By Timi Olubiyi, PhD
Planning is key to any form of business structure anywhere in the world, be it large enterprises, partnerships, small or even start-ups. Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Therefore, business owners and managers should endeavour to continually plan throughout the business existence without hesitation. It is more pertinent to note that the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has continued to cause unprecedented disruptions to businesses, economies, and livelihood in different magnitude globally.
Businesses, in particular, continue to grapple with strategies to stem the tide of the effect of the negative impact of the COVID-19 and the current business situations. This is due to the fact that the pandemic has created a vicious circle of vulnerabilities across all industries and sectors of the economy, particularly in developed nations like Nigeria.
Therefore, for business continuity, it is important to consider business planning which is about regularly setting goals, tracking progress toward those goals, making business reviews, and making changes to businesses as the environment changes, customers’ preference changes, and/or business resources change.
A good strategy at this time will be to adapt and make use of a well-structured business plan which is a detailed written document that describes business activities, goals, and plans. It involves the process of writing down what is involved in bringing ideas to reality and to a large extent it can help deal with issues scientifically instead of committing them to prayers, assumptions, and/or fate.
Business plans simply help to unravel and address the why, what, who, how, where, when, and how a business is managed. A business plan usually outline business operations, finances, strategy, and goals a business is willing to achieve in the short, medium to long term and the ways to achieve it successfully.
In our clime, from context observation the central belief is that business plan is for start-ups and raising capital, this notion is incorrect. A business plan is valuable from start-up, short, medium, and long term strategic plan of any enterprise, business, or venture to achieve its objectives or to scale up.
Consequently, for any form of business to maintain success or performance particularly with the current disruptions, having a business plan and regularly reviewing it. Doing so will help the business to recognize areas that need rethinking, improvements, revamp or support to ensure it continues to meet its business goals.
Hence, with a business plan, it will be a lot easier to review current performance to identify the most likely strategies for growth or sustainability. A well-written business plan is an important tool because it gives entrepreneurs the ability to lay out their goals and track the progress as the business progresses. If your business or organization is without a well-documented plan that speaks for itself at this time, it is important to consider one as a strategy right away.
Several studies and much empirical evidence suggest a link between business planning and performance and most of these studies show positive relationships. In fact, apart from performance, another key importance of a business plan is that it helps to minimize business risk.
With one, businesses can have a data-driven approach to business management because adequate information will be gathered and known about customers, competitors, and even about the business operations. Drawing up revenue and expense projections, devising logistics and operational plans, and understanding the market and competitive landscape can all help reduce risk factors.
This will assist to a large extent the critical strategic decisions of the business such as whom and when to hire, make improvements on plants and machinery, develop new business alliances, outsource some business activities to professionals to cut cost, dividend payment provisions, create a new business line, have new branches, seek funding and so on.
Apart from decision making, it can really offer deep insight into customer experience, competitors, and adequate information on the chosen industry through market research.
Some of the most common reasons businesses fail, such as due to lack of capital, cash flow constraints, and working capital issues, lack of competent staff, inadequate team, stiff competition, pricing, identifying market needs, industry pressures, stiff government policies and environmental challenges amongst others can simply be handled or tackled with a business plan. Frankly, a well-structured business plan can help avert most of these challenges.
Another major importance of having a business plan is to prove the viability of the business at any time. This can help attract investors in times of liquidity squeeze, seek a loan from a bank, or raise capital from the capital market. For large firms, in particular, a business plan can also be useful for restructuring and for mergers or acquisitions.
The weakness and inherent risk of a business can be easily identified and significantly managed with the availability of a well-structured business plan. Sincerely, a business plan is a communication tool that can be used to inform all the business stakeholders about the going concern of the business and the projections.
Note that business plans are meant to change as businesses grow or when businesses experience challenges and difficulties. Therefore, actively reviewing and editing the enterprise business plan to keep it up to date with current realities will help greatly.
Every good business plan involves SMART goals, SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-based. This has to reflect in any structured business plan and the overall business plan needs to be clear, easy to read and understand.
While business plans have many purposes, remember the primary importance of a business plan is that it helps business owners make better decisions.
Consequently, businesses particularly micro and small businesses need more business plan education to take advantage of the use at this time. Small and Medium-sized (SMEs) need to know that a business plan is a tool for understanding and improving business situations at any time of the business cycle because many shun this all-important document.
More so business progress can be monitored with it if reviewed continually as at when due. Now that the importance and the need to have a business plan have been presented, it is time to decide to improve or sustain business performance with it considering the current realities. Good luck!
