Unlike what we have in most developed countries, starting a small scale business in Nigeria and most developing countries (whether online or offline) can be quite challenging.
A lot of the times, most aspiring entrepreneurs do not realize this until they get started with their businesses, only to be shocked at the reality they get to face.
Usually, “acclaimed” experts will always tell you; it is possible to build anything from anywhere and make it successful but that is not always the case in most cases.
Take for instance, within the last 9 years, Nigeria has recorded about 61% failure rate for small businesses. Meaning that 6 out of every ten startups have failed within this period.
This stat is not much different from most African countries and a majority of the developing world. And this is what a lot of entrepreneurs are not willing to talk about.
Truth be told, even when it is always very possible to build your business around ideas and principles that are applicable universally, your geographical location, target market and other factors will always affect your business strategies…
And this in turn, will affect the success of your business.
With this in mind, you need to realize that beyond what you read from foreign authors and business experts, you still need to key into some homegrown strategies that can work for your own business.
And for these strategies to really work for you, they have to be realistic and tailor made for you, based on your own realities and possibilities, if you really want to build a successful small small scale business.
It is quite true; a lot of new small scale entrepreneurs do not have the information or experience to build these strategies.
As someone who’s been in this system for the past 6 years, someone who’s tasted a handful of successes, failures and learned a lot of lessons along the way i will be sharing with you below…
7 key strategies that can help you to build and scale a successful small scale business in Nigeria;
Understand everything is not exactly what people say it is
Now, this refers to two things.
1. Starting and succeeding in online business is not as simple as those digital marketers tell you in their eBooks. So get prepared for both good and bad days.
2. Do not measure your success or failure as an entrepreneur, based what other entrepreneurs are showing on their social media pages.
Those people you compare yourself with may not be exactly as successful as you think they are. And for your own good, you should know that people also “make up stories” to look like who they are not.
Now, this doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have scheduled targets which you can use to measure your success from time to time with the competition.
What i’m saying is that you should measure your success based on your goals and resources instead of measuring it exactly against your competition else you will soon run out of business.
Of course I’m not saying people don’t get genuine social proofs. I am saying that you should focus on building and growing your business more than you focus on comparing it with other people’s businesses.
Differentiate between Hobby and Business
To scale your online business successfully, you need to understand the following;
- Why you’re a digital entrepreneur, or small scale business owner; It is not enough that you’re an entrepreneur, you have to know exactly, what you’re going to do that will differentiate you from others.
2. Where you’re going from here; You need to know where you’re taking your business and probably a time frame to get there
3. How you’re going to hustle until you break even. You also need a strategy or an idea about the things you can do to actually get your business to the destination you want for it.
After this, you need to clearly, differentiate the business part of what you do, from a hobby.
Reason you need to do this is because a lot of solo and digital entrepreneurs usually see their business as a hobby hence in some instances, they fail to put in as much effort to grow it.
If you are really serious about growing your business then you have to work and treat your business as something very important.
You have to show up when it’s time. Build systems and models. Attend to clients and give your business all the attention it deserves.
Systematize your Business
You need to build workable systems for your small business if you really want the business to grow.
When i mention systems, i am referring to workable structures or templates that can work for you, your business and your clients.
These templates should be re-usable so that you don’t have to create new designs each time you want to use them.
For instance, if you’re going to do a lot of email marketing for your business, instead of coming up with a new email structure all the time, you can create email templates that can be used for your purposes either automatically or manually.
Where you have a blog for your business, your readers and potential clients should be able to know the days they’ll find your content to read when they check you up.
If it’s about design or other services, they should be able to tell when and how their jobs will be delivered.
They should also be able to identify the way you do your stuff from others.
Unlike your hobby which you’re doing whenever you have time, basically for the love of it, your online business should be distinguished and attended to as something that your aspirations and that of so many others will depend on.
You should be able to see it as your work. Have a well defined schedule for carrying out business related tasks and stick to it.
It’s not that you will not fall out of the dateline sometimes. But a commitment to sticking to the systematic schedule will really help you gain traction with your business.
If you’re completely a solo entrepreneur or working with a very lean team, you can simplify things by writing down all your business related activities and allocating specific hours and days to them, based on your schedule.
Spend your time wisely
As an online entrepreneur, time is one of the most valuable resources you’ll ever have.
Unfortunately, like every other person, you have the same 24 hours we all have in one day.
So, managing your time effectively is going to be one of the biggest decider of your success, especially if you’re running a one man business or lean startup with a few staff.
You’re going to have to divide your time into lucrative and non-lucrative hours.
And this should be able to take care of your Capital task (activities that will bring in the money like working on a client’s project.) and Recurrent tasks (Activities that you do to keep up with other part of your life or personal development).
Supposing you’re operating a very lean startup in a country with very unsteady electricity supply, you might even want to divide your time into hours you’ll have electricity and hours you won’t etc.
Let’s call this division, Recurrent and Capital hours.
Every single day, your recurrent hours are going to be spent on those tasks you’re going to do over and again which might not add direct increments to the money you’re making through your business.
You can call this the normal day to day activities like sleeping, doing house chores, attending non work related meetings, hooking up family and friends etc.
Your capital hours on the other hand are going to be spent on everything you do that will in one way or the other grow your business or add more money to your bank account.
These capital tasks may include: Writing your blog and social media posts, Promoting these posts, Building and tweaking your brand reputation, Writing free books etc.
You have to be able to understand where each of these activities will come in, how many hours you’ll allocate to each of them and how you’re going to stick to this schedule, in order to grow your business.
Don’t quit your Job Immediately
As someone starting an online business, don’t put all your eggs in one basket by quitting your job or whatever you’re doing to focus entirely on your small scale business.
No. It’s not advisable. It’s better you start your digital business as a side gig. Focus on what’s already paying your bills while building up your hustle by the side.
You should only focus fully on your new business when it has started generating adequate income to the point you’re confident it can sustain you.
Giving up on other sources of income before your digital business can be suicidal.
It will lead you to expecting an instant returns on investment (based on the effort you’re putting in) even when it’s not yet time.
And when these expectations are not realized immediately, you’ll get discouraged. And probably even quit the business.
This is one of the main reasons so many digital businesses fold up, after the first few months.
If you want to survive past your first year, don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Keep your daily job while building your digital business.
Don’t niche-down immediately
If you can do more than one aspect of a digital business, do it.
Supposing you’re a graphic designer and you can also do digital photography, add it up.
Whatever complementary service you can add to your digital hustling, add it up. It’s going to help you. Especially at the initial stage.
You can then micro niche your hustle to a particular aspect of the business you want at a time you might have gathered clients and adequate capital, to help you target a particular micro niche.
Some other established digital entrepreneurs are going to ask you to niche down as soon as you get started.
This doesn’t work all the time, depending on your market and target audience. You have to forget about niching down or focusing on a very tiny audience right now because it won’t help you.
As a start up digital entrepreneur, you need potential clients to know about you and your business so, you’ll need recommendations etc. And for this reason, you’ll have to reach out to as many people as you can.
When you feel satisfied with your established client base, you can then niche-down to focus on a few more sophisticated target audience.
You can only niche-down from the onset if you have done your research and you’re sure you have a relatively large market to grab.
Brace up for the down times
Whether online or offline, most businesses will always experience a period of rising growth and reduced growth.
Sometimes, these are going to be influenced by market forces beyond your control, as an entrepreneur.
In order to avoid getting caught up unawares in times like this, you need to prepare ahead by taking some drastic measures that will keep you in business if or whenever you experience a downturn.
The following are some measures you can put in place to prepare ahead of time;
Save; One of the first ways to brace up for any eventuality is to save. Saving ahead can help you in cases of any urgent monetary needs so you don’t have to spend all you make from your business.
Plan Ahead; Even when your plans may not work the way you want all of the time, planning ahead gives you heads up on what to do, if there’s any eventuality.
Create Systems; Put up some ideas together to take care of eventualities like customer satisfaction issues, content automation etc.
In any case, whether you’re running an online or offline business, you’ll do well to remember that all business go through different stages of growth…
So, brace up and get ready for the time your business will undergo these stages of growth.
Build your Credibility
Small businesses thrive on credibility.
As a small business entrepreneur, you probably have a lot of big names competing against you on the fringes.
You naturally may not have what it takes to compete against these big fishes but you can build for yourself credibility, by evolving a brand that delivers on its promise.
Instead of competing against the big brands, find out what these brands are not doing for their clients. Focus on doing these things exceptionally well.
Understand, running a small business or an online business in particular is slightly different from doing your business offline.
So, there are things you won’t take for granted if you’re planning to have a successful business.
Things like honesty should form a core part of your value system. I had to write that boldly..
Because you’ll have to do more than enough to get people who’ll probably never meet you physically, to trust you with their money.
As a parting shot, i want you to take note of the following;
Keep a clear picture of where you’re going with your business
Be able to create a convincing picture of what you want to achieve in the long run, where you’ll be in 2-5 years and what you’re going to achieve when you get there.
Always refer to this picture during those days you get discouraged. Hang it somewhere you can see it more often.
Have mentors and role models. People who are already successful as digital entrepreneurs, whose story you can relate with. They will show you the rope and cheer you up during tough times, either directly or indirectly.
Understand that commitment to your hustle or business is not the absence of other options…
Commitment is a decision to stick to something you believe in… Because you’re convinced it’s going to turn out successful, against all odds.
So when you feel discouraged, don’t begin to think oh maybe I’m not committed anymore.
Acknowledge that feeling as part of the process and then move onto achieving success with your business.
I know you’ll succeed. Yes. Because i was once like you but today, I’m advising and consulting for other online hustlers.
You’re definitely going to grow a successful digital business if you use these principles here. And like i said, i know you will succeed.
Need more on how to succeed with your business? Let’s talk.
Now, over to you. So, what have you learned as an entrepreneur?