5 mistakes most Nigerian entrepreneurs make
Being an entrepreneur is a scary journey that no one quite prepares you enough for. Even having an MBA doesn’t prepare you for all the twists and turns that come with it. Being an entrepreneur in Nigerian is even more challenging. Imagine being the dentist to one of Daenerys’ dragons. Now imagine being a dentist to one of Daenerys’ dragons and working in hell, that’s what being an entrepreneur in Nigeria is like.
You’ll face challenges from electricity to connectivity to policies and taxes that sucker punch you. Regardless of all these challenges, Nigerians are building formidable businesses that are positioned to last the test of time. Just take a look at moguls like Dangote. Now adjust your focus to the younger generation entrepreneurs like Shola of Paystack or Uka of Thrive Agric. It seems that despite the hurdles faced, some people rise above to be tougher than the storm.
But let me get to it. Regardless of where you are in Nigeria and whatever business you’re building you are bound to make these 5 mistakes at some point. In fact, I can bet that some people reading this now are neck-deep in some of these mistakes. Not to worry, I’ll try and point you in the right direction to help you out.
1: You’re building by yourself
There was a time that having a co-founder was extremely glorified, and we are still in that time. In fact, some investors won’t even touch you if you’re a solo founder.
I don’t believe that everyone needs a co-founder, but I do believe that every founder needs a team, and not just any team. You need the right team. People who connect deeply with the vision and care enough about the problem you’re solving. They also need to match their commitment with grit and share hard work.
Don’t make the mistake of building alone. Having the right team helps you achieve more. You have people to brainstorm with, you are able to distribute effort and achieve mastery of different aspects of your business by different people.
A sub-level mistake that founders make with this is, not having a team plan or structure from the beginning. Since a lot of founders start out alone, it’s easy to delay planning your team structure until you have people. Don’t do this. Decide the type of company you are building from the start. This brings me to my next point…
2: You haven’t really thought your business through.
Have you ever had someone tell you about their business and you find yourself saying, “that’s so easy, I could do that”. Well… I have news for you, maybe you couldn’t.
There are many people who have jumped headfirst into a business because on the surface it looked pretty easy. “Hey, see Tosin she just makes cakes and she posts cake pictures every day, I could do that and have a ton of clients”. But what you don't see is everything behind the scene and all the struggles she’s been through to get to where she is.
A lot of people don’t think through their business. Distribution channels, target market, socio-economics factors, scaling, etc. You need to think through it strategically first. Do a lot of market research. I’m going to say it again in case you missed it the first time, DO A LOT OF MARKET RESEARCH.
3: You haven’t decided the type of business you’re building.
I have met a lot of people who have told me that they wanted investors for their business. On asking more questions I realized that they don’t know what “getting an investor for their business” really means. They have just heard people getting funded in the news and thought, “hey that seems nice”. Investor’s money is not free money. On examining some businesses and probing the founder I discover that it is not investments they needed but clients for their business.
Not every founder wants to get funded or scale outside their city. But you need to set an intention to this. Don’t justs start a business without thinking through the lifecycle of the business. Ask yourself important questions like: How big do you want to grow this business? What do you need to grow it? Are you in a position to get the resources to grow the business? What is your exit plan?
Knowing the type of business or company you want to grow from the start allows you to set intention. You would recruit differently, you would apply for programs differently, even pitch differently if you knew what you were building.
4: You have no idea how to do business.
It may sound strange. Starting a business without knowing anything about business. But it happens all the time. Delivering a service or a product is not all that building a business is about. To put it simply, the fact that I am an awesome cook does not mean I could run Chick Fil A.
There is more to building a great company than servicing clients. There’s the administrative part, finance part, technology part. There are so many parts to it.
Knowing how to deliver value is important, it is very important. Knowing how to keep a company alive and thriving to keep delivering that value is most important.
You need to make sure that you have a team that is able to do both. This is why I say “there is a difference between working IN your business and working ON your business”.
5: You are TRULY building alone.
This is different from my first point. My first point is in reference to your internal team. This one is in reference to your external team, your community.
Some founders are truly alone. No mentors, no peers, no community of people who can cheer you on or point you in the right direction. As a founder building a business it is important that you are surrounded with people who can support you and you can support back.
You need people on three levels: People who are ahead of you in the journey to guide, counsel and be an example for you. People who are at your level to relate with and people behind you to motivate you and for you to guide.
It’s easy to look at this and think it is not important and that you could probably wing it on your own. But your chances of success are greater when you have a community to help you as you build. This is why I remain an advocate for co-working.
Building a business in Nigeria might be tough. But I can see a great light in the horizon. With more companies such as Paystack, Gokada, Piggybank, Thrive Agric getting funded, I know that the blocks are stacking up to build something great.
Thank you for reading :)