As I have said on my Cost-Saving Ideas Farm Business Support mini site, and also in many of my previous write ups, I have gained unique insight into the business of catfish farming as it is done here in Nigeria. I have moved around quite a lot within Lagos especially, visiting various farms in places like Iyana Ipaja, Egbeda, Ojo, Gbagada, and outside Lagos, more recently,in Akute – Ogun State.
During my interactions with the farm owners, I typically ask the same questions about operational practices being used, farm output achieved, expenses incurred etc. My objective is always to establish how efficient and profitable the individual operations are. Time and time again, I have found that most of these farm owners are simply focussed on doing what they do in the same mechanical manner they have always been doing them. Little or no effort is made to spend some time THINKING about how to operate more efficiently – especially in order to reduce the time, effort, money and labour needed to produce – and sell – the same output within a production cycle.
But times are hard. Business is tough. Costs have risen. To continue to profit, it has become even more imperative today, for EVERY business to explore ways of LOWERING operating costs, even as they maintain or possibly INCREASE output. That is why IDEAS – NEW IDEAS – about how to better run the business MUST be routinely solicited, and explored practically, with a view to improving the way we work, so that the business can perform better.
But there is something even more compelling: SELLING. This is the ultimate objective of a business entreprise, which if NOT actively pursued could lead to its eventual demise. Until you get PAID CASH for your product or service, you have NOT done business profitably! And that applies to ANY business. I had to say this at the risk of stating the obvious, because it seems so many business owners often forget this important FACT.
In fact many people seem to go about their businesses focussing more on DOING the technical, production related aspects, and sparing minimal thought for the SELLING part. Yet, if you do not have customers READY and WILLING to part with CASH to get your product or service, ALL your technical, production related know how and skills amount to nothing! Your bank account would be empty!!
This is a message that needs to be drummed into the heads of many Catfish Farm (and other business) owners out here. I have been repeatedly contacted by people who seemed more interested in TESTING my knowledge of how to “inject” catfish or “strip” them of eggs, than they were in hearing my practically tested ideas, for instance, about how they can rear daphnia in glass tanks to feed their catfish fries instead of wasting time/labour scouting for dirty pools of water on different streets, to harvest wild daphnia from – or worse, feeding their catfish fries exclusively with expensive Artemia.
I often wonder if it ever occurs to them that today, almost ANYONE – even the unschooled – can be taught to independently carry out virtually all aspects of breeding and rearing of catfish for commercial production. Is it not obvious from the rate at which seminars, manuals and VCDs teaching the subject now abound in various locations (with adverts appearing in mass media like newspapers, etc)?
The truth is we have a lot of people engaged in producing catfish in different ways, at various scales of operation out here today. The PROBLEM however, is that very few, if at all any, are doing it by following any tested or proven standard operating procedure that guarantees consistent output of quality product. Worse however, and which is the POINT of this writeup, is the near TOTAL lack of attention to developing reliable strategies for FINDING GOOD buyers for the ready-to-sell catfish, be it fingerlings, juveniles or table sized ones.
This latter point explains why in my discussions with many owners, they typically complained of being frustrated by the very exploitative offers made by market women who come to buy their harvested fish. The tales of woe they have told me, about how these greedy traders take advantage of the farmers’ need to get the “ready” fish out of the ponds, to buy them at very low prices (and later sell at maximum profit) are heart rending.
Each time I have been told about this problem, I have responded by telling the farmers to take personal ACTION to find BETTER buyers, so that such traders would NO LONGER feel farmers have no alternative. This is where farmers need to employ CRITICAL THINKING skills. The farmer needs to think of ways to find other people who will want his fish produce, and who will be prepared to pay what they are worth!
In case you are wondering how the farmer will achieve this, I offer some ideas based on my personal experiences and observations.
For table size, ready to sell catfish: The farmer will need to look for beer parlours, restaurants and bars, hotels, motels, entertainment venues, event organisers etc who may need regular or periodic supply of catfish in bulk quantities at good prices. Such buyers are more likely to offer rewarding prices, compared to the market women. Actually they WILL offer better prices – I say this because I am aware of the prices some of them buy from the farmers that supply them.
The challenge is for YOU, as the farmer, to invest reasonable time and effort into locating and approaching them with an attractive offer. The resulting relationship would be mutually beneficial: they get bulk purchase of good quality catfish at AFFORDABLE prices. You get reliable, TIMELY and regular sales outlet for your catfish at PROFITABLE prices that enable you STAY in business for the long term.
Similar thinking will allow you find better sales outlets for fingerlings, if you choose to do so.
You would ask yourself questions like this: Who else would need or can use this catfish product, apart from those I am already dealing with? The answer will lead you towards securing more potentially rewarding sales outlets for your business.
You see, if you do not GO OUT and actively recruit potential bulk buying customers for your harvested catfish, to the extent that you are always able to sell off whatever you produce, at a profitable price, your business will suffer. I have seen farms with impressive looking LIVE catfish produce, but with no idea how to get enough buyers for them. And the owners just sat there – complaining lamely!
Quite often, these owners attend the training and learn how to rear the fish successfully. But their trainers (asuming they knew!) would have “forgotten” to advise them on how to get their produce sold!! The enthusiastic startups would thus launch out assuming buyers would come down in large enough numbers to empty out the ponds, at harvest time. When this does not happen, they are forced to continue spending money feeding the mature fish – inevitably increasing their cost of production.
My argument is that these farmers should have started looking for – and notifying – possible buyers some months BEFORE the fish became due for harvest. That way, they could even have gotten some intending buyers to book for the fish in advance.
A business that is NOT making sales will DIE. Producing (or retailing) good products and services is good, BUT of much GREATER importance, is the effort you put into finding the RIGHT type of buyers for them, who will pay you profitably. In essence, I am asking you NOT to stop at priding yourself on the fact that you know how to make a good product or deliver a great service. Spend MORE QUALITY TIME THINKING of how to find people who WILL PAY YOU WELL to get YOUR good product or great service. If you fail to do at least that, you risk FAILING financially, in that business of yours!
Note that the approach I have described above is what I have used successfully for years now, to boost sales of my own products and services. It is based on my experience based understanding, that ONE good paying client is better than ten (10) miserly and/or exploitative ones. It can be applied to ANY business, with equally effective impact. Call me on 234-803-302-1263 if you want to learn more about how you can use this approach or strategy to find BETTER paying customers for your business.