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reason not to

August 24, 2020 Leave a comment

You probably shouldn’t give them a reason not to.

I was basking in my first act of defiance. For as long as I can remember, my dad was pro-clipped nails and pro-short hair. Around him, I could never successfully keep long nails (which he called “claws” 😄), or grow my hair beyond a month. Anytime I thought, I was finally growing either, out came the razor or clippers 🤦🏽‍♂️.

You could imagine my surprise finding a picture of him from the 70s. Like a lot of our parents, he was in an afro 😲. My dad didn’t have a leg to stand on. Fortunately, at the time, I was 18, and in his books, practically an adult.

That’s me about a year after the great discovery, with my ‘fro and little goatee, beaming from ear to ear. Sometime after this photo was taken, I was offered the opportunity to leave Benin Republic and continue my education in Canada. However, I had to attend an interview, first.

You probably shouldn’t give them a reason not to.
That was my dad’s advice to me the day before my student visa interview at the Deputy High Commission of Canada. I knew what he meant, and he wasn’t wrong. The ‘fro had to go 😭. At least, it was my decision, sort of.

To be honest, I looked smarter in my fresh haircut and clean shaven face. Though, I ended up looking a lot younger than 19, and I was told so 😑. By God’s grace, I was able to answer all questions intelligibly, and looked responsible doing so. The rest is history.

“Never judge a book by its cover” is a nice sentiment, but in the real world, we are constantly assessed, addressed, and related with, based on how we’re perceived. How you’re dressed plays a big role. How you present yourself matters. That’s just the way it is.

The onus is on you to always put your best foot forward.
You never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Don’t give anyone a reason not to.

lockdown education

May 5, 2020 Leave a comment
A major concern for me, over the past week, has been how to educate/stimulate pupils and students in Nigerian public schools during this extensive lockdown period. It’s my understanding that the children receiving any formal education right now are those in private schools. The private [primary and secondary] schools are about the only ones that can afford to implement e-learning protocols. However, the vast majority of Nigerian pupils and students attend public schools, so for the time being, most aren’t learning anything academic.

As a passionate advocate for continuous personal growth and development, my fear is a lot of them will lose a whole term, or worse, a whole year of school, and fall far behind (than they already are/were) their peers in private schools. So, in a bid to provide, in my small way, a solution, I considered some sort of YouTube channel, in partnership with teachers of basic subjects (like English Language and Math). However, there are 2 challenges.

First, there would either have to be enough content for classes by level, i.e Primary/Form 1-6, JS1-3 and SS1-3; or (the better option) classes by [broad] age groups, i.e ages 2-5, ages 7-10, and ages 11-15/16, for example. Secondly, there is the possibility that, because of their meager means, most of their guardians or parents may not have laptops/tabs and WiFi modems or smart phones (with enough data) to stream the content for long periods of time, talk less of several times a week. I concluded, since the target audience may find it challenging accessing online content, YouTube may not work.

Next, I considered working with a radio station, as this may be more practical for their parents/guardians. However, off the bat, the first issue is children have short attention spans, so without constant supervision, audio might not be too effective; especially for a subject like Math. This led to my final consideration.

Instead of subjects, the focus could be on puzzles and/or problems with quantitative and verbal elements [according to age groups]. They might not learn anything new, but those could help keep them sharp and mentally-stimulated. So maybe the best option for the masses would be to broadcast verbal and quantitative problems catered to various age groups on a regular basis – possibly, a different group at a specific time every weekday?

While seeking a partner for this initiative, I learned that 9Mobile Nigeria had begun providing free data to access certain e-learning portals to support the Federal Government’s e-learning program for students during this lockdown. Some of those portals include, MobileClassroom and Schoolgate. Kudos to 9Mobile for taking the initiative; wonder if and when the other national carriers (MTN Nigeria, Airtel Nigeria and Globacom Nigeria) would make similar arrangements.

This initiative will, in no doubt, help those with access to smartphones, but those without access to those devices would still at a disadvantage, so back to square one. I wonder if there are those equally concerned and willing to partner with me or support the radio programing angle (#RadioSchoolNigeria), as a palliative/temporary measure, of course? Classrooms are still the best method teaching children and teens.

Please note that it might not be profitable, monetarily, but I do believe it would go a long way in leveling the academic playing field and enriching the lives of our younger ones.

think

March 28, 2020 1 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!

culture permeation

February 6, 2020 Leave a comment

A huge problem in Corporate Nigeria is our tribal culture; it knows no bounds. It is inhibiting professionalism and influencing business negatively. The worst part is we’re its enablers.

