How I Combined Schooling Full-time With Managing a Full-time Business in Nigeria

“Don’t miss out on potentially fantastic roles or jobs by thinking that you need to follow a particular career path. But don’t say ‘yes’ to every opportunity that’s offered to you either. Make sure you have someone you trust, who can help you think through opportunities as they come up.” – Celeste Mellet Brown, Managing Director, Corporate Treasurer

Jerry with his friend, Valentine, at FUTO
Jerry and his friend, Valentine, during their days at FUTO

After I published my story of how combining my schooling (full-time) with business help shaped my career and prepared me for real world, some persons have been asking me how I did it. The major reason being that it is something that’s hardly done in Nigeria by full-time students because of the economic conditions and educational challenges of the country.

First, let me say this. If you are one of those who think it’s impossible to successfully combine full-time schooling with managing a full-time operating business on a part-time basis in Nigeria, you need to kill that thought right now, bury it for good and listen to the advice of those who have successfully done it. By the way, impossibility is nothing!

Secondly, if you are a full-time student in a tertiary or higher institution in Nigeria, I won’t advice you to follow my career path by combining your full-time schooling with managing a business because of the challenges, stress, risks and distractions you would encounter. Besides, the education system in Nigeria is not flexible enough.

In 2003, when I decided to join my dad’s import business, my original intentions were to avoid staying at home, learn some aspects of the business, make some money (no matter how little), partially quit the business whenever I gained admission into the university and only get involved in the business during vacation or holiday periods.

I knew it won’t be easy to combine schooling full-time in Imo State and managing a business that would be operating full-time in Lagos State. I did it because I was very determined, very committed, very disciplined, passionate about doing it and had the backing of my family and friends.

What changed my thought to continue running the business full-time after gaining admission was because of my years of active involvement in the business. I became more interested in the business and planned on how I would manage it on a part-time basis from school. It took me some years to finally gain admission to study something I like in FUTO but those years I lost on the academic side, I gained on the business side. I was able to develop my sales, marketing, product research, business communication and business management skills set.

During those years when I haven’t gained admission yet, I was so determined to grow the business that some of my friends who knew I was still planning on furthering my academic career thought I would kill my academic plan and focus solely on the business. Besides, they knew I had experienced some frustrations and disappointments that could have made some persons to quit their academic plans and focus solely on whatever lucrative business they were doing. Those were their thoughts. For me, I was still very much focused on furthering my education no matter how profitable or lucrative the business was because it was a critical to my long-term career plans.

Here’s How I Combined Both Successfully

In 2006, when I left for FUTO, I had already made up my mind to continue with the business. That’s, the business would be operating full-time while I manage it on a part-time basis during school periods. Besides, pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Nigeria is expensive, so I saw no reason in stopping a business that could help solve some of my financially needs.

Let me use some key points to tell you how I was able to combine both, successfully:

1. Time Management: Every thing you do in life involves time. As you are reading this article, you are spending some few minutes of your precious time to do so. You could have used that same time to play an interesting game on your phone or laptop. So let me say, “Thank you” for spending some of your precious time on my blog.

Whenever I travelled to Lagos during school periods, I knew that I would be sacrificing my academic time for my business. It was very obvious to me that I would miss some of my lectures, some of my personal study time and some impromptu assignments. However, I do not believe that missing two or three classes (even though I would have loved not to miss them) would make me to fail an exam, and this is my personal opinion. Your success in the university lies more on you and your academic abilities than on your lecturer or the institution. Do not get me wrong! I’m not advising you to miss classes or your studies because of one business or the other that you are doing. But if you can create some time during your school periods to club, hang out and attending parties, then you can also create some time to attend to serious businesses.

TIP: If you happen to find yourself combining full-time schooling with business, then you should have or develop good time management skills. You should also know when and when not to travel if you are running a business in another state.

My top tip for someone looking to side hustle is to have good time-management skills. When side hustling, you probably have limited time because of your full-time job, family obligations and more. Time management is something that you need to excel at so that you do not feel like you are stressed out. – Michelle Schroeder-Gardner, self-professed “side hustling fanatic” at MakingSenseofCents.com

2. Managing My Classes and Studies: In as much as I was managing a business that was operating full-time, I attended most of my classes and studied very well. Whenever I travelled to Lagos, I would keep in touch with some of very good friends who were also my course mates. I had very few friends who were always aware of my business travels and as of the writing of this article, one of them is now with his wife in the US (Congratulations, Onyenwere Patrick Ifeanyi). I do not waste much time in Lagos though because of my classes and studies. And whenever I come back to school, I would collect their notes and update mine. I would also try to find out what were discussed in class during the periods when I was not in school. Most of my course mates and lecturers never knew I do travel to Lagos during school periods to attend to my business and I loved it that way.

TIP: Make sure you have some very good friends who would not only keep you updated on what is going on but also cover up for you whenever you travel. Remember, they would be acting as your ‘eyes, ears and hands’ whenever you travel, so make sure you reciprocate the goodness once in a while.

Jerry and his friend, Ifeanyi, during their days at FUTO
Jerry and his friend, Ifeanyi, during their days at FUTO

3. Business and Risk Management: Every business needs management and every business comes with a risk. For the management side, I do communicate with my dad, the secretary, some of my customers and some of my friends in the market to stay current on what is happening not just in the business, but in the market as a whole. Technology was my helping hands whenever I’m in school and needed information concerning the business.

For the risk side, my dad would visit Idumota once in a while to check or monitor the secretary’s sales activities. I would also check the secretary’s total sales activities whenever I travelled to Lagos. Running a part-time management style of business is very risky though because some persons are not just secretaries but secret criminals. And yes, I’d loose some money at one point in time because of a secret criminal I thought was a good sales person. It’s all business.

TIP: Be very careful of who you employ as your sales person or secretary if you would manage the business on a part-time basis because of your schooling. You should also have someone who would monitor the person’s sales activities from time to time during your absence. And make sure you often communicate with some persons who are directly or indirectly involved in your business.

Conclusion

Like I said before, I would not advise you to combine your full-time schooling with business. You could focus on your schooling and then do vacation or maybe weekend jobs.

However, if you wish to follow my career path, I wish you good luck. I’m very much willing to offer you FREE career advice. Just get in touch with me.

If you have ever combined full-time schooling with business in the past, I’d like to hear your challenges and lessons learned.


P.S. In my FREE 8-Day Email Course on “How to Attract Good Job Offers Without Submitting Your CV to any Company,” I teach students and job seekers how to build a good job search strategy. Click here to enrol!

2 Comments

  1. Najeem said:

    Hi Jerry,

    Your story seems very similar to mine.

    It’s nothing impossible to run a successful business while still pursuing an academic endeavour.

    It can be challenging, though. But, you just have to let go or reduce time spent on some things: social life and time spent on TV and the likes.

    After all, most people create time for those things even with no side hustle. So, why can’t we?

    It takes a determined mind to scale through doing both.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.

    I wish you continued success.

    Sincerely,
    @NajeemAkinwande

    June 3, 2016
    Reply
    • Hi Najeem,

      Sure, being determined is one of the critical factors needed. I wish you the best of success, too.

      June 3, 2016
      Reply

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