By Wadzanai Bara
“Look for a problem in your society and as soon as you do, try finding a solution. I realised there were no expert floor companies in South Africa and Angola, I sought to fill that gap. Zimbabwe is filled with potential millionaires, but what gap can you fill? Where there is a demand, supply…”
These were the opening remarks by Lourenco Miguel, who was at one time named Africa’s youngest millionaire by Fortune magazine.
The renowned South African businessman gave an inspirational speech at The Billionaire Mindset Summit, hosted by the United Family International Ministries at the City Sports Centre a fortnight ago.
Oozing confidence and splendour, the young millionaire shared his rags to riches story of how he become a millionaire after establishing a vibrant business that he started by simply cleaning tiles.
At only 29, Miguel is the founder and CEO of Naledi Group which is based in Angola and South Africa and has an annual turnover of US$2,4 million with its interests in tile, floor and wall coating services, after his apparently simple business blossomed into a multi-million-dollar industry within three years.
His journey started in 2010 when he was a sales executive at Multichoice.
In 2011, within a space of three months he got married to Sara Almeida, had a son and his mother died. These circumstances led his bosses to beckon him to leave South Africa and join the Multichoice division in Angola so as to move him from the turmoil around him.
When he refused they gave him an ultimatum and he subsequently resigned with a pay-check equivalent to US$2 000.
With a new wife who was used to the finer things in life, a baby that needed to be taken care of and without a prospective pay-check, Miguel was hit with a new realisation.
“Ideas come at a point when you think it’s the worst thing you can come up with. But it just dawned on me that I love stones. I studied them. I know them all,” he said.
Using US$800 he contacted a chemical company in Namibia and purchased micro-cement cleaners floor. As soon as he got the chemicals Miguel started calling former clients and friends and offered to clean their house floors.
He would spend his mornings on his knees using a specific cleaning agent on a specific type of floor.
He would mop, dry and polish the floors charging $18 a square metre. Each bottle cost him $3 and would cover a radius of 30 square metres.
“Always do your mathematics. Always know your expenses and what you will profit. I had done my ‘maths’ in cleaning 1 square metre so that I had the buying power of 5 bottles of cleaning chemical,” he remarked.
But one day as he was walking, he passed by a construction site of a block of condominiums.
Miguel requisitioned the owner to allow him to clean his floors once construction was done and he got the job after he was able to explain in great detail, the cleaning chemicals he would use and other specifications.
Operating as a one-man army he was given 82 condominiums to clean and so he sought for two helpers whom he offered to pay $100 each.
He paid $120 for hiring a polishing machine and hired a friend’s car to use for $50 and a full tank.
“The two guys I hired didn’t know anything about stones or chemicals, but I knew if I taught them I could get the job done. So I went on my knees and showed them step by step how to do it and which quantities to use.
“My demonstration showed them that I wasn’t their boss but a leader. I hired the polishing machine and the car to boost my image. I couldn’t appear on my first day at work carrying mediocre cleaning materials.
“Always remember image is vital. The way you present yourself is vital in the sustenance of every relationship,” he noted.
Miguel got paid US$25 000 from that first major cleaning job and decided to reinvest in the business. The man who owned the condominiums would later become his friend and partner as he put in a good word for Miguel with every real estate project he embarked on.
With time other businesses heard of his prowess and called on his services as well. From his own experiences he spilled the beans on the mindset that he adopted that can be applied by any person, in any environment to cultivate success.
“One satisfied customer leads to a foray of other customers, so remember no customer is more important than the other.
“Money is important. In business always know when, how and where you are going to get your money. Calculate your opportunity cost and charge it as there’s a difference between being paid today and next week. Know your rights make sure there’s a signed piece of paper that guarantees you. Know where you stand, calculate your expenses and don’t waste money. Choose the immediate things you have to accommodate financially and leave everything else.
“Acquire good negotiation skills, there’s always a fair price. Remain humble with everyone as humility takes you far. As the boss don’t ever get too comfortable. Understand the vision of your business as certain businesses are sustainable to a certain point. They are stepping stones to something bigger so if you can franchise, do it. Improve a service, push to innovate and solve a problem, but always start small.
“Failure is the way to understand success. Write down your ideas as it is a reminder of how much you want to attain success and will serve as motivation.
“Be persistent; never go down without a fight. Find inspiration from the least to the greatest, no idea or person is beneath you, everyone has something to contribute.
“Be an attentive listener and have a map that enables you to locate where you are and where you want to go. Your level of success will be determined by your ideas and your level of thinking.”
Naledi Group started off as a tile and floor care company and expanded into chemicals and manufacturing.
It later branched into the flooring and wall coatings industry.
Miguel’s address concluded The Billionaire Mindset Summit.
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