Okay everyone, I have just one request on this post: Try not to get bored with the introduction. I know most of you aren’t really into technical definitions, but it’s reeeeally important that we have a common foundation first. Okay? We good?? That’s right… Leggo!
Now the word ‘Enterprise’ refers to a company, business, organization or any other purposeful endeavor. For the purpose of this post, I’ll stick to enterprise development as it relates to building a profitable business. Generally speaking, there are two kinds of enterprises: Micro enterprises having 5 or fewer employees and requiring less capital for commencement, and Macro enterprises having 6 employees and above and requiring much larger capital for commencement. Now have no doubts, dear reader, starting a business, whether micro or macro is not for the faint hearted, especially in Africa, particularly in Nigeria where you are faced with a trailer-load of odds to conquer including basics such as uninterrupted power, access to credit and effective business mentoring. Despite the odds, there remain a valiant few who seek to be conquerors of the status quo and are faced with just one throbbing question:
“How Exactly Do I Start???”
I’m going to adopt a bare bones approach towards answering your question beyond what the Harvard Business Reviews would tell you (don’t get me wrong, I read a lot of them, that’s how I know what’s in there in the first place) :D.
- FIND A NEED: This may sound cliche but it is actually the defining factor of your business. This need that your business will fill is actually what is referred to as your Value Proposition, that specific problem that your business is solving for your current and prospective customers in a creative and different way. The easiest way to find what need it is you wish to fill is to seek out something that frustrates you. It is said that your greatest frustration is oftentimes the problem you were created to solve. The greatest companies were founded by individuals who simply had a deep-seated frustration about something. For Steve Jobs, it was humanizing technology and making it more intuitive… That gave birth to Apple Inc. For Roy Raymond, it was simply finding a way for married men to buy lingerie for their wives without feeling embarrassed about it… that gave birth to Victoria’s Secret, a billion dollar company. For my Nigerian friend Silas Okwoche, his motivation is to make mobile technology more relevant and supportive to local innovation across emerging markets, that is giving birth to possibly the biggest revolution in mobile technology in Africa called Nerve. The greatest of businesses/inventions were always created in response to a particular problem, even the simplest ones. So you want to start a business? Find a problem.
- FOCUS ONLY ON IDEAS THAT YOU HAVE THE SKILLS FOR: Kick starting any business venture requires practically EVERYTHING from the founder(s)… and by everything I mean your time, money, expertise, blood, sweat and tears… and yes by Tears I actually mean Tears. Frankly speaking, it will be equal to signing your death warrant if the business you intend to build is completely outside your immediate area of skill or knowledge. In simple terms, if the success of your idea/business is dependent on a third party, it is a failure waiting to happen. It is also very cost effective at the beginning to be able to execute at least most of the initial tasks involved in the establishment of your business without having to pay someone else to do it. So you want to start something? Acquire the skills and knowledge necessary for that venture so you can cut costs, avoid intellectual property theft and other related possibilities. Having basic knowledge of crucial areas of your business will also help you to delegate duties properly.
- LEVERAGE ON SUPPORT SYSTEMS: Finding start-up capital is mostly always an impediment for most would-be entrepreneurs. Over time though, it has been proven that the easiest and most reliable source of start-up capital is Friends and Family (F & F). They love you (generally) and believe in your dreams (sometimes) therefore are more likely to be willing to part with sizeable amounts of money for that experimental venture of yours. Now this is not a ticket for you to go mediocre on planning, you must prepare a detailed BUSINESS PLAN (more on that later) and make a solid presentation before them like you were pitching to VCs (Venture Capitalists: The people with briefcases asking you tonnes of questions without a guarantee of investment in your business). Your attention to detail and presentation will convince them that you are determined to make your business a profitable venture.
- DELAY GRATIFICATION: There’s an African saying that goes ‘If you do not make plans for money, money will make plans for itself”. When you get going, keep your expenses on the low. You don’t want to eat your seed before it germinates. Make plans for money, keep a detailed journal of your expenses. Thanks to technology it’s easier to keep records these days. You can make use of productivity apps such as Evernote, Any.do or the Notes app on your Android, iPhone or tablet. Whatever you do, separate your personal expense from the business expense and let the money you have received as support for your business be spent strictly to get it off the ground.
- START: This point needs no further ado. In practice, there is never a completely perfect time to start executing on your ideas. The longer you take the get anything done, the less likely you are to ever get it done. So you’ve identified a problem, spotted your area of strength, planned and sourced for finances, wait no further, let the rubber hit the road and give pedal to the metal… START.
- BUILD PEOPLE SKILLS: It is said that the easiest way to get something done is to do it yourself right? Wrong! The easiest way to get something done is to train other people to do it better on your behalf. It makes processes faster, encourages breakdown of tasks and ensures sustainability whether you are present or not. Also, you have to network like your life depends on it… because it actually does. Often times the success of a business is only as strong as its relationships. So find the right people and maintain strong relationships. You’ll do just fine.
See you on Forbes List!