Wednesday, October 31, 2018

How to succeed as a briefcase consultant

Most hotels and restaurants refuse to Most hotels and restaurants refuse to accommodate idle people. FILE PHOTO | NMG 
A consultant once divulged in his training session how as a briefcase he learnt the hard way. One day, after visiting a prospective manager’s office, the man escorted him to the car park. Then as he entered the vehicle, the man was shocked and asked: “Mr So, is this your car?”
The briefcase consultant without an office, but now an executive, working for international organisations, was sharing in a training session how he climbed up the corporate ladder. Having obtained post graduate qualifications here and abroad, he invested his meagre resources and purchased an old car, which he referred to as "a smoky Joe" to take him from point A to B. He was embarrassed as he drove it with a lot as it demeaned his status. smoky Joe, with Mr S as its fourth owner, looked like it had been rescued from scrap yard by a breakdown.
Corporate firms don’t just deal with anyone. A top Consultant, often found himself in a compromising position in hotels when he was starting out broke. He often carried enough cash for two cups of tea. Then in the process of entertaining such clients, he learnt with time that the best way is not to offer them anything until they open up and buy into his business idea. One day he made the mistake of asking a corporate business executive he was meeting what he wanted to drink. To his shock the man ordered gin, a very expensive alcohol.
The briefcase consultant was not amused and tension, which the other man may have sensed, grew as the meeting progressed. After the drink he left him with a bill and no business offer was reached. From that day he decided not to offer anything to anyone until he clinched a deal. The most he could offer was a cup of tea.
Once while on a World Health Organisation (WHO) training for Eastern Africa journalists, I found that in Finland and Switzerland men and women pay bills for themselves even in courtship. In Kenya, men boot the bills, as expected. When an entrepreneur losses everything in the office to the landlord because of non-payment of rent, or can’t afford to hire a place he is reduced to a vagabond. If he has to operate in the central business district (CBD), he may have to be conducting business sitting on pavements or restaurants.
For someone who does not even have an office with expenses to shoulder, transport and accommodation, and furniture and office equipment seized, buying even mandazi can put him off balance. When he has faced embarrassment, the briefcase consultant’s only alternative is to meet clients near the car park. He has to act as someone who has just parked his limousine and only has little time to spare for a quick word before he drives off to the next meeting.
Armed with briefcase and dressed 'corporately', it can also be excused that the consultant is not a briefcase one, and has just released his driver to go on an urgent matter. If anyone today wants to be driven in any class of vehicle, all they have to do is call for one. Then they can be dropped and picked in style that can impress their clients.
Most hotels and restaurants refuse to accommodate idle people. And if the entrepreneur is not ordering when he has a client he has invited, the chances are that he is broke, and if so, then he is not going to make profit for those he purports to consult. A few years back, many entrepreneurs could make some restaurants their meeting place, and were not denied basic amenities. But now, that is almost a thing of the past.
One cannot walk into a prestigious hotel today and ask for the key to the ladies or gents. So without an office, one would have to make do with the public facilities in the CBD, which are now managed with some level of care. This forces one to have an office where at the end of the day, they are able to go and relax, or refresh between meeting clients. This is not done online. Cyber caffes don’t avail such comforts.
That is the reason why someone would deny children basic needs, and even school fees and medical cover just to buy a prestigious vehicle and put those thousands if not millions on the road.
A survey done by this writer for a newspaper feature confirms, that someone with a Mercedes Benz, however old can gain more credibility in the eyes of the public. This then influences the type of clients, business connections, social status, and transform their financial status than the one on other wheels.
NANCY KOECH, a former Communication Studies Lecturer at Kenyatta University, Kericho Campus.

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