Nigeria, like any other country on the planet is unique in its own way and as an entrepreneur, it’s almost forgivable to assume that picking up a book on entrepreneurship or taking an MBA can prepare you for this uniqueness; but as many over the years have come to learn, principles might be universal but experiences are local.
Nothing in that MBA will prepare you for the area-boys that will demand to be paid before your goods can pass a certain route or fraudulent generator repair guys, that deliberately sabotage your generator, so you can call them again (all factors you did not consider in your cost of production). While there is so much we can discuss on, as it concerns entrepreneurship in Nigeria,
I will just stick to these 7 lies you’ve been told.
- YOU CAN BE FLEXIBLE WITH YOUR TIME: Speaking to would-be entrepreneurs; one of the most common reasons I hear from people eyeing entrepreneurship is “I really hate waking up at 4 or 5am to get to work”. While it is sometimes true that as an entrepreneur, you may stay in bed till say 8am but it would most likely be because you went to bed at 3am. Entrepreneurship comes with the kind of responsibilities, which in all honesty takes your sleep away. If you’re going to be successful at entrepreneurship, you probably will be on the grind 24/7; are you ready for that?
- ALL YOU NEED IS A MENTOR: I hear about this needing a mentor principle a lot and I believe it must work somehow but what I often see is mentees being taken advantage of. The traditional Nigerian Mentor will ask you to come work with him/her, to gain valuable “HANDS ON EXPERIENCE” for peanuts and still owe you. I must be honest that my rather awful experiences at the hands of “mentors” has left me biased here and I must also be clear that I did learn valuable lessons under them; but that said, I am still being owed by some of them, years after.
- BANKS DON’T GIVE LOANS TO ENTREPRENEURS: I was at a conference recently where the speaker literally convicted Nigerian banks for not lending to Nigerian businesses, even though the loan books of each bank speaks a different story. What banks in Nigeria are not structured to lend to, are startups (i.e. businesses with very little track record) and while this may upset you, it’s just reality. Startups, Micro and small businesses are better suited to take advantage of micro finance banks, grants, angel investors and venture capitalists. Their funds and structure are designed to better understand your phase, challenges and how to best align the loan with your cash flow.
- PERFECT YOUR PRODUCT AND CUSTOMERS WILL COME: ‘Sayeth the person with the full store but no customers’. I don’t think there is anywhere in the world where the term “Image is everything” is more true than in Nigeria. Your product could literally download food off the internet, but if you don’t have a strategic sales, marketing and brand building plan to let people know your product exists and more importantly, convince them yours is better than the competition; then your product may just be for Family and Friends.
- YOU ARE SELLING YOURSELF SHORT IN A 9 – 5 : I have seen way too many people fail at being entrepreneurs simply because they are just not cut out for it and have not taken the time to develop themselves. It has made many wealthy but has made even more bankrupt, it is a game of blood, guts, tears, more tears and then, maybe success.
If you’re going to delve into it, come into the ring ready with gloves. It’s not an easy feat but it’s equally just as rewarding. Just make certain that you know the facts before taking the plunge.