• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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Many entrepreneurs don’t think in terms of strategic objective of their businesses – Solesi

Entrepreneurs urged to invest in business sustainability

Ezekiel Solesi, a management consultant with over 10 years experience working with top corporate organisations in the private and public sector, said that Nigerian businesses lack capacity for proper bookkeeping, growth audit which are some of the significant factors killing most businesses. Excerpts by SEYI JON SALAU:

What influenced the name LIMBsimple strategy factory?

The LIMBsimple Strategy Factory got its name because we wanted to create a workshop that is as practicable as possible. As in a factory, things are actually made in there. We intended that strategies would be manufactured in our workshop. Actually over the last 10 years we have worked with entrepreneurs every month using different initiatives; from the Enterprise Development Conferences in Lagos and Abuja (#EDCAbuja and #EDCLagos) to the EMeetUp. However in the past five years we have doubled down on the LIMBsimple Strategy Factory and in that period we have worked with more than 3,000 businesses and have seen over 34 of them exceed a billion naira a year in revenue.

It’s important we note that only three of these 34 clients had reached the billion naira mark by the time we started working with them. We have provided strategies for a number of businesses and watch them explode literally in sales. The Strategy factory is a 10 hour workshop that usually marks the beginning of our work with the entrepreneurs or businesses who make it there and so far, it’s held only at the best locations deliberately. It’s been a beautiful experience in watching some of these businesses grow into massive businesses we hoped they would at the beginning

LIMBsimple is an acronym that means Life, Investing, Money and Business made simple. Our mission is to provide simplified, technical, inspirational and motivational information that would enable everyday people and businesses to make deliberate improvements in their lives and businesses. So my love for simplicity has now become a lifelong mission. So if you ask who Ezekiel Solesi is, I’ll say he’s one guy in love with the idea of simplicity and is set out to see how he can apply it to as many facets of life as possible. Actually I’ve always had a thing for simplifying things for people. Personally I believe complexity is one of the problems of most business people. Usually people in my constituency aren’t deliberate in helping to make sure what they teach is simple enough for ordinary Nigerians to understand and execute on. That’s why I founded LIMBsimple, which in itself has simplicity in its very name.

In your 10 years of working with entrepreneurs, what would you say are the major business challenges in that sector of the economy?

Clearly, there are government issues and things ultimately out of our control as individuals. However my focus would be on problems I see with business owners that can be fixed. First, I think most entrepreneurs aren’t paying enough attention to strategy. What do I mean? They aren’t thinking in terms of the strategic objective of their businesses. For example I always say the strategic objective of any business is to do all or at least one of these three things; find ways to make more money, find ways to save more money and find ways to improve the quality of product, service or brand equity.

Hence, if you have anyone in your organisation not directly connected to these objectives, that person should be offloaded, even if that person is you; When you think in terms of these objectives you’ll be looking to improve revenue on one hand, working to eliminate waste on the other and work hard to make sure the quality of your product, service and brand equity is constantly improving. Another problem I see is the over-glorification of growth. Here when a business seems to be growing they think it’s always going to be that way and they don’t audit to be sure they are still doing the right things. They keep going, doing whatever it is they were doing and not knowing that growth is neutral. Growth is neither good nor bad so when you’re growing you’ve got to audit the growth to be sure if they are still healthy while growing.

Business growth as good as it is should rank second to business health. We have a lot of business growing and what’s really happening is more cancer than growth. Many people forget that cancer is a form of growth, just the kind we don’t want and the kind that can kill any human. We need to audit our growth so we aren’t growing to death.

What are those strategy tools or tips that can help make a business double its income within the shortest time?

So we’ve got a concept called the LIMBsimple Strategy Framework. This framework is based on our understanding that the strategic objective of every business is to make and save money while improving quality of product, service and brand equity. It’s quite an elaborate framework that I cannot get into here but to put it in layman’s terms; what activities are we engaged in that can enable us to consistently improve revenue. This here refers to our marketing (which builds awareness of the problems we solve) and sales (that converts conversations to cash flow). Also do we track what’s working and what’s not working? Because in business it doesn’t matter what works, it only matters what duplicates.

