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 Planes go hybrid-electric in important step to greener flight
- 4 Hip hop is both racial and political, and for Iggy Azalea to suggest otherwise is insulting
- 5 Man hospitalised with pneumonia after downing eggnog at office Christmas party
Antonio Martin shooting: Black teenager may have tried to ambush patrolman, says police officer's lawyer
Orphan kangaroos spend Christmas without their parents
Northern Lights above Britain: Stunning Aurora Borealis illuminates Northumberland sky on Christmas Eve
New route to Mars could make manned mission much cheaper and easier
Isis 'did not shoot down Jordan war plane' before capturing pilot, says US
British actor Idris Elba cannot star as James Bond because he is black, says shock jock Rush Limbaugh
Rozanne Duncan: Ukip expels councillor for 'jaw-dropping' comments made in BBC TV interview
Germany anti-Islam protests: 17,000 march on Dresden against 'Islamification of the West'
Ukip member gets into Christmas spirit with Union Flag plea to Santa 'for our country back'
BBC director Danny Cohen: Rising UK antisemitism makes me feel more uncomfortable than ever
Alex Salmond has 'broken his word to the Scottish people' says Scottish Lib Dem leader
iJobs Money & Business
Highly Competitive: Selby Jennings: Our client, a leading European Oil trading...
£43500 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: Night Shift Operatio...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000 + Car + Pension: SThree: SThree are a ...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £35K: SThree: We consistently strive to be the...