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From innovative ideas to profitability

By  Okechukwu Onwuka

Learning and innovation go hand in hand. The arrogance of success is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow —William Pollard
Objectives are not fate; they are direction. They are not commands; they are commitments. They do not determine the future; they are means to mobilize the resources and energies of the business for the making of the future —Peter F. Drucker

NIGERIA is so blessed that it would seem as if we don’t even need to be creative or innovative to identify an abundance of opportunities to be pursued for entrepreneurial rewards. Quite often we hear or read about the puzzle regarding how a nation can be richly blessed with mineral and human resources yet be so poor and backwards. When you see the US president struggling to fashion out an improvement to an existing healthcare system, you begin to understand the huge responsibility and challenge in bringing incremental improvements to reality in a developed society.

If Nigeria’s healthcare system is half as good as the existing standard in America or UK, many will agree that from our current situation, such a level will be considered as dream come true. Reality is that innovation in our country is so much easier to see and appreciate. Any state governor in Nigeria that can show financial discipline and retain focus long enough to repair existing roads only will be considered a hero. We do not even need to think hard to come up with innovation or idea on what our society will need.

There is so much scarcity around that all the innovation needed is to fashion out a strategy to develop solutions using our skills, strengths and experience. There is an acute scarcity of employees who are hard working and committed. This scarcity is a major contributor to high rate of enterprise failure in the country. There is also scarcity of honesty, integrity, patience and a concern for the unborn children. We have a scarcity of entrepreneurs who want to invest into areas that may have very good long term benefits to the business owner and community but do not have the patience to forgo instant profits for the more sustainable future rewards. There is a scarcity of banks that are truly customer service oriented.

There is a scarcity of government officials who want to leave a legacy of governance. There is a scarcity of political parties that have a central philosophy that is built around true democracy and National growth. There is scarcity everywhere. Entrepreneurs only have to choose which need to fill. The innovation that is of importance here is the ability to subject whichever product or service you plan to render to a detailed strategy analysis to give your objective the best chance of success.

To the unemployed: Many are of the opinion that there are no jobs in the country but the more realistic scenario is that there are very few employable people (i.e. people with proper attitude, desire, commitment and patience required to meaningfully contribute to company growth). I challenge any unemployed person who is sure of his selfless energy, willingness to learn and be an effective team player to approach any SME company and offer his/her services free for one or two months to demonstrate competence. If within those two months you prove to be indispensible to the company, I’ll be surprised if the business owner does not ask you to remain with a salary that will surprise you.

Nobody wants to lose the services of a productive employee. Such an action will be considered innovative and pragmatic given that very few people in Nigeria are willing to offer something without immediate rewards. You will also be showing uncommon attributes: Hard work and commitment!
To the entrepreneur: To give your business or project idea the best chance of success, follow this simple analytical method to refine the roadmap to implementation and success. Use a series of simple questions that stimulate you to provide answers as truthfully as possible.

Anywhere you find uncomfortable gaps, look for creative ways of bridging them. Is this idea really new? What makes the idea new or innovative?  Can it be easily copied by others? (Be sure it is not easy to copy) What is the relative size of the market for the product or idea? Can it accommodate many players? How accurate is your estimate for market size? What is the best price for entry? Have you confirmed this through extensive research and feasibility assessments? (This is very important) How likely is this price to remain attractive? Is this offering prone to price-war?(Be careful if this condition exist as you may be forced to lower prices below your profit price after committing significant funds)  Can you control cost of production to deliver at this price? You cannot control market acceptance price but you have better control on your production costs (This includes rental costs, wages, advertisement, marketing, research, maintenance, fuelling, logistics, storage, distribution costs, raw materials, inventory, etc) Are you aware of who your real competitors are? Are they aware of you? Are you aware of the major risks to success? Do you have a way to keep them under control? Do you know that Availability of Operating Cash flow over two years at least is more important that start-up capital? If yes, what measures have you taken to ensure you never run out of cash before profits become steady? Is this an overnight profit plan or win-win scenario with the community or country? Are you open to constant learning and improvement? Your chances are better with an open mind.


Disclaimer

Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.