A Week In The Life” is a weekly Zikoko series that explores the working-class struggles of Nigerians. It captures the very spirit of what it means to hustle in Nigeria and puts you in the shoes of the subject for a week.
The subject of today’s “A Week In The Life” is an entrepreneur running two businesses — a pharmacy and a delivery business. He talks about why he no longer considers working a 9-5, becoming more responsible as a result of entrepreneurship and how he struggles with being called “boss”.
Come rain, come shine, I open my eyes every morning at 7 a.m. My eyes adjust to the light in the room, and I roll out of my sturdy but squeaky bed and pick up my grey coloured iPhone.
I manage two businesses — a logistics company and a pharmacy — but I start my day dealing with the logistics business. This means I start everyday texting: “Thanks for patronising us, you’ll get your package today.” or “Apologies for yesterday, police arrested my rider but you’ll get the package today.”
Today is more of the first one so I’m feeling positive about this week. By 8:05 a.m., I’m done accepting delivery orders for the day, and I make plans to leave my house. It’s time for phase two, the hardest part of being a CEO — being physically present at the office.
A quick bath, clean clothes, comfortable sneakers and a couple of sprays of perfume later, I’m ready for work by 8:35 a.m. It helps that my office is 5–10 minutes away from home because I resume at 9 a.m. I look through my bag to ensure that I’m not forgetting anything, and satisfied, I leave for work.
At work, which is where I run both businesses, I meet the pharmacy shop open. This is unsurprising because I have a full-time pharmacist, supported by sales girls, that resumes by 8:00 a.m. every day. I sit at my desk in the office, write and sort the packages to be dispatched today. After I’m done, I call in the riders, give them packages for their respective routes and wish them luck.
Then I turn my attention to the pharmacy. I look through the inventory, take note of out-of-stock medications, monitor drugs sold versus money made and mark the fast-moving drugs. To make my book-keeping experience smoother, I plug in music and open a carton of cold Lucozade boost to set the mood. Work can be good if you’re having fun.
My friends call me CEO millions, but I don’t feel like I have millions. Especially on days like today when entrepreneurship is kicking my ass. The pharmacy part of my business doesn’t stress me too much, but you see that logistics/dispatch part? Run!
I had an order to pick up and deliver yoghurt worth ₦15,000, and it ended up pouring inside the rider’s carriage box. The driver says he was careful, the client says they were careful. Yet, I, who had no part in their interaction, had to refund the yoghurt money.
Even with this stress, I don’t think I can do a 9-5 again, especially as a pharmacist. Imagine employers not paying the previous month’s salary until the middle of the next one? Or employers stealing medicines and blaming the employee? After my experience meeting wicked bosses in several places, I was motivated to start my own business. I guess I got tired of complaining.
I’m grateful for the lessons from my old jobs. Because of how I was treated, I vowed not to be an asshole. It costs nothing to treat workers well. I’m also super proud of the fact that I pay my workers before the end of every month.
I wake up late today so I have to rush. I haven’t sorted the dispatch orders for today. I also have to buy medicines for the pharmacy. Thankfully, my supplier is close to the office. I decide to pick the medications before getting to the office.
On the drive, I can’t help but think about how every business has its challenges. Using my businesses as examples, I’d say running a pharmacy is pretty straightforward. My pharmacist sits, waits for patients to come, counsels and dispenses drugs. When she’s done, she balances inventories, tallies the medicines and is on top of things. Very straightforward.
For logistics, you’ll first have 20 people texting you at once. What do they want? They all want their packages delivered at the same time, and that’s impossible. But you also can’t refuse the orders. So you’ll beg, plead or negotiate for a more open agreement — same-day delivery instead of promising a specific time. Sometimes, you’ll promise to deliver by 6 p.m. and you’ve still not delivered by 8 p.m. Why? Unforeseen circumstances.
A list of my favourite reasons: “LASTMA catch me.” “My bike chain cut.” “My tyre burst.” “Them arrest me in Lagos for not having Ogun state sticker.”
It’s crazy, but we dey rough am. After a stressful day, my only consolation is when people pray for me after they receive their parcel or medication. This gingers me to give out my best every day.
There are bad days, but the good days outnumber them. Hopefully, today turns out good too.
It’s a slow day at the pharmacy today so I have time for self-reflection. I’m thinking about how entrepreneurship changes you. It bends you in certain ways that the light of responsibility starts reflecting against your skin. At least, that’s true for me.
In eight months of running both businesses, I’ve seen myself become responsible for myself and others. It’s crazy that I have a combined total of nine staff on my payroll. Every day I get to work and they call me “boss,” my first instinct is to say “who?” Me too I’m winging it. But I understand that my staff look up to me, so I try to be a role model. I comport myself and try to lead by example. I don’t drink alcohol at work. I don’t slack either, and I make sure everyone sees me giving my best. That way, the culture of excellence spreads from top to bottom.
Even my personal life hasn’t been spared. In the past, extra money meant chopping life. These days, I’m always thinking about how I can either use it to buy another bike for my logistics business or drugs for my pharmacy. As a Nigerian businessman, you can’t spend money anyhow because the business environment is too risky. Laws can change at any time and you’ll be stranded.
I’m grateful to God for everything and where I am, but my God! Running a business is so difficult.
There are days when we use the TGIF caption on our pictures, but today is not one of them. Today is for work and shopping for medications. Today is also for dreaming about the future and possibilities.
I keep asking, where does all this all lead to? My ideal answer is that I build a noble brand that’s well known across Nigeria. A brand so big people want to drop their money to invest under my franchise.
Another answer is that this success enables me to upgrade my nickname from CEO millions to CEO billions. And I won’t be receiving logistic orders or directly running the pharmacy — everything will be handled by a manager.
But, truthfully, based on where I am right now, the most realistic answer is to trust God, take one day at a time and just keep showing up.
From where I’m standing, that doesn’t sound like a bad plan at all. Hope for better days is all we have.