Depending on what you read or who you listen to, a thousand and one ingredients have been proposed as neccesary for entrepreneurs these days. Some will tell you all you need is resilience (I used to think that too), some will say you need solid financial backing, some will even say all you need is to know your market. Events of the past couple of days have highlighted the importance of a previously unknown or unspoken phenomenon….. Opposition Inspired Nastiness.
Do you understand what I mean? If you don’t read on….
While rubbing minds with fellow Entrepreneurs based in Colchester Essex, it occurred to me that Opposition Inspired Nastiness (OIN) is a significant cause of business closures today. OIN comes in many guises, but the effect is the same… catastrophic.
Something quite bizarre happened the other day – a friend (and fellow entrepreneur)Queenette Cunningham staged an event for kids on a field beside her house and charged a token (£2.50) for kids to take part. The event was a water slide and the kids that attended had a whale of a time (see what I did there?)
This wasn’t the first event Queenette had staged on that field, she’s done quite a few this year alone. Easter Egg Hunt and Children’s Mini Olympics to mention but a few. Unfortunately, this time, Colchester Council showed up and demanded she needed a licence (at a cost) to hold events on the said field in future. Basically, she would need to ask for permission or have insurance in order to hold any event going forward.
Red tape in overdrive? Maybe. Bureaucratic kill-joys? Probably. Is the council’s right to demand for insurance and permission for a business woman to entertain kids on an open field? That is up for debate. BUT, from what fellow Entrepreneurs and experience tells me, the whole drama must have started because someone reported Queenette Cunningham to the council in the first place…. Opposition Inspired Red Tape.
According to Queenette (and I have no reason to doubt her), she had approached Colchester Council, who told her a licence wouldn’t be necessary since she wasn’t selling food or playing live music. So why then did they decide to object this time? Someone made a big fuss, trust me.
I put it to you today that most likely, whoever reported may have even attended the event OR was watching from their bedroom window. They are people who smile and say Hello when they see Queenette.
Like I mentioned earlier, OIN comes in different guises, in Queenette’s case its Bureaucracy, in some other cases, its damn straight sabotage.
I know of a friend who owns an Indian restaurant, quite a swanky one at that, and in keeping with openness, clarity and modern times, he decided to allow his customers review and rate their experience at his restaurant on a customer review site online. Sure as day is day, the majority of excellent reviews got contaminated with 1 or 2 really dreadful ones. Oh the negative reviewers went to town on this restaurant, so much so anybody reading these reviews would be forgiven if they asked for Food and Hygiene arm of the government to intervene and close down this restaurant. These reviews were as a result of sabotage, clear and simple. Anybody who tells me otherwise need to wake up, and wake up fast. This is a clear example of how 1 or 2 bad reviews can have catastrophic consequences for any business. In the case of my restauranteur friend, he is certain he did everything in his power to satisfy that customer (as well as other customers) who visit his establishment, he even waived their bill……. Opposition Inspired Nastiness
Another friend who ran a freight company experienced the same predicament, unfortunately in his own case, the consequence was quite finite. This friend’s freight business was thriving and grew in leaps and bounds in the space of a few years. It started making waves in the freight world and even some of the bigger players sat up and took notice. The problem with that is the business came to the attention of many….. most with dark thoughts.
Before long, 1 or 2 delays caused by ships far away in the other side of the world resulted in bad reviews for the company. This snowballed and gathered momentum especially from those who were hell bent on seeing the demise of the company. Eventually, one such customer took it upon himself to post daily reviews discrediting the company, even going as far as calling it fraud. Other customers stayed away, even the loyal ones and subsequently, the owner, not inclined to deal with that much drama, folded up the company. …. Opposition Inspired Nastiness
These are just a few examples of this phenomenon. Most I have spoken to have their own stories to tell. From a Hair and Beauty Salon proprietress in uptown Colchester who was told to her face her business was not needed in that area, to a Caribbean Food Restaurant whose owner was told her goat curry was too bony. Funny but true. In starting and sustaining a business, its tough enough to deal with rent, business rates and utility bills, it becomes tougher, almost impossible when dealing with OIN. When nasty people bring your business to the attention of the authorities for one reason or the other, from that moment you will basically start fighting to keep your business alive.
Be warned, this is not common only to the business owners in Colchester Essex, it happens everywhere.
Here, we call it sabotage, my Nigerian readers know it as BAD BELLE. Which literarily depicts someone with a very bad disposition to your welfare, in this case your business.
Authorities all over the globe cannot preach about encouraging people to start a business and then use the other hand to stifle it with red tape inspired by saboteurs.
In all above cases, government interference as a result of unnecessary whistle blowing cost or almost cost the demise of thriving businesses. In Queenette’s case, getting permission, licence and insurance won’t be cheap, which means, she’ll have no choice but to pass some of the costs on to the parents thereby defeating the whole purpose; which means the innocent children have lost out on a FULL DAY’s worth of fun, games and play on an empty field. My restauranteur friend will forever look over his shoulders because he doesn’t know where the next attack will come from.
Councils and all other government agencies are well-oiled robots set up to follow a system. Many times this system break down causing a need for these agencies to take a step back and let common sense prevail. It is not entirely their fault I must say, however, it must be said that because people know that a system has to be followed, they automatically weaponise it and use it against other business owners for the flimsiest of reasons. It is whistleblowing gone mad. It is uncivilised and the precedence is dangerous and taking over that of natural coexistence and healthy competition.
As sure as rain, some will read this post and call it the dreaded ‘Race Card’ . Is it? I don’t think so, but incidences like this seem to happen mostly to business people of colour. So is it a Race Card? You tell me.
Im sorry, but as a minority, you do need an extra layer of strong to survive in this business world.
So what is the solution? Well, its simple, you MUST be able to predict your competition and your detractor’s every move. What they think, what you think they will do next. You must insulate yourself, your business and your staff from their prying eyes. More importantly, you must be prepared at all times for their move, don’t be found wanting when the authorities come knocking on your door step. Are your electricals PAT tested? is there sufficient foam in your fire extinguisher? Is your fire exit accessible? These are elements your detractors and enemies can exploit. Any weakness in this regard will automatically be preyed on. Business is nasty these days trust me.
I learnt something when I was in employment, when detractors or stubborn clients make it impossible for you, don’t fight them, but be prepared to nice them to death.