The first of these sessions held on June 26 and was attended by an audience of business owners and aspiring entrepreneurs. The speakers shared knowledge with the audience around the program’s theme, Opportunities for Emerging Businesses.
A lot of useful information was put out. In just over an hour, they addressed the leading concerns of businesspeople in Nigeria regarding access to markets, hiring, resource planning, and funding.
If you missed the first session or would like to get a reminder of the things you learned there, here’s a recap of the insights that were shared.
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Lesson One: Big Investment Comes After Viability
Eric Edokpa, Regional Partner at Faster Capital, had plenty of advice for would-be entrepreneurs seeking capital to start up.
But he was clear about one thing: you should have skin in the game if you’re going to convince investors to stake their own funds on your enterprise. He recommends launching with your own money first.
“If you want to start a business, my advice for you is to start building your assets now,” he said. “See if you have assets you can mortgage or savings you can call on. In the second phase of your business, you can look to bring in investors to take your business to the next level.”
And if you don’t have enough from your reserves, there’s the next best thing: family and friends.
Edokpa discussed crowdfunding as well. He had a couple of tips for people looking to raise capital via crowdfunding platforms.
“With crowdfunding comes the need to be visually appealing,” he explained. “It’s more suitable for you if your product is one you can put on the platform for people to see. Use visuals of your product that people can see and appreciate [that would convince them to invest].”
Lesson Two: Systematic Planning (Almost) Always Wins
Hilda Kragha, CEO of Jobberman, spoke about the best ways that small businesses can plan and manage hiring and resourcing for their organizations. She said that SMEs are too often unsystematic about things in this area.
“A lot of pitfalls business owners fall into are from doing things haphazardly,” she noted.
She recommended a multi-step process that businesses can follow to improve their outcomes in this area.
“First, do a basic design of what your organization looks like currently, end to end. Figure out what the current status of the business is, where the gaps are, and where the performance spikes or strengths exist. Do it across all different dimensions [of your business].”
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“The next step would be to benchmark what exists in your organization against similar organizations that conform to best practice.”
She pointed out that SMEs could get this sort of information from the web. Benchmarks are derivable from company reports, industry data, and other relevant material available online.
Kragha said she does this in her role as CEO of Jobberman; she seeks out outstanding aspects of similar organizations in emerging and first world economies and sees how they can be adapted to make Jobberman work better.
There was some advice for hiring in particular.
“If you want good quality talent coming into your organization, you need to ask questions like, ‘What’s my company culture? What’s my employee’s value proposition? What exactly am I offering these talents that will help me win them over?”
She encouraged businesses to have a clear value proposition for human resources and stick with it. This would enable them to meet their current KPIs and longer-term goals.
Lesson Three: You Can Conquer Markets with Data and Digital Channels
The third speaker on day one was Uzo Anekwe, Head of Business Development at Connect Nigeria. He talked about how SMEs can leverage data analytics and digital channels to win in their industries and niches, and become globally competitive.
He was particularly keen on businesses gathering and using feedback from their customers.
“You need to be able to run surveys, ask questions, and get feedback,” he said. “Feedback lets you know what your customers think about your service and how you can improve.”
This feedback could also generate data about the customers that give them, which may help you understand them better– and enable you to offer improved services to them.
On communicating with customers, Mr Anekwe had this to say:
“When you know where your market is, you’ll know how to engage them… and do so through the right channels, and with the right communication.”
And he suggested that digital channels are a more cost-effective way for businesses to reach their target market, than billboards and old media like radio and TV. According to him, cracking growth with online channels comes down to these things:
- Having a content marketing strategy.
- Getting listed on all online directories and e-commerce sites.
- Building communities on social media, through newsletters, and messaging platforms like Whatsapp.
- Growing traffic to your business through your own website and sponsored posts published on major blogs.
“If your content is right, enough people will read it to make your brand relevant,” he explained. “You foster a warm feeling of community around your business. You can also get feedback in real-time from your customers who are members of that community.”
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