In 2007, two years into the shipping company’s operation, I needed cash to facilitate a transaction – an export shipment. It was a Monday morning. I called all my friends on high street.
The response I got from my top borrowing prospect had me raise an eyebrow but I always try not to allow my personal feelings to interfere with what needs to be done.
“Please send me an email with your proposal, payment terms, what interest you will give, and what collateral you will stake.”
“Alright. And when can I get the cash, I asked?”
“I will need to review your proposal before I can give you that answer, Zik,” my friend said.
“How soon can you get back to me on your decision after I send you the proposal this morning?” I belabored.
“Wednesday, may be?”

I was desperate not to lose this large shipment, and repeat customer. At the same time I was also fighting to keep down the bile that was rising within me towards my friend; my friend that I had over the years staked my head for again and again (and my ask was really pocket change for him at that point). Whichever way you look at it, the unwritten code in business is that when someone goes out of their way to help you, you owe them that favor. It is what it is. When they come back knocking, you tear out your hair (if you have to) to help them. You don’t break that chain. It cycles back to you.

As a last resort (banks never entertained the hoi-polloi then), I went downtown to one of our import customers – Hajji Musa. Even with my bad Luganda then (he spoke only Luganda), he had taken a liking for me. He always wondered why I had exchanged my cushy corporate job for a hustler’s life. He always teased me that the mean streets were not made for polished and well behaved chaps like me. I suppose he must have seen a little of himself in me. He always treated me like royalty, even personally going door to door with me, introducing me to his fellow importers. I never had to sell on Market street. I simply collected bills of lading.

Hajji’s shop was decrepit and stuffy. You would never imagine his turnover (let alone the net margin in his books) walking into it. Sometimes I wondered why he kept this storefront. The real action was in his warehouses. This was the decade when Kampala was one large construction site. He had secured contracts to supply tiles and building materials to several multi-billion projects. I had driven around with him a couple of times to see the action. But when he was at the shop, he sat on the veranda facing the street. So it was that Monday morning when I came knocking.. (TO BE CONTINUED.)
By Jacob Zikusooka
Jaluum Herberts Luwizza is a Speaker,Writer, Columnist with the C.E.O Magazine and Contributor with the Nile Post.He is also a Business Consultant with YOUNG TREP East Africa’s No.1 Business Management and Consultancy firm that helps people start and grow profitable businesses.
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