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think

March 28, 2020 Leave a comment

Pensive

Why are you in Nigeria?

I’ve been asked that question more times than I can count. My answer is usually the same – I have some ventures I’m looking to explore. Sometimes, there are looks of confusion, heavy sighs, or just good old-fashioned disbelief and head-shaking. But, I understand. Someone moving to Nigeria from Canada, at time when people are leaving Nigeria for Canada in droves, is puzzling. I guess my “interviewers” are wondering whether I know something they do not. Maybe I do.

I lived in Canada for eight years, and within that period, started three different businesses there that did fairly well (most popularly, Pearl Kreations) before I moved back. I came here to set Nigerian subsidiaries and explore other possibilities. I did I come with a mindset to introduce new concepts, disrupt/turn things around and rake in millions? Absolutely. Have I been humbled? Most definitely. Have I done well? Yet to be determined. I’m joking; by God’s grace, I’m doing well. However, here’s what I’ve realized about entrepreneurship in the Nigerian economy – there readily is no reward or support for competence, effort and ingenuity. The system largely favors those with access to power/political connections and rewards them with highly lucrative government contracts and ridiculous grants. Vusi Thembekwayo put it this way – if you look at how the top 25 wealthiest and most celebrated people in your country made their wealth, you can easily determine the type of economy you live in. Did the top 25 wealthiest Nigerians all build their businesses from the ground up (without backdoor deals and government favors)? You decide.

Of course, there are/will be exceptions to the rule, and certainly, you can live comfortably as an entrepreneur, especially if you’re a professional, like an accountant or architect. Anything other than those, would be tough, but not impossible. However, real wealth may elude you. As you may have concluded, there are very few entrepreneurs in this country who have built substantial wealth without connections or government contracts/favors. That says a lot about our business environment. This is particularly disappointing for me because a little over ten years ago, I had a totally different experience.

After running my first business for about a year, I applied to be a vendor for the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympics. I noticed there were vendors for all manners of merchandises, but no one selling button-badges (which was my product). I saw that opportunity and applied. I got a response requesting for, what then seemed like, all sorts of random documents. I can assume now, in actuality, they were probably things like business registration documents, bank statements and so on. I replied the email stating that I was a freshman at McMaster University, had started a small business, saw an opportunity and decided to take it; I had none of the documents requested of me. A few days later, I was approved! I got sent all the documents verifying my business community membership by mail, and a congratulatory email as well. Just like that, I got in. No connections; except God, of course.

Small businesses are the backbone of any economy, and in recent years, it seems Nigeria has caught on. Things are still a little dodgy, with hints of favoritism here and there, but improving. I’m thrilled that with the impending COVID19 lockdown, so many people have gotten fired up to start a venture of their own, either to complement their income, or in transition from former employment. Whatever the reason, the best time to start is now.

However, in my experience, a lot of Nigerian SMEs aren’t equipped to take advantage of the new business environment and emerging opportunities. They are simply not very creative in their quests for business opportunities. They’re not entrepreneurial. I’ve discovered that what most people get into, and aspire to go into, once they have some capital is trading – purchase and resale of goods – and this makes them traders, not entrepreneurs.

Entrepreneur is a word that has become so loosely used, people think it’s a synonym for business owner. The fact is, not every business person is an entrepreneur. By the way, with the way things are going, except you’re selling foodstuff or hygiene essentials, you’re in the wrong business (as a trader).

The truth is, people pay for solutions, and entrepreneurs are solution providers.

Entrepreneurs create products and/or services that meet the needs of people for a profit. Entrepreneurs meet needs and get paid for it.

If you really want to be successful and wealthy, as an entrepreneur, you need to solve problems.

We tend to think too small here in Africa. The average entrepreneur is scared to be ambitious. Rather than thrive, they’re content with surviving. Well, I won’t stand for it. I’m incredibly passionate about small business, and for the past three years, have devoted most of my time into Herança Financial, the venture through which I work with/help budding entrepreneurs start, grow and manage their businesses. Coupled with my personal experiences, I’m somewhat of an expert in business (humble brag). So, with current state of the nation and the shape of the economy, I think now is as good a time as any, to share my knowledge and expertise with a greater number of people, and help them start the right way and avoid the unnecessary hardships that ignorance tends to lead.

