There was once a man, I will call him Gambo. Gambo was a tout at one of the parks in Sokoto. He it was who lifted the toll lever and was in charge of toll revenue collection every day, working from morning up until evening. He had minimal education as he only had a primary school certificate. One very regular day, an expatriate stopped by at the tolling point and requested to be referred to a place where he could buy sand and laterite in truck loads for his construction project. Gambo asked a few questions and realized that the expatriate was a site engineer managing a contract who required daily deliveries. Then he said to him, what is your payment arrangement? And the man said to him that payment would be made daily and on site for as many trucks as were delivered. Without much ado, Gambo took the site details and promised that deliveries would be made after confirming again that payment would be made at the end of the working day for as many truckloads as were delivered.

As soon as the man left, he made his way to the truck park at the other end of town and called a meeting of the truck drivers, (several of whom were idle at the time) and made arrangements to have as many of them as were able supply the required materials to the site. On the very next day, he mobilized the trucks to the site, went into the portakabin, collected the cash from the expat and paid off the drivers, after taking out his hefty commission, of course.

And that was how this barely educated, enterprising toll collector grew his business until he established his own construction company and employed several graduate engineers amongst others to manage his thriving business.

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Gambo’s story is very much like that of David’s encounter with Goliath, both of which made me realise that, oftentimes, we go around searching for opportunities. Opportunities usually will come our way.  But we fail to recognise them or we are ill prepared  to take them when they come.  For David, it was an ordinary day until he was challenged by the rantings of Goliath. Likewise for Gambo. It was also an ordinary day until he was approached by the expatriate. Both stories taught me the power of recognizing opportunity.

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God alone knows how many opportunities I may have missed out on because I simply didn’t recognize them. Gambo could have laughed and said, ‘see this oyinbo, no be here dem dey sell building materials O! Abi oga you miss road?’ He could have also said, ‘Oga, I no know’ or simply directed the man to the place where he would find same for sale. There was nothing about the man’s question that screamed ‘life changing opportunity’ on the surface, but he recognized it.
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Secondly, he took the risk. It could have fallen through but instead of analysis paralysis at the very beginning, he simply took the risk and made the move. He was willing to go out on a limb, risk his reputation and then deal with any fallouts later. Sometimes, our knowledge stands in the way, as we are unable to take spot on risks because of our over analysis.

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Next, he kept the story to himself. He maintained the liaison with the expatriate and built credibility until he could start his own business. I’m sure that took years of honest, diligent business to enable him build a brand. Some of us would have been so excited with that big break that on the very first day, upon receipt of the cash for the deliveries, the town would have heard about the opportunity and then someone else who had more money or more skill may have stolen the business idea from him. Some testimonies are meant to be incubated until the right time when they are birthed. Speaking too soon could kill your Isaac. Perhaps that is the reason some of us have lost our business ideas to others. Because we spoke too soon, or rejoiced publicly, too soon? Perhaps.
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He was clearly humble and wise enough to take time out to learn the ropes of the business and identify areas of business extension before he eventually set up his. Learning the ropes is extremely important. He hired engineers et al, but not before extending the business, so he included more offerings in his delivery business until he had covered the entire value chain. And this man did not even have one truck when he began. He probably didn’t have the spoke of a bicycle wheel.

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I opine that Gambo was financially prudent. He didn’t get overly excited with the profits from the business so much that he changed his lifestyle. To have the financial might to set up his own business within a few years, he must have ensured that he maintained financial prudence. Some of us strike gold and then we suddenly change our lifestyle overnight, often in response to the Joneses who are running their very own race. Sometimes, recognizing opportunities isn’t our challenge, sustaining a viable entrerprise on the basis of that opportunity is.

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I am certain that, all around us, there are many more opportunities like Gambo had, we just need to be alert to see them, prepared to seize them, and patient to sustain them.

Have a productive, opportunity seizing week.


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