6 Things You Need To Know Before Starting A Nigerian Business

The Nigerian author, Ayo Sogunro wrote a book titled, Everything in Nigeria Is Going to Kill You, as unpatriotic as it sounds, I somewhat agree with him. The system in Nigeria works against it citizens, the odds are constantly against you. Not to digress from the topic and start a rant about the dire situation of things in Nigeria. The bottom line is doing business in Nigeria can be an absolute nightmare if you do not know how to navigate the system to your advantage.

I came up with a few pointers every Nigerian entrepreneur should bear in mind for their business.

Get The Basics Sorted

Majority of Nigerian small businesses are not incorporated and do not operate a business bank account. In order to ensure the longevity of a business, one has to put the proper structures in place, hire a lawyer to assist with company incorporation and setting up the proper structure for your company from the ground up. Also, it is imperative you have your books in order, if you cannot afford an accountant to manage your finances, use a book keeping application till you can afford accounting services.

The Nigerian in you might want to skip all these steps and run your business as you wish. I can authoritatively tell you that is a recipe for disaster, skipping the basics has killed several Nigerian businesses. If your aim is to build a business that would survive the Nigerian business terrain, get the basics sorted and maintain a proper organisation structure.

Protect Yourself With Contracts

A non-disclosure agreement should be signed before discussing your ideas at length with anyone. If you are discussing business ideas with someone other than your team, do not disclose your trade secret or your unique selling point.

If your business is a partnership, have your lawyer draft a shareholder’s agreement, have all directors roles clearly stated and documented with a binding contract to avoid issues of conflict. At the genesis of Facebook, the Winklevoss twins discussed their idea with Mark Zuckerberg without having a proper contract in place. This led to a court case which the twins won and got a huge settlement, however that doesn’t compare to being CEO of Facebook and sitting on a billionaire-dollar empire.

Build a Dedicated Loyal Team

Richard Branson says, clients do not come first. Employees come first. If you take care of your employees, they will take care of the clients. In Nigeria, its difficult finding workers with good work ethic, dedication and skill to work to the capacity that would take your business to the level it should be.

Nigerian employers often get carried away with the hiring and firing game, thinking that no one is indispensable asides the CEO. It is a disservice to your company if you develop a reputation as an organisation where staff do not stay for long, at the same time, do not accept mediocre work from your employees. Nonetheless, it is vital to build a core team of employees who believe in your business vision, possess the skill and are dedicated to deliver great service that would drive your company’s success.

Get Your Financials In Order

If you are not an accountant, do not attempt to handle the finances of your business by yourself. Even if you are the most certified accountant on earth, delegate financial management to an accounting firm or an in-house accountant.

In the first year of your business, you may get away with doing your accounts yourself, however if you want your business to grow to full capacity, learn to delegate. Several small businesses are running from the personal account of the CEO, this is wrong on so many levels. You should see your business as an entity that exists outside of you, your aim should be for your business to grow beyond you, hence your financials should not be run as a personal fund.

Most importantly, ensure you have enough funding for the business you are about to start and enough savings to fall back on if things do not pan out as planned.

Be Realistic With Your Business Idea

I have witnessed several business ideas that were successful in America or the UK being implemented in Nigeria and failing to attain that same level of success here. It may sound cool saying you want to start a business selling fur to musicians to use for their music videos and red carpet appearances because your cousin’s classmate in America did the same and has “blown”. You may have the business plan written out and a few supporters encouraging your folly, this idea would obviously never work in Nigeria, as the climate does not agree for your product to sell at all.

Do your market research to ascertain if there is a demand for your products or services. Understand the different demographics that need your products and develop the best strategy to reach them. Most importantly, your business has to offer value to your customers, always leave your clients feeling like they got value for their money.

Find Your Tribe

As an entrepreneur, there are several problems you would encounter that you might assume are unique to you. That is usually not the case, there are other entrepreneurs and career people who have experienced the same issues you are dealing with. Connect with people who are focused and as ambitious as yourself, the people you spend time with and the conversations you engage in will feed your focus and fuel your aspirations. Bouncing your ideas off people you trust would help you streamline your thoughts and goals you should focus on, it would also hold you accountable to said goals.


5 Remarkable Ways Your Job Prepares You For Entrepreneurship

You feel it inside, there’s a fire burning in you.

You know you can’t work for others forever. It may be fine for now, but not for long. The entrepreneur life awaits you.

