3
Nov

Start Smart Series – Part 1 From Business Plan to Business Day 1

by Tubosun Aliu

For an aspiring entrepreneur, one challenge in the journey to starting your first business is the
question, “Where do I begin?”
There are no simple answers to this seemingly simple question, as starting from the very beginning is
the only way. There are no shortcuts on this entrepreneurial journey and you have to spend time,
intellectual resources and perhaps tap into your social capital to get started.
However, in order to make this journey easier, the important question that an entrepreneur needs to
constantly ask himself/herself is “Why am I doing this?”
Starting and owning a business takes a lot of time and energy, and can be physically, emotionally and
psychologically challenging. You might have to spend hours studying and researching, finding the right
location, technology, people, and working out your strategy, marketing plan, operational plans, etc.
This would eventually take its toll on you and you will most likely get to that point where you ask
yourself, “Why am I doing this again?”
Having an answer to the question of “why” is one of the things that would keep you going and push
you beyond that critical point when your momentum seems to be failing. When you successfully cross
this line of doubt, you become almost unstoppable!
The question then is to define what is important to you and the motive behind your wanting to start a
business. Yes, a lot of folks will say “of course, it’s to make money”, and I agree that making money in
business is very important and making profit is extremely critical. But the fact of the matter is that
there are a million and one ways to make money and a million and one businesses that you can do to
help you achieve that purpose, but you chose this particular business! So why this business and not
another?
The “why” behind your business is the motivation that keeps you going. This might be expressed in a
mission statement or might just be a strong conviction of how you believe you can bring about
positive change in the society, or improve the quality of lives of your target customers or even
employees.
Whether it’s a slogan or your core mission statement, this will be your strength on your journey and
ultimately continue to keep you fired up!

27
Oct

5 RULES FOR EFFECTIVE CLIENT COMMUNICATIONS

By Eyitayo Ogunyemi

Has it happened that you intended to communicate a point but your client interpreted your message wrongly? This usually happens when written business communications are vague, morose and without a sense of simplicity. The end result, more often than not, is that potential clients “move on” to the next service provider. To take your business to a bigger level, you must write with clarity in such a way that your potential clients easily get your point. When you achieve this, your clients become happy to engage you, because they understand your terms and their own obligations. Below are five hints to write to win both existing and potential clients:
1. See your words as PRECIOUS GEMS, you won’t give them out carelessly, so write what you mean and mean what you write.

2. Prefer the positive expressions to the negative expressions. I like the way Deborah S. Bosley gives the picture of how our brain reacts to words we read in her article Positive language makes our brains happier
Your selling point may be connected to the use of certain negative words (drug industries for example capitalises on the use of negative words and then tell potential clients how their drugs cure those negative vices), one of the solutions in such instance is to use as few negative words as is possible.
Another arm of this lesson is to avoid using double negatives because they make the readers engage in “mental gymnastics”. See for instance the following statement:
“You may not disengage from the terms of this Agreement unless….”
The challenge with the above example is that, like the rule in mathematics, two negatives make a positive, so where you have “not” as the first negative and “dis” (from the word “disengage”) as the second negative, you have a positive statement which will communicate a wrong intention. It could have therefore been put this way:
“You may disengage from the terms of this Agreement if…”
To conclude on this, greater chances are that when you write in the positive sense, you will use fewer words.
3. Your choice of words should be determined by your likely readership. For instance, your colleagues will probably not patronise your business because they are your competitors, so why write as if you are addressing a colleague?
Potential clients easily get worn out trying to know what you mean when you use technical words (which only your colleagues are licensed to understand). What you must therefore do, is to put the technical words in simple contexts.
One last note- if you must use technical words, make sure that you create a portion to interpret those words in the plain English sense. If you are preparing an online article, link those tech words to other sites where they are exhaustively interpreted.

4. Avoid the repetition game. Many people do this because they are afraid that they have not been heard. For whatever reasons, the thing about repeating yourself is that you become boring.
Here is an example from my archive:
“ON no ground whatsoever or howsoever shall we be liable….”
You will notice that one of “howsoever” or “whatsoever” could have been sufficient, or a more simple word could have fit in perfectly.

5. Engage your clients in the active voice:
“Active voice” is when the subject of a sentence performs the action in the verb, while “passive voice” is when the subject has the action performed on it.
In elementary school, we were taught that when the passive voice is used, it means something is being done for the actor, but active voice puts the actor in charge. When you apply that explanation to your business, you will realise that passive written expressions make you look frail, while active expressions give a sense to your clients that you are in charge.
For example:
You don’t say: “The account will be audited by us”
You should say: “We will audit the account”
Communicating in the active sense helps you to be clear on your thoughts and also clear on who should do what, and what is to be done.
CONCLUSION:
Investing time to communicate to your clients with clarity and simplicity is an act that should be taken serious when preparing your marketing strategies. The Businessperson that engages his/her clients with simple written expressions has a good chance to have the most clients (observe the trend for instance in Insurance companies). The days are gone therefore, when it is assumed that the black man appreciates the content of a book by its cover.

14
Jul

BENEFITS OF STARTING YOUR OWN BUSINESS

Culled from Managing Counsel of Templars; Ijeoma Uju’s presentation at Covenant Capital Seminar titled Establishing a business in Nigeria ‘What you need to know’ (Part 2)

Many people desire to start their own business and they wish to gather as many information as possible on how to go about the whole process.

To start with, there are several benefits for starting up a business in Nigeria- depending on the kind of structure you decide on. Some of these benefits include:

  1. Separate personality: This means you are separate from the business you set up (particularly where it is a company that is started). For example, Abimbola starts MonaMatthews Limited, but Abimbola is not MonaMatthews Limited; MonaMathews Limited can sue and be sued, it can own landed properties and so on, and it is considered to be an artificial person capable of enjoying most of the benefits of a natural person.
  2. Depending on the structure of your business, it can attract investors; A fascinating business idea or an existing business can attract lots of investors based on the structure of the business. With that kind of opportunity, you can diversify and also expand your business.
  3. There is limited liability connected to Value Added Tax. By implication, the tax and other obligations are on the company and not on you as a private person.
  4. It affords you perpetual life. In other words, the business can outlive you. You can therefore decide to retire while the business continues because there is an established value.
  5. If what you started is a company, you will have the opportunity to add your shares and other benefits in the business to the list of benefits to be divulged or willed out upon your demise. Therefore, you can divulge shares and other benefits to your family, your children, or other persons that you desire to assist.
  6. It gives you control. Where in particular the business that you started is sole proprietorship, you do not need to consult anyone before you can control your business; you have absolute control over the number of staff you want in your business; you can hire and fire staff without any consultation as such; you have control over what you want to produce, when, and where.

Having identified some of the benefits of starting your own business, you may wonder next on the kinds of business structures that are available in Nigeria, and also on your own best option. Some guides are provided below:

  1. There is sole proprietorship business: As the name implies, this kind of business refers to one man/woman ownership of the business. For sole proprietorship, you are the business and the business is you. You are the boss of the business; you have all the control you want over the business except for some interference by the government. In other words, you bear the risks alone, and you enjoy the profit alone.
  2. The partnership: if you are not capable on your own or you like to have other person(s) come together with you to run the business, you can invite one or more partners to join you in the business administration. The law gives room for 20 people entering into partnership; while in law firm or accounting firm, you can have more than 20 people. In this kind of business structure, all the risks (as well as the profit of the business) will be shared amongst the partners.
  3. Limited liability company; it could be public or private limited liability company; both are regulated based on their membership. For private limited liability company, you can only have 50 members (although, there are exceptions); but for public limited liability company, you can have as many members as you decide on. Either ways, your liability is limited only to the extent of your unpaid shares.
  4. Unlimited Liability Company: This kind of structure is uncommon. Unlike limited liability company, the liabilities of members are unlimited and they are liable separately and jointly. By implication, in the event, for instance, that the company has accrued liabilities and it is being wound-up, the creditors can go after any or all of the members together.
  5. Non-profit or Non-governmental organization: This includes charity organization, cooperative societies as we have amongst taxi drivers, farmers, and so on. The interesting thing about this kind of structure is that the aim is not to transact business and make profits.

The most common structures in Nigeria for businesses that are going to be profit making ventures are the business name, and the Limited liability Company.

The business name could either be set up as sole proprietorship or partnership.

For sole proprietorship, you must bear in mind that you are the business, everything you will do is about the business, you have complete control of the business- but it may be difficult for you as a sole proprietor to raise a substantial capital for the business, and you are not also guaranteed that your business will continue- which means succession on the business is not guaranteed as a sole proprietorship business owner.

As for partnership, financial commitments are shared amongst the partners; where you seek to operate one, you and your partners must share the load of profit and every other benefit that come out of the business and the risks. The principal issue is where dispute arises in the business and the partners are put to the test of carrying on together.

Lastly is the limited liability company structure which benefits hinge on the facts that the company is a separate legal personality from its members, it can transact business in its name, it can sue and be sued too, and there is perpetual succession of the business, plus the brain of the business which is referred to as Board of Directors. Conversely however, the tax liabilities on companies are higher, and companies are obliged to keep records and file annual papers and audited report.

From all stated, you may agree that the decision on which business structure to adopt has to be made as early as possible because not all the structures will be appropriate for the kind of business that you intend to run.

…. to be continued.