet again, we see the power of value.
4. Be Mentored
Some of the biggest businessmen in Nigeria and in the world today, added value to their mentors who in turn returned the goodwill by bringing them into their inner circle with access to information and opportunities that the mentees might never get in several lifetimes. This is evident in many industries, but let me use sports broadcasting in Nigeria as an example. Many of the leading sports journalists and entrepreneurs we have in Nigeria today are products of mentorship. Some reached-out to established and successful professionals with the simple pitch, “I like what you do and would like to be part of it by interning (more like apprenticing)’. Often, these established professionals might not be able to give much in terms of money, but they give something better, training and exposure. This is invaluable and has transformed the lives of many of their mentees forever. This is also replicated somewhat in entertainment with many artistes starting out as mentees of more established acts.
Value is important and should be your focus as an employee, self-employed person or entrepreneur. It is a strong determinant of the quality of life you can live and the amount of money you can make. So, no matter your status or condition in life at any point in time — don’t stop giving value to others.