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Things began with a welcome address by the MD of Connect Nigeria, Mr Emeka Okafor. He spoke about what attendees could expect from the day’s event, and noted how it was all in line with Connect Nigeria’s aim to “fix Nigeria through business.” Immediately after the welcome address, the keynote speaker of the event, Mrs Toki Mabogunje of the Lagos Chamber of Commerce and Industry(LCCI) followed with a speech on Vision 2020. She emphasized that business owners should not involve themselves in too many ventures to avoid losing focus. According to her, “It is important for MSMEs to focus on their core competencies to strengthen their competitiveness.” Mrs Toki posited that during tough times, business owners make the mistake of cutting down their budget for advertising. She said. “Do not cut back on advertising and marketing.” This is because, during these tough times, customers are restless and are contemplating adjustments.
First Panel SessionThe first-panel session followed soon after. It had three seasoned speakers who laid out their knowledge of the business terrain and presented tips for scaling its heights amid the current challenge. Here’s a roundup of what they had to say:
Owolabi Salami—Allianz Nigeria InsuranceMr Owolabi Salami, COO at Allianz Insurance Nigeria, spoke around the theme, How Businesses Can Strive Through Tough Times. He discussed the problems that SMEs were facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic— consumers unwilling to spend, and the resulting fall in revenues. But he also noted a few guiding principles that could help businesses survive past hard times. “The year 2020 is gone. Preserve the core of your business- the key competitive advantages your business has that you can’t afford to lose,” he explained. “Ensure your assets to limit the losses you will incur from this year. But you also have to begin to think about how to bounce back.” Dr. Henrietta Onwuegbuzie: Lagos Business School In her session, Dr Henrieta Onwuegbuzie, Academic Director at the Lagos Business School, discussed Survival Tips In and Out of Trying Periods. Her talk was rich with instances of how Nigerians could build impact-driven businesses by meeting the many needs that exist in the country today. “The pandemic has had a negative impact. But it has also thrown up so many opportunities,” she said. “You can take advantage of this either by tweaking your business model or transitioning to what is relevant right now.”
Jameelah Sharrieff-Ayedun: CreditRegistryWith Jameelah’s presentation, the session’s focus narrowed down to employees, and how they can stay relevant in a fast-changing world. Her talk was around The Future Employee, and the traits considered ideal for workers in the new normal: being proactive, having integrity, being agile, possessing great communication skills, and being able to lead by influence. “Along with all of these things [mentioned above], you need to be digital and disciplined,” she noted. “The mindset of the worker has to change, realizing that we now have more opportunities than less if you take on some of these attributes.”
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Second Panel SessionThe second-panel session had even more business experience and insight to share. Four panellists took turns to shine the light on the right paths to succeeding in tough conditions, drawing from their own business stories.
Emeka Mordi: CarbonEmeka Mordi, Chief Operating Officer at Carbon, talked about The Future and Scaling. He explained how Carbon came to be a major player in the fintech lending landscape after tweaking its business model. At various points, they had found out that their offerings weren’t meeting their target market’s specific needs. This had propelled them to make growth-spurring changes along the way. He explained that the company’s ability to pivot quickly had helped it adapt promptly to the situation triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, he said, they were already returning to pre-pandemic levels of productivity.
Nelly Agbogu: Nellies NigeriaAs Chief Executive of a healthy recipe company, Mrs Agbogu has witnessed the impact of the current economic climate first hand. But she says she’s learned to work around it, by leveraging multiple tools and strategies: social media, the business website, cross-selling and up-selling, etc. But she emphasized one trait that has helped her business through these times—her resilience. “I was very resilient. I knew that I could fight this pandemic, and it would not take over my business.”
Steve Harris: EdgeEcutionSteve Harris, CEO of EdgeCution, hammered away at two points. First, he spoke about the need for entrepreneurs to learn how to earn from doing less. Drawing from the success achieved by a client of his, he showed that it’s possible to “ride on the waves” of the current consumer predispositions, and tailor one’s product to earn more by offering it differently. He also encouraged businesspeople to get beyond mere publicity and have a laser focus on acquiring actual paying customers.
Ubong King: Ubong King FoundationThe panel rounded off with a fiery session from Ubong King. He talked on the topic ‘No Excuses;’ it was a tour-de-force in battling through difficult business situations and succeeding in the face of adversity. He also had practical tips for reaching one’s ideal audience and converting them into customers. “You need to understand that if you are targeting a market, it should have your product, customers, and an opportunity all present” he emphasized. “You also don’t wait for your customer to buy. Identify the ways to get through to them. See them as a target, and determine how you will get their attention.”
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