Happy New Year once again. We are at the start of a new decade and with 2019 gone, it is time to quickly reflect on the past year and past goals, then spend time forging a better path for the new year and a new decade. Remember vision 2020? Now is the time!
The purpose of this article is to share with you my 2019 experience setting up a business, the challenges involved in building a start-up in Nigeria and suggest strategies to win entrepreneurship battles. It is my hope that this piece will encourage young creatives, entrepreneurs and innovators who are really concerned about where we are as a country and are passionate about making a positive change.
My 2019 reflections building NEO360 Africa
I started 2019 with so much passion, zeal and desire to make a positive difference in how small businesses access growth capital in Nigeria. Not just to improve their brand but also the economy at large. Small businesses create two out of every three new jobs in Nigeria! Despite this, they are often overlooked and underserved.
When I returned to Nigeria after completing my Master’s degree in International Banking and Finance from the UK I found out that so many small businesses are denied access to finance by banks and other financial institutions simply because they are “small” and banks majorly lend to the big businesses or rather focus on risk-free assets.
Soon enough, I found statistics from the World Bank and Central Bank of Nigeria which emphasized the bank’s “big boys game” which apparently intensified after the Nigerian financial crisis. I decided to face the challenge head-on and provide a sustainable solution to it.
I wanted a change and I wanted it fast; until I started fighting a lot of serious battles myself all year round. You will agree with me that starting a business in a complex environment like Nigeria is really a big deal; most especially a business put together to solve a major problem.
Nigeria recently improved its ranking on the 2020 World Bank ease of doing business index, but I agree with analysts who’ve argued that that doesn’t necessarily mean an improved economy – and that the country still has many anti-business policies.
These anti-business policies are real. Towards the end of 2019, I found this quote and it comforted me, “We may not have the power to create the world we want immediately, but we can all start working on the long term today” – Mark Zuckerberg… this led me to reflect on Mark Zuckerberg’s story focused on when Facebook started.
How to get started… Executing your ideas
Let me tell you a secret of life. Anytime you set a goal in life, so many obstacles will come your way to distract you. If you are not mentally tough, you will not achieve your goal. Hear me! It takes a very strong will to persevere through whatever obstacles may come your way. Whatever your goal is, you must be either passionate about it or extremely determined to achieve it. There must be something pushing you to achieve – if not, you will quit. The bottom line, you must have a ‘why’ for getting up every morning and executing until you see the end.
For me, I am extremely radical about my goals in life. I have written down ten things I want to accomplish by His grace before I leave this planet. Do you have any goals? Have you prioritized your goals? Do you have an action plan? Do you have timelines attached to each goal? Keep in mind that your goals must be tied to your overall purpose in life. For me, I have defined a singular purpose for my life and all the ten goals are directed towards achieving that purpose. What is your purpose in life? 9 out of 10 people cannot answer this question.
Okay, let’s discuss how to get started
Once you have identified an area, a business model or path you may like to tread, it is very important to take some time off to do a lot of research. As an innovator, you definitely should not be going the incumbent way. Doing things differently should be your focus. Through research, a single unique idea from your observations can build cities. Just that little ‘distinctive’ idea of yours can transform the world and renew all the rules.
2. Start Small
Start. Start Immediately! Don’t wait till it’s perfect because it will never be perfect anyway. Start talking to potential customers, suppliers or manufacturers as the case may be. I know you want to build a great business. I know you need an office; a fantastic website; a super team; great technology; huge capital, etc. but you’ll never get started if you’re waiting to have all that in place before you start.
Start in a small space. Start with your friend, start with your little savings. Always remember to start small – take one step at a time. Don’t overburden yourself wanting to achieve everything at once – doing it that way, you will get burnt out before you even see any sign of success.
Some obstacles you may face on your entrepreneurship journey and the right strategies to win…
1. Your thoughts are consequently your emotions
I have often said that the way a man/woman thinks is his/her greatest problem. Deal with your thoughts head-on. A lot of people have self-defeating thoughts. The first thing you must do is get rid of the thought that “it cannot be done.” Learn to think big! This is not cliché. Even if it is, some clichés are to be taken seriously because they are right. Come up with a plan and pursue it with vehemence! Confront the facts no matter how brutal.
