Do you have the dream of owning your own business? Are you in the process of starting a business or you have an idea that you intend to turn into a business opportunity? Then this article is definitely for you.
It is been quite a long time I wrote an in-depth article about the happenings in my business. Well, this is one of such articles. For those of you that have been loyal readers of my blog, I believe you are aware of a project I undertook last year. Now for those who are not aware of this project, I will brief you. On the 21st of April 2012, I set a goal to start a new business entirely from scratch and this goal was to elapse on the 31st of January 2013.
Now after several months of in-depth research, planning, hard work and struggle; the goal has finally being achieved and “********* Technologies LTD” is currently on stream but it took till 1st March 2013 to get it done. So in this article, I will not only be talking about the project itself but I will be talking about the process it took and the lessons I learned. However, I won’t be revealing some vital details based on legal grounds but when it has been certified okay by my lawyer to do so, I will share them. So without wasting your time, below are nine bitter lessons I learned from the process of starting this new business.
Starting a New Business: Nine Bitter Lessons I Learned this Year
Yes. My lesson one is that no business is easy and the reason I chose this as lesson one is because I still get emails and requests from people enquiring about the best business to start. I have said it before that the best business opportunity does not exist and this recent business venture I undertook has proven it again.
Despite my previous adventures and experience as an entrepreneur, I still had to go through the same process I went through when I started my first business and the process wasn’t easier this time. In the course of trying to find a suitable opportunity to pursue, I had to travel down to Imo state and I found a lot of opportunities there but there was always a hitch surrounding every idea. Below are some of the business ideas I researched upon while on this quest:
Cold room or Frozen food business – The demand for frozen food is already high but the business is quite capital intensive. I will also have to deal with the power supply problem and lastly, there’s currently a review of the policy on importation of frozen fish that may affect the industry. So I had to bypass this business opportunity but i still have it on my plan.
Poultry or catfish farming – I have the passion and all the data regarding this business; and the demand is quite enormous. Yet, I still don’t know what’s holding me back from venturing into this business. Maybe it’s because of the risk associated with livestock farming (high mortality rate of the animals). A close friend of mine ventured into poultry farming during this same period I was doing my research and planning for my business. He started with 6,000 birds and before you could say jack, he had lost 1,000 birds. Such is the risk of business.
Palm Oil Trading – I am looking at sourcing palm oil from local processing plants in remote villages and transporting them to high population areas for reselling. I still have this business on my drawing board so I can’t divulge much.
Palm Oil processing – Now this is a business that involves some production technicalities and I intend venturing into it with a partner. It involves buying the raw palm nuts from the farmers and processing it into palm oil. I have a very good friend who spent countless hours travelling into remote villages in Ngor Okpala and even up to Bayelsa, researching and digging up any information he can find about the business. To be sincere, nothing would have been done about this opportunity if not for this friend of mine. We are still trying to get this opportunity off the ground, so no much details for now.
Importation and retailing – I also looked at importing and retailing some products that will suit majority of the population in Imo state; which comprise mainly of students. But I have to drop the idea for reasons best known to me.
After much detailed research, I chose to set up a business that combines providing services, digital marketing, publishing and technology. Like I said earlier, I can’t reveal much detail now until I am through with the legal processes involved with the business. Now considering the in-depth information gathered and the amount of time it took me to setup my current business, I can boldly say that no business is easy to get into.
So if you are one of those people looking for the best business to start with N1,000,000 or $5,000 or whatsoever, then I have this to say to you. Stop the insane search now because the best business idea or opportunity does not exist. Secondly, there’s nothing like an easy, stress-free or risk-free business and lastly, all businesses are lucrative. Yes, all business are lucrative and no business is more lucrative than the other. I have seen people make tremendous profit in charcoal retailing and distribution, despite the fact that it is a dirty business as described by some people. As long as you have adequate knowledge about a particular business, the needed passion and the capital, you can find success in any business venture.
