The Wednesday Series is committed to sharing knowledge and experience and continued last night with Ernest Umeike sharing how having been an employee for over 12 years, a downsizing in his organisation led him to following his dream of becoming an entrepreneur. With a few failures, many successes and lessons, he discusses what he wished he knew.
He talked about the lure and trap of the glamour of entrepreneurship versus the real work and how with hindsight, he knows he would have moved at a better and faster pace if he had been mentored.
This conversation is an expression of what he wishes new business owners know so that they improve their chances of survival and success.
Catch up with the conversation here:
Ernest Umeike: #UnocasaWednesday My parents were my motivation and when I was sacked by my employer I knew it was time to take a dive in the deep end. Access Bank was downsizing after the acquisition of Intercontinental Bank and I was one of the unlucky ones.
Ernest Umeike: #UnocasaWednesday Glamour is the appropriate term as many do not realise behind it lies tales of blood, toil and sweat. Having been involved in some failed ventures in the past I know how hard it can be to build a business let alone a successful one. Education is key when starting a business. The entrepreneur must understand the business he wants to go into, understand how to go about initiating the venture as well as prepare the necessary habits that will be built on to make it a success. Finance is key but education is of paramount importance. Enlightenment and a keen sense of analysis are very important for an entrepreneur
Ernest Umeike: #UnocasaWednesday In setting about the logistics business, I used the business model canvass. It helps the entrepreneur have an honest albeit concise look at a venture. The focus is on the value proposition of the business. It also like looks at potential customers, finances and supporting infrastructure. This gave an abstract view but I must admit that having run an online supermarket, I saw the practical operations of logistics and how important it has become in present day Nigeria. With all the problems around social and physical infrastructure, logistics is the bane of businesses. Considering that the whole point of a business is satisfying the customer, it is important for a seller to get goods to the buyer and whoever makes this happen, may make a living by being the conduit pipe.
Ernest Umeike: #UnocasaWednesday Business in Nigeria throws up all kinds of challenges. For me, it could be issues with vehicles to traffic and the poor state of the roads. The others are necessary evils as far as I am concerned. Paying levies to the Local Council, ensuring documentation is up to date etc. My ultimate challenge is retaining customers. Our business segment is quite competitive and customers are spoilt for choice. The customer is all I think about and satisfying my customer is my focus.
Ernest Umeike: #UnocasaWednesday Finance. It is the blood that keeps a business ticking. We are able to stay afloat but going to the next level is key if we want to build a strong business. This is the story of many businesses in Nigeria.
Ernest Umeike: #UnocasaWednesday Finances are a major reason. A business has to grow and sometimes the entrepreneur may need to go back to paid employment in a bit to take a load off the business and also raise some capital. This is not a bad way to go if you ask me. Sometimes we have a clearer vision when we have plunged in and stepped out. Also it may be because it did not turn out as planned. This in itself is not a negative thing as no experience, negative or positive is wasted. Whatever reason it may be, I believe that one should be brave enough to take decisions that are beneficial at any point in time no matter how difficult they may be.
Ernest Umeike: #UnocasaWednesday As much as I would like to choose finances, I honestly cannot. It has to be mentoring. While growing we had our parents, relations, teachers, seniors and peers. They all helped mould our character. The same kind of community life is important in business. A sounding board is so beneficial it is indescribable. With better advise and assistance with the rudiments, an entrepreneur has a greater advantage in taking on the challenges of starting and building a business. Money is also very important as it helps sustain the business and more importantly, helps it grow. Across the world,innovation is always ahead of regulation or policy. In the more developed markets, regulation and policy, while playing catch, tries to engender innovation by encouraging it and helping to sustain it. Sadly, in Nigeria, it is not the case. A lot of our policies are draconian and really serve to derail innovation. The Presidential Enabling Business Environment Council is a step in the right direction but it must be matched with both political and executive will to make any meaningful impact.
Ernest Umeike: #UnocasaWednesday Make this simple, that way it may be easy to replicate or duplicate. Meaning, I it fails but the fundamental principle is sustainable it could be the platform for a new business or if it is successful you can build it up in another form as it is cumbersome.
Ernest Umeike: #UnocasaWednesday First and foremost, your business must solve a problem. This is important. Every problem has a solution but not every solution has a problem. The entrepreneur must be very clear about this. Be brave! Be ready to be broke! You must not lose all your friends and alienate your family. They all matter if you wish to succeed. Understand accounting or get an accountant. Pay your taxes and try to educate yourself ceaselessly. Find a mentor and be ready for adventure!
Ernest Umeike: #UnocasaWednesday I cannot say enough about mentoring. If I had focused on the importance of a mentor when I started this journey, I would probably be moving at a better pace or at least less terrified of the challenges and issues I have had to face. That is why Identify with and recommend UnoCasa’s Enterprise Mentorship Programme. The possibilities are immense and the benefits innumerable. Education, enlightenment and an analytical mind help an entrepreneur. The last one he will build himself albeit with some direction but the first two, he can get a mentor. Also, it is imperative that mentors who did not have mentors get an understanding of what their responsibilities are. For each role we play, we must appreciate it or it becomes meaningless. I know how focused the team at UnoCasa is and have no doubt that the Enterprise Mentorship Programme will produce entrepreneur in business, entrepreneurial workers in organization otherwise known as intrapreneurs. The snowball effect will be immensely beneficial nonetheless.
Ernest Umeike: #UnocasaWednesday I am grateful for being afforded the opportunity to share my thoughts and experiences. I hope they are beneficial to someone but more importantly I wish to stress that this is still part of my learning. Thank you Unocasa.