By Adewale Sanyaolu
WITH over 80 per cent of start-up businesses dying within the first five years in Nigeria, stakeholders are concerned there is urgent need for government’s intervention. They believe this trend remains worrisome, considering that Small Medium Enterprises (SMEs) are the largest employers of labour in other economies, while also contributing significantly to their Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Experts however believe that research and knowledge sharing among SME operators could go a long way in growing and helping the sector to bounce to profitability while also bringing new entrants on board.
In this interview, the Chief Executive Officer of Salestar Africa, a leading firm engaged in training of start-up businesses, especially SMEs, Tale Alimi, maintains that with the requisite training, SMEs could unlock the employment chain.
Alimi, who is also the lead coach and consultant of Salestar Africa, shares her mission to teach and ignite business owners and professionals to achieve highest revenue potential.
The SME sector in Nigeria is vibrant and full of potentials, especially with the increasing entry of a younger generation embracing enterprise and starting their own businesses. In most countries of the world, Nigeria inclusive, the SME sector constitutes the largest employers of labour as over 80 per cent of businesses still fall in the SME category. There are definitely challenges in the system, but like I wrote in my free ebook-Five Reasons Why Small Businesses don’t Grow, the main challenges are really not the obvious ones we readily point to, like infrastructure and funding, there are more inherent challenges like lack knowledge, inefficient business structures and poor business mindset.
Yes, a lot of SMEs I work with have mentioned funding as a major challenge and I would definitely encourage the government and other businessmen to support institutes so that they can continue to make provision for SMEs to get funds, especially startup funds. The main problem with most SMEs is inadequate startup capital, which can hamper the growth of a business. However, I have noticed that a lot of SMEs don’t even have an idea of how much they really need to start and sustain their business and the lack of proper business planning haunts them down the line. There is also an increase in business competition offering grants. This is a good development for the SME ecosystem.
Like I mentioned earlier, entrepreneurs are the solution to the growth in the economy if the segment is properly harnessed and developed. There is a serious unemployment issue in Nigeria and I believe one of the solutions is for more people to harness their God-given talents and skills and translate them into an enterprise. I see my organisation as a bridge to help these people realise their entrepreneurial dreams as well as guiding them to create profitable businesses.
What we do in Salestar Africa is to work with businesses to build the correct business strategy, structures and systems to enable them increase efficiency and maximise their revenue earning potential. Knowledge is power, especially when applied, and our job is to fill the knowledge gaps of business owners so that they are empowered to take the right steps to grow their business. And testimonials abound from people whom we have worked with in training and consulting capacity. These businesses have gone on to implement better structure and strategies and are seeing an increase in revenues.
Salestar Academy is a business-oriented training platform that offers skill training to professionals and business owners. Our uniqueness is our use of technology to make learning easy and convenient for busy business owners and professionals. We offer online and offline guided courses where individuals and organisations can learn sales and business growth skills. Our current courses are our business boot camps for aspiring and existing entrepreneurs, our signature selling courses and worksheets for very busy people. The idea is to make the required knowledge to start, run and profit from your business very accessible so that we can take away the guesswork and confusion many business owners contend with. We also offer additional coaching in some of these courses where we are not only telling business owners what to do but showing them how to do it.
Relationship with SMEDAN, Bol
We have worked with the Bank of Industry (BoI) in the past, especially on a project to provide capacity building for creative entrepreneurs. We have also worked with SMEDAN indirectly through an organisation we have partnered with to facilitate the SME Connect conference. We are open to working with them a lot more to create a sustainable capacity building platform so that SMEs are armed with the right knowledge and tools to run a successful business.
Contribution to GDP
I believe that what you focus on would produce for you. So I believe that an increased focus in terms of financial assistance, capacity building and infrastructure provision would lead to the growth and contribution of the segment to the GDP. Now, it has to be a cohesive medium to long-term plan with consistent effort, not various one-off initiatives. I say this because the government has come up with some initiatives here and there, but I think the approach can be more strategic and this way, the results would be more visible and measurable.
Tackling early crash
Like I mentioned earlier, a lot of small businesses don’t start with a clear understanding of what their business needs are. They don’t have a growth plan that has captured what their funding needs would be as they grow and expand. If you look at most of the businesses that fail, they either fail because they run out of capital, or their capital burn rate is very high due to wrong spending or low/slow acceptance of their products or services. This trend can be reversed by providing guided business support to small businesses. Most business owners need to work with a business coach or consultant that would constantly give them an objective view of what needs to be done to keep the business on the right path. My advice to business owners is to keep investing in themselves; they need to keep getting the knowledge, skills and building their network so that they can give their business a greater chance of growing.
Also, building a new business is like giving birth to a child, you don’t expect a baby to do what a 10-year-old can do. If you don’t approach your business with that understanding that you need to spend the first few years nurturing it without bleeding it, you might stunt the growth.
Like a lot of people have alluded, oil revenues made the country lazy and made us ignore the development of our other natural and human resources. It is time to roll up our sleeves and do what was done in Singapore and the United Arab Emirate (UAE) by harnessing what we have left.
The good thing is that unlike these countries, Nigeria has an amazing amount of under-harnessed resources that we can begin to tap into and focus on. My advice to the government is that it should come up with a comprehensive plan to develop both the human and natural resources because we need the brilliant minds (human resources) to harness the natural resources and convert them to valuable products. For example, instead of focusing on producing only raw materials that other countries can use and convert to value that they sell back to us, we can begin to convert those raw materials ourselves and increase the value we derive from them. The economy has to shift back to production focused as against its current import focused. And, of course, the right infrastructure would encourage this.
Source : SunOnline