Zuckerberg, Influence and a new opportunity for Nigeria

Anyone who does not know the power of influence, just watch the proceedings of Mark Zuckerberg’s visit through sub-Saharan Africa and the impact it should have over the next few years.

His visit has captured the attention of everyone young enough to be an active user of social media within Nigeria and made the headlines of both CNN and BBC. Meaning that all watchers of the tech world took a turn and looked at Nigeria. Not just that, all of Facebook’s competitors would have their antennae sharpened as Mark is clearly engaging and having a foothold in a market that could be the next growth vista for the tech world. 170 million people, a very youthful population, this might be the first time that Nigeria has actively made use of it’s famed energy and entrepreneurial spirit (which he streesed at every stage of his visit) to command the attention it should rightly receive in business and across the globe.

safe_imageThe beauty of this lies in the fact that this was not due to an initiative directly driven by the government, it is the work over several short years of hard grafting and entrepreneurial young Nigerian minds. In one moment both Co Creation Hub and Andela became global brands; it will be interesting if these two companies will use analytic tools and other metrics to see what additional traction this visit has brought them in terms of website visits from international markets; I am convinced they will trace the sources of several of the new visitors down to silicon valley.

Well done to all the pioneer entrepreneurs of the Nigerian tech sector. And if you read my blog, join me in calling for a national honour for the foremost leaders and pioneers of the tech innovations particularly the founders of Co- Creation Hub and Andela. Finally we have a good reason for the world to take interest in Nigeria again in a long time, I hope this promise will be fulfilled.

Why Arsenal Football Club is my Model for Business Success

Let me say in the very first sentence of this piece that I am an  unapologetic fan of Arsenal Football Club.  Now that we’ve taken my bias out of the way let me tell you the fact that makes that club my model for sustained long-term success in a challenging and very competitive (business) League.


Of course we have to start by congratulating Leicester City Football Club on winning the Premier League in 2016.  I saw a list of the clubs that have won the Premier League in the last 20 years and of course Manchester United dominated lots of those years under  Sir Alex Ferguson,  Chelsea was about the next dominant Force and then Arsenal and Manchester City.

In business,  I will opt for the Arsenal model.

So many people who in life and in business prioritize winning; and by winning I mean at the very front, being the top most, the most successful,  then probably Manchester United will be your cup of tea. However when I think in terms of success I see that 2013  and the end of the Ferguson era has been the last time United ever matched it’s performances of usually been the first or second in the league and they even dropped down to 7th at a time, I wonder.  

Chelsea,  powered by the very self confident Jose Murhino dominated the league for a while,  but they are in mid table in this 2016 season.

Chelsea,  powered by the very self confident Jose Murhino dominated the league for a while,  but they are in mid table in this 2016 season.  Manchester City is the new kid on the block,  the jury is still out on the team that will be led by the world’s most expensive coach in the next season. Arsenal however has stayed between the 1st and 4th positions consistently  for 20 years. In my technical field of quality assurance, we will say that it has been the club with the least process variation or the one with the most precision.

In business,  I will opt for the Arsenal model.  Not the boom and burst of Chelsea,  unsecured leadership transition of Manchester United,  and the sudden artificial financial boom that currently makes Manchester City a competitive club, let’s hope the oil price does not affect the Sheikh’s ability to pump money into the club..


Football aside,  I choose the  Pursuit of consistent, replicable, sustainable success  over any kind of boom and burst  wins.  While the road to initial success in business is hard and actually breaks many,  even at that stage (of starting and building) one needs to set up and position oneself for long-term success,  such that 20, 30,  40 years from now,  the business exists and and it’s sustained and perhaps has the potential to outlive its founders.  When you are in it for such a long run as  I am describing,  you think differently, you plan differently,  you seek long-term wins,  long term relationships,  sustainable business models.  You may not be the first,  but you will be at the top end of the game for a long long time.

Back to football,  I am cross with  Arsene Wenger,  Arsenal need to be back winning the league.


