The topic is weird, right? You are thinking “what is Isioma talking about? Is he encouraging us to fail in business? Yes I am encouraging you to fail so you can succeed.
Jason Njoku stayed in his mother’s house till he was 30, tried his hands at several failed ventures before coming up with the idea of distributing Nigerian home movies online. Then IrokoTV was born. He failed many times in order to succeed in the end.
Donald Trump declared bankruptcy. He was back a few years later and he wrote “Art of the Comeback”.
We cannot sugarcoat the fact. Running a business in Africa is not easy. No matter the kind of business you run whether online or offline, both take similar efforts. The one sign that shows you are a real entrepreneur is the ability to tinker with ideas and persevere until you succeed.
I listened to Shola Akinlade, co-founder of Paystack, a payment processing company in Nigeria at the recently held Youths Enterprise Conference 2018 (#YECO4) organized by Akin Alabi, CEO of NairaBet, a pioneer gaming company in Nigeria.
Akinlade talked about how his knowledge of economics led him into thinking he could figure out payment in Nigeria, which some people in Nigeria still complain about as being complex. All he did was to get a co-founder, put up a tweet about a forthcoming payment company in the country even when the company was yet to become a reality and he got positive responses from his followers.
By a dint of hard work, the two co-founders were aboard a plane to San Francisco to pitch to investors at an event by YCombinator. Upon selection, they raked in $1.2 million investment. It would have been easier for Akinlade to say at the onset, “I don’t know anything about payment. I can’t do it” and then give up the idea. There would have been no Paystack today.
What you must understand is entrepreneurship has no real weaknesses; only insufficient motivation. The mere fact that you are failing doesn’t make you a failure. Your refusal to heed the lessons of failure to better your financial life is the real failure. That you are failing shows you are doing something, taking the necessary steps towards advancement.
Here is the thing: not every entrepreneur will be lucky as Olawale and his partner. Their luck was embedded in hard work laced with strategic planning. This will take me to the 4 secrets successful entrepreneurs’ use that makes them to be where they are today. You should also apply them if you crave to be successful in your venture.
Investing: Starting a business is never enough. You must continue to invest in the business. Investing is what will sustain the business. So when you start making profits is not the time to start buying all the fancy things in life, junks you don’t need.
You are not in business to impress anyone. I made a business rule in an earlier article “here”. Take only 20% of the profits made in your business and plunge the rest back into the business. You must make sure the 20% is taken after 4 years of making profits in the business. In other words, you must persevere and grow your business first, before demanding luxury.
Top entrepreneurs don’t buy stuffs on impulse. Of course, if you are not interested in building anything worthwhile, then you can ignore this rule.
Thinking and Planning: You cannot be an impact-making entrepreneur if you cannot think and plan out your strategies.
One company in the transportation sector in Nigeria whose transformation over the years has really impressed me is God Is Good Motors Limited. You can see the implementation of quality ideas by the company hierarchy to keep in tune with the 21st century demands. Another one I am impressed with is Wakanow.com, a flights-booking company with impressive customer service.
Thinking for an entrepreneur is a non-transferable responsibility. You got to do it every time, to challenge your mental thoughts on how to move your business forward.
The raw material for thinking is information. Therefore, successful entrepreneurs are curious and always seeking new information to better the lots of their investment.
Tai Solarin of blessed memory once said “may your road be rough”. He was talking to impact entrepreneurs and whoever wants to make it big in life. The third secret of successful entrepreneurs is they are tenacious. They are positively stubborn and they hold on to their dreams irrespective of what people around say and economic indices are portraying.
Jack Ma of Alibaba.com tells about the many rejections he suffered; from police to KFC to Harvard, yet he refused to give up and kept fighting. Today he is the richest man in China.
We all know the story of Brian Acton, the Facebook reject who later invented WhatsApp with a partner and three years after, sold it to the same owner of Facebook for $19 Billion.
Top entrepreneurs are risk takers. The fear of taking risks is what keeps many people mediocre in life. So they rather stay in their comfort zones of maybe receiving salaries at the end of the month.
Comfort Zone May Be Good, But Nothing Grows There.
Do not just sing of people’s glory without thinking of the story behind it.
They Are Philanthropists: this last secret has nothing to do with religion but a key principle of success. Money and riches follow principles. So your nationality, tribe or religion means nothing. Apply the principles and riches will come to you.
Successful entrepreneurs take stock, evaluate their businesses, manage their expectations and help people to climb up the ladder of success. Bill Gates and wife are doing so with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Mark Zuckerberg has done so with the tech startup, Andela.
Here are my recommendations to every entrepreneur.
Start Small before you scale up:
I have seen people just starting out in business wanting to launch with offices in highbrow areas such as Lekki in Nigeria. You go through their organizational structure as a startup and you see all kinds of unnecessary managerial positions, burning away the little profits to be made and doing harm to the business.
The rule is this: “every great business started small”. Jumia was started in a motor park in Lagos, Nigeria same way Steve Jobs and Woczniack started Apple back in the days.
If you start off high because you want to impress people, there will be nothing to impress them with few years down the line as the business would have packed up, or sold to a better manager.
Have Realistic Expectations:
It takes an average of 5-7 years to build a firm business with potential of becoming a global success. The years before then are the formative years during which you have to tinker with several ideas. Some will work, many will not. A laundry guy once wrote to me complaining he has been running the business for two months and yet, barely makes reasonable sales. Perhaps he should lower his standard and prices than his competitors in order to boost sales.
My advice to him: don’t lower your standard out of desperation. It’s only two months, not two years. Most of your customers will come from referrals and repeat business. This is only possible if you maintain your standard.
When I started this blog, I wasn’t expecting it to start generating millions immediately. My vision of providing solutions to people’s financial and business challenges drive my passion for the site.
Money will come when you start adding values to people’s lives through your business on a consistent basis.
Don’t Invest All That You Have:
I know the hallmark of business is taking risks. However there are good and there are foolish risks. I don’t advise you invest all your savings in a venture because investment is 90% based on faith; the belief that it will succeed and your return on investment would skyrocket.
There is every possibility also that the investment might fail and if you have invested all you have in the project, then the effect of failure on you will be massive. So it is always better to invest wisely, spend money you know you should be able to recover from, if you lose it.
Have A Good Financial Integrity:
The essence of business is to build a brand and make money over time. Any business can only be kept alive if there is liquidity of cash in the business. As an entrepreneur, a skill you must possess is the ability to be prudent when it comes to your finances. Don’t spend for the sake of spending. Your staff and clients must be able to trust you with monetary matters; that is when you can be entrusted with bigger business projects to handle.
Always Evaluate Your Actual Performance and Work To Improve:
This skill is extremely important for every entrepreneur. You must constantly evaluate your business’s performance and map out strategies to perform even better.
I have seen entrepreneurs who were so sure that the business was doing well and making profits, when in actual sense, the business was making loses. I have seen entrepreneurs who cannot comprehend what business balance sheets are, who cannot calculate their profit and loss margin.
Yet they go out every day, spend hours running the business without understanding the basic fundamentals of running a business.
Every serious entrepreneur should be curious and must be a learner. He must be open-minded to learn new things and improve the situation of the business and himself for future investments.
Don’t Stop Researching And Seeking Knowledge:
The final point I will make is you must never stop to research and seek knowledge from those who have gone ahead of you in the niche in which you are trying to carve out a name for yourself.
A rule of thumb is: there is no challenge you are undergoing today that others before you didn’t underwent. So learn their lessons, how they were able to overcome the experience and you would have shortened the time to wallow in such challenge by a great deal.