Tips To Being Street Smart As A Businessman In Nigeria

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There are many things that run contrary to our usual logic when it comes to surviving and thriving as a businessman or business woman in Nigeria. In today's post I will share the ones I can remember now. Maybe they are universal and apply outside Nigeria, I don't know for sure but I do know that if you want to successfully run a business here in Nigeria and you have worked as an employee before, you will greatly benefit from these tips.

  1. Remember the advice people give about being nice to everyone -- including the gateman, receptionists, secretary etc -- as you don't know who will tip the scales in your favour. It is good advice. There is no benefit in making enemies unnecessarily, even of a gateman you don't see how he will hinder your business. The tip here, though, is many people take it to another extreme unknowingly. They spend too much time discussing with people who can't make the business decision they seek. You should be nice and brief to the non-decision makers. You don't get monthly salary, sales people with guaranteed monthly income can afford to gist with all the people in the client company. Not you. Yes, they can put in word for you that will lead to you getting the project but sadly on average that is the exception and not the norm. Reach out more to decision makers, even if you have to use online tools (LinkedIn, email, Facebook etc).

  2. If you want a discount at the hotel don't waste your time troubling the receptionist, she's not authorised to give you any significant discount or any discount at all. Ask to see the general manager or a marketer. I don't pay the published rate at hotels and sometimes I pay close to half of that rate. And that's how I get those crazy discounts -- talking to the manager or marketer. Tell them you want a special rate for your company so you and your team will be using the hotel or you'll go to a rival hotel. 

  3. Always factor in meetings when dealing with big companies. Sometimes, you'll find that you'll make more money and face less worries from small companies that big companies. In the small company, they treat you more respectfully, you deal with just one or two decision makers and they won't be calling for frequent meetings and are more open to phone/skype calls. But with big companies, you'll be dealing with procurement dept, HR dept, finance dept and the department(s) that needs your solution/service. Each of them wants to do stupid meetings, except the finance that you won't be able to easily get hold of when your payment is delayed. You'll do vendor registration with procurement and depending on the type of company, that can take from a day to a month. And there will be meetings on what the project is about and how it would be done and expectations and timelines and updates. Things that could be done over email and they eventually send via email, after wasting your time in meetings. And if you are a lean company like mine, that is unproductive use of scare human resources. So better to charge way higher than you would charge a small company. And if a small company asks for meeting, ignore the request by saying you are too busy and will do phone call and email. Or they should come to your office.

  4. Better to have structured offerings than bending yourself to every customers' wish. Do you know why craftsmen and artisans seldom get rich nor have a thriving business? The tailor measures every client he wants to do a shirt for and does customized sewing for each one. TM Lewin sows the same sets of shirts in thousands and in set sizes. If you keep tailoring your service to each client's request you will end up like the Nigerian tailor. When the client has big money he will go and buy H&C, Pink, TM Lewin and Charles Tyrwhitt. And when he's price conscious, he comes back to you. People will price you when you operate like the market woman who is available for negotiation but will buy at whatever price you say when you operate like Shoprite with no personal attention for anyone nor room for negotiation.

  5. Forget the whole branding hype. Good branding is definitely better than poor branding, but in the long list of what you need to get right in business (as the business owner and not some hired salesperson), branding is not among the top five. People know when they are getting value for their money and when they are not. I won't buy the most colorful and heavily branded phone. If you provide genuinely superior quality and are reasonably priced, you'll win even if your branding is very poor. So never let anyone tell you that branding is the reason PwC is getting the job and you are not.

  6. When it comes to spending to make more money, not all spending are equal. There are two categories of expenses -- capital expenditure and operating expenditure. When a company wants to grow and make more revenue, it is the capital expenditure than increases significantly. Unfortunately, small business owners don't know this. They start buying more expensive suits, renting more expensive offices and beautifying their cars; expenses that don't translate to revenue. Plus attending conferences everywhere -- Naija and abroad. I shake my head for them.
And those are the ones I can share for now. Need to hurry up for a training class that starts in less than 30 mins and I've not yet taken my bath.


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