You dream of being self-employed, working on your passion project, flexible working hours and not being stuck in traffic.

You were born to do this. You can feel it in your heart.

However, there is one teeny weeny problem. You are completely clueless on how to start your business. You also have a crippling fear that you may fail in your entrepreneurial venture.

Well, I’ve got great news for you. There are skills and characteristics that can develop you to be a successful entrepreneur. The best part is you can acquire these skills at your current 9-5 job.

Here are five ways to learn the ropes of entrepreneurship while working for someone else.


Research Before You Leap

According to Fortune Magazine, over 42% of businesses fail because there is no market need for the product or service they are offering. Researching in Nigeria can be a nightmare, as there is little or no data to help you make decisive conclusions. You can circumvent this by using your 9-5 to identify a niche and determine the market demand, assuming you want to start a business in your current industry. Speak with professionals in your field to identify what motivates and challenges them.

At the end of it all, you will find a target market and understand the challenges that lie ahead. Most importantly, be patient and make the most of your current stability as the entrepreneurial journey can get financially tough.


Develop Your Skills

Starting a business would not be all about using only your technical skills. It would entail finance, marketing, human resources, operations and several more. You can learn all of this at your 9-5 job. Develop your core competencies by showing your desire to improve your skills or participating in training courses. Study your bosses to understand the different angles of running a business and speak to your mentor, if you have one.

Develop your communication skills too. The most common trait in all entrepreneurs is the ability to communicate effectively. This is a vital skill for convincing customers, investors, employees and other stakeholders to understand and buy into your vision.


Network, Network, Network!

Most people find it difficult to network, but it is so essential to the growth of your business that you do some form of networking. Even leading business owners and influencers continue to network with others.

Working in an organisation presents huge opportunities for you to connect with people that can get you to the next level. Take advantage of this to engage with leaders and influencers in your field, and most importantly, try not to be too sales-y and self-promotional.

Perfect the art of creating value, people you approach will see this and your networking will pay off. It will help you get constructive feedback on your business ideas and would give you the necessary visibility your business would need.


Stop Waiting, Start Doing

Arthur Ashe, a prolific tennis player and 3-time Grand Slam winner said, “Start where you are, use what you have, do what you can. Success is a journey not a destination, the doing is often more important than the outcome”.

Write down a plan as soon as the idea pops up in your head, don’t wait till you feel you’re ready to plan. Stop worrying about financial projections and business models for the time being, work on your business model as you progress. Start with the basics, testing your business offerings with a few clients, listen to feedback and iterate while resolving the flaws in your business model.

Gain as much experience as you need at a 9-5 job, apply this knowledge and progress.


Build up your Perseverance

The thought of being your own boss is tempting to everyone, it’s exciting but entrepreneurship is incredibly gruesome, especially in Nigeria where the ease of doing business is akin to filling up a basket with water. Only the toughest survive longer than two years, I’m sure we all know a story of someone who started a business and it didn’t pan out so well. Your 9-5 will teach you how to be resilient and perseverant.

Stay in paid employment till you are absolutely certain you are ready to take the plunge. Build up your mental strength to get through the inevitable stormy days. Workout regularly, eat healthy and make sure you have a support system of people that you can count on. Pace yourself and focus on the big picture.

In conclusion, entrepreneurship is easier and works best when you already know the ropes of business. It’s best to learn hands on, as long-term success comes with preparation.

Dedicate yourself to your 9-5 job. Understand the processes, pay attention to the things unspoken, that you would not learn in a classroom or on a blog. Pay attention to what works or what doesn’t – and you might find a better way of doing things.

Your goal should be to become a successful, value-creating entrepreneur – keep it to yourself though, please don’t get fired. Remember that your dreams and goals need you to lay the foundation to achieve them, let that motivate to keep you going.

A Guide To Help You Invest In Yourself

I am an ardent advocate of constant personal development. It stems from the realisation that having goals and ambition is one thing, achieving them is another.

How do you ensure you’re making progress? What checks do you have in place to check yourself? The worst way to measure progress or success is by comparing yourself to people around, because people in your circle are most likely doing the exact thing you’re doing, it’s called a circle for a reason! In what way are you constantly bettering yourself?

The major pointers to bear in mind when developing yourself are to find a mentor, find what works for you, network, find people you can talk about your business or career with, make time for yourself, exude confidence, and most importantly get your own money! I elaborated on a few of the points below.


