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In this article, I explore some of the imperatives that are important for growing a business in Nigeria. I’ll start with a real case note.

I volunteer at an organisation where I was asked to suggest new service providers. So, I contacted a business by email, phone & Twitter. Till date, the requested invoice has not been received. I eventually reached out to someone else. Now, the relationship with the second business was cordial, their turnaround time prompt and availability constant. Today, that firm has become my default choice.

I learned a valuable lesson from the two interactions. A business cannot grow or prosper without administrative capacity. Talent is not enough and sometimes without good management, a business becomes its own worst enemy.

An entrepreneur will find it difficult to engage the market on multiple fronts, without a great team. He or she will be overextended. So, building management capacity, is the only way to get serious about business. You can make money through “deals”, but at a certain age, you’ll lack the strength to do everything yourself. Simply put, no structure, no sustainability.

Structure is the difference between a one-man company and a corporation. Everything a business needs to grow; from finance to new markets is fueled by it. Entrepreneurs can’t always focus on big ideas, when they are busy putting out fires, doing documentation, running the office or placating customers. In addition, customers shouldn’t need to take their custom elsewhere because a business is unreachable. With the availability of multiple devices and contact points, this is unacceptable. The quality of contact also matters. Never put an uninformed or disorganised person in charge of your brand interface. Customers will leave and you won’t even know why.

A growing business needs business developers or market makers. Managers who can develop or expand business lines and navigate political mine fields. They should be supported by competent administrative staff who handle day-to-day paperwork. When business developers are bogged down with documentation, quality control & basic tasks, they are less focused on business growth.

So, how does a growing business develop a great team and put in place a sound structure?

First, you must accept that you can’t always afford talent. Competition is fierce and sometimes the pool of talent in Nigeria is shallow. Therefore, you must be open to new HR models.

Decide upfront what you are willing to give up for good talent. If you can’t pay top salaries, are you willing to invest time and emotions to build people? Are you willing to share profit or give up equity? Let’s explore these in detail.

Time & emotions: You must be willing to (re) train from scratch, investing years into building and retaining a team.

Equity & profit sharing: You must be willing to explore equity partnerships or profit sharing with capable senior managers who can grow your business. To protect your core, you may spin off new ventures as separate entities.

Here are three global HR models that can help you.

GE runs a process model – an assembly line that churns out leaders through documented training, mentoring and opportunities. This model works best for already large organisations that need leaders for rapidly expanding or new businesses. It’s an expensive model, as it requires a lot of financial investment in training and performance management. But, if your business needs to open branches in future, it’s a good model to grow leaders from within.

Southwest Airlines has a model for entrepreneurs looking for one or two core managers. Successors, so to speak. In this model, young, bright minds are closely mentored – They eat with, travel with and have long philosophical conversations with their managers. They are treated like family. Essentially, you train your team and earn their loyalty over time. This is a huge emotional investment and the fear is, what if they leave?

While you may institute engagement contracts or non-compete agreements, some people will still leave. But the trick is to train a couple of people and hopefully, retain a good number. This kind of emotional investment is oftentimes the only way to produce loyalty. You win some, you lose some. More so, it is often your only option, when you can’t afford already experienced staff. However, if you have an urgent need for experience, you can consider contract consultants to plug the gap in the meantime, while you take your time to groom your core team.

Google runs a venture model that’s great for businesses that have funding. These businesses can “buy” talent to facilitate rapid growth. Sometimes, to attract older staff, they may even offer stock options. Here, your team is attracted by the chance to build something great or to own a share of something potentially big.

Whichever model you choose, there are some things that should be non-negotiable for a growing team. So, within the first six months of hiring, assess how well your team is performing on the following:

  • Quality of documentation
  • Availability and reliability
  • Project management capacity
  • Ratio of completed tasks to uncompleted tasks
  • Networking ability
  • Capacity to generate new income streams
  • Leadership
  • Resource management

How your new hires perform on these items will tell you whether they are on the path to helping your business grow.

In this article, I explore some of the imperatives that are important for growing a business in Nigeria. Click To Tweet In business, no structure, no sustainability. Click To Tweet