Before bracing yourself to read this article, I’d strongly suggest that you take a look at the headline once again and carefully observe the embedded word “successful”, as it certainly gives a strong dimension to the subject matter.
Having said that, I recently got contacted by someone from the suburban part of Lagos who was trying to pitch his Tech startup. Not to quote me out of context here, he had a brilliant initiative, but right there and then it hit me how startups are now beginning to spring up and spread like wildfire. By implication, it now appears setting up and running a startup looks simpler than solving a quadratic equation which in those days scared the life out of us. And if that analogy was anyway true, we wouldn’t have cases of startups pivoting while trying to find the right business model or even laying off staff like we’ve seen some in the local ecosystem recently.
Obviously, there is more to running a startup and entrepreneurs would be doing themselves and their business a whole lot of good tapping into these few guides from some of the industry experts.
Pick your role models wisely
Having someone to hold the rope for you while you climb the entrepreneurial ladder is quite necessary if you intend to be successful entrepreneur.
Prior to now, I used to be under the illusion that one’s role models should only include people within the professional circle. However it would come as a surprise to learn that you need not necessarily look outward to find this person. If you’re having doubt, hear the words of these successful entrepreneurs.
“I saw my mum work extremely hard, pretty much non-stop, in order to provide for her children, so my early childhood experience definitely instilled in me the notion of working hard to get by” — Jason Njoku
“Watching and emulating my mother, I learnt the value of hard work and perseverance. These two values are still very useful to me as a business leader today. I was just 8 years old when my father passed away; my mother immediately rose to the arduous task of raising my 2 siblings and I. She single handedly put us through high school and college. This is probably the reason why today, in selecting my team members and the people I surround myself with; I actively seek out people who display these traits of hard work and perseverance” — Femi Akinde.
Charity they say always begins at home; never underestimate the amount of knowledge and expertise that could be gained as an entrepreneur right within your home.
Play with your team
‘Play’ here carries a lot more meaning in that context than what you literally know it to be. In the words of Femi Akinde; This can be simply summed up in the two quick tips. Firstly and most importantly, as an entrepreneur one must have the right people in the right positions. One cannot afford to compromise on the people that make up your team as they are a reflection of the future of your company. An entrepreneur, must clearly articulate his vision so that everyone knows exactly where the business is going and the role that they need to play in taking the business to its next milestone.
Secondly, it seems rewarding to listen to every voice in the room. There is a lot of value in mining the collective intellect of the people you surround yourself with. Shedding more light on this, Femi adds:
“Back then (school days), the most successful teams I was a part of, were the ones that leveraged on the individual strengths of different members of the team in solving completing our class projects. I learned to be unafraid to ask questions, even questions that some may consider ‘stupid’. Not knowing isn’t a crime, not knowing and not asking questions is. I have come to realize that it’s not only the idea behind a business that counts; it’s the execution and the team behind the execution. Surround yourself with people who know more than you do. Be willing to take a back seat sometimes and learn from people around you, you do not always have to be the loudest voice in a room.”
That pretty much sums it for me, I don’t know about you.
Let your idea run as fast as technology
The world evolves everyday, and as an entrepreneur one need to be open to leveraging on tools that enhance easy connectivity and simplification. With new technological advancements, it is becoming even easier to collaborate with global experts right from your homes or offices.
Keep your eyes on the cash flow
“Keeping a track on cash flow is also important – if you can’t pay your staff, then you essentially don’t have a company. I made this mistake when I was younger and I learned the hard way”, says Jason Njoku.
The need for money in any business can never be overemphasised. Finance is the fuel on which a business runs. A business can take different avenues to attain finance. The chosen funding however will depend on the business’ desire to be in debt, how solvent the business owners are at the time the business is founded and the amount of money a business will need to launch and maintain itself through a variety of events. Also, attention to details is essential in the area of finance planning, conducting performance and financial reviews of major programs and entities to evaluate the reliability, effectiveness, and efficiency of the organization and making recommendations based on findings that identify cost savings through improved operations.
Know when to compliment
Having the right skills would certainly do its part building an entrepreneur’s business. But no man is an island of knowledge. In all of this, “entrepreneurs need to know themselves and understand their limitations” says Femi Akinde, “when need be, surround yourself with people that have the needed skills and experience to complement your own skill set”. “For this reason, a lot of entrepreneurs decide to have co-founders for their businesses”, he further adds.
Position yourself to grab the next waiting opportunity
I’ve come to learn that success in building a business is a function of the individual and the decisions they make.
“When it comes to taking the entrepreneurial initiative, it’s a question of whether you do it or you don’t. There are always opportunities begging, but you have to be the right person to capitalise on it”, says Jason Njoku.
And when the opportunity finally comes, you need to be able, in the words of Jason Njoku, “relinquish all of life’s adornments and fripperies and stay 110% focused on your business; your baby.
Don’t stop learning
“As an entrepreneur you shouldn’t think of yourself as lacking experience, says Femi Akinde, “you should think of your entire life as a learning experience and let that guide the development of your product or business vision. He adds, “each day, you see and learn a lot from the society around you, from your friends and acquaintances, from school and so on. Don’t let these experiences go to waste, learn to distill them to identify opportunities; to learn what you are good at and what areas you need support for. In examining your life experiences, you can also identify the right people to execute on your vision with you”
And if you found Femi’s advice rather belligerent, you should hear what Jason Njoku has to say:
“If you can’t give everything up for your business, and by this I mean money, social life, new clothes, flashy cars and even your health, then you should reconsider life as an entrepreneur”.
I guess you weren’t expecting that, but either way, you can’t deny how invaluable these conclusion are.
Nigerian startups raised $377m in 2019, more than twice what they did in 2018. Find out more when you download the full report.