Find A Mentor

A mentor does not necessary have to be someone older than you, but someone that takes out time to listen to your ideas, give you honest feedback and holds you accountable to achieving your set goals. A mentor could be your colleague or friend (P.S. one that you’re not romantically involved with), that checks that you are getting closer to your goals. For me, I recently set up weekly check-ins with my colleague, Kemi that we call “strategy sessions” where she tells me her ideas and I tell her mine, then we both go over steps that need to be taken during the week to achieve our goals. Basically, someone that holds you accountable and calls you out when you are slacking.

However, a mentor in the traditional sense of the word, is someone with more experience, who can help you build your career, climb up the corporate ladder, put together a business plan or write a proposal. For example, Arese Ugwu, the Smart Money woman always credits Tara Fela-Durotoye as one of her mentors who helped her craft and launch her brand. To be honest, it all comes down to your drive and passion, a mentor would not baby you all through your career, but would offer advice and guidance when necessary.



A great network is the fastest way to build a solid foundation for your business or career. I am always open to networking opportunities, because that “your network is your net worth” cliché is a tried, tested and effective principle. Who you know can be instrumental in getting you closer to your goals, especially in this part of the world. I know some people may not socially active like I am, but you just have to figure out how to meet the right people, maybe try networking online. Nigerians may not be eager to respond, but when networking, don’t focus on what the other person can do for you, focus on building a relationship with that person.

I read somewhere that 70% of jobs are gotten through networking, certainly, walking into a room full of strangers can be daunting, however it can lead to great friendships and fruitful business opportunities.

Prepare your networking strategy before you do any anything. Invest time into perfecting your elevator pitch and do a little research on the career of the person you want to connect with. If you are always on your networking game like I am, you would most likely make connections in the most unexpected places, like in a restaurant or at the airport. Be open, you never know who you’ll meet and how they’ll impact on your life.


Keep Learning Constantly

Just because you’ve graduated doesn’t mean you shouldn’t learn something new. Learn a new language – Halo, Duolingo! Learn how to code – Codeacademy! Take online courses on management or branding or any subject area related to your field – Coursera.

Also staying aware of current events and reading as much as possible is vital to your constant learning process. Sign up for a book club – I am subscribed to the @TheReadClub on Twitter, where I get sent four free books monthly :). Signup for newsletters like @naijastartups, @thestarta to keep yourself updated. If your career isn’t going as planned, read a book about it, Sheryl Sandberg, Hillary Clinton and Richard Branson have all written books to help you with your career and business.

5 Tips For Launching A Successful Business

When you start your own company, you would definitely receive tons of unsolicited advice. Some good, some awful, but majority of it will come from people who are completely clueless about what it takes to run a profitable business. The internet isn’t much help either, a simple Google search would release a barrage of articles on what to do and how to do it, just like the one you’re reading right now. My advice to new business owners is not to overthink or overanalyse everything, here are a few fundamental tips on how to start your business.


Start with a plan

Some say a fully detailed business plan is not necessary at the start of every business venture, however it is important that you write down how you intend to solve the challenges ahead. You should include your business goal or mission, define all opportunities you’ve recognised, describe your target market or audience, establish measurable targets, create timeframes to achieve milestones that would lead to your goals. The importance of having a properly articulated plan cannot be ignored, however your plan needs to make room for flexibility to change course when the need arises.



Until your business is fully established you’ll need to do all your marketing by word-of-mouth. The best way to do this is by networking. By being your own brand ambassador, publicising the advantages of working with your business or buying your products, people would get to see why they should give you a chance.

Be your own hype man. There are loads of events out there and networking opportunities that exist to connect with other entrepreneurs and professionals. These connections can lead to strategic partnership opportunities, new clients, mentors and new evangelists of your business that would help you grow. Remember to keep in touch with people you meet at events by exchanging contacts or following each other on social media. If you are a shy person, you can skip the events and do your networking by being visible and active on social media.


Build your dream team

Great mentors and strategic partners can only get you so far if you do not have a great team behind your business. Build your team with driven, smart and talented employees who share your vision, as they would transform your business and they will fast-track its growth. Ensure you create a culture that cultivates teamwork by hiring employees with a positive, can-do spirit. An environment in which everyone participates, would build a company where you can collectively celebrate your company’s victories.


Live in the present, think in the future

Focusing on the day-to-day would have you entrenched in the present when you need to constantly be ahead of the curve. The importance of bearing the future in mind cannot be overemphasised, stay informed and pay attention to innovations in your industry. You would fall behind if you are not accurately predicting the next big thing. Successful business owners study trends and foresee what’s coming next, this allows them adapt and evolve without breaking stride.

