My Biggest Mistake: Roger McKechnie - The too-hasty heart
Wednesday 23 June 1999
MY BIGGEST mistake was to get involved in a business that I knew absolutely nothing about - for sentimental reasons and because I thought it was a good idea.
In 1994, a cousin had a business helping aid agencies in Africa. It was a supply, purchase and delivery operation in Harare, Zimbabwe, with an office in Southampton for administration. If Oxfam said they wanted 200 tents in Mozambique, the tents would be purchased in Southampton and sent to Harare. My cousin wanted to buy himself out from his previous company and set up on his own to run this business. The process needed capital and I had a bit. It seemed a good idea with great potential: the business plan looked good. A lot of emotional activity went in, rather than total objectivity.
Peace broke out the next year - as soon as Mandela was released from prison and the elections in South Africa were sorted out. The war in Angola calmed and the war in Mozambique stopped, so our two major areas of business - the refugees suffering from those wars - dried up, although it took more than two years to recognise that peace had actually happened.
Then, instead of the aid agencies putting things like sanitation and roads in all these places, it went over to the private sector. They were trying to encourage indigenous private sector operations to cope with what was required. That left us up a gum tree. We had put a lot of capital into a business that could hardly sustain its overheads. We struggled for three years, cutting back and back, until we had to close.
The main thing I learnt was that I didn't know the marketplace. I didn't even know how to ask the questions: how dependent was the business upon war? I went in to help a family member. Since that experience, I have tried to become as objective as possible.
The people I now talk to are in company start-ups, and it's all about people. Often they are more important than the business plan.
- 1 David Cameron refers to 83-year-old Labour MP Dennis Skinner as 'Jurassic Park'
- 2 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 3 Optical illusion turns blue demon into brunette
- 4 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 5 Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal will donate entire $32bn fortune to charity
Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
Saudi Prince Alwaleed bin Talal will donate entire $32bn fortune to charity
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
Greece debt crisis: Country on course to hold EU referendum as eurozone leaders reject new bailout request
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS
Tunisia beach attack: How can British Muslims respond to the latest outrages?
iJobs Money & Business
£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...
£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...