Why Start up Businesses Fail? Top 3 reasons from 3 top business mentors

I asked 3 leading start-up business mentors to tell me the top 3 reasons why they think start-up businesses fail.  I will straight away give you the reasons provided by each mentor,  as I haven’t however requested permission to identify them as the providers of this information I will simply identify them as Mentors A, B and C, note that between them, these mentors have over 40 years of mentoring experience. Fasten your seat belts.

Mentor A –

  • Lack of Planning
  • Lack of Passion and Drive
  • Lack of Experience

Mentor B-

  • Lack of planning
  • Lack of resources (not just financial)
  • Lack of persistence

Mentor C-

  • Poorly thought through decision to leave employment and get into business
  • No written business plan or financial projections
  • Unprofitable pricing structure (You need to calculate your break-even price and NEVER charge below this)

I am amazed at the common trend of ‘planning’, otherwise known as business planning or in it’s most simplistic format, a simple business plan is on thread that cuts across

I am amazed at the common trend of ‘planning’, otherwise known as business planning or in it’s most simplistic format, a simple business plan is on thread that cuts across. And I know how many aspiring business people might not generally like what they consider paperwork; but hey, that is the reason why several of the folks who have tried before us failed.

I have a documented business plan, but following this feedback, I will surely be reviewing it a lot more regularly than I do. Your business plan need not be war and peace, it could just be a 3 page document- it is quality over quantity that matters in a business plan.

Some guy named Osterwalder, created some nine building blocks of what is required for your business  or planned business to function, I have copied it down below for your attention courtesy http://www.entrepreneurmag.co.za/

Create a one page document that answers these questions in as much detail and as thoroughly thought through as you can, you will have your first business plan in place, no matter how crude. All the best!20151102_120501

9 Building Blocks of a Business Plan

  1. Customer Segments: Who are your mass and niche markets?
  2. Value Proposition: What are you offering and why are you different?
  3. Channels: Look at the phases your product goes through. This is everything from awareness and distribution to after-sales service.
  4. Customer Relationships: How are you building relationships with customers and is it working?
  5. Revenue Streams: Look at what you are charging and if you could be charging more. How are you receiving your payments and does it contribute enough to overall revenue?
  6. Key Resources: What resources do you require to function? These can include physical, human, financial and intellectual.
  7. Key Activities: Ask yourself what activities need to take place in order to deliver on your value proposition?
  8. Key Partnerships: Write down who your key suppliers and partners are and how they contribute to your overall goals.
  9. Cost Structure: Look at fixed and variable costs so that you can see what can be improved upon.

5 things I did wrong early in my business journey.

  1.  Marketing an unproven product or service

Have you ever heard somebody say that “I am starting a business I am just waiting for the business card to arrive from the printers so that I can get started”.  Nowadays if I hear that from an aspiring business person I become sceptical about the chance of ultimate success. Starting running and growing a business has little or nothing to do with business cards!


It  has nothing to do with a good looking website,  if you do not believe me check out this website  http://www.berkshirehathaway.com/ , I believe it’s one of the worst business websites I’ve seen,  but you might be surprised to know  that that website is the primary business of the world’s most successful investor and one of the top ten richest men in the world today Warren Buffett.

warren buffet

Before any marketing the first task used to prove your product or service in the marketplace and obtain  feedback,  improve the product or service and  then obtain if you references in whatever format that maybe;  then maybe you now have something to market.

It has nothing to do with a good looking website

  1. Competing on Price

Whoever told you  that customers buy from the cheapest provider told you a big lie.  Yes we all like a deal but equally have attachments  to specific brands or providers for our specific products or services and those brands are not always the cheapest providers available.  People do everything they can to get the latest Apple product,  Apple is far from the cheapest product on the market.  Some people will never be caught dead shopping at Primark,  if we all shopped based on price then we will all shop at Primark.  You need to establish and create a reason why customers will buy from you other than price.  That reason may vary from quality of service,  flexibility of payment terms,  uniqueness of raw materials,  perception of premium value-  whatever it is you need to establish a very definable reason why people should buy from you and therefore pricing becomes is secondary consideration in the minds of your customers

  1. Partnering with the wrong people

“You can’t do a good deal with bad partners”,  I think it is the, now infamous, Donald Trump that made that statement,  and it is so true.  You need to establish what your values are as a business person  when you come across people news values are significantly at odds with yours,  it doesn’t matter how attractive the offer seems,  it is in long-term recipe for disaster.  However pragmatic judgement can mean you work with this people over a defined  time frame  or with clear documented an enforceable agreements or terms of service.

