This year’s edition of the Connect Nigeria Business Fair had a lot in it for all who were in attendance. Exhibitions showcased some of Nigeria’s top emerging and established brands; the panel sessions had leading startup founders and business executives sharing their entrepreneurial stories and disseminating smart growth hack; also, attendees connected with new leads.
The panel discussions, which took place over two days, provided a good deal of useful information to the audience at the fair. The panelists, all accomplished businesspeople in their own right, eagerly presented their thoughts about their involvement in the Nigerian commercial space. They also drew from their experience to tackle questions put to them by audience.
Here’s a recap of the growth spurring advice given by the panel on day one of the Connect Nigeria Business Fair.
1. Be Prepared for Long, Gritty Grinds
These days, Agatha Amata is building a media brand that may rival the bigger names in TV and radio broadcasting in the coming years. Her current projects are Rave TV, a youth focused television channel, and Trend FM, a radio station based in Asaba, Delta State.
But she’s better known as the long running anchor of the pioneering TV talk show, Inside Out, which captured the attention of audiences across Nigeria for over twenty years.
Agatha Amata was at the business fair to speak to attendees about the path she’s taken to her present status. And her words were illuminating, if inspiring. As she told stories of her marathon studio recording sessions and numerous setbacks from her earlier years, she drew lessons from her travails and victories.
“I had to record seven times a day, unless I would not be able to make the money to cover the cost of recording at the venue,” she recalled. She remembers returning from those sessions feeling drained. “But I got back for another session to review every single recording with the editor.”
Amata’s persistence took her through hard times- like losing studio space and failed expectations, to being recognized as a leading figure in Nigeria’s media industry. She encourages other businesspersons to not be fazed by their present challenges, but to keep at cracking the hard nuts of entrepreneurship. She assures us that they’ll give in good time, if we know what we’re doing.
2. Master the Art of Selling
“A good product sells itself.”
Except that it doesn’t; at least not in the short run.
The panelists at the business fair were keen to point out the importance of marketing to growing a business. As far as they’re concerned, even the best products need to be put in front of people to get noticed.
But first, the product has to be built. Ndu Anyanwu, General Manager at Hot FM and also a panelist at the fair had this to say:
“Have a good product, an innovative product that helps you stand out from the crowd. It has to be unique and high quality.”
In simple terms, don’t just set out to reinvent the wheel. Make stuff that’s more interesting and meets people’s needs more efficiently than what’s already available.
The selling part comes next- and it’s something that Amata’s quite forthright about. She says venture founders have to be able to sell their products to themselves, good enough to persuade them to buy what they’ve made. As you’ve probably already figured out, this involves at least two things: having a product that you are impressed with, and that you’re also able to market to its target audience.
3. Don’t Be Afraid to Learn (from Failing)
A number of the speakers also talked about constantly picking up new ideas that could help them improve their business processes.
Amata says she’s still learning to keep up with social media, as she’s part of an older generation than the one that’s grown up with it.
“I’m not afraid to learn,” she said. “I’m not afraid to say I don’t know. If you take the time to reinvent yourself, nothing will be beyond you.”
Anyanwu shared how he’s had to learn to be adaptable in order to survive in Nigeria’s ‘peculiar’ business environment, which he compared to a boxer with hard punches. He also spoke about learning from failure.
“If you fail, it’s okay. You just have to learn from the last ‘bout.’”
Mabel George, Sigma Pension, chipped in a word about staying the course and using lessons from past falls:
“Be in it for the long haul. Even if it doesn’t pay off today, it will pay off in the long run.”
4. Build a Good Team
“If you really need a good team, it takes a long time to build one.” That was Anyanwu’s take on hiring staff and forming partnerships. For him, the role played by a business’s team in its growth warrants that the hiring process be taken seriously.
Amata had similar thoughts about the team building process. She referred to her Inside Out program, where she had to work with a dedicated team on difficult, sometimes grueling tasks.
“If I was going to be able to continue the program, I had to work with the people who were ready to work with me,” she explained.
The take-home lesson from the session on hiring was this: it takes time to come up with a winning team. Don’t be in a hurry to assemble one. Go for quality, and let the structure of your enterprise take shape as you grow.
5. Stay Big On Customers Satisfaction
We shouldn’t be so hung up on constantly growing customer numbers that they become little more that statistics to us. Many businesses slide into this error to their own detriment.
Instead, we should be sure that we’re taking care of the customers we already have. They hold the aces, not us. If we treat them badly or do not attend to their complaints early enough, we could lose them.
Abimbola Balogun, founder and CEO of So Fresh, thinks that consciously working to keep existing customers satisfied is an underrated business growth strategy. She’s seen it work for her company, which delivers fresh food to customers in Lagos and Abuja.
While answering a question put to the panel at the fair, she pointed out that 80% of her customers were repeat customers. She also said word of mouth marketing has been the company’s most effective means of bringing in new customers.
Here’s the point she’s making: Give your clients top quality service, and they’ll stick with you. They could even spread the word about the services your offer, and attract new clients to your business.
Featured image source: Connect Nigeria