Starting a business could be an uphill task especially in a hostile business terrain like Africa where there are handful of challenges to overcome. On this premise, young and aspiring entrepreneurs recently gathered at Co-Creation Hub (CcHub) Yaba to discuss how they can overcome the challenges unique to African entrepreneurs with Marek Zmyslowski, the Managing Director of Jovago.com, Africa’s Number 1 Online Hotel Booking Portal.
Marek, who arrived Nigeria two years earlier to establish Jovago.com said clearly that starting a company from infantry is not a child’s play as a result of the quantum investment challenges the entrepreneur have to put-in to cement the foundation of the business. Some of these challenges include adapting to Nigeria as a first time visitor and the culture.
However, he added that his success with Jovago.com was based on the fact that ‘I didn’t pay attention to my emotions.’ He harped on this because listening to your emotions may just make some entrepreneurs abdicate their entrepreneurial pursuit. There would always be doubts and people would frustrate you he said. Just don’t listen to your emotions.
Furthermore, he stated that he wouldn’t allow anybody that doesn’t understand his line of business to invest in it. For Marek, it is better to source funds from people that have passion for your line of business because it would be easier to explain your ideas and ambitions to them. This was exactly what happened with Jovago.com whereby partners that recognise that the World Wide Web is a goldmine that is unexploited in Africa invested in the business. They saw this and took advantage of it and that is why Jovago.com is where it is today.
Other key Points an aspiring entrepreneur should focus on are:
VALUE CUSTOMER SERVICE
This is what makes Jovago.com distinct from every other company in Nigeria. “We have the best customer service and I always tell my employees to smile all the time and go the extra mile for the customer because this would make the customer feel good.” The knock-on effect of this is that it would always make the customer use Jovago.com again and again and even recommend the portal to others. Generally, customer service is a big problem in Nigeria.
GET GOOD INVESTORS
After the success of establishing a start-up, the next problem is how to grow the business. Getting good investors are key to the growth of any business. If an entrepreneur believes in his idea, he should be able to sell the idea to willing and interested investors. This investors must have a very good knowledge of the business so that they are aware of what it takes to invest in the business.
MAKE SHORT-TERM PROJECTIONS
Market analysis of the business environment is key for every start-ups. The market analysis determines what people really need and the procedures that the business could utilize to satisfy them. Afterwards, planning on how to fulfil the need is another challenge. However, many start-ups makes the error of making long term projections instead of short-term ones. It is advisab le for start-ups to go with a 3-6 months plan rather than 5 years plan. This is because the business is still fragile.
EFFECTIVE HUMAN RESOURCE
Employees are the best assets of any business. Marek says that he prefer recommendations rather than accepting curriculum vitae from applicants (I don’t wait for CVs). He added that he has been very lucky because the people that have been recommended to him are outstanding. He lamented that In Nigeria and in many other parts of the world, the reliance on certificate is huge which according to the Jovago.com CEO doesn’t make any difference. The education system creates employees not entrepreneurs. The important question is if the applicant can do the job and is he motivated to do the job. Therefore, an effective human resource department cum recruitment drive is essential because they can make or mar your business.
GOOD DECISION MAKING
There is no easy way to business according to Marek. The fact is that there are so many bumps on the way that the entrepreneur must surmount one of which is making good business decisions. For Marek, his experience over the years helps him in his decision-making process. So, every start-up must have a very good decision making process to avoid the pit-falls of poor decisions. This may probably crash the business fortunes of the company.