The Sad Reality of Consulting Gigs in Nigeria

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Running a consulting business in Nigeria is nothing like what you read in the books or hear from other consultants in developed countries. I think the only right way to successfully run a consulting business in Nigeria is to use the KPMG/PwC approach.

What is the KPMG/PwC approach?

  1. As the owner/manager, don't get involved at all in the project execution.
  2. Play golf, go clubbing/partying, socialize and do lots of grand impression creation to win big clients/projects
  3. Have a very active and assertive legal team to handle both clients and staff
  4. Have more project managers and supervisors than the number of people doing the actual work
  5. Institute a lot of red tapes and processes to ensure clients do not talk directly to the people doing the real work and every request is checked with a supervising manager to be sure it is within scope
  6. No emotions. If CBN or FGN suddenly issue a policy that makes the project useless, not your headache. Client must pay up.
  7. Ultimately, let your love for money/revenue be way more than your love for the field you are consulting in. In choosing between an exciting project and a higher paying zombie project, there shouldn't be any hesitation in picking the zombie project over the exciting one. It is only for the sake of PR or ethics, that you choose a less paying project over a higher paying project
  8. Have very strong internal policies that prohibit employees from deviating from the documented deliverables. No going an extra mile for the clients.
Is anything wrong with this approach? NO.

They why my negative title to this post? Well, for people like me who went into consulting because of the love for the field (data analysis), it is an almost impossible approach. I find it almost impossible to pick socializing over getting involved in the project execution/implementation. I absolutely will pick low paying highly exciting project over a zombie project. And I hate red tapes, having the client pass through numerous gatekeepers to get any message to the guys doing the actual work. So it is either I let go of the business side of consulting and act as a technical staff in my company while letting someone else manage the business side using the effective approach already mentioned, or I get out completely from the consulting business in Nigeria.

Guess which option I picked? Correct! Only a first time reader of my blog would need help with the answer.

I have done many consulting projects for clients in Nigeria and outside Nigeria, and the experiences have been consistently worlds apart. Even when I was inexperienced and had no skills in managing projects, I still found the foreign projects more enjoyable than even a higher paying local project. 

  1. Somehow, the foreign clients stick more to the project scope. They are usually very honest with admitting upfront that an out of scope need/request has come up and ask if I am willing to take it up as a separate project with separate timeline and additional costs. A Nigerian client usually begs you to add this "small change", often chaining the "small changes" in a long link of spaced out requests; makes no mention of new timeline or additional payment.
  2. Many foreign clients allow a hourly billing setup. I am yet to meet a Nigerian client (company or individual) that allows me do a hourly billing setup for their project.
  3. Nigerians have two buckets for consultants: the artisans bucket and the draconian bucket. If you are not making life difficult for them (red tapes, lengthy processes, many auxiliary staff to deal with, approval processes, lots of request declines), they treat you like their carpenter, mechanic, tailor and hairdresser. They pay no respect for your time, call you at odd hours of the day, have non ending urgent but small requests and just plain remind you of how you treat your mechanic.
  4. Project procurement process in Nigeria has a disproportionately high "messed up" ratio. There are too many projects where the internal staff are using it for their own personal gain and not for any corporate benefits. Either a government ministry or agency is using it to unlock some budgeted money, so they come up with easy to approve but unneeded projects; or a non-profit needs to meet an empowerment KPI and sets up a poorly structured project hurriedly. I don't want to mention the absurdities I have seen in the for-profit companies. 
So what am I rambling about?

Consulting is lucrative in Nigeria but requires an approach that creates unneeded frictions and overheads. Some use the honest approach I laid out in the beginning paragraphs. Sadly, I see some other consultants use the artisans approach (since that's what the clients treat them like): they put bugs in their solutions, create problems that keep the client coming back, be untruthful and manipulative, and just plain remind you of your worst mechanic.


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