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 Building Capacity Through Mentorship In Freight Forwarding

Mentorship is very important in any profession and this weeks’ edition of Shippers’ Guide x-rays the place of mentorship in freight forwarding. Mr. Lucky Oboh is the Chairman of the Association of Registered Freight Forwarders in Nigeria and in this exclusive interview with Ifeoma Oguamanam of MMS Plus Weekly he gives his take on the mentorship.

Read on:  

What are the processes of freight forwarding?

The process starts from when an importer comes to you to negotiate with you based on the cargo he has, he presents his Bill of Laden, after negotiating with him on the cost of the service, you now go ahead and render freight forwarding services to him, the freight forwarder is an important part of the importation process which the importer cannot do by himself, so the freight forwarder is the third party in the clearing business, the first party is the customs, the second is the importer while the freight forwarder is the third party.

What qualifies you to mentor a freight forwarder?

 You have to be educated, because it entails a lot of documentation, you will be required to read, write and calculate adequately and you need to be presentable because your clients need to see you as a decent and enlightened individual and your trainees are looking up to you. So you need at least an ‘O’ level certificate which is the West African Examination Certificate (WAEC), or the equivalent. That notwithstanding even if you don’t have the ‘O’ level certificate you can still mentor others but you have to be proactive.

What are the requirements to be mentored by a freight forwarder?

Freight forwarding is a very important part of importation business that requires someone in it to have some knowledge, the person must be enlightened and willing to learn, honesty is basic because this business is based on trust, an importer can entrust his business worth millions into your care, so if the importer does not trust you or see that you are capable, it will be difficult for him to entrust his consignment to you.

What is the different between freight forwarders and customs brokers?

There is very little difference, but the custom brokers are the immediate mediators between the custom and the importers, unlike the freight forwarder whose business begins from the country of origin even from the place of manufacturing to the final destination of the goods and to the warehouse of the importer.

How long have you been in this business?

About 17-18 years now

Do you run background checks on someone before mentoring them? How do you know who to accept or otherwise?

Some family members or people who are already in the business can actually bring someone to you to mentor and train on their behalf, but we do not know majority of them personally, just as most times we do not know an importer personally but he still entrusts his business to us based on trust. You actually meet some of them here and you take time to under study them and know if you can work with them and maybe hear a thing or two about their character from colleagues and based on that you can decide to continue working with this person based on your personal conviction that the person is serious and ready to learn. An importer can just walk up to me here that I am sitting and require me to assist him clear his goods and entrust it into my care and after negotiating with him and we reach an agreement on how to deliver to him, once I am ble to do so without any hitch the business relationship has been established. So you so not really need a guarantor so to speak, all you need is an honest intention to learn.

For an apprentice, at what position does he start?

You start from trainee level, depending on how knowledgeable and intelligent the person is he can spend a minimum of 6 months in this position to allow him learn all the fundamental processes involved, after that six months he should be able to do documentation of any job assigned to him. After the trainee level he becomes a delivery clerk and then he grows to become a supervisor, from supervisor to manager and after that he graduates to become a director and at this stage he is ready to be on his own.

Like how long does all this process take?

The truth about it is that it has no particular duration; it all depends on the willingness and ability of the trainee, if the company is satisfied with his service, the company can decide to retain him for a longer period of time, and so what differentiates him from others is the post he occupies because of his commitment.

Does it require any capital?

Not immediately, after the trainee decides to venture out on his own, he will need an office and this will require capital, because he will need to acquire some office equipment in it, then he needs to register the business as well and this costs money but if he cannot afford to register the company immediately he can align himself with another company that is already registered until he can register his own. However, freight forwarders don’t need capital to sponsor importers in clearing there cargo, freight forwarder do not sponsor importers. Importers have to pay to get their goods delivered to them.

How many boys have you nurtured?

I have been in this business for over 17 years now and I have nurtured about 5 people who started as trainees with me, today they have their own companies and they are doing well.

When did you make your first one million?

I made my first one million in 2007.

What do you have to say to people who desire mentorship in freight forwarding?

To be in the freight forwarding business, first and foremost you need to be honest with your clients and this business requires that you will be in charge of, sometimes millions of naira, so a lot of money is involved, if you wish to be a part of this profession but you want to make it overnight you will have to try elsewhere but if you want to earn an honest living, then you need to be patient and trustworthy and the sky is your limit.

Also and more importantly you must be registered under the Council for the Regulation of Freight Forwarders in Nigeria (CRFFN), because this is the Federal Government regulatory body of all the freight forwarders in Nigeria, they check everybody in the business and protect the interests of their members. As a registered member of CRFFN you are sure that your interest is protected and you actually benefit from this because you get to know your colleagues better and you get involved in different trainings that the council conducts periodically for freight forwarders. Also as a member of CRFFN your client has more trust in your abilities and you can hardly have problems with them, so it is important to register not only with CRFFN but also with one of the freight forwarding associations.

Is there any age limit for trainees?

Yes, a trainee must not be less than 18 years, because this person is employed to work for a company and he is expected to carry out certain responsibilities, so he needs to be a bit mature, there are certain things that a minor cannot handle especially where money is involved. So it is important that the individual should not be less than 18 years.

There are so many people involved in this clearing business, how do you know who is who?  

We know people through the company they work with, aside from some who are your friends but majority are through the company they represent, if you must work with an importer you must represent him with a company and not as an individual, infact, there is no individual in this place everybody here belongs to one company or the other.

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