2. Lack of knowledge about the subject matter you are dealing with
Lack of knowledge about something related to the business you’re building? Try using Google or YouTube – you will be amazed at what you will find. Again, do lots of research. Do not live in the dark. There is nothing you are dealing with that is not on the internet.
We are in the “knowledge” era and with an abundance of free knowledge, there are no excuses left. Along the way, take courses on innovation, critical thinking and emotional intelligence. Any business will definitely benefit from these nuggets.
3. Lack of finances
This reminds me of the lyrics in Abba’s song Money, Money, Money – “All the things I could do, if I had a little money, it’s a rich man’s world!” Have you heard of OPM – “other people’s money?” If you have integrity and are willing to work hard, someone will help you. Who are the people in your network? Trust me, there is always a way out. Before I started my business, I had done a lot of work for free in order to build social capital. Today, it is paying off.
If you don’t have the social capital to build off of, that’s where peer-to-peer lending companies like my brainchild NEO360 comes in. NEO360 was created to fill the funding gap that exists for small businesses by connecting credible SMEs with accredited investors.
4. No solid relationships
If you are married, your greatest cheerleader should be your spouse. Do not joke with him or her. What about business partners? Relationships are key and emotional intelligence (EI) plays a vital role in our relationships. To be successful in business, you have to build great relationships and improve EI.
Conclusion and strategic opinion for 2020
As you continue to grow your business, don’t just prepare for 2020, prepare for 2030. The next decade is the decade of decades. So much will happen in the next 10 years that will change the course of the human race. From Africa to Asia, the Americas to Europe, the world will experience such monumental changes, more than we have ever seen; at least in recent times.
As you set goals, set 10-year goals, not just one-year goals. Imagine yourself in December 2029 (trust me it’s closer than you realize. I remember 2009 like yesterday). Where would you want to be?
In my humble opinion, that’s how you should approach the next decade. If you’re 20, where do you see yourself at 30? If you’re 30, what does your 40 looks like? If you’re 40, imagine your 50th birthday! This is of course not a prescription but rather a solid piece of advice. The next chapter of life requires you to be fully present and you can’t be if you’re constantly thinking about the pains of the past.
5 things that have helped me move beyond the pain of the past…
- Write down lessons from past experiences – Losses are lessons only if we identify what we’ve gained.
- Identify your values and feed them – Dedicating time and/or money to the areas you value helps push you forward. It gives you more knowledge of self, more confidence, more self-acceptance and therefore more excitement to live your new day.
- Affirmations – Daily for several years I’ve said many things I want to achieve in life repeatedly and before I know it, the forces of life act on it to make it a reality.
- Give – Giving makes us feel good and focuses us on the present (and other people). This works 100% of the time for me. Whenever I feel myself going backwards or dwelling in the past, I give and it refocuses me. Many times, I give my time to the services of others. Giving is not limited to material things.
- Talk to mentors – The issues of life may get very hard at some point; speak to people who are ahead of you, those you can trust. When going through hard times, always remember that not all storms come to disrupt your life, some come to clear your path. Your mindset is half the battle. Choose to grow through the experience, not simply go through it. Courage doesn’t mean you don’t get afraid – courage means you don’t let fear stop you from moving forward.
Don’t wait for things to get easier. Don’t wait for things to get simpler. Don’t wait for approval. Make your move, take risks and build your dreams now.
Finally, remember to be consistent in your approach to building the business of your dreams.
Photo Courtesy Ifeoluwa Osakuade
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Osakuade Ifeoluwa is a finance and investment expert, who recently concluded a Masters degree in International Banking and Finance from the UK. His overriding philosophy is termed Africapitalism, an economic philosophy that embodies the private sector's commitment to the economic transformation of Africa through long-term investments that create both economic prosperity and social wealth. He is a philanthropist who believes every child should have the right to quality education no matter their socio-economic status. Within the last 12 months, Ife's foundation has been able to sponsor and enroll 123 less privileged children to school. At Style Rave, we aim to inspire our readers by providing engaging content to not just entertain but to inform and empower you as you ASPIRE to become more stylish, live smarter and be healthier. Follow us on Instagram @StyleRave_ ♥