How may you obtain advice or further information on the article?
Dr Timi Olubiyi is an Entrepreneurship and Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University Nigeria. He is a prolific investment coach, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment (CISI), and Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: firstname.lastname@example.org, for any questions, reactions, and comments.
How to Validate Start-up Ideas With Design Thinking
By Otori Emmanuel
Innovators are concerned about building a product that will have a huge impact on the lives of people by increasing the quality of living standards, addressing a pain point or an alternative that is cost-effective for its consumers.
With these great thoughts comes a big question that has to be answered before launching a product or service and it is the question of “is there a market”?
The addressable market size becomes a question to answer in order to ensure that when a product is manufactured, it will find users or consumers who are willing to utilize the product based on the offer that is being given.
One of the techniques that most successful start-ups in the world has applied to ascertain whether a product will sell or not is called Design Thinking.
One of the failures is the assumption that there is a market, is one that can be seen or witnessed in solutions that have been made for people. An example is the construction of an overhead bridge for pedestrians to avoid crossing the expressway. However, the humans who this provision has been made for usually ignore the bridge and use the expressway to connect to their routes, which even makes their transit riskier than the use of the overhead bridge.
Why would anywhere risk their lives to cross an expressway when there is an overhead bridge beside them?
Failure in the consideration of what would drive people to use the overhead bridge is what is lacking and why the preference for the use of the expressway.
Would these same people use the overhead bridge if there were possible factors considered before making the designs? The answer is an absolute yes. The failure in the use of the overhead bridge is driven by the fact that the normal tendencies of human behaviour were not considered before constructing the bridge.
Design thinking takes into consideration the natural tendencies of human behaviour before designing a solution. This will ensure shared responsibility from both parties such that there is already a market with reasonable demand to capture a market share that can sustain the business when eventually presented to the users. The failure of most start-up ideas is embedded in the emotional attachment that founders have to their ideas which makes it difficult for them to be open to feedback from prospective users. However, a fact-based finding should be prioritized against emotions when creating a solution.
How Design Thinking Drives Innovation
There are five stages in the design thinking process
Being able to empathize with customers most especially when it is a challenge or pain point that makes the purchasing or usage of a product or service difficult for them gives an opportunity to learn closely from them as it then creates an attitude that makes them become difficult customers because there are bottlenecks that hinders the what they expect to be an ideal purchasing process. Customers also have a reference point of a better offering and would always voice out. Active listening to their challenges becomes great feedback for start-ups. This stage consists of interviews in getting to know what the ideal scenario is for prospective customers.
Having interviewed the prospects, it then becomes necessary to begin to define what the challenges are from all the opinions gathered from several interviews conducted with stakeholders. The age group of those facing these challenges, their income level, experience, education and location becomes parameters to pay attention to.
The aim of conducting interviews and surveys by visiting the field is to be able to generate a product or service that has a fit for the market. All the feedback that has been given now needs to undergo divergent or convergent processes where divergent takes the several opinions and create solutions around them while convergent thinking helps to narrow down to the best idea. These two thought processes help to come up with what the proposed solution to be developed would be.
Prototyping involves making a Minimum Viable Product (MVP), a minimum viable product is one that is made with the minimum resources in order to furthermore see how customers interact with the product or service in its pilot or beta phase. The feedback from the usage and engagement would then help to determine whether a full product would be manufactured or not. For digital products such as web or mobile apps, tools such as Figma or Adobe XD can be used to make a prototype.
The testing stage helps to pick the ideas that work and move very fast to implement them. If there are impediments or bugs, then it has to be corrected. When the product passes the testing stage, a complete product category can now be created and ready to make entry into the market.
The first two stages in the process of design thinking help to look out for evidence by carrying out Primary Market Research (PMR) to ascertain by means of qualitative and quantitative analysis the fact there are pieces of evidence to either support whether a challenge really exists or not for a solution to be created.
Founders should learn to embrace what the primary market research presents in order to avoid losing big as a result of the assumptions of what they either expect the market to be or their emotional connection to the product.
Emmanuel Otori, the writer, has worked on the GEM Project of the World Bank, Conducted training for entrepreneurs and professionals at the Abuja Enterprise Agency and has over 8 years of experience working with over 50 SMEs across Nigeria. Please visit my LinkedIn profile here – https://www.linkedin.com/in/emmanuelotori/
King of Boys 2 (The Return of the King): The Gender Imperatives
By Timi Olubiyi, PhD
In Nigeria and beyond a trending movie this time is the King of Boys 2 (The Return of the King). It is a seven-part series Nollywood movie, streaming on Netflix platform on the internet.