First of all, I’ll reiterate. An entrepreneur identifies a need and works towards satisfying it, or works towards improving upon an already existing product/service, or creates demand for a product/service of value i.e. creates a need and provides the solution. The provision of the solution brings the reward – money. The bigger the problem, the bigger the reward for its solution.

Once you have a solution, please ensure the product or service has a Unique Selling Point (USP). A USP is the mark of distinction of any business. It can also be referred to as your value proposition. In all likelihood, your company won’t be the only one offering that product/service (at least, not for long), so it’s important to have either a feature, advantage or benefit that’ll separate your business from current and prospective competition. Without a USP, you won’t stand out. Please note, lower price is not a good strategy for a small business; it’s just not sustainable.

Next, identify your target market. Never make the mistake of assuming your product or services will appeal to everyone. You’re dreaming. However, your target customers will want and appreciate your products or services. They can be grouped into primary, secondary and invisible; I’ll explain later. Just know that they are the persons or businesses with the highest probability of buying your products or services. Once, you’ve identified them, profile them. Your profile should include their locations, spending habits, hobbies, and age group. These will help you know how much they would be willing to spend on your product/service and the best way to reach them. I like using Indomie Noodles as an example. Their target market isn’t everyone, it’s children. Children are their primary target market. That’s why their ads are so playful and colorful; why they invented “The Indomitables” (Superheroes) figurines and stickers; why their ads are on television and radio, not Facebook, Instagram or Twitter (most children are not on social media). They have bigger sizes (like Hungry Man and Belleful) for adults, their secondary target market.

With the proper identification of your target customers, you need know your competition. Your competition is the person or business who offers the same products/services or benefits (as perceived by your target customers). They can be grouped into direct, indirect and invisible. Direct competition are those that offer the same products/services you do; for example, Coke and Pepsi. Indirect competition are those that offer the same benefits; for example, Domino’s Pizza and KFC – different products but same benefit (fast food). Invisible competition are those you didn’t consider. They usually the bigger players that have the capacity [and potential desire (especially if you’re successful)] to offer the same product/services or benefits as you. By understanding your competition, you gain competitive intelligence. Competitive Intelligence is the process of learning, collecting/gathering and using information about your competition for the purpose of growing your own business. It helps you to keep improving upon or redefining your business model, so you’re not easily surpassed.

I’m sure I’ve given you more than enough to think about, so I’ll stop here.

The first step is to sit down and think! Find a need, preferably in an area you’re passionate about. Ask God to reveal the solution to you, and provide you with the means to execute it. Entrepreneurship isn’t just about the idea, but the execution of the plan. And as you execute, remember, please think globally. Find the application of the solution not just within your locale, but regionally and worldwide. The world is bigger than Nigeria.

All the best!

solutions

July 17, 2018 Leave a comment

People pay for solutions.

I learnt that recently. The bigger the problem, the bigger the reward for the solution. But of course, you need to gain experience is problem-solving in order to master big ones. After all, experience is the best teacher.

I came across this story that pretty much shows the value of experience.

A giant ship engine failed.
The ship owners tried one expert after another, but none of them could figure out how to fix the engine.
Then they brought in an old man who had been fixing ships since he was young man.

He arrived carrying a big bag of tools with him, and got to work immediately.
He inspected the engine very carefully, top to bottom.
Two of the ship owners were there, watching the man, hoping he would know what to do.

After looking things over, the old man reached into his bag and pulled out a
small hammer. He gently tapped something, and instantly, the engine lurched into life.
Then, he carefully put his hammer away.
The engine was fixed!

A week later, the owners of the ship received a bill from the old man for ten thousand dollars ($10,000.00).
“What?!”, the owners exclaimed, “He hardly did anything!”
So they wrote the old man a note saying,“Please send us an itemized bill.”

The man sent a bill that read:
Tapping with a hammer…….. $2.00
Knowing where to tap…….. $9,998.00

Moral of the Story
Effort is important, but knowing where to make an effort in your life makes all the difference.
Life doesn’t change in ONE MINUTE, but taking a decision after thinking ONE MINUTE can change your whole life.

Categories: lessons, nuggets Tags: , ,

tithe

October 16, 2016 Leave a comment

It seems to me from time to time that tithe becomes a hot-button topic. It does a couple rounds on social media for a few weeks and hibernates until the following cycle. Almost everyone, or almost every christian, rather, comes up with their own “insights” on what it is and what it isn’t. I wonder why that is so; after all, for the most part, we all read the same bible.

