I get many emails regularly along these lines in various versions: [I run a company but I am afraid people will attack me if I promote or talk about it a lot. I am not sure I have done a perfect job to avoid being attacked. I hate criticisms on social media. Also, promoting my work would make me look proud. I know that it is always good to allow others to promote your work].
My General Comment: First, note that the #1 trait in Nigeria is to criticize. We do that a lot. There is no success you can have that many will not have a “BUT” but they would celebrate foreigners for the same thing. There is always a reason why you did not merit that honor or award. Managing that noise is a key part of growing up in business. Now to my comment on the emails.
Simply, it is easy to be a gentleman and lady when someone pays you. If you are a banker, you have no reason to shout because the corporation does that through the communications department. If your business is mining diamond, LinkedIn has no space for you. But if you are in a consumer tech sector and you are afraid to tell your story,as a founder, you have no business in Nigeria.
Note this: before social media and the broad internet, information used to flow from few TV stations and newspapers. Today, there is a massive fragmentation making it harder to reach clients. You can pay for TV and get nothing. Getting values from newspaper advertisements are becoming harder. The implication is that Founders must be active. From Irokotv to Paga to Paylater, everyone is working to reach customers. Yet, those companies are well funded and could technically afford to buy ads. But Jason Njoku, Irokotv founder, does not believe in ads: he creates the momentum for his firms. Yes, he is always saying something. That is one of the reasons he is successful.
As I have said, your mentor must be someone who has (or closely) DONE what you plan to do. Your professor should not be your business mentor. Your cousin that works in a big oil company should not be your business mentor. Find someone who is ahead in your line of work with experiences in navigating your path.
In Nigeria, you can start a company and operate it for three years and not have a single sale. Even getting web traffic is hard. Yet, those employed by banks and insurers will tell you to allow others to blow your trumpet. Nonsense! Do not listen to them. Find a small space and use that to tell your story. No one will blow your trumpet. It does not happen. Yes, CNN, Guardian and Punch will not come to you. You have to find a way to reach clients.
There is no need to be timid – make sure you add value to your readers and let people know what you do. One blog entry per week could help. Many will criticize but take it as a positive because they even read. Some may even attack you, stay focused. But do not disappear hoping that Google ads or Facebook will save you. Those things do not work in Nigeria: when you stop spending, the traffic stops.
You practically captured that Nigerian ‘thing’ in its entirety: both online and offline. We see it daily, even on LinkedIn, the so called ‘professional’ platform; still searching for what is ‘professional’ about many things that happen in this LinkedIn continent.
Yes, it’s very easy to be a gentleman or amiable lady, as long as you get paid at the end of the month, as an employee. But once you try running your own business, those ‘polite’ qualities of yours ‘disappear’, because at every turn, someone must have something to criticize you for. If you talk too much: you are proud, arrogant, blowing your own trumpet, and whatever.
And when you cannot talk: you are timid, incompetent, ignorant, don’t know how to do anything, invisible, and everything within that family.
Don’t allow anyone to tell your own story, or control the narrative, they do not know enough to do such on your behalf. Actually, when they are complaining that you talk a lot; please raise the decibels of your noisemaking, it shows that you are being heard, you are certainly doing something right!
Nigeria is a not place where you can be successful just by being gentle and likable, not at all; your success is imminent, once you make the naysayers uncomfortable.
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