In my view, the storyline of the movie can easily pass as a reflection of the dark side of politics in the country, Nigeria. It tells the story of Alhaja Eniola Salami (real name Sola Sobowale), the lead character, as a very powerful businesswoman, and an influential political figure.
She is the eponymous King of boys, heading a table of gang-lords and whatever deal any of the other men on the table makes, they are obligated to give her a percentage as the King.
Despite the elated performance of Alhaja Eniola Salami (Sola Sobowale) in the movie, the heavy criticism of her role is the focus of this piece. Alhaja Eniola’s criticism was no surprise at all I must submit, having played a significant role that many believed was best suited for the male gender, and this made the condemnation of her role in the movie severe.
In Africa, gender equality is a lip service phenomenon and it is not only in entertainment but also prevalent in the business world and indeed in politics and governance. From observation, women leaders are basically in their minority, even in the military, education, and religion. Their acceptability is usually low and this has existed for several generations and has become a norm in homes, businesses, governance, and most spheres of African life.
Undeniably, politics and corporate leadership in most African nations bear a masculine face and Nigeria is not an exception. Women are viewed to have very limited access to decision-making processes in all domains. More so the continent particularly instils a culture and norms that women are subordinates and in some cases are perceived as lesser beings than men principally in leadership. Leadership is the action of leading a group of people and it is connected to governance, management, and/or administration of corporate entities.
Though women and men have different biological and physiological make-up, conversely, women may still share common features with men in terms of educational qualifications, socio-economic status, and occupation, among others. The biological makeup which is associated with gender is what is widely acknowledged and valued in leadership, rather than personality, competence, and character.
This perception is particularly challenging for women mainly because effective leadership transcends gender. So the continued criticism of Alhaja Eniola on her role in the movie is largely tied to gender disparity.
Painfully, it is well documented in the literature that leadership is a role perceived as a masculine role on the African continent. So regardless of the capacity, experience, competence, knowledge, displayed by women they are not seen as having parity with men. For this reason and despite women’s share of the population, women remain underrepresented in leadership across the continent.
For instance in Nigeria, the World Bank reported in 2020 that the labour force in the country has 44.82% of female representation. The big question is how many of these females hold key leadership roles? Furthermore, the report ranked Nigeria as 128th out of 153 countries in a survey and the country has remained within the 100th and 130th position out of these 153 countries, over the last 10 years (2010 – 2020).
In the same vein, out of 53 countries in Africa, Nigeria holds the 27th on the World Bank’s Global Gender Gap Index 2020. This available data implies that as a nation Nigeria still has much to do in attaining gender parity and having meaningful representation for women.
It suffices to say the trend is not due to a lack of competence or leadership traits on the part of women but that the public has accepted the culture as a way of life on the continent.
Remember, when partisanship, political pressure, and gender bias are taken into account, the gap and differences become sharper and more obvious. Even though generally, women are perceived to have an advantage over men on honesty and ethical behaviour index which are key elements of leadership, these traits in women are rarely considered.
Some of the known and cited barriers to female leadership are sexism, stereotyping, sexual harassment, family demands, maternity, and institutional mindsets.
In fact, the obstacle females face begins in the womb, families that prefer sons may abort daughters. For these reasons and more, women are not only ignored in leadership but are likely to continually be in vulnerable employment, paid less than men, and even be more unemployed than men if this disparity remains ignored.
It is noteworthy to mention that it is time for opinion leaders, captains of industries, governments, religious leaders, policy, and decision-makers to improve on gender matter advocacy in leadership and discourage the social structures and family values that completely favour men over women.
The world is evolving and the concept of effective leadership has moved from an emphasis on “who” the leader is to “what” the leader can do.
So, with this conception, attention should therefore be placed on improving on selection approach of a leader with gender-neutrality.
Capability and ability should be the key determinants of a leader particularly in the business world and in governance, where competence is expected to drive performance. It is noteworthy that key aspects pertinent to leadership such as self‐confidence, honesty, humility, trustworthiness, responsiveness, education, experience, competence, and integrity which are not gender-specific should be the most important attributes to consider when considering a leader and not the gender.
In my humble opinion, there is no shortage of qualified women to compete for any leadership role, be it in governance, military, business, corporate, or academia, we just need to improve on the political will.
Even though in Africa there are few or no regulations on gender matters. Nigeria can still do more on the established gender-mandated regulations.