“You can’t do a good deal with bad partners”

  1.  Employing the wrong people

When you understand that there is nobody that is a BAD EMPLOYEE by definition but that many people even though they’re fantastic individuals they might not be the right employee for you and your business,  then you will be able to make decisions about whom to employ without feeling bad about your  employee decisions and actions.  the process of getting an employer in the right people is so complicated that there’s a field called HR  set aside for that process.  when you are starting off as a small business the best way to employ in my little experience  is by  strong competency based recommendations  from people you trust.  


The day you realize that everyone cannot be your client no matter how hard you try, that day you become free and more strategic


  1. Loosely defining your market

Your market needs to be clearly defined not just a product or service but the geography of your operation how far from your base will you work.  I remember travelling over 200 miles to discuss with a company to take on some of my services,  I did not get the project after all that effort,  now my market is better defined to about a maximum of 75 miles from me in any direction,  it will take a real monster offer for me to be tempted to go outside of those boundaries and I have established that there is enough potential client based within  that defined geography for us to achieve our business goals.  Now are marketing and business efforts are localised meaning we spend less on marketing in a concentrated geography and therefore are potential to create a strong brand is greatly increased. The day you realize that everyone cannot be your client no matter how hard you try, that day you become free and more strategic.

The three things you need to start a truly sustainable business

When most people want to start a business they usually think  first about having a product or is service they want to deliver.  Actually  this is not necessarily the first thing to consider when planning to start a small business.  From my experience I have put together the three things I think are critical to starting and maintaining a sustainable business,  whether or not it is a product or service you are planning on delivering.

1.  A  comprehensive list of prospects–  It is much more important  to determine who you want to sell to than what you want to sell.  I recognise however that in some instances  the latter comes before the former.  I learnt this because our company delivers consultancy services to small and medium sized businesses in a particular geography.

Business Meeting

Two business men shaking hands at international business meeting.

There are many other independent people and companies that deliver the same service that we do,  we struggled in the initial couple of years  to find clients  because we had difficulty of identifying who would need our services,  we spent lots of  time and effort meeting  various organisations who will gladly meet up with us but never truly purchased our services.  This became a significant frustration  for me.  I did not like wasting time and marketing resources on several meetings that resulted in non purchases.

Suddenly we were servicing a different market from our competitors and we had a list of over 1000 businesses that could potentially benefit from our added value service.

At one point I listened to a marketing expert who stated in clear terms that if you do not have a  list of prospects then you do not have a business. My first reaction was that’s a bit harsh especially as we had managed to coast along mainly through  a few referrals  as a business,  but I started thinking about where I could get a list of potential clients.  But the problem remained that there was significant difficulty in identifying who needed our support,  the only list I could lay hold of was a list of organisations who had already received a similar support as we also provided.  To cut a long story short we obtained that list and over a period of time re positioned our company to provide added value  to those organisations who had already received the support our previous competitors provided. Suddenly we were servicing a different market from our competitors and we had a list of over 1000 businesses that could potentially benefit from our added value service.

It was at this point that we truly started to build a business,  because our work in the last 1 year has been about working on the 1000 businesses to produce financial results.  so far we have engaged over 70 of these businesses  with them either attending a free event that we have put in place,  or having purchased Training Services from us or other consultancy interventions;  and we have very little organised competition in this new market.  Our  job now is to continue to create new services that this market you benefit from.

It is the market first that list of prospects first and then you can think of what to provide them.