A friend shared some shocking news with me some weeks ago. Her boss at the office requires all female employees to courtesy, and all male employees to prostrate, when they greet him every morning. Shocking, right? On top of all that, some female employees address him as “Daddy” instead of “Sir”, and he doesn’t mind. Can you believe that? This man has basically instituted the Yoruba way of greeting, and turned the workplace into a mini Yoruba community.

That would have been ridiculous, if it is an isolated incident, but it’s quite common. A doctor friend of mine [trained in eastern Nigeria] told me how nurses would refuse to take instructions for junior medical officers, on the grounds that they aren’t “mates”, and it’s disrespectful for junior doctors to “order” them to follow up on or give medication to patients. I asked my sister, who was a Lagos-based doctor, if this is true here, and she concurred.

How old one is or how elderly, no matter the culture or tribe, a supervisor should never instruct his/her subordinates to courtesy or prostrate to him; especially not at their place of business/in a professional environment! Talk less of tolerating female subordinates referring to their boss as “Daddy”. Having a supervisor [younger in age] is no reason for older subordinates to disrespect him/her or neglect their duties! The level of unprofessionalism in Nigeria is getting out of whack, honestly.

There’s also the issue of casually [and regularly] speaking in native dialects with colleagues [usually from the same tribe], or pidgin, during office hours. I’m all for cultural bonding of colleagues and team members, but this pattern of behavior [during business hours] tends to rid a firm of its professional outlook. This trend is so widespread, it’s like an epidemic. Speaking in any language, other than English, is only permissible when English is causing a communication barrier with an uneducated client/customer. Any other language can be spoken after office hours or behind closed doors. Otherwise, the trend may result in tribal undertones associated with the brand. For example, the former Diamond Bank was perceived as Igbo people’s bank. This was mainly due to perception and the proliferation of certain mannerisms at the branch level. Chances were, if you walked into any former branch, not only would most of the front-end staff be Igbo natives, but they would be conversing [loudly] in Igbo with each other and the customers. Even the AI chatbot personal banker was called Ada. Ada is a popular feminine Igbo name, and the chatbot’s avatar was, of course, female. If Igbo-centricity was a strategy, it might have worked in attracting Igbo-centric clientele, but it also alienated clients associated with other tribes.

All these are some of the reasons my friend, Collins, and I went into business together in 2017. We set up a personal development agency called Centerprise, with the sole aim of ending the mediocrity in business and upgrading professionalism in Africa. We are determined to cause a positive shift in mannerisms and mentality, and we’re working from the ground up. We connect undergraduates/recent graduates with relevant internships to gain valuable professional experience, develop/optimize resumes and offer interview/job preparation to undergraduates/employees, and provide bankable business plans to budding entrepreneurs; most importantly, we organize professional classes for graduates/employees to gain proper business decorum. We believe personal growth must be intentional, and that includes professional business etiquette.

I understand we have a strong culture in Nigeria, and it’s a big part of our identities, but things need to be kept strictly professional at the workplace. Only verbal greetings and handshakes are acceptable forms of greeting. Permitting female employees to refer to their superior as “Daddy” or anything form of endearment is grounds for sexual harassment, at the very least. The only acceptable titles are “Sir” or “Madam/Ma’am” [or “Boss”, in semi-formal settings], not even “Oga” or “Ma”. And of course, with the exception of interactions with certain customers, Queen’s English should be spoken in and around the office.

bells

December 21, 2019 1 comment

He who finds a wife, finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord – Proverbs 18:22 [NKJV]

I met Jumoke, an amazing lady, who redefined what love means to me, while we were only just friends. She makes me happy, makes me want to be better and do better, and she’s got my back all day everyday.

When I proposed to her and she agreed to marry me, it was a dream come true!🧖 However, before there can be a wedding, as is expected, there must be a pre-wedding shoot. Ours was loads of fun.

We had Ibrahim Akinola, a brilliant photographer; he had great concepts and positive vibes; and just created a relaxing atmosphere. Thanks Klala Photography 👍🏽. However, the shoot was mostly a blast because of whom I was taking the pictures with and what she means to me 🥰.

Soon, we’ll be exchanging vows, and I’m looking forward to forever with her, and the empire we’re set to build 😉.

#SoIntoJu