For instance, the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has a regulations-mandate of having a minimum of 30% of females on boards of Nigerian commercial banks this can be reviewed upwards to 40% if not to 45%.
Then as a capital market operator in Nigeria, I am aware that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has a code that recommends that publicly listed companies should consider gender when selecting board members, this code ought to be reviewed to have specific gender-based rules to improve female participation. Such regulations where applicable should be duly monitored along with proper enforcement. Furthermore, governments need to intensify gender policies to address the gender imbalance in the polity.
Finally, to have greater participation of women in all spheres of Nigerian society and indeed Africa, the governments and all stakeholders should engage in programmes and policies that would empower women politically, socially, and economically.
This is because women can be major stakeholders in the developmental project of any society if given the opportunity and platform. Culture and customs such as women are required only to take care of homes, and girl child marriages should be discouraged across the continent. More importantly, education must be a priority for all. Good luck.
How may you obtain advice or further information on the article?
Dr Timi Olubiyi is an Entrepreneurship & Business Management expert with a PhD in Business Administration from Babcock University Nigeria. He is a prolific investment coach, seasoned scholar, Chartered Member of the Chartered Institute for Securities & Investment (CISI), and Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC) registered capital market operator. He can be reached on the Twitter handle @drtimiolubiyi and via email: email@example.com, for any questions, reactions, and comments.
Marwa’s Creative Fights Against Illicit Drugs in Nigeria
By Jerome-Mario Utomi
I still recall with vividness how in the year 2008, Nigeria and most Nigerians breathed a sigh of relief as the country was certified by the United States of America (USA) as cooperating in the anti-narcotics crusade for the eighth successive time in 2008, with George Bush, the former President of the US, noting that Nigeria had made significant progress in the counter-narcotics war and had effectively co-operated with the United States on drug-related and money laundering cases.
Although he (Bush) was saying the obvious, and, majority of Nigerians thought that the nation was winning the war against drug trafficking, to Nigerians with critical minds, it was very doubtful if the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency (NDLEA) will sustain that record as nobody within the leadership did anything to institutionalize such performance.
Apart from this challenge, the agency then also wore the crest of an underfunded body and was reputed as infamous for the poor manpower it earned from a long period of neglect by previous administrations.
As expected, such euphoria elicited by United States certification was short-lived as events and reports on the nation’s effort in this direction suddenly nosedived unabated.
This negative leadership trend continued until very recently when the former military administrator of Lagos and Borno States, Mr Mohammed Buba Marwa, was in January 2021 appointed as the substantive Chairman/CEO of the NDLEA by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Before the appointment, Marwa had worked as Chairman of the Presidential Advisory Committee for the Elimination of Drug Abuse (PACEDA) between 2018 and December 2020, along with others to develop a blueprint on how to end drug abuse in Nigeria.
Today, I cannot categorically say that all is perfectly well for the nation in its efforts to liberate its citizens from trading on, consumption of or effects of illicit drugs.
But looking at the present instinct in the country, and exciting progress in this direction, particularly the recent declaration by the head of the agency that N6 billion worth of drugs meant for insurgents were intercepted at the Apapa Port in Lagos State, the situation explains something new and different.
But before then, this piece will add context to the present discourse.
From available records, the fight against drug abuse in the country has been on for a very long time and is backed by so many federal laws.
In fact, it dates back to as far back as 1935. Some of the most important laws against the cultivation, trafficking and abuse of illicit drugs in Nigeria are as follows;
The Dangerous Drugs Ordinance of 1935 enacted by the British Colonial administration, the Indian hemp Decree No. 19 of 1966, the Indian hemp (Amendment) Decree No. 34 of 1979, the Indian Hemp (Amendment) Decree and the Special Tribunal (Miscellaneous Offences) Decree No. 20 of 1984, the Special Tribunal (Miscellaneous Offences) (Amendment) Decree of 1986 and the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency Decree No. 48 of 1989 (as amended by Decree No.33 of 1990, Decree No 15 of 1992 and Decree No. 62 of 1999).
These laws were harmonized as an Act of the parliament, CAP N30 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria (LFN) 2004. This Act established the NDLEA.
But regrettably, these legions of laws neither appreciably provided an effective and efficient strong source of solution to illicit consumption of drugs in the country nor provided useful frameworks comprehensive enough to offer legal solutions to the issues of drug trafficking or its enforcement.
However, presently, with Marwa’s leadership, the country has against all known logic become visibly unsafe for both illicit drug peddlers and consumers. It is no longer business as usual.