2. A differentiating factor(s)- Most  of the people that provide a similar service to small and medium sized businesses in our region operate as independent self-employed consultants we are a registered small consultancy firm.  Our competitors typically charge clients based on the number of days involved in delivering the project, we charge a single fixed price for the whole project. Our competitors will spend 1 full day at the client site each time they pay a consultancy visit,  we recognise that this might not be convenient for the client all the time so we come in  as per client’s convenience meaning sometimes we do half day a visits.  our competitors insist on the client  paying as soon as the job is done,  we are happy to accept a payment plan from the client meaning they can spread payments across the year.

It is not necessarily simply because our approach is better than the competition that matters the most;  it is simply the fact that it is different (and that differentiation is sustainable and cost effective from our perspective) that is helping us to stand out in the marketplace.

it is simply the fact that it is different (and that differentiation is sustainable and cost effective from our perspective) that is helping us to stand out in the marketplace.

In the ideal world marketers will advise that you have a strong USP (unique selling point),  sometimes as in our case it might be difficult  to lay your hands on a strong USP.  You can have  several unique selling points rather than one USP,  remember the focus is on differentiation. And the ultimate goal of a USP is market differentiation. Go and be different.

3. Communicating,Refining and Patience- Now you have a prospect list in other words a potential marketplace.  Based on the uniqueness of your marketplace,   you have  a product or service that the marketplace needs and it is significantly different from the competitor in 1 or several ways  including content, delivery, servicing, payments, advertising, business structure  and even such details  appearance (eg uniforms) etc.  Now you need to start communicating with that list of prospects.


One single communication does not establish a relationship with a potential client

One single communication does not establish a relationship with a potential client,  it takes several repeated and varying individual communication contacts for you to make an impact on the psyche of a person.  So you have to stick by it.  Giving out your business card is not the equivalent of having a business,  you need to continue that communication until it gets you meetings sitting face to face with people whom you never met before but have been on your list of prospects for a while.  Whilst you are there,  you should be listening watching getting clues about what that prospect expect of your business and learning what is working and what is not working and building that back into your business process.  You will continue refining this process until it becomes closest to what most of your 

potential clients wants.

Giving out your business card is not the equivalent of having a business

That takes time and patience but it is the route to a sustainable business model where you have clients and prospects that are not just customers but fans of your business!


All the very best

5 Reasons why you might be financially worse off than colleagues on the same pay!


He earns the same amount as you do, why do you appear worse off?

It is simple, your expenses are more than his or his total income is more than yours.

The following issues below are, in my experience the top reasons why people with a similar income stream may appear worse off than others.

1. Paying back previous and new indebtedness– Debts could be in many forms. Not just loans and costs of overdrafts, but the costs of keeping your credit card (if you are making the minimum payment); the cost of those “buy now pay later” deals that you are enjoying. The outstanding student loans and other deferred payments to which you are committed. Some people are actually still paying for things they are no longer using simply because they bought it and were allowed to pay later, some long while ago. Stay clear of things of no life changing value that commit you to payments in the future!

2. No alternative income source– The folks who appear better off sometimes have an alternative income source that you are unaware of. Some potential source of regular or irregular additional income. A little bit from shares or rent on something or some property they own or have inherited.  Some steady cash flow from previous savings or ongoing savings and other bank instruments. They may have a small enterprise activity they are involved in; it’s not the size of the alternative income that matters; it is the fact that there is an alternative income source; that is sometimes enough to make the difference.

3. No financial cushion of last resort- Many people have a last resort option. Sometimes it’s a parent or family member or close friend whom they know that should the worst come to the worst will bail them out. If people have this they may be less careful in spending and have little or no perceived need for any kind of savings. On the other hand you might be the person who is the last resort for your family and friends in which case you need to be prepared for other people’s emergencies, plus yours. This can be a significant differentiating factor in what available finances a person has.