Well, I typically like to do my part by sharing my knowledge on certain issues [as I understand them], and hopefully, encourage one or two people to have a change of perspective. If you’re unsure on what tithe is and/or it’s purpose, please read with an open mind as I try my best to explain.Tithe is a tenth [or ten percent (10%)] of the personal income of every christian that is set aside as a special offering to God. A tithe is different from a love offering or thanksgiving offering because it is a commandment. It is non-negotiable. Its purpose, according to God, in Malachi 3:10, is to ensure the availability of sustenance in the church. His word says, in that passage, “Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house”. In the days of old, it meant both agricultural produce and income. You can think of tithe as a mandatory tax for the support of the church.

Why is it mandatory and non-negotiable? Leviticus 27:30-34 says, “A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the Lord; it is holy to the Lord”. Also, Malachi 3:8-9 says, “Will a mere mortal rob God? Yet you rob me. But you ask, ‘How are we robbing you?’ In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse – your whole nation – because you are robbing me”. It is mandatory and non-negotiable because God says it is. If you refuse, He says you’re robbing Him – and those are His words, not mine. I don’t know about you, but God is someone I definitely don’t want to offend, rob or piss off.

It is because of that instruction that congregations are reminded to “pay” their tithe, not “give” it. I prefer to say “return” because it was never mine to begin with. Returning a tenth of all He gives me seems quite reasonable to me.

You might say that a lot of pastors these days are diverting church funds for their own personal and/or selfish reasons; I’ve heard those rumors too. While that may be true of some pastors, when you give your tithe, you give it in obedience to God’s instructions – you give to God. The important thing is that He accepts it from you. Try to be less concerned with what the church uses the funds for. It’s left for the pastorate of the church to decide how to use the funds available to it according to the leading of the Holy Spirit. If the pastorate uses it the way that best suits them without regard to God, they are answerable to Him [not you], and He will deal with them how He deems fit. Don’t throw yourself into the mix by talking smack about an anointed man of God. And honestly, if you are uncomfortable with the way your church uses the funds it has, you can always leave.

I’ve heard people ask if they can use their tithe for charitable acts. For example, donate to someone in need. No, you cannot. It is for God and God alone. Proverbs 19:17 says, “The one who is gracious to the poor lends to the Lord, and the Lord will repay him for his good deed”. Giving to those in need has its own reward.

I’ve also heard people ask if they can substitute their tithe for love offering and vice versa. For example, break the tithe into four parts and give a part as love offering for each Sunday in a particular month, or give a love offering every Sunday rather than return their tithe. No, you cannot do that either. Deuteronomy 16:16 says, “Three times a year all your males shall appear before the LORD your God in the place which He chooses: at the Feast of Unleavened Bread, at the Feast of Weeks, and at the Feast of Tabernacles; and they shall not appear before the LORD empty-handed. You should never come before God empty-handed. He is our God and we give to Him to appreciate Him. Proverbs 3:9a says, “Honor the Lord with your possessions”. Giving offerings (whether love offering or thanksgiving offering) is a form of worship. Giving is also a sign of love. John 3:16 says, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”.

Tithe cannot be substituted for alms, love offering or anything else. Tithe is tithe and it is mandatory. Let us stop rationalizing the word of God; it is very clear. Obedience is better than sacrifice (1 Samuel 15:22). However, in all these, please remember to not give grudgingly or angrily. There is nothing you have that God didn’t give to you, so give cheerfully. Remember, 2 Corinthians 9:7 says, Each one should give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or from compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.

greatness

August 21, 2016 Leave a comment

I’ve been thinking a lot about greatness and mediocrity. What makes one person great and another average? Is it destiny or fate? Is it beyond or within our control?