Critical research and planning can make or break your business even before you launch
Why did I take the pain to research several businesses before choosing one? The reason I invested much time into research and planning is because a successful business is created right from the drawing board, even before a dime is invested. Another reason I invested much time and resources into research and planning is because having adequate knowledge about a business is a requisite for success; and it can also become a competitive advantage for you.
One of the reasons why most people fail in business, especially here in Nigeria is because of lack of research and planning. I have seen countless of people jump into a business simply because a friend or neighbor is succeeding in such business. I have also seen people start a business based on the recommendation of a family member or friend. My dad was also guilty of this and he paid dearly for it.
As I write this now, importing is the hottest business idea in Nigeria this 2013 and there are thousands of information products being sold with respect to importation. The funniest fact about this trend is that most of the marketers of such books have never imported even a pen into Nigeria, yet they are selling thousands of copies of books to gullible Nigerians. Jumping into an industry blindly is one of the reasons why there are a lot of failures in the business world. If I were to venture into the business of importing as a novice, I will first spend about six months to a year, learning the ropes from an established importer; not a marketer with a hyped up sales letter.
Success in one industry does not translate to success in another industry
Most people who read my blog usually think of me as a guru or whiz kid of some sort. Yes I have built some successful businesses but I have also had my own share of failure. The principles of business is the same throughout the world but industry challenges, economic conditions, demographic and territorial challenges makes the difference. What this mean in essence is that the being a successful business owner in a particular country or industry does not mean you will succeed if you venture into another country or industry.
The fact that Aliko Dangote is a successful cement manufacturer does not mean he will succeed if he ventures into the computer industry. The fact that Bill Gates is a software mogul does not mean he will succeed as a cement manufacturer. The rules and playing field of every industry is unique and to thrive in any industry, you must be willing to learn and do the dirty work involved. The rules of the business world is no respecter of persons.
Today, I am quite popular and known in several countries of the world. Thanks to my business blog StrategicBusinessTeam.com which is now averaging 150,000+ Visitors monthly and the number is growing rapidly. But what most people don’t know is that prior to starting this successful blog, I already had a painful experience with my first blog BestBusinessMentor.com; which failed due to my technical incompetence.
Another fact most people won’t know is that despite my success with StrategicBusinessTeam.com; I still failed to get two blogs off the ground in 2012, despite investing time and capital in such projects. The fact that I was able to build a successful business blog does not mean I can build a success health blog; even though the technical challenges involved are the same. This is why I said that success in one industry does not translate to success in another industry. Now if you must know the two blog project that failed, they are:
InvestingAdviceforBeginners.com – This blog had potential and was actually growing and generating income but I had to scrap the project because I realized that business and investing are correlated. What stops me from sharing such investment advice on StrategicBusinessTeam.com instead of splitting the effort and increasing my overhead. That was how this blog died.
BellyDancingFun.com – This niche was well researched and I even spent a considerable amount of money on the research, planning and the written content. But the sad truth about this blog is that I lack the passion to run it and I am not even interested in the subject of dancing in general; not to talk of belly dancing. I don’t even have the passion to promote it or invest further resources into it, so it is just lying there.
Now what am I trying to pass across to you? The message I want you to take home today is that you can still fail even if you are given the best idea in the world. The reason I say this is because ideas, opportunities, capital, and every other needed factor for success in business is not enough, you need passion to get things going and even when you succeed, you need passion to sustain the momentum. That’s the reason why billionaires such as Dangote, Warren Buffett, Donald Trump and Mike Adenuga are not resting on their laurels despite being among the richest men in the world. It is all about passion; so stick with what you know best.
To get the best result, be tough
This was a bitter experience I learned in the process of setting up my new business. After getting an office location, I had to do some interior work so as to get the office up to my taste and create a work environment that will be conducive for my employees. To get this done, I had to work with electricians, painters, welders, etc and in the course of work, I tried to be good to them. I treated them with respect, gave them extra money and pecks, and paid them well. But what did I get? Nothing. Work that should have been executed in three days at most dragged on to over a week and my cash was dwindling rapidly. I treated them with respect and they took my kind nature for granted. Then I changed and adopted a new strategy. I got mean, yelled, threatened and wore a sad face. They said even bad things about me but guess what? The job got done and that’s all I care about.