Also, they must begin to think about how to eliminate waste from their system or think on how to be spending less? A good way to do this is to identify your core business activities and determine that to the degree that an activity is further away from that core activity is to the degree we need to outsource so that those people are only making money when we are. A good example here is to note that when you walk into the banking hall, 80 percent of those you see are contract staff. The tellers, the cleaners, security among others. This is because the core of banking is in treasury hence to the degree that your activity is outside the treasury is to the degree that the company should spend less on. Hence the reasons why most of those people are outsourced.

Lastly, how are we deliberate with how we are seen by the customer, the market and regulators? Our brand equity isn’t just capital, it is always as important as our very existence. So what processes do we have in place to ensure we deliver whatever we promise our customers? There’s a more elaborate one which we deploy to those who come to the strategy factory and go on to work with us further.

Read also: Entrepreneurs say rising input costs is stifling businesses

What’s LIMBsimple mandate for the next five years towards helping more organisations reposition their businesses?

We have actually started our next five year plan. In fact we are in year two of a plan that would take us to 2026 and that plan is to have worked with 5,000 businesses and help 100 Nigerian businesses exceed a billion in revenue a year. We are obsessed with helping Nigerians and Africans build big businesses. Like we say it in class; ‘build a business that would represent the dream of your staff’.

Most Nigerian entrepreneurs don’t think big enough and that’s why people say you can’t risk working for someone else. However, that’s not true. There are billionaires like Steve Ballmer who was an employee all his working life and is still a billionaire. It is possible to build bigger businesses. In fact I believe Nigeria would change greatly when entrepreneurs build bigger businesses and offer better opportunities to people to earn an honest living.

So the next five years would see us expand the LIMBsimple Strategy Factory workshop and our other initiatives to help us reach more entrepreneurs and provide the knowledge and network for them to build bigger businesses. I should mention our alumni are in a community where we have an active business directory and members have enjoyed doing business together. In fact monies transacted are in nine figures amongst members of the community. In the coming years, we hope to do a-lot more.

As a business owner, how do I overcome my funding challenges?

For funding, it depends on the entrepreneur and his/her experience in business. For example, I don’t advise new entrepreneurs to start their business with debt funding. If you haven’t been in business long enough or just starting, don’t borrow money from a financial institution or someone who would cause you problems if you lose it. Take money from family and friends or get equity investment if you can. If you’ve got experience, start early to develop a relationship with your bank. Most entrepreneurs don’t know banks love to give money; in fact, they have to if they must grow their business but the problem is that a lot of us haven’t built credibility.

What are those pitfalls entrepreneurs must avoid in building sustainability?

For Nigerian entrepreneurs (categorising myself in this bucket) I have noticed a few pitfalls. Firstly, we think too small. A lot of us don’t see the need to build a big business. We think too small and it’s keeping us small. It’s just about recently that Nigerians started to benchmark their success globally. We’ve got everything to build a huge business in terms of population size and the likes so let’s think bigger. Secondly, we have a small problem with structure. I recently heard a friend who owns a real estate company say that ‘most businesses are structured for control not for growth’ and I agree. Our desire to have absolute control in our business has made us build businesses that can only be within our ability to control, and that’s usually not much. To build bigger businesses we must structure to empower leaders and it might mean not being in control all the time and it might also be setting up policies that would curb our own excesses as entrepreneurs.

In terms of sustainability, how is LIMBsimple strategy helping to curb unemployment?

Our effort to tackle youth unemployment is really in the area of creating entrepreneurs and working with them to grow bigger businesses which in turn would see them employ more people. We have a client we’ve worked with for over seven years who now employ over 700 people directly and over 300,000 sales partners who benefit from selling their products. That is a huge step in tackling unemployment and hopefully we would be able to do more as we reach more entrepreneurs.