By ‘Dotun Akintomide
In an atmosphere where businesses have many odds stacked against them, getting the right motivation and direction for startups to stay afloat doesn’t come easy. As this explains why many new entrants struggle in vain to successfully navigate businesses past the formative stage, let alone expand locally and across the globe.
To plug this gap, Virtual Hub Nigeria — a co-working and virtual office space provider — in its quest to help local businesses attain international status of no mean repute, has engaged business managers and career high flyers with its newly conceptualized pattern of interactive engagement — Fireside Chat 1.0.
According to the Group Managing Director of the brand, Mrs Oluwatoyin Edun, many businesses keep going under the waters due to the lack of strategic communication and adequate mentorship on what to do. While numerous establishments which had managed to survive within the national space still struggle to spread tentacles and participate within the global business ecosystem.
“We thought there is no need to have another boring session and that’s why we had this interactive session to address the core challenges facing startups,” she told The New Diplomat during a media chat.
Highlighting the various values that sustain businesses, Edun told participants that building a strong reputation; putting in place the right processes and structures, as well as not telling people the wrong stories are grundnorms that must be cultivated by business owners. “You can’t build something on nothing, you must be transparent and you must tell the right stories.”
Having served in sundry executive positions at First City Monument Bank during her illustrious banking career, Edun noted she drew lots of inspiration and hands-on experience working with business owners across different levels, something which has proven indispensable in running the day-to-day operations of Fusion Group Nigeria and Virtual Hub Nigeria — both being facility management company and co-working space provider — she founded respectively in 2015.
“I always tell people that the banking sector is one of the best places to start a career, fortunately for me, I started my banking career as a Human Resource person and in the quest to have a grasp of the entire operations in the banking sector, I always meet my colleagues across different departments to find what they’re doing and to also learn.
“At the time, Eko international bank looks too small for me and I wanted to take up a new challenge, so I went for an interview at FCMB and I was called for the job. I was inducted as the best inductee for my set. I started with private banking and then moved to commercial banking where I interacted with business owners, learnt from how some businesses fizzled out in a short time and the numerous challenges business owners face.
“From their I was able to know what the local Iyaloja is thinking and the business gurus and MD/CEOs are interested in. Working with different people exposed me to risk taking and the kind of business I can do and how to go about it.”
She stated that her background has always made her harp on setting up a well structured business when speaking with people in startups.
In Nigeria, many business owners often display a morbid level of non-challance towards proper organization of business runnings. From their inability to present adequate financial cash flow to be able to draw capital to inappropriate record keeping, business registration, continuous sales’ generation; absence of realistic rolling plan, and even staffing. The encumbrances that often make businesses fail have been well represented. Yet, these are in addition to certain impediments from the government which had ensured the stifling of investment flow from within and outside the country.
The downsides notwithstanding, the Country Director and CEO, Dale Carnegie, Mr. Patrick Nwakogo, while sharing his insights tasked entrepreneurs to continue to stick it out, and learn from current experiences to ascend to new highs.
Nwakogo, who hinged his submissions on adequate human relations and communications skills for business survival went further to enumerate other key determinants to include self-direction, following processes, emotional intelligence and accountability.
As a business executive who has had his fair share of dissapointments in the past, losing N40 million on a business adventure that later nosidived, he believes his story could inspire every business owner who is about to give up due to certain business misadventure, enjoining them to pick up the pieces and move on to greater things without dwelling too much on the negatives.
“Everything we do in life prepares us for the next level. I use to publish a magazine called Excel magazine and we launched it in 2011. It took me two years to put that magazine together. I never had experience at a publishing house, I was never trained as a journalist. But I was so passionate to have a magazine that speaks to working professionals because there was none. So we started but nine months later it didn’t sell despite its high quality, we shut down and I lost N40 million.”
Nwakogo said in spite of the failure, he was able to take some lessons from the experience to start up something bigger and international.
“From the experience I learnt life is never straight at all.”
Narrating further, he said the two articles he wrote on public speaking and communication, referencing some of Dale Carnegie’s work opened door for him to lure the brand to Nigeria.
“One of the things I always tell people is that people should not be detached from their experience, let life teach you.
“Dale Carnegie wasn’t even interested in coming to Nigeria when I checked the list of countries they’re interested in. And that was enough reason for me to give up, but I kept pushing till it became a reality.” Nwakogo narrated.
When asked the biggest challenge that has become the bane of most businesses in Nigeria, he pointed out that beyond access to finance, “how to generate sales in my opinion is one of the biggest challenges that startups face. how do we convince people? As a startup owner how do we make people have that level of trust to part with their money that I can deliver on their mandate? In the line of business that I do, which is service and consulting that would be number one for me.”
Expressing feedback from the chat session on the sideline, media entrepreneur, Mr. Nosakhare Uwadiae, noted he has been exposed to new ideas in terms of value creation for businesses. “The experience has been very exciting, very educating. Quite a lot of knowledge was shared, a lot of things in terms of value creation for businesses and in terms on how you can upscale your business and personality.
“What is key is that you have to identify what you really want exactly; begin to seek partners that share the same ideas and pitch your business to them with a lot of confidence. Ability to communicate what you have in your mind and ability to make it presentable for people to see the value in what you are doing is key also.” He told The New Diplomat.
Also, in her comment, Ms. Oyinkan Akinyosoye said: “I mean they were definitely very educational and insightful to hear from these two and to learn from their experiences and I saw a lot of parallels in what they’ve done and what they’ve accomplished and you know what I’m trying to accomplish. Mrs Edun is in the hospitality sector as well, and that’s my field and I learned a lot from that as well.”
“You’re not going to blow overnight and if you blow overnight, it is the same way somebody will bust your bubbles. So patience, diligence and perseverance are what you always need to push yourself beyond what you think you can do, just keep at what you are doing, focus,” says Ms. Damilola Adepoju.
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