In this piece, I explain why Nigerian entrepreneurs must look to anchor themselves with solid business mentors. Business mentoring is very important: it saves you consultancy fees! I mean it, you can get great insights for nothing. And if you are lucky to have access to the legends, your path to glory is paved.
To make this work, you must work on it. Understand what you do, be concise and clear on what you want. Never ask for money. And I say NEVER – it is a very rude thing to do. Focus on the ideas and you will be fine.
Your mentor must be someone you know has proven that he/she understands the ecosystem you need a better insight. He must be better than you in that area. And the person holds laurels. Business is not about who is the most intelligent person. It is really about who can pick pockets of ideas and turn them into a solution that will reduce friction in the lives of people and companies. Companies make revenue for reducing friction between “buyer” and “seller”. If we are in a friction-less world, we will not need a company. Figuring out how to make the solutions that reduce the frictions in banking, insurance, technology, bukka food joint, okirika clothes and so on, is a skill not many people have.
Your university professor may not be the most knowledgeable person to guide you on a business. In short, some see the world from one angle. They are academically bright, but business needs more than being academically talented. The emotional intelligence may be more important than the aptitude intelligence, depending on the business sector. Some of those professors may focus on the technology. Yes, the more sophisticated the solution, the better. That is why you read people solving problems with so much complexity as though business is a conference for academic journals.
They are wrong: solution must not be measured by its complexity, rather, by customers’ acceptance to pay for it. That means, the best person to give that insight is someone who earns a living helping people buy things he/she makes. Post-IT has a patent (since expired, though). Ridiculous? Yes, but someone figured out that you may need to stick a paper in front of your table so that you do not forget an important deadline. A professor might have thought about how to build a PC with a robotic brain, when a simple post-it paper can do!
As a young banker in Lagos, I read one book – The Richest Man in Babylon – and since then, I have mastered where to ask for help. I do not waste time asking a carpenter about insights on electricity. Never. You can be the smartest man on earth, good luck, but there are things I know you have no clue. Being a generalist is not enough, your quality must be such that people can risk capital on it. If that mentor does not meet that quality, pray to God to send another one.
The Richest Man in Babylon is a book by George Samuