Nigerians are naturally entrepreneurial people who will always find ways of surviving. However, the way of running a business that can feed you is different from the way you run a business that will change your lifestyle. If your aim is to improve your lifestyle, then go through this guide to se the things you need to do to grow your business. I admit that some of the suggestions here may require you to commit some resources to your business while others are just the simple things you neglect. Lets go... 1. Understand your customers’ needs Every business person is in business because he has clients/customers. The truth is that the customer holds the money that you want to collect. So, you must understand him and treat him well in order to collect the money. Every customer has a need that he wants to be solved. Understand that need and solve it with pleasure. Apart from getting what they want, they need the business owner or service provider to be knowledgeable, trustworthy and fast. Knowledge: Have you noticed that during a debate, the man that talks the most gets almost all the attention? Unfortunately, that is how the business world works (Note, you do not have to talk too much anyway). But in order to talk the most and explain the most, you need to be well informed about the goods or services you provide and how it will help solve your customer’s needs. This is why knowledge is key in business. Customers tend to get attracted to business owners who know their products and services very well, who can advise them better and who can help them make calculated decisions. Therefore, you need to acquire deep knowledge of your products and services as this will help you stand out from your competitors. Trust: Some business owners, especially the service providers (like tailors, auto mechanics, electronics repairer etc) cannot really be trusted to solve their customers’ needs completely without creating another problem. In reality, some of them solve one problem and create another one that will manifest after sometime so that their services will be required in the near future. But do not forget that the customer cannot be deceived forever. So, immediately he discovers your insincerity, you will never see him again. Your customers need to trust that you are truthful, reliable, capable and responsible. Great business owners grow their business on trust. This is because trust increases the number of referrals they get and this in turn helps them grow their business. Speed: Have you ever gone to buy a thing and the seller takes ages to attend to you? And even when he starts attending to you he moves sluggishly as if he is giving you the product for free? Yes, this happens every now and then and it is one of the actions that kill businesses fast. In 2009, I went to a bank ‘Eurobank’ in Athens Greece to open a new account. Immediately I entered, I was ushered to sit at a corner and almost immediately, a lady was coming to attend to me. I was surprised when the lady that attended to me was almost running as she came to take my details. And she carried out the transaction briskly and off I went. This endeared me to Eurobank (this is not an advert) and I was stuck with that bank. When you attend to your customers fast, they fell appreciated, they know that you are a serious business owner and they tend to believe that you appreciate their time. Speed saves time and saves money as well. Dazzle your customers with speed and they will always come back since they have no time to waste. 2. Get your business online When a person says that business is bad nowadays I ask them 3 simple questions which are: 1. Are u on social media? 2. Is your business on social media? 3. Are you online? 4. Is your business online? If the answers to all 4 questions are 'Yes'. Then, we search deeper for the cause. But if the answer to any of them is a 'No', then that is the cause of the problem. People are on social media because they want to be found be other people and also to find others as well. So you should put your business on social media so that people can find your business. Also, people are online to find information, ease off stress and carry out some work. So, take your business online so that when people come to do their thing online, they would find your business. Nowadays, everybody is online and if your business is not online then you are loosing a huge percentage of people that would have been your customers. According to about 30-40 million Nigerians are online which makes the online marketplace the best to sell your products and services. Many businesses in Nigeria harness the power of social media to spread their news and sell their services and products. This is most common with fashion, beauty, food and other fashionable businesses. On the contrary, you hardly find a plumber, nanny, a car mechanic, dentist or taxi driver promoting their businesses on their social media. The reason is basically because their businesses are not regarded as being socially fashionable. But the real question is: Who actually gives a hoot weather your business is fashionable or not? Your family only needs to see food on their table and money to buy your own house. If putting your socially unacceptable business online would bring that money to help you carter for your family then you better do it. On the other hand, there are some websites where you can advertise and list your businesses for free in Nigeria like and So, I will tell you about was created for people like these who rarely advertise their businesses online. It was made to help service providers like event planners, plumbers, nanny, caterers, comedians, car mechanics, painters, electricians, land surveyors etc put their business online without the fear of segregation from the glam on social media. Thousands of services have been added on the website as this website is growing to become a list where you can find any service provider, artisan or freelancer in Nigeria. The good news is that advertising on the website is free. As a service providers, if you want to advertise your business and reach more customers beyond your circle of friends and beyond your social media circle, I advice you check and register. 3. Create a website Creating a website for your business is the trusted way of validating your business and building trust in your customers. It helps them to know what you can do, your range of services or products, who has partnered with you in the past and many more information about you. In fact, this is the best place to sell your business. Most times, when people hear about a new business, they quickly go online to search for it. This is a way of online verification and proof of competence. Creating a website opens you up to a different type of customers who are not in your social media circle and may be living in a different state or country thereby increasing your business reach. One good part of creating a website for your business is that it is like creating a new branch for your business. Imagine the increased benefits of creating a branch for your business in Abuja or Enugu when the head office is in Lagos. That is why a website is regarded as an online office. A mini website could also do the magic so that you do not have to spend so much money in building a website. Several good companies like Zariat Kay Concept (in Lagos), Leewebs Technologies (in Lagos), ATTS Nigeria Limited (in Abuja) and CNC Tech-Alliance Limited (in Abuja) can build really good websites for you on a budget. And I actually found these websites developers on Creating a website can reduce your startup cost. If you are just starting up for instance, you will not need to worry about hiring an office. This then means that you will be working from home. Remember that when you hire an office you have to pay the rent, contribute to building maintenance, pay extra light and water bills, transport yourself to and fro your office everyday etc. Owning a website eliminates all these expenses and allows you to channel your money to where it would start giving results as soon as possible. Owning a website keeps your business open 24 hours a day. Unlike your physical office which closes by 6.00 pm, your website which is your online office will be open all day long. A key benefit of this is that customers can visit your online office to get information, ask questions, place their orders, make purchases and even pay while you are asleep. This give you more liberty to face the challenges of life like sickness, loss of a loved one, pregnancy, minor accidents and child birth. As long as you have a good internet connection, your online store would not miss your presence even if you are absent from your physical store. Imagine closing your office for a whole week because you want to attend the burial or funeral of a loved one. This can cause a great harm to your business if you do not have an online office. 4. Create a referral reward system. A referral reward system is where you reward a customer for bringing other customers to your business. This reward could be monetary reward, items that the company wants to sell out or a price slash for next purchase. Psychologically, we all want to be gifted with one thing or the order. And as a business owner, you can decide the value of the gift you want to give to your customers as a reward for referring another customer to you. And just as the saying goes, “You do not look a gifted horse in the mouth”, your customers would gladly accept your gift if it is valuable to them. The ripple effect of this is that it will make them to want more thereby making them bring you more customers. In the end, you come out as a winner. No wonder they say “Givers never lack”. However, the value of this reward has to be carefully calculated in order to avoid jeopardizing the financial standing of your business. Have you ever wondered why Multi Level Marketing businesses like Oriflame, GNLD, Longrich, Alliance In Motion, Edmark and even MMM made money in Nigeria? It is because they reward people for bringing more people to their business. I do not advice that you set up a multi-level reward system because that might be unhealthy for your business financials. But I sighted these examples to enable you understand the possibilities of growing your business by setting up a system that rewards customers for bringing more customer. Paypal started growing when they incorporated a good referral system to their marketing plan. 5. Recognize loyal customers It is always easier to maintain an already existing customer than to find new ones. A customer that has bought into the ideas of your business will look for ways to defend his choice of purchasing from your business. Thus, it is a wise move to recognize and reward your loyal customers. Carefully identify your most loyal customer or one who has helped you grow your business the most and feature him as your customer of the week or month. You will see that this will go a long way in making others to want to be recognized. And instead of making it to be just one person, you can actually make a list of your 10 most loyal customers of the month. This will make people know that there are very many slots and it will make them feel like it is easy to be among the 10. One great company that does this is ‘Wrapsody’. Design a loyalty programs where customers accumulate points anytime they do business with you. For instance, Access Bank gives you points whenever you use their ATMs. Although most customers do not know how to use the points yet, they would prefer using Access bank ATM whenever they want to withdraw money with the hope that someday they might get to use the points. Just like Access bank, you can design a loyalty reward programme where you reward your customers with points. Just create a register (could be physical or electronic) where you write down your customers’ names and right beside it, write down how many points they have gathered. If you are a small business, you can make it look simple to avoid confusing your staff. It can even look so simple with the following headings: Customer Name Previous Points Today’s Points Total Points Date Remarks Allocate points to every amount a customer spends on your business. For instance: 500 naira – 1 points, 1,000 naira – 2 points, 5,000 naira – 12 points, 10,000 naira – 25 points 50,000 naira – 77 points 100,000 naira – 160 points and so on. Note that amount and points stated above can be scaled up or down depending on the size of your business. You can set a threshold where customers are rewarded once they hit the 50 points mark or 100 points mark. Then you will see how your customers will keep patronizing you and only you to hit the mark and get their reward. The customers’ psychology here will be, ‘instead of spending the money somewhere else, it is better I spend it where I will surely get something in return for spending my money’. One company that maintains customers by doing this is Carrefour (a mega retail outlet in Europe). It does this through their loyalty card. Another way to make your loyal customers to feel recognized is to make them feel special on their special days. Humans are emotional beings, every human being takes actions based on their emotions and then look for logical reasons to defend their actions. Therefore we must relate to our customers emotionally by remembering them on their special days like birthdays, wedding, engagements, birth of a child and even death of loved one. In order to do this, you should be friends with your customers on facebook or follow them on instagram and twitter. As creepy as this may sound, this will help you know when your customers are celebrating or mourning and allow you relate appropriately. In addition, this will give a human face to your business and enable your customers know that you are not only after their money. Once they know that a business (owner) cares about them, they tend to patronize them the more right? This is what will happen to your business once you add the emotional touch to your business. Also depending on the value of a customer to you, you can even send physical cards to them and watch the magic. 6. Communicate your vision A vision is a plan for the future. Your vision tells your customers and employees why you are in business. When your customers understand the WHY, they will know that you are not just out to take their money. And if your vision is one that they can buy into, they will help you achieve it. Now you want to know what kind of vision to set for your business? Set a vision that affects the customer and requires some participation to be actualized. The customer needs to see your vision playing out all around him, he needs to see your staff and employees communicating it. He needs to see it in your products or services (whichever one your business provides) and he needs to see it in your customer services. To achieve this result, you and your employees should think, see, breath, eat and live your business vision. Encourage your employees to use your products or services, that way, they will find out the flaws in your business and help you in fixing it. For instance, if you run a laundry business, your employees should be encouraged to be part of your customers. 7. Understand your employees In 2015, Mr Bill Gross made a presentation on TEDx where he explained the main elements which cause startups to succeed. He considered these 5 elements which include Ideas, Team, Business Model, Funding and Timing. I know that at first guess you would say that funding or Idea is the most important of them all but I am sorry to disappoint you as the Timing is the most important. You can have a great idea with a wonderful business model but if the timing is wrong then your business will fail. You already have your business running so timing is no longer your problem. Funnily enough the second most important element is team which refers to your employees. The employee is the middleman between the business owner and the customer. So if you need to treat your customers right then you should treat the needs of your employees first. In December 2019, I needed the services of an SEO expert, so I called 5 different SEO agencies in Nigeria but only 2 of them and Richieemedia responded satisfactorily (for the sake of saving face, the other 3 companies were not mentioned here and this is not an advert for the companies mentioned). The problem with the other companies varied. One of the companies always had the company phone line switched off. So, I could not contact them. It is possible that the company email handler would reply if I sent a message to him but I needed a company I could call whenever the need arises to and explain things clearly. The second company would forget that I left them a message and would reply my whatsapp chat after 3 days apologizing for late reply and once I accepted the apology, the communication cut. The third company had similar issues. Taking a cue from these 3 companies, one could bet that the owners and even the senior management of the companies were not aware of this as responding to correspondences are left to junior staff. I