The Nigerian author, Ayo Sogunro wrote a book titled, Everything in Nigeria Is Going to Kill You, as unpatriotic as it sounds, I somewhat agree with him. The system in Nigeria works against it citizens, the odds are constantly against you. Not to digress from the topic and start a rant about the dire situation of things in Nigeria. The bottom line is doing business in Nigeria can be an absolute nightmare if you do not know how to navigate the system to your advantage.
I came up with a few pointers every Nigerian entrepreneur should bear in mind for their business.
Get The Basics Sorted
Majority of Nigerian small businesses are not incorporated and do not operate a business bank account. In order to ensure the longevity of a business, one has to put the proper structures in place, hire a lawyer to assist with company incorporation and setting up the proper structure for your company from the ground up. Also, it is imperative you have your books in order, if you cannot afford an accountant to manage your finances, use a book keeping application till you can afford accounting services.
The Nigerian in you might want to skip all these steps and run your business as you wish. I can authoritatively tell you that is a recipe for disaster, skipping the basics has killed several Nigerian businesses. If your aim is to build a business that would survive the Nigerian business terrain, get the basics sorted and maintain a proper organisation structure.
Protect Yourself With Contracts
A non-disclosure agreement should be signed before discussing your ideas at length with anyone. If you are discussing business ideas with someone other than your team, do not disclose your trade secret or your unique selling point.
If your business is a partnership, have your lawyer draft a shareholder’s agreement, have all directors roles clearly stated and documented with a binding contract to avoid issues of conflict. At the genesis of Facebook, the Winklevoss twins discussed their idea with Mark Zuckerberg without having a proper contract in place. This led to a court case which the twins won and got a huge settlement, however that doesn’t compare to being CEO of Facebook and sitting on a billionaire-dollar empire.
Build a Dedicated Loyal Team
Richard Branson says, clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients. In Nigeria, its difficult finding workers with good work ethic, dedication and skill to work to the capacity that would take your business to the level it should be.
Nigerian employers often get carried away with the hiring and firing game, thinking that no one is indispensable asides the CEO. It is a disservice to your company if you develop a reputation as an organisation where staff do not stay for long, at the same time, do not accept mediocre work from your employees. Nonetheless, it is vital to build a core team of employees who believe in your business vision, possess the skill and are dedicated to deliver great service that would drive your company’s success.
Get Your Financials In Order
If you are not an accountant, do not attempt to handle the finances of your business by yourself. Even if you are the most certified accountant on earth, delegate financial management to an accounting firm or an in-house accountant.
In the first year of your business, you may get away with doing your accounts yourself, however if you want your business to grow to full capacity, learn to delegate. Several small businesses are running from the personal account of the CEO, this is wrong on so many levels. You should see your business as an entity that exists outside of you, your aim should be for your business to grow beyond you, hence your financials should not be run as a personal fund.
Most importantly, ensure you have enough funding for the business you are about to start and enough savings to fall back on if things do not pan out as planned.
Be Realistic With Your Business Idea
I have witnessed several business ideas that were successful in America or the UK being implemented in Nigeria and failing to attain that same level of success here. It may sound cool saying you want to start a business selling fur to musicians to use for their music videos and red carpet appearances because your cousin’s classmate in America did the same and has “blown”. You may have the business plan written out and a few supporters encouraging your folly, this idea would obviously never work in Nigeria, as the climate does not agree for your product to sell at all.
Do your market research to ascertain if there is a demand for your products or services. Understand the different demographics that need your products and develop the best strategy to reach them. Most importantly, your business has to offer value to your customers, always leave your clients feeling like they got value for their money.
Find Your Tribe
As an entrepreneur, there are several problems you would encounter that you might assume are unique to you. That is usually not the case, there are other entrepreneurs and career people who have experienced the same issues you are dealing with. Connect with people who are focused and as ambitious as yourself, the people you spend time with and the conversations you engage in will feed your focus and fuel your aspirations. Bouncing your ideas off people you trust would help you streamline your thoughts and goals you should focus on, it would also hold you accountable to said goals.