August 1st, 2016 – Burnsley Technologies Limited officially started operations.
Office space was provided, courtesy of my business mentor who still continues to support the growth and development of the business.
It felt like I was crazy, cause I ignored every advice to apply for a job in the UK. Nigeria had just gone into a recession, and folks in the UK weren’t keen on returning to an ailing economy. I felt the recession was the perfect time to get started and building, cause I would have enough time to grow and position the business to compete with established industry players when the economy rebounds.
Looking back, I never had a concrete business plan or model. All I had was my training from Imperial College Business School, University of the West of Scotland, and some working experience as a sales man, marketer, engineer and handyman.
Drawing from my experiences, I started marketing and selling mobile accessories through various outlets. I had invested some money in USB cables that I felt would appeal to the Nigerian Market. It sure did, and I had some major big wins and learning experiences.
- Be ready for some customers to default on payments, but if you press harder you might just succeed in retrieving some of your money.
- Don’t employ people because they’re caught up in the moment! There should always be a similar work experience before signing them to a contract.
- Be bold to ask, cause it might lead you to something better.
Within 2 months of starting operations, I had a contract proposal on my table which I didn’t hesitate to sign after consulting my business mentor and other professionals. The project came with it’s challenges, and I grew wiser in the process.
Don’t let every threat push you to act, learn to read people and know when they’re bluffing!
Some business people can be really crafty, don’t put your company in any risky financial position.
Learn to keep record of every meeting, email, letter and other conversation. Verbal promises don’t hold water: request for it to be documented.
Before officially commencing operations on August 1st, 2016, I was remotely doing some research and development for a potential client which lead to a presentation on June 9th, 2016. I followed up on this presentation, and being persistent in pushing the product led to an invitation on October 12th, 2016 to present our solution to the Company’s product analyst. The company scrutinised our product and found it worthy amongst other competing brands. We were subsequently invited for a technical and commercial meeting on March 1st and March 3rd, respectively.
Protect your Intellectual Property, guard it with your life.
Not everyone likes your face, but that shouldn’t phase you.
Be one step ahead of your competitors in key areas.
I launched a web platform for Construction and other related industry News in October. What started as a trial project, has been refined overtime to appeal more to our readers and target audience. We are set to re-launch the platform in August 2017. Internet businesses have their own unique challenges, but they are very rewarding once a community has been established.
Consistency is key, don’t stop developing the platform
Do it for fun, not for the benefits that come with owning a platform
Listen carefully to what your users are trying to tell you.
Like every start up, I started facing the usual challenge of cashflow. We weren’t getting any major cash inflow from our activities, resulting in deficit when we balance the monthly books. I took the bull by the horn, cutting down my administrative costs and squeezing my monthly expense to keep us from going bankrupt. I started to take interest in Accounting, Business Law and Economics after reading Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. I invested money in text books covering the subject, and proceeded to self study.
- Don’t stop acquiring knowledge! Ensure you teach yourself something everyday.
- Identify your cashflow, and plan ahead for your next inflow.
- Monitor the key financial numbers in your business, and know when to act.
We started getting involved in other lines of business to get cash flowing into the business to pay salaries for my team and other monthly running costs (i.e. internet subscription). I started project managing different construction projects – one bedroom flat, self contain apartment, office space refurbishment, and some minor civil works. Getting involved in this type of work exposed me to the everyday business person on the street and market. I started learning faster, the Nigerian way of doing business.
- Whenever someone tells you the price for a commodity, half that price and start negotiating from there. e.g. A supplier tells you, this cement bag is N7,000. You should start your negotiation from N3,500.
- Always get more than two people to quote on a job, and use their quote as a bargaining tool to drive down the price of their service. Play both suppliers to get the price you’re comfortable paying.
- Never pay anybody more than 50% upfront payment for their services. The remaining balance should be paid upon satisfactory completion.
Before I end this post, I need to recognise one big man in Nigeria – Federal Inland Revenue Service. Be sure to get yourself acquainted with the relevant tax laws and other laws of the land that your business operates in. Currently, Nigeria is taking giant strides to capture all tax revenues from its citizens. Don’t get caught on the wrong side, but if you do;
- Get yourself a qualified and experienced chartered accountant.
- Be nice to the tax officers, but firm! Don’t let them take you for a jolly ride.
- Don’t use your business bank account for purposes other than for activities relating to the business. Speak to your accountant before certain transactions are executed.
What started as a one man army, a year ago, is now a growing team of adventurous soldiers. I have more resources at my disposal ready to be utilised. My network has grown exponentially, while my love life has diminished drastically! I went through the wilderness on a self searching mission, and discovered myself! To get to my promised land, I need to remain focused, hardworking and committed to the vision! I am not sure if this will be a yearly thing, but God willing I can reflect on another year come 2018. 🙂
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