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SMEs need creativity in the way they provide solutions— Kalu

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Ikechukwu Innocent Kalu, Chief Executive Officer/Lead Consultant, Customer Passion Point Limited. He is a professional with mix of competence and diverse experience in creating and sustaining value in various market segments spanning the Beverage, Telecommunications and Banking industries in West and East African markets.

He is a visionary entrepreneur, leader who inspires innovation and leadership to deliver sustainable value to stakeholders.

Having worked and learnt best practices over the years in a number of multinational organizations he brings his wealth of experience to bear as he supports SMEs through value creation consulting and training. His passion is to bring the much needed equipping, empowerment, direction and encouragement to SMEs to enable them create value and excel in the extremely challenging Nigerian business environment in a sustainable manner. Excerpts:

Sir, when we talk about value creation, capacity development and entrepreneurship, what comes to your mind?
I think it’s a shift in mind set thinking that the market will always look for you to thinking that you have to seek out your market, find out what they need and create it for them. It’s about making a meaning to the market you are called to. Gone are the days when you develop solutions and look for how to get rid of them. Your solution has to be with a purpose to meet an identified need. I was talking with an entrepreneur just yesterday about this. He was worried at the current state of the economy and was wondering if anyone would have a need for his products and services. My simple answer to him was that he has to first make sure there is a need for his products and services. A consumer will pay to meet a need and not just to be seen to patronize you. In the words of Guy Kawasaki, you make a meaning when the value you create is directed at any of these three motivations: Improve quality of life; Right the wrong and prevent the end of something good.

Ikechukwu Innocent Kalu, Chief Executive Officer/Lead Consultant, Customer Passion Point Limited.
Ikechukwu Innocent Kalu, Chief Executive Officer/Lead Consultant, Customer Passion Point Limited.

These are very strong motivations for getting into business. I always encourage participants at our monthly training to do a rethink of their businesses based on these three pillars. If your enterprise is built on any or all these motivations, then you can be sure to create value in a way that is sustainable. There will always be a need for any product or service that is about improving the quality of life of any market you have identified and want to serve. There are so many wrong things happening around us and a business decision to provide solution to right any of them in no matter how small it might be, would amount to making a meaning to the market and it would be embraced. Finally, imagine if you set out to prevent the end of something good, the benefits are endless. Fresh air is good for the body. Imagine what happens if your solution is on purifying the air in an environment where there is heavy pollution?

Your solution will be in high demand. Each time we discuss this at CPPL monthly training programmes for business (targeted at business owners, their core staff and professionals in marketing, sales, customer service and project management), their eyes pop at the end of the discussion. This means that a lot needs to be done to help entrepreneurs to understand the reason for getting into business before they start off. Make a meaning and make money. If you focus on making money, you will not make meaning and it’s a matter of time, you will run out of steam and that would be the end of the business.

How does value creation, capacity development apply to SME operations?
I believe that the best place to start value creation is with SMEs. There are so many gaps out there calling for solutions and herein lies the role of SMEs. We need lots of small businesses meeting identified needs in their little space and truly contributing to improving lives.

Looking at the present situation of Nigeria, what are the chances of SMEs surviving?
I think this is the finest time for SMEs. The current situation in Nigeria presents even more opportunities for SMEs to thrive. Again if they would imbibe the value creation mindset – seek out a need and focus on meeting that need. Those who make meaning will be heavily sought out at this time. Remember the time we had Ebola crisis? I can remember scores of SMEs who grew over night. The need for their solutions was there and those who positioned well to meet those needs benefited from it. The principle remains – find out the need in the market place and meet it in a way is sustainable. This will guarantee your success. The other thing to add is innovation. SMEs need to get creative in the way they provide solutions. You must be seen to go the extra mile in meeting the needs of your market if you want to remain in business. Also, do not forget that you are not the one providing that service. Innovation and the excellent way you deliver your solutions will set you apart. SMEs must always think of how to deliver their solutions better than others. Once that perception of ‘he or she known what to do’ is created, you will always get patronage and referrals.

What is your take on job creation for youths?
I get really excited when I see young people creating value at different levels. I encourage youths to look inward and see what they can do with the talents they have. Your talent can make a way for you if you think about it from a ‘marketing opportunity’ point of view. We can all work our talents but I advise our young people to think commercial as they work their talents. Yes, there would be some youths who are running away from the control that comes from working for others but that is not bad in itself, so long as they understand what they carry and can figure out who needs what they have and can offer at a commercial level.

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