“Don’t be too familiar with your followers; it may at first inspire affection but eventually, like all familiarity; it will breed contempt.” – The Mafia Manager
After much thought, I came to fully understand that humans by nature perceive kindness or being soft as a weakness; and they take you for granted because of it. But when you are mean, harsh and tough; you bring out the best in people. I knew this fact right from time but I thought things would be different this time. Unfortunately, humans will remain humans.
Starting a New Business: Nine Bitter Lessons I Learned this Year
To hit your goals, get a goal accountant or enforcer
Right from the moment I set this goal in 2012, I have been bouncing from one challenge to another and I encountered problems I never anticipated. In fact, I almost gave up the goal because my mind was filled with doubts and I could see one hundred tangible reasons why I don’t need to stress myself pursuing such goal.
In utmost sincerity, I want to say that this goal would never have been achieved if not for a good friend of mine named “Precious.” He gave me the mental support I needed, he encouraged me and most importantly, he refuse to listen to my lamentations or complaint and he gave me no room to wallow in self pity. Despite the challenges, problems, my incessant complaints and unenthusiastic attitude; he refused to budge and instead kept pushing me harder. As I write this now, I am so full of gratitude to him.
Another reason I kept pressing forward despite the strong urge to quit the process was because I had shared this goal openly with everyone on this blog. When I set this goal, I received a lot of encouragements, feedback and a few criticisms. Most people who wrote me were eager to see how far I will go with the project.
To you my loyal reader, I say thank you and the reason I am thanking you is because if I hadn’t been outspoken about this goal or project, I would have abandoned the project quietly and move on. But because this project was an open one and I was accountable to you, I knew deep down in me that I must report back to you regardless of the outcome; be it success or failure. I also knew this goal of mine will motivate a lot of my readers and spur them to action; that was why I refused to give up.
“I intend to be, the richest man in the world.” – Howard Hughes
So if you intend to engage in a similar business or investment project, get a goal accountant. Such a person could be a family member or friend but he or she must be able to advice and hold you responsible for your actions without sentiment or bias. Another tactic you can use to achieve your goals is to tell people about it. Being outspoken about your goals will keep you on your toes and you will be held accountable by those you have told your goals.
When I was a teen, I remember telling my childhood friends about my dream to be a rich man with several businesses. But they scoffed at me because they felt I was too ambitious, too money conscious and out of place. I looked stupid back then because while my mates were bragging about attaining the highest academic status or qualification, I was talking about business and money. But today, I am proud to say that my dream is still alive and on full steam. Now am I the only one that talks openly about my personal goals? The answer is no.
“I think I am very goal oriented. I’d like to win the America’s cup. I’d like Oracle to be the No 1 software company in the world. I still think it is possible to beat Microsoft.” – Larry Ellison
“I want to put a ding in the universe.” – Steve Jobs
“I always knew I was going to be rich. I don’t think I ever doubted it for a minute.” – Warren Buffett
“I intend to be, the richest man in the world.” – Howard Hughes
Pat Flynn of SmartPassiveIncome.com regularly talks about his goals and dream; and he pursues it vigorously because he knows he will be held accountable by readers. Aliko Dangote once shared his goal about being Africa’s greatest industrialist and he has hit the goal. When Richard Branson was a teenager, he shared his dream about building a brand that will span different industries and sectors of the economy, in different countries. The board of directors of the company that wanted to acquire his “Student” magazine thought Richard Branson was crazy and withdrew from the deal. But today, the “Virgin Group” founded by Richard Branson is a conglomerate of over 400 companies. Who says it does not pay to share your dreams aloud?