The quality of a person’s life is in direct proportion to their commitment to excellence, regardless of their chosen field of endeavor – Vince Lombardi

I believe that if you want to stop being average, choose to stop being average! Greatness is a choice, and it’s achieved by becoming progressively productive in your daily routine and life decisions. Strive to be better than who you were yesterday. Set high goals and try to see things beyond the realm of possibility. You’re in competition with no one, but yourself, so train yourself to be better. Greatness eludes people who only strive to be average.

plan

May 29, 2016 Leave a comment

It’s my birthday today. I’ve gotten lots of great gifts from my lovely family and loved ones. I’m feeling so happy and magnanimous that I’ve decided to share what goes into the preparation of an excellent business plan; well, the way we do it at Herança Financial. I’m expecting guests from 2:00 pm, so I’ll make this quick.

planThe first part should be the Executive Summary. As part of the name implies, it is a summary of the entire document. This means even though it comes first, it is usually prepared last. Essentially, it should have briefs on the most important aspects of the company to banks and prospective investors – profile, market analysis, start up cost, and projections.

Next is the Company Overview. This is where you put in the profile of your company (logo too, if you have one), your motto/slogan, your clear-cut mvvpp/mission, vision, values, philosophy, and positioning statement; your products/services and the pricing, your management structure, and the equity distribution of your company.

The Marketing Plan comes next. It is most likely going to be the bulkiest part of the plan. It should have a comprehensive profile of your primary and secondary target markets, analysis of your competition (direct and indirect), SWOT analysis of your company and the competition, your competitive strategy/unique selling point (usp), your market share analysis and potential, and your marketing strategy for making sales to your target customers.

Next, if you choose to or would find it advantageous, develop a Networking Plan. This will basically list places where you’d regularly socialize (to market yourself and your business), your goals (to meet mentors, investors, and/or prospective customers), your budget, and the frequency of attendance.

Then, it’s time for the Operations Plan. Here, you list prospective location options and analyses of the various locations (including zoning and the layouts), required personnel (yourself, included) and respective job descriptions, and the compensation plan (wages/salaries, overtime pay, bonuses, severance packages, study leaves, maternity/paternity leaves, and so on).

Another optional section is Government Assistance. You can include this for your personal use and/or to demonstrate you’ve done your homework on grants available to entrepreneurs and SME owners in your industry and proposed area of operation.

Finally, the most important section to banks and investors, the Financial Plan. This will house your balance sheet or personal net worth statement (if your company is not yet operational), start up cost/SUCs (include the utility bills projections and wages for defined length of time), your revenue model, sales forecast/projections (monthly, quarterly, and Year One to Year Three/Five), loan repayment structure, and [projected] income statement.

If you want to go the extra mile, like we do, put in a Customer Service Plan. This will have your code of conduct, dispute policy, employee discipline and evaluation practices, social media decorum, and so on). You can also add your Corporate Image Package/CIP. This will simply have samples of your brochure, business card, invoice, letterhead sheet, and flyers).

That’s it.

If it seems like a lot of work, it’s because it is!

You can always contact Herança Financial for assistance.

All the best!

 

readiness

March 22, 2016 Leave a comment

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things” – Peter F. Drucker. It is important to understand that a position of leadership is one of service and not solely of control. As a leader, you have to cultivate the ability to influence your subordinates positively.

leadership

In a company, the supervisors are one of the most important figures, as they directly interact with the employees. As a supervisor, you should promote employee engagement. If employees aren’t engaged or motivated, there is a problem. The nature of the job/ position is similar to that of a coach and a judge. They have to practice firmness and fairness. In order to do this job effectively, they are required possess these traits: intelligent, good role models, have desire and drive, honest, intelligent/knowledgeable, respectful and self-confident. Most supervisors have some or all these traits, however, sometimes their personalities come into play, making them either people-centered or task-centered.

People-centered supervisors emphasize interpersonal relationships, while task-centered supervisors emphasize technicalities. Being either has its benefits, but also has its shortcomings. For example, people-centered supervisors tend to be caring and lenient, but sometimes get too involved in the subordinates’ affairs. Task-centered supervisors are mostly focused and result-driven, but tend to be demanding.

Due to individual differences, it is sometimes counterproductive to focus on interpersonal relationships, whereas less work gets done; or to focus on tasks, whereas there is no team spirit or quality work being done. The best way to handle to handle employees effectively is to find a grey area – blending task orientation with people orientation to find a middle ground. This middle ground is called situational leadership.

Situational leadership emphasizes adjusting the leader’s communication style to the readiness (or maturity) of his/her subordinates. Readiness is the extent to which a subordinate demonstrates the ability and willingness to perform a task. Ability in this context refers to the knowledge and experience of the employee. Willingness in this context refers to the confidence and commitment of the employee. However, please note that readiness is task-specific, not global. Positive performance in a specific task does not translate to positive results in all tasks.

