Cleaning and fumigation business: What many don’t know
In a space of 12 years Babatunde Ebadan worked in about five different organisations. He gathered strange experiences and met strange employers of labour. But still, Ebadan did not get a satisfying job. He then finally had to start Clean Edge Nigeria Limited through some fortuitous circumstance.
Now, Ebadan, who hails from Edo State has a lot of tales to tell about his travails and triumphs in the labour and business world. His experiences have turned him to the archetypal Nigerian business man; bearing risks and getting hurt in the process.
A holder of post graduate diploma of the Ekiti State University in management with an HND in marketing and a number of professional courses, Ebadan believes the cutting edge for him is the presence of God in his life. Today, he can proudly look back and thank God for the whirl wind that attended his quest for survival.
He told Church Times in an interview that the odds were against him right from when he finished his school certificate. His father retired from the civil service and that made it practically impossible for him to raise funds to further his education. He however was able to secure admission to the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology, moved to Lagos State Polytechnic from there and then Ekiti State University. His student’s days were characterised by tough times. But he survived. He was working and going to school.
The longest place he worked was an Institute where he spent about nine years. He resigned his employment because of the appalling condition of service in the institute. “When I was about to wed the organisation gave me the sum of N2.500 in support of the wedding while the entire staff of the company also contributed N2, 500. That was around 2003. So the whole organisation both staff and management were able to raise N5000 for me. That sent a signal to me that there was no future in that organisation. I had laboured so much for the institute. But I could not stand a situation where I could barely survive on what they were paying as salary. I had to resign.”
But he did not just resign. He had secured another job with another organisation or so it seemed. It was a fathom organisation. He said, “What made this organisation interesting is that I was employed as the general manager for the whole of South West region of Nigeria and was promised an official car with a good pay. It was a non-governmental organisation that is into prison services. I was instructed to go and pick the car at Oluwalogbon Motors a day before I resume the work. I was excited about the offer. My colleagues at the institute where I had put in my resignation celebrated with me. And I thought I was set for another life. The day I was to resume my wife put to bed. I called my employers and pleaded with them to give me time that I would resume a day after the naming of the baby which they obliged.”
Unknown to Ebadan it was a fake job. “I had resigned. I went to Oluwalogbon Motors to collect the official car they promised only to be told that they did not pay for any official car. I called the employer and inquired what was going on. Their phone was not going through. I went to their office only to be told they had moved away from there. It was a fake job. But I had already resigned from where I was working before the fake offer came.”
Now jobless, he began another search. He worked with a company that was into compressor servicing briefly in Surulere, Lagos and then moved to join the organisation of a well-known Apostle. He worked with the apostle for one month before he tendered his resignation letter. The one-month was grueling.
He recalled, “The Apostle used me for one month without pay. I would resume work as early as 7.30 am and would not be allowed to leave the premises until 7pm. He was a task master. We resumed to begin work with about three-hour worship during which he preaches. We were compelled to buy the CD of his message. He preaches to the staff twice in the day and we had to buy the CD for the two messages. We were about 45 people working with him then. I wrote books for the Apostle in that one month in the office. It was an enlosure. When I could not contain the trouble any longer. I had to quit.”
Ebadan still did not give up on his search. He got another job with a cleaning service company where he had yet another painful experience. “I was initially given an official car. But few weeks after I commenced work the car was withdrawn from me with a promise that I would get a monetary compensation in lieu of the car. But the money was not forthcoming. I did not mind. I still worked tirelessly ensuring the company made some good returns.
Before he joined the company, staff would use the company’s name to get jobs only to execute them without the company’s knowledge. But he stopped the practice and was able to get more clients for his employer. He secured a cleaning contract of over N1million shortly after he joined the organisation. But his employer who had begun to owe him salary reneged on his promise that he would pay him a certain percentage of every job secured.
Ebadan said, “Just because he did not want to pay me, my employer said it was his contact that gave us the job. But to expose his lies, the man who gave us the job called me again and said he would want our company to supply ethanol to his own company. I called my boss and wondered why his friend did not tell him they needed ethanol since he was close to him. He was shocked and pronto hurried to Apapa where we were executing the N1m job I had earlier secured to bid for the contract.”
It was a big break for Ebadan’s boss. The company was awarded the contract to supply N200m worth of ethanol. The cheque for the order was released that same day. They were still working on the N1million job in the premises of this same company when the N200m job came. “He was not talking of any commission again. But he quickly arranged the three-month salary he was owing and paid me. That was when it dawned on me that the oranisation was not for me.”
As soon as he got his three-month pay, Ebadan put in his letter. By then, he had reached his wits end. It was clear he was not cut out to work for anybody. Then, he decided to seek the face of God on what to do next. “I decided to go pray and fast. On the third day of my fast I heard the word edge and got excited. I thought God wanted me to do public relations work since I was a member of NIPR. But my first attempt was frustrating. I executed a job for an organisation only to be denied my pay at the end of the day.”
Rather than continue in self-delusion, Ebadan who worships in the Redeemed Christian Church of God had to go fasting and praying again for seven days. By the end of the fast he resigned to fate trusting God for what he would do. All this while his wife was working with a financial house on the Island while they lived at the Akute end of Lagos. So he took up the challenge of taking his wife to work on a daily basis.