It takes pain and sacrifice to be focused
“And here is the prime condition of success, the great secret. Concentrate your energy, thoughts and capital exclusively upon the business in which you are engaged in. Having begun in one line, resolve to fight it out on that line; to lead in it. Adopt every improvement, have the best machinery and know the most about it.” – Andrew Carnegie
Most success coaches and motivational speakers emphasize the need to be focused on a particular goal or field. From my personal experience, I can attest to the fact that “focus or concentration” on a given purpose is a requisite for success in any endeavor. But what most success coaches and speakers will not tell you is that it takes pain and sacrifice to be focused. In fact, they make it sound easy but it is not.
“The sun ray does not burn, until it is brought to a focus.” – Anonymous
To stay focused on a specific goal or primary task without diverting your attention to something else; even when such secondary task seems profitable takes a lot of discipline, pain and sacrifice. In the course of pursuing this business project, I came across a lot of promising investment opportunities, I had several personal needs and problems pop up here and there; but I refused to take my eyes off the goal, I refused to divert cash set aside for this project into something else.
Now why should you invest such money in a long term business venture when you can play the stock market and gain 50% – 100% in less than six months? In the third quarter of 2012 alone, I made 87 percent profit on my invested capital through the stock market. But I would have made more money if I had increased my share volume, by investing the money meant for this business project. This is the reason why I said focus takes pain and sacrifice. If I had taken my attention off this startup project to pursue other promising investments, I wouldn’t be where I am today. Being focused pays, especially in the long run.
Your health is more important than money
From the 1st of January 2013 to the 1st March 2013, I was always on the move trying to get this business venture off the ground. During this period, I was running around trying to get an office space, dealing with craftsmen and artisans to get the office in order, getting office equipment and appliances, hiring employees, running my businesses, etc. Before I knew it, my health broke down and I was ill for about five days. During those five days I was down with illness, nothing mattered to me. The business project, investments and every other deal I was involved in never mattered any more. All I thought of and cared about was my health. Health is the most important thing, because without it, every other material thing is useless. So take care of your health first; then every other thing can follow.
Start small, run lean and grow slow
The media is filled with stories of individuals and businesses that grew fast and became big in the shortest of time. People love stories of overnight success and achievements. Also, I have met individuals who have plans to build million dollar businesses and they are trying to raise a large capital for such projects; but these same individuals have never even operated a small business. I am a sole believer in the concept of starting small, running lean and growing slow. One of the reasons this project dragged this long is because I self financed this business from the scratch. Yes, there were easier options for me to source for funds and get the project running speedily but like I said earlier, I prefer to start small and grow slow.
I also advise you go the same route. If you can self finance your proposed business idea, then do it, even if it means starting small. Don’t be deceived by the news of companies or startups raising millions of dollars in capital. As an entrepreneur, I want to tell you that raising millions of dollars in capital does not mean you are profitable; and the most important word an investor wants to hear is “profit.”
I have seen businesses raise millions in capital and still went bankrupt. So the fact that you were able to secure venture capital does not make your business successful; Digg.com and MySpace.com are good examples of this scenario. Startup funding is all about scaling up, it is not a sign of profitability; it is an insignia of potential. The ability to generate profit consistently is what makes a business successful. So don’t be deceived by media hype, start small, run lean and grow slow. When your business begins to turn in profit, then you can seek funding to scale up your operations. A word is enough for the wise.
It is the Little things that make the big difference
In business, most people look at the big things like the assets of a business, the revenue and the value of the business. But savvy entrepreneurs and investors know that it’s the little things in business, like cash flow and liquidity that can make the big difference. Do you know that a man can be worth $100million and still be broke? So also can a business have millions based on asset valuation but such business can still fail due to cash flow problems or lack of liquidity. This was one of the lessons I learned in business and I re-learned this lesson again recently. I don’t want to go into details of what happened but the lesson I want you to take home is this: “take care of the little things in business, because they make the big difference.”
As a final note, these are the nine lessons I learned from the process of starting a new business from scratch. But I want you to know that the battle is not over yet and there are more lessons to be learned. Starting a new business is just the starting point; there is still a lot work to be done. Now if you are one of those individuals that have been sitting on their idea for too long, it is high time you get down to work because if you are waiting for the right time to act, such time will never come. Start with what you have now, and you will find the rest along the way.