There are four (4) levels of readiness which suggest the appropriate level of supervision a subordinate will require. Readiness 1 or R1 connotes unable and unwilling; that is, the subordinate lacks knowledge and confidence to execute a task. Readiness 2 or R2 connotes unable and willing; that is, the subordinate lacks knowledge, but has the confidence/ is committed to executing a task. Readiness 3 or R3 connotes able and unwilling; that is the subordinate has knowledge/experience, but lacks the confidence to execute the task. Readiness 4 or R4 connotes able and willing; that is the subordinate is experienced and confidence enough to execute a task.

As earlier stated, by following the different levels of readiness, a supervisor will understand the subordinates and provide the necessary guidance to make that employee effective. A R1 subordinate requires supervision 1 or S1 which is the telling/teaching stage. A R2 subordinate requires supervision 2 or S2 which is the selling/encouraging stage. A R3 subordinate requires supervision 3 or S3 which is the participating/co-dependent stage. This is means they require occasional supervision. A R4 subordinate requires supervision 4 or S4 which is the delegating/dependent stage. Subordinates in this stage require little or no supervision in order to execute tasks.

Whatever type of supervisor you are or the mix of subordinates you have, credibility and trust are necessary in order to exercise leadership. It is key for your success that your subordinates believe in the ability, character and integrity of their leader.

evaluation

February 7, 2016 1 comment

Employee evaluation is one of the most crucial periods in an organization. Quite possibly, as a supervisor, you may have noticed that most employees are not too excited about reviews. This is mostly because of evaluations usually connote a conflict of perception of results and/or negative criticism. For this reason, when performing evaluations, it is important to communicate the reason(s) for the evaluation to your subordinates. Some basic reasons are development/training, feedback, motivation, and recognition.

evaluationIdeally, evaluations is one of those situations where supervisors should be a coach and judge simultaneously – a coach in the sense of being firm and looking forward to an improvement in the performance of the employees, and a judge by being fair, considering even performance in past sessions. Sadly, it is not the case in a lot of organizations, and that’s unfortunate. An evaluation is not an excuse to berate or embarrass an employee. It is to help employees improve their performance and enhance the overall productivity of the organization. To this end, there are three (3) widely recognized performance standards of evaluation – Absolute, Relative and 360◦. The absolute standard involves evaluation based on the periodic (monthly, quarterly, annually) review of an employee’s performance. The relative standard involves evaluation each time an employee has faulted or is commended. The 360◦ evaluation involves evaluation based on reviews from an employee’s clients/customers, peers and supervisors. In my opinion, the 360◦ evolution is the most effective, but also the most tasking to coordinate.

Whichever standard you decide to use for the performance evaluation of your subordinates, here are some pointers:

  1. The evaluation is a legal document and hence be conducted in a private formal or semi-formal setting between only the supervisors and the employee being reviewed.
  2. The information in the evaluation should not surprise the employee. This is why prompt feedback is essential. A wrong doing must be addressed within a reasonable time-frame after committed not saved until performance reviews.
  3. The performance should be held periodically – monthly, quarterly or annually. An effective way is to hold it on the eve/day of the anniversary of employment. This way, it is more of a process than an event, and an employee’s growth or lack thereof can be easily noted.

As earlier stated, evaluations are to review performance, and hence, must be objective. Hence, I’d like to warn against three (3) common errors supervisors tend to make while making performance evaluations:

  1. The halo error: This is overvaluing and/or undervaluing subordinates’ performances based on their personality. Every personality has its strengths and weaknesses. Assertive people aren’t necessarily more productive than quiet people.
  2. The recency error: This is overvaluing and/or undervaluing subordinates’ performances based on their recent activities. This is why it is important to file every commendation/warning involving the employee.
  3. The similarity error: This is overvaluing and/or undervaluing subordinates’ performances based on familiarity/state of the relationship with the supervisor. A review is to objective – a tool to build, not a weapon to destroy. There should be not favoritism in the workplace either, well, at least not when objectivity is required.

Finally, this goes without saying, but employees are individuals and should be reviewed based on their merits or lack thereof, not who/what they are. Please do not ever make concessions or deductions on the basis of age, color, disability, gender or tribe of an employee.