can as well bet that these companies are loosing a huge amount of money as a result of their employee nonchalance. This is why it is important to understand your employees. One might begin to wonder; how do you ensure that your employees do not sabotage your company? Most times, employees do not deliberately sabotage the company. So, here are some of the few things you could do to get support from your employees. a. Reward outstanding performances: Humans are emotional animals as such we think emotionally before thinking rationally. When an outstanding staff puts in 120% for a period of time (say 3 months) and feels not appreciated, he will feel bad and would join the gang of employees who are there because of lack of employment in the country. And your business don’t need people like ‘good girl turned bad’ because these are the worst kind of employees to have. So, what you do is to reward outstanding performances from your staff. This reward could start from a welldone handshake to a small monetary appreciation and even a recommendation for advanced training or tour or promotion. b. Training: Goal getters are always fascinated by personal growth and development. One way of getting the best out of your staff is through training. Once your staff are trained, you save your company from using crude and out dated knowledge and resources. This saves you money as the training exposes your staff to more cost effective ways of doing things. Additionally, your staff can then give your customers the best quality products and services. This will in turn attract more customers to your business. Fortunately staff tend to stay longer in businesses or companies where trainings are organized for them at intervals and this works in your favour. c. Close monitoring: Closely monitoring you employees work life and working relationship with you customers and fellow colleague could be the deciding factor between a successful business and a failing business. Monitoring is the only way by which you can know what is happening in your business. When you closely monitor how your staff relate with your customers, you can then identify which part of your customer service you need to work on. Do it this way; you need to eavesdrop on your staff when they are relating with your customers (yes you heard me right. I said eavesdrop) because that is the only way you will know what is happening behind closed doors in your business. However, never you eavesdrop on their personal matter. This way, you will undertand your customer pains, staff pains and service/product deficiency. 8. Collaborate with other businesses Collaborating with other businesses is the bomb and one of the easiest ways to grow your business. Collaboration between companies on marketing initiatives can be hugely beneficial. Not only can it increase exposure for both companies, it can result in more leads and greater overall success compared to working on the same initiative alone. Who to collaborate with: You cannot collaborate with anybody or everybody you have to select businesses to collaborate with. So, you need to collaborate with businesses that compliment yours and not your competitors. If your business is in makeup artistry (you are a makeup artist), it makes no sense to collaborate with other makeup artists but to collaborate with complimentary services. Look towards brands that are effective with their own marketing efforts; companies that market themselves effectively are more likely to also co-market effectively. You would not want to collaborate with a brand that will tarnish your already growing reputation. Collaborate with people that respect your business. Respect is reciprocal and you would not want to be begging a collaborator to return a favour after your have promoted their brands. So collaborate with businesses that value what you bring to the table and people that believe that they also need you to grow. How to Collaborate: Firstly make an agreement (it does not have to be written) with the businesses you want to collaborate with. Let them understand what each side needs to do in order to ensure that the collaboration goes well. Refer customers to your collaborator as this is the main aim of the collaboration and this is very easy to start. Print your business flyers and drop at your collaborators businesses such that when a customer patronizes them, they can give your flyers to the customer. And guess what happens? Because your services compliment each other, they would most likely be interested in your collaborators’ services and products if they have not gotten one. It is preferable to personally promote your collaborators to your customer after the customer has made a purchase. You can also promote your collaborators business on your social media handles. This is a great way to tell your customers that you deal with quality vendors and partners. It increases your customers’ confidence in you, increases patronage for your business and introduces your collaborator to your customers and social media circle. Now imagine if you have up to 5 collaborators and they share your business on their timelines and also introduce you to their customers. The result would be massive if they do it right. Additionally, this adds more spice to your social media pages as people would be bored of seeing only your business on your handle. Always remember that each collaborator will gain with respect to how his/her business is structured. As it is expected that an event planner would gain more from a collaboration than a cake baker as more money is involved in event planning than in cake baking. But the good news is that it is still a win-win deal, so there is no need to be jealous of your collaborator. View