Also characterizing Marwa’s administration as exemplary is his being integrated with the approach. He is not class-specific. His recent advocacy/enlightenment campaigns of school children about the harmful effects involving drug abuse and persistent emphasis that those seeking public offices in Nigeria go through harmful drug-related tests are but perfect examples to this claim/assertion.
Comparatively, like the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Goal 3 which is targeted at “ensuring healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages, even so, has the NDLEA developed a sustainable National Drug Control Master Plan (NDCMP) that views illicit drugs from the perspective of public health and education issues while providing a balanced solution to the drug scourge.
Extensively, there are in fact more pragmatic reasons why the nation must join hands with the Marwa led administration to stamp out the proliferation of illicit drugs in the country.
First is that many lives, going by commentaries have before been destroyed as a result of drugs. Many are in psychiatric wards. Many have died. Many have lost their jobs and many have lost their homes.
Qualifying the development as a reality to worry about is that, according to the World Drug Report, released by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), June 26, 2019, stated that about 35 million people are estimated to suffer from drug use disorders and who require treatment services.
With this revelation, it is evident that the consumption of drugs in amounts and methods not authorized by medical professionals has presently become the greatest killer of humanity. And perfectly characterize as correct the recent claim/statement by President Buhari that the danger posed to the country by illicit drugs was worse than those of insurgency, banditry and other threats to the stability of the country.
“Let me say that this war is more deadly than the insurgency we have in the north-eastern part of the country or the acts of banditry in the northwest or the acts of kidnapping that transcends all the geopolitical zones of this country because it is a war that is destroying three generations because I’ve seen clips of where grandparents are on drugs, parents are on drugs, and by extension, their wards, their children are on drugs’.
That is not the only danger.
A 2018 survey report on drug use in Nigeria by the National Survey on Drug Use and Health conducted by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) and the Centre for Research and Information on Substance Abuse (CRISA) with technical support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), and funded by the European Union (EU) under the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) in, “Response to Drugs and Related Organized Crime in Nigeria, among other things, observed; that the past year prevalence of any drug use in Nigeria is estimated at 14.4 per cent or 14.3 million people aged between 15 and 64 year and high when compared with the 2016 global annual prevalence of any drug use of 5.6 per cent among the adult population.
In the same vein, World Drug Report 2018 indicated also that psychoactive substances excluding alcohol, overall was higher among men in Nigeria, Drug users the report added was most common among those who were between the ages of 25 and 39 years, while the rates of past-year use were lowest among those who were below 24 years of age. Cannabis was the most commonly used drug followed by opioids, mainly the non-medical use of prescription opioids and cough syrup.
This is not by any means a good commentary. Yet, the situation says something else.
It was also revealed that living with an active drug abuser –for example, a husband automatically makes the wife a passive substance abuser, of which the adverse effect resulting from such an arrangement in most cases appears more pronounced on the passive abuser.
Away from impact to the physical dependence, the mountain of evidence suggests that the person using a drug over a period of time would have developed an intense reliance on drugs, often to avoid difficult withdrawal symptoms. The person will often crave (strong desire) to use the drugs despite the damaging consequences to their physical, mental and social wellbeing.
Drug users can also experience psychological dependence in which they believe it is necessary to use a drug to function sometimes just at social gatherings or all the time.
This challenge from what experts are saying is further nourished by our not being ready as a nation to confront the underlying cause(s) of drug dependency and other associated behaviours.
Our unwillingness to collectively assist the abusers to focus on un-learning such negative behaviours and in its place develop the required skills and positive attitudes to achieve a drug-free society is currently preached the world over exacerbates the challenge.
Very regrettably, in abandoning this responsibility, one fact we fail to remember is that drug dependence is not based on a personal weakness or lack of morals on the part of the abuser but a chronic relapsing medical condition- a reality that, in my opinion, qualifies these people for our love and not vilification or abandonment.
For a better understanding of the plights of the abusers, we must begin to imagine what it would look like if those drug abusers were to be from our families. We can imagine ourselves participating in the funerals of our dear ones that passed on, no thanks to substance abuse.
Sincerely, our failure to love and care for these drug addicts in our society, make us more socially sick than the abusers.
But then, Nigerians must pray and support Mohammed Buba Marwa’s quest to defeat the proliferation of illicit drugs in Nigeria.
Jerome-Mario Utomi is the Programme Coordinator (Media and Public Policy), Social and Economic Justice Advocacy (SEJA), Lagos. He could be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org/08032725374.
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