So one particular morning his wife talked to him while he was driving her to work in a still small voice and pleaded with him to consider starting a cleaning and fumigation service business since he knew how to get clients for his previous bosses. But he did not give heed to the suggestion wondering how he would execute a cleaning job if he got one.
“I was good in marketing but I did not know the technical part of the job. I had no equipment to work with. But as God would have it, as I was taking my wife to her office we stopped by to pick another sister as always. As soon as the sister entered the car, she asked if I had secured a job, I said no. She then repeated what my wife said as if they had planned it. It began to dawn on me that cleaning and fumigation could just be it for me. But then I was not ready to act on the suggestion because of my technical deficiency.”
But right in the church during Bible study in the evening that same day, a brother came with a fumigation contract for him since he knew he was working in a cleaning service company. “I told this brother I was no longer in the company. What he told me was shocking. He said, I don’t care. It is you I know and you are the one I am giving the job. He asked me to go look for how I would execute the job. It was a big fumigation job close to N1m. That was how I got the first job and that was the beginning of my voyage into fumigation and cleaning business.
“I began to get jobs even when I had no registered company. So when they asked for my company name I would tell them Clean Edge Nigeria Limited. The cheques they gave me were written in the name of the company. But I could not clear the cheques. So I had no money to execute the businesses but God gave us favour. Since I had cheques, it was easy for me secure loans to do the jobs I was getting.
“A friend who worked in the bank was able to withdraw the cheques and domiciled it in the bank. But I could not have access to the money. But that was solved after I had registered my company. A friend gave me an office space to use. By the time I registered the company we were able to withdraw our funds there to pay the loans we collected in the year. That was the beginning of clean Edge.”
Most of the jobs he got initially were fumigation jobs which do not need much technicalities unlike cleaning jobs. But with time he got a cleaning job and the man who gave him the job was only going to pay about 20 percent of the money for a start. But that was not the problem. Ebadan had no equipment to work with and had no experience in the execution of cleaning jobs which sometimes requires the use of some equipment especially if the job is industrial cleaning.
He recalled, “I almost got frustrated when I got my first cleaning job. I drove to the venue of the job with little fuel in my car and was wondering how I would execute a job I had no equipment and technical knowhow. All I did in my former place of work was to secure the job and then my work was done. I was not into the technical details. This time round, I sat by the road side and was literally crying and wondering how the job will be executed. It was then a friend called me and asked me to come over to his office. The friend did not know I was having a challenge.
“The fuel in my car was barely enough to take me to that my friend’s office. And here was I with no money. As soon as I got there the fuel in the car finished. I could not even park the car inside his compound. He then asked one of this staff to buy fuel into the car so I could drive it in. He invited me to launch. After launch he introduced me to a man who was into cleaning business and who had all the equipment but never gets a job. The man was already in his office. So we collaborated and was able to execute the job. I got several jobs thereafter because I was on the marketing side.”
After executing several cleaning and fumigation jobs on the mainland, God gave him an open door on the Island. “I remember on a particular day when I had no money on me. I took my wife to her office and had to look for where to just praise God. It was while praising God that my brother in-law called to inform me about a cleaning and fumigation job. I bided for the job. There and then I was given a cheque of N600k as down payment for the job. From that job I began to get many more jobs on the island”
Now an established cleaning and fumigation expert, Ebadan noted that most people oversimplify cleaning. “Cleaning is a preventive measure while fumigation is curative measure. When your environment is clean you will not have to contend with common diseases. Cleaning takes many forms. We have Janitorial, post construction, fassade cleaning, wall cleaning and a wide range of other forms of cleaning.”
He warned against using amateur cleaners “I feel sorry for people who spend so much buying tiles and find it difficult to get a professional cleaner to do the cleaning for them occasionally. Some people use corrosive chemicals to clean tiles and thereby destroy the underneath of the tiles. That is why after sometime some portion of a house floor begin to cave in. If you get a professional to wash your tiles; nothing will happen to the tiles for 15 years or more. Those who use pure acid to wash tiles without restrain are indirectly destroying the house. The chemicals will eat up the cement under the tiles. The residue of the acid goes into the depth of the side and before you know it goes into the floor and it begins to cave in. We have had to resurface the floor of some houses where acids were wrongly applied to clean their tiles”
Ebadan who has had several training on the job said he has been fortunate to learn from the big names in the industry pointing out that the knowledge he has acquired over the years has helped him so much in the industry.
He described fumigation as a curative measure that needed to be taken in instances where rodents are having field’s day in one’s house or industrial site. The Clean Edge boss said it is the failure of government that has made anti-rodents chemicals to be sold in the open market. “Chemicals that are used to kill rats can kill human beings. A good government should not allow the open display of such chemicals. Some are carelessly displayed close to food items and thereby poison the foods.
“Sniper is just one of the many chemicals used in killing rodents. Whatever can kill rat will kill human being. The man selling beans still use chemicals to preserve some food items. We see people advertising rat killers in the open market. For us that are in the business when you get a job, they keep asking for one certificate or the other. Before you can fumigate in Lagos you need to get the certificate of LASEPA. But nobody is running after those who misuse the chemicals outside.”