Mr. Hal Rahman from Cameroon, West Africa – Having a purpose with owning a business is extremely important and makes all the difference. #000024
Business With Purpose
By Hal Rahman from Cameroon, Africa
Hello, this is Hal Rahman. I would like to talk to you about some business truths that I’ve learned over the years. I realize that every business should have a vision and most of the time the vision comes as a thought, or sometimes it comes as a need. For example, I’m working in the country of Cameroon, and we’re doing schools, and we realize that we’re short of quality French materials, but we had an abundance of English materials. Of course you know Cameroon is a bilingual country and so therefore, seventy percent of the population is French, and thirty percent is English. And so, the French speakers were really crying out for some quality materials, we had some, but not as comparable to the quality English material. So I saw this need and God gave me a vision on it. He said “You must be able to develop a publishing company they’ll be able to publish quality materials in French and circulate it in the entire Francophone, Africa.” Wow that was a big project, and then I sat down and I began to look at the reality of it and notice that this was huge.
But there’s one thing I’ve learned, you start where you are. How did I start where I am? First of all, I realized that to get those materials in French, the first thing, it has to be translated. And so, that point in time all I could do was to mobilize a few of my staff, who were bilingual, to help me in the translation. We just did not go anywhere further after that, so what we’ve got to do, we put some materials together, and we began to translate it and write it. So, we translated about probably about 50 books, but we couldn’t go any further. We realized to be able to put them into quality form, it has to be typed in the computer and edited. So my next process, my next stage, was to be able to get somebody that can type all of it in the computer. That we also were able to accomplish, and the third stage was the addition process. Wow, which means that you’ve got to take those books and give it to editors and pay them for the services. All of this was not in my plan financially, but on a step-by-step basis, I studied where I am, and systematically, I was able to enter into the next stage of the process. Without strife, without struggle, without any problems, because God is faithful.
So for two years actually all we could do was to just translate, type, and store. Then, God gave us a wisdom and a provision. We were able to begin the process of addition. That means that it has to be paid for. Sometimes, these editors ask for about twenty dollars a page for addition. Wow. I don’t have that kind of money. But, I was able to really negotiate with them to something like three or five dollars a page since it was a beginning project. We actually were able to do about six to seven books in addition. And finally, the most important side of it is the printing which is expensive. I mean because I don’t have a printing press, but I will print in the open market. So I had to go to several printing press and negotiate prices. Finally, I was able to get to a good Presbyterian printing press. They gave me some good prices, not just that but in such a way that I could pay only fifty percent, and print everything, and they give me credit to really pay the balance after the first, you know, sales. Wow that was great. Systematically we followed the process, I chose not to try to rush too big. We really plan according to our capacity. Then, we printed the books, and we had the books available. The next stage is marketing. Wow.
Now, to market those books, it’s a tough situation because you have to identify what’s your market, or what’s your niche. Our first market, we realize, it’s the students in our school. But at the same time I realize if I leave the option open to them, they do purchase here and there. Our next market is the bookstores, all the bookstores in the city. That creates another problem. So, we ought to identify that and I placed our books in most of the bookstores, and then the final problem that came, is the payment. Now the payment was slow, because in business, especially in the business of book production, if you turn your capital into producing a large amount, it’s just sitting down your warehouse or in the bookstores. They’re not producing, man, you don’t have cash to really get you the process. You’re stuck. Now, the books cannot actually, and they cannot have any precision value, except they get torn up, they get eaten up by some termites, but then if you don’t have cash in your hand, you’re stuck. So we came out with another proposal. In fact, somebody gave me wisdom, it says every time you print a book or you print books, just plan that you can only sell about fifty percent.
So you tie your pricing. Even though you print a thousand, but you might only sell 500. Instead of the 500, you must be able to recuperate all your capital, plus a little bit of profit, to keep the process going. Wow, I didn’t know that. I just want to sell everything one hundred percent. What is not possible? So along with that wisdom, I began to plan a strategy on a different way. So after a while, the money was not coming in, we went broke in the business, but then added a real serious jump-start in the business. Initially, we had invested about Thirty thousand dollars and the income within two years was only about four or five thousand dollars and which means that you have staff to maintain, you got some financial services, because I had to pay back the money to the other printing companies, I was stuck. So, however, I got a wisdom where I could find a way to invest another fourteen thousand dollars, simple. I sold a couple of personal property and so therefore I was able to get money to invest back in the business, but this time I invested in the business with the wisdom to make sure that we should always have adequate financial cash available.
For example, in our schools we give the students a couple of books, and that money is paid up front on the day of registration or a month after registration. So, therefore I got all the money of the books up front. I discontinued much of putting books in the book stores because it stays there for a while, and the sale is very low. Secondly, I got a couple of salesmen who could go out on the street, and talk to people on a house-to-house basis, and introduce our books to them, and guess what? It was able to work. How did I notice that? At one time I was in a particular community in the country of Cameroon, the city of Douala, and I saw those guys who were selling… they were selling cigarettes they were selling alcohol, but they got little, okay, motorbikes, so they can easily enter into the community and make sales, and I realized afterwards, in every third house, the fourth one is selling something. Selling bread, selling alcohol, and selling cigarettes. I heard God say to me “Son, where’s the nearest bookstore from exactly where you’re standing right now?” I said “That’s about five miles away.” He said “That’s the problem.” You people that have a good marketing strategy, what you need to do, because if the goods are not readily available to people, they will not be able to buy it.
I say “Wow.” So therefore., I realize that I can use houses, I can use churches as a reference point to put our books, which actually can be sold. Because, the propensity of somebody leaving and traveling five miles just to buy a quality Christian material, it’s very low. But, if the book is readily available to them, then they’re able to buy it. So it put people on the streets who are able to go house to house and get the book readily available to the consumer. Guess what? It worked! And our sales begin to increase, our sales began to increase. Now, my next stage is to get them some good motor bikes because sometimes in the rainy season the books can be wet, so a good motorbike and put a backpack that can really cover it well, and their job is to go into every community in the city, and probably a little microphone, and they’ll be able to make good sales on our books. Guess what? Now sales are increasing, and in our schools the students are paying for the books up front. So I’ll learn but that’s not something that you learn in the day or two, it takes experience.
I have not reached really my objective yet, but for now, it’s working. My final objective is to be able to flood probably over a hundred thousand books every year into various nations. I have another problem. I reached out into three or four other nations took it to other countries, because I was trying to grow so big. But then after I sent the books out to all those countries, for example there was a major guy who had a major bookstore in the country of Roscoe, I sent the books out there, and guess what? They took two years to pay me. I had to buy a ticket, fly all the way to Roscoe just to get my money. Guess what? The money was already gone, because my ticket cost, my hotel cost, I just wasted it. So I realized that I try to grow too quick. So I cut down. Now, what I’m trying to do is to consolidate in my market niche in the country of Cameroon, in Chad, and in a few countries beside me, and then my target for the next three years is I would branch out in the entire Francophone country. That way, I keep the business good and progressive. Thank you.
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