I am compelled to do a rejoinder to my former treatise on the Minibus Transport Business, because of the interest it generated. In the days since I posted ENTREPRENEURSHIP SERIES (VII): THE MINIBUS TRANSPORTATION BUSINESS | madukovich’s cogitations https://madukovich.wordpress.com/2015/06/20/entrepreneurship-series-vii-the-minibus-transportation-business/, I have been inundated with feedback via all the platforms with which I communicate, by people who wanted to know how they can be in on the business, that it will now be unfair not to do another blog post to address all the concerns raised therein, and throw more light on rather very obscure aspect of the business, especially from the point of view of experience.
I will approach this from the beginning, that is at the point at which these minibuses are assembled at places such as the Ladipo Automarket in Lagos. If anything goes wrong at this point, the objective of going into the business in the first place will become arduous to accomplish. The concern of many of the mechanics/dealers there slant more to the money they are about to make than about safety or assembling for durability. It is pertinent that after you have completed payment for the minibus (I would advise that you pay instalmentally to ensure that they be the ones to work in anticipation, not you having to wait endlessly to see the fruit of your payment, for which they can then take their time to assemble the vehicle for you), you go with your mechanic to scrutinize what they have done.
Though they will ask you if you’d bring your driver to collect the minibus, or you’d like for them to provide you with one for a stipend, it is wiser to opt to provide your own driver (especially if you cannot drive), and better still a mechanic (even when you can drive). Outside of the Ladipo market are a group of policemen who will also extort some money from you, hence one of the options these dealers will offer you is a policeman as driver to ease your movement out of the market and within Lagos and outside of it to your destination. I say this because I feel that sometimes, this may be an attempt by the dealers to mask any shoddy setup they might have put in place in assembling the minibus. It may cost more to do it your way, but in the long run, you will be saving much in the future, from headaches such as battery problem, wheel alignment and balancing problem, improperly set door(s) problem, amongst other problems (and hopefully not engine problems) that may arise because in your hurry to quickly move your minibus and start your business or in order to save some spare cash and moderate your budget you failed to bring in your mechanic to test run/drive the minibus to ensure it is devoid of the potential for future trouble, as well as to ensure that the minibus can stand the test of time, enough to make you returns on investment, and give your driver/operator some months of respite after fulfilling the terms and conditions of your agreement, as the new owner of the minibus.
The next, once you’ve certified that your minibus is the real McCoy, is personnel. This alone has the capacity to make or mar your minibus transport business. I have seen many who have sworn never to go into transport business because of past unfavourable experiences, and really there is no hard and fast rule as to how to get a trusted hand to run your business for you, when you can’t do it yourself because you still intend to keep your nine to five (the essence of the ENTREPRENEURSHIP SERIES of blogposts in the first place). Unlike with Tricycles (Keke, in Local Parlance) where the excesses of the drivers/operators are reined in by superintending executives of the Tarmac (Tricycle Parks), with minibuses and buses the relationship exists strictly between the driver/operator and the owner/hirer. Therefore, whether the driver is someone known to you or not, you must be firm, subtle and at the same time diplomatic in dealing with him/her, and always allow for the benefit of doubts when the “STORIES” (as they are wont to come, sometimes even in torrents) begin to come. I understand that the stories could be mischievous and outright ridiculous sometimes (in the worst of situations) and believable most times but don’t shy away from reminding your driver/operator of what s/he signed to in the agreement, where you must have included that challenges with the vehicle remain only the responsibility of the driver, and should in no way hamper the weekly deliveries. If these stories begin to come in the early days, don’t be reluctant to rid your minibus of that driver before further (sometimes irreversible) depreciation sets in on the vehicle, even if the same happens with a replacement driver as long as you find that no permanent damage has been done to your vehicle, though you may be forced to stick with a driver, and find a common ground or rule of engagement even with an errant one, when it doesn’t any more make economic sense to get another driver who may under prize the HIRE PURCHASE conditions because of desperation on your side to give out the minibus by all means possible.
Now, as for the stories, you just have to brace yourself, as nothing is impossible to come up, nothing is too sacred to be used when a driver intends to lie to you in order to default on weekly remitance, not even the death of a close relative, parent, sibling or even child, talk more other challenges of a domestic or non-domestic nature. The fact that you must be sympathetic and empathic shouldn’t at the same time mean you shouldn’t ask for your due, as discovery of a weakness on your part by a driver may mean that your set out aim regarding the minibus may remain but a fleeting illusion. I cannot reel out a quality you must look out for in a driver because even the gentle and harmless looking one may default, while the ruffian ensures that your week doesn’t go by without the requisite amount hitting your bank account or hand, or vise versa.
At the end of the day, how far your minibus goes to bringing you smiles, enough to make you reinvest depends largely on how you manage every step of the transactions from the beginning to the end, because at every point relationships are built, shattered, amended and positions taken, but try as much as possible not to make extreme decisions (even when it appears that the intention of those you’re dealing with is geared towards duping you and thwarting your effort at reaping the most from your investment) by always staying in the grey, addressing issues as they present calmly and patiently, with your focus always and only on the end and modifying the means to that end coarsely not bluntly as often as you can, as the challenges present. It is true that I stated in my earlier missive that the Hire Purchase period should run for a year, this most times is impracticable hence even with the challenges, you must be willing to accommodate extensions reasonable enough not to render the whole deal worthless, as with when the expected amount for remittance is met but at an unreasonably extended period.
I hope these few lines help you, if not I am not too far to respond to other concerns that you may have about the minibus transport business. Mazel Tov!