4. Wrong priorities; keeping up with the Jones-es- The fact that you are reading this could suggest that it has been something you have worried about, before; that you have less money than your colleagues. The good question to ask is if your financial decisions have previously been motivated by keeping in line with these folks. Getting the most up to date smartphones, the most modern TV sets or purchasing such things that drain your pocket even further before you can fully afford them. If you keep on this track, you will consistently be worse off in the pocket and rich in plastics and metals with a two year life span.

5. Those guys might be living above their means– The ultimate reason why you should not compare yourself to anyone in principle is the fact that it is one of the greatest signs of a lack of self confidence, contentment and gratitude. But has it ever crossed your mind that the people to whom are are comparing yourself could possibly be living above their means. The hard  unspoken truth is that people who live consistently above their means for whatever reason will ultimately crash at some point. You don’t want that to be you, so why should you envy someone on the path to a crash.

Now the above 5 reasons is no justification for you to the worse off person. The way out is two fold; either by reducing your expenses or by increasing your income. For practical ways of achieving these, stay tuned with me on the blog.

Have a brilliant week.


Learning Business….I seek a mentor!

English: James Caan, British businessman

English: James Caan, British businessman (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I began to review the business plan for our business in December following some learning experiences I had in the last couple of months in 2012. I had gone to London for a business start-up event; apart from hearing leading business persons speak live like James Caan ( renown investor from TV series Dragon’s Den), Steve Bolton (UK real estate guru) and Caroline Marsh, star of ITV’s Secret Millionnaire TV show. I had the opportunity to chat and question several businesses and explore the support services they provide start-ups and small businesses. Among the many things I gained from this visit including one new client through a secondary contact, perhaps what I gained the most was the realisation of the urgency of the need to have a mentor.

Listening to these various successful business people I believe has taken my business some six months forward. I have seen the reasons why some plans I had were unlikely to work and I have seen where slight changes in my plans could potentially yield greater results.

I hold membership of our local Federation of small businesses and had realised just as soon as I had paid the initial dues that it was an organisation that was pretty laid back and the average age of attendees at the meetings were closer to my mother’s than mine. I did not do much talking during the meetings as I reasoned I was there to listen and to learn, but there is this guy, that every time he opened his mouth, there was always a fresh insight you never meet those kinds of people all the time. I took the time to get to speak to him and realised he has interests in several businesses and had run some national and multinational operations at CEO level and was simply now winding down with a consulting business. If I was going to have a mentor, I wanted it to be him!

I made him know I wanted him to mentor me; as that was what he did in his consultancy now, I would have to be charged a fee for it; when he told me how much it cost, I couldn’t afford him just yet. But I told him about a government supported mentoring scheme I was exploring, he was aware of it and apparently had been brought in by the private sector partners into being a mentor on the scheme; as the scheme was government supported, I could just about afford it I have applied on the scheme and specified who I want to be my mentor hopefully that should get closed in January; it runs for a year. And I am eagerly looking forward to how much I will learn about business from this man. I will hope to learn about his errors and mistakes and make sure  I don’t make them; I will listen to his advice and build it into my business, I believe he will save me up to two years of wrong judgement as I am new in this game.

As I write, I am on the train returning from London having just had a very fruitful 1 hour meeting with someone whom until today I had always only read of in the papers. You ask how I got the appointment and my simple response is that ‘where there is a will, there is a way’. I discussed with him some of my plans and without mincing words, he told me what I had to do. I had secretly hoped he would be impressed by my plan enough to invest; but no he will not be investing. But…the next stage is quite an extensive market research I should let him know when I hope to start, he would support by providing any human resource support that I needed and he has mandated his trusted staff to arrange access for me to at least two key personnel I will need to speak with in the course of the research folks I would not have had access to if I were doing things on my own.

The humility to submit oneself to advise and tutelage by those who have successfully gone ahead, I am realising could be a secret weapon to succeeding in business. And perhaps this applies in most other areas of life too; it was the model that Christ used to raise people into ministry (discipleship); it is the way the world’s leading manufacturers develop their future talent (apprenticeship); I am ready to serve a business apprenticeship and I am very hopeful for positive results.