Reading industry relevant articles and websites would keep you aware of new developments in your field. Being aware of industry changes makes it easy to predict what customers will want in the near future and also know what your competitors next move might be.


Maintain a healthy work-life balance

Building a successful business demands a lot of time and energy which can be telling on your health. It is of utmost necessity that one finds a healthy work-life balance, although this maybe challenging, as it is easy to let work govern your life, don’t. Bear in mind those who are most important – family and friends. Take care of your physical and mental health, your new business cannot run without you. Every new business needs that constant hustle to break even and succeed, however, if you do not pace yourself, you will burn out, putting off how much you can achieve if you were 100% healthy.



The Role of Business Development in SMEs and Startups

The title of business development (BD) is ending up increasingly common in companies. For some odd reason, very few people recognize what it really is. In all honesty, business development can be difficult to explain. Commonly, the role of BD can incorporate a wide range of activities like content management, strategic partnerships, product development, monetization, and occasionally acquisitions. In any case, it fluctuates depending on the industry and the size of the company.

For instance, in a tech start-up, BD would be involved in creating strategy, customer acquisition, marketing, handling client relationships and sometimes social media management. In a larger company, BD might involve maintaining client relationships and nothing more.

Asides these role definitions, in its most straightforward form, BD can be depicted as moving companies towards their goals by building business relationships. Although, this definition is overly simplified. Delving in a bit deeper, I’ve found that BD at new businesses can be refined down to two essential duties.


Focusing on the Company’s Goals

A lack of focus on your company goals can cripple your business before it starts. Notwithstanding your size or industry, you would probably get unlimited solicitations to “collaborate”. As cool as that sounds, 9 times out of 10, it’s probably not profitable. Many new businesses haven’t properly defined their goals or done their research to truly understand the organizations that they’re hoping to partner with. As a Business Developer, one of the essential parts is knowing how to sniff out the business deals that will distract you from your main goal and detect the ones that can take your business to a higher level.

Building BD at new companies is based on the companies’ goals. Goals can be precise and specific like building a platform to stream movies (like Iroko TV or Netflix) or more broad things like posting images on an app to generate a following, build a brand, advertise or archive pictures (like Instagram). The company goal is the end game, and the responsibility of BD is to bridge the gap. The gap is filled by figuring out which business deals can enable your company to accomplish its goals and above all, how might you bring them closer to their objectives.


Building Relationships

The most important role of Business Development in any company is building and maintaining relationships. Most business developers are similar to salesmen, in the sense that they are good at closing deals, however a salesman would close a deal and move on, business developer will close a deal and focus on cultivating a relationship with the client that can result in more deals and bigger opportunities. The benefits of maintaining relationships with your suppliers and your customers abound, it boosts confidence in your business, helps your brand image, creates more business opportunities, keeps your customers happy and gives you, the business owner a sense of fulfilment.


P.S. Want to learn more about how to do Business Development for your business? Drop me an email tolani@tolanithomas.com.

The Epiphany

Sitting at the back of my Uber, I realize if I never start, I would never achieve any of my dreams. If I keep waiting for the right moment, when I have this amount in bank account, when my LinkedIn experience section is a mile long, when my business has grossed $1 million in revenue, then I’ll start. Wrong.

Most people are guilty of this mindset, waiting for the right time to get started on that awesome idea. What if you fail you said? Well, every legend you look up to has failed at something at some point in their lives. There’s nothing wrong with failure, it is the lesson you take from the experience that matters the most. We live in a world that is obsessed with success, that’s what is known as the survivorship bias, google it. For every success story, there are a thousand people who attempted a similar idea and failed (okay maybe not a thousand, but you get the picture).

Where am I going with this? This is not an attempt to motivate you, if you like, don’t move, you’re not a tree. Millennials have huge delusions of grandeur and constantly expect instant gratification for every miniscule attempt they make at working hard, when the world doesn’t actually work that way. Look at your lightbulb, the guy that created that little piece of genius attempted it 1000 times! That is the kind of perseverance one must have to make an impact and go from awesome idea to amazing product.

In conclusion, I would say for every idea you have, write it down and make sure you do something every day to bring yourself closer to your goal. Like me, I aspire to be a business mogul, founding small businesses that become conglomerates, this is my first step.