Many a businessperson has made this error: buying second-hand (or used) products that later fail to meet expectations.
Indeed, the temptation to go second-hand is high; more so if there is a large difference in price between the first-hand (new) product and the second-hand equivalent.
I've decided to dedicate an entire article to this topic because this is one of the lessons my father impressed upon me at a very young age. He said, "Heather, when I first went into business I bought second-hand machines and I lived to regret it." In fact, he used the Chichewa expression ndinachimina which is hard to translate into English; "I severely regretted it," is probably pretty close.
I'm not sure what the negative experience he had was but it must have been pretty bad because he seems to be near-allergic to second-hand things now. He thinks it's better to buy cheap but brand new clothing rather than designer labels second-hand.
I'll be the first to admit that I didn't fully take this advice on board: when I bought my first car I got a second-hand Peugeot that had 5,000 miles on board. The result, ndinachimina!
The car looked great on the outside and on the inside but little did I know that it had been involved in an accident only months earlier and after I bought it, the car blew a gasket within a couple of months. I paid to have the problem fixed. A few months later, it happened again!
These problems could have been avoided by buying brand new. I'm not saying that good quality second-hand products are not available, what I'm saying is they're hard to identify. I fell for that car because it was very well priced forgetting the old adage, "if it's too good to be true, it's almost certain that it is." But, how would I have known it was too good to be true? I wasn't a car dealer and I hadn't hired an expert to help me vet the car.
Indeed, if you're starting a new business it's impossible for you to know the type of problems an old machine might present. With a new machine you have a manufacturer's warranty to lean back on including the promise of parts if something breaks within the first twelve months.
If you're working and running the business part-time you'll probably be able to recover from buying poor quality machines but why walk into that problem in the first place?
What if you really can't afford to buy brand new, i.e. you definitely don't have the money and no-one will lend it to you? Well, reluctantly, you'll have to go for second-hand inputs. Tread with caution. Don't make the decision alone. Get the machine properly inspected by someone in the know. If this is not possible then share the data you're using to drive your decision with an objective and intelligent associate and see if they agree with your purchasing the said machine.
In summary, to start your business on the right footing: buy first hand machinery, period!
“Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction and skilful execution; it represents the wise choice of many alternatives.” William A Foster
For 2 years until early 2014 I wrote a weekly personal finance and business column for Malawi's leading media house, The Times Group. The target is middle-class, working African women.
This is a reproduction of the articles that appeared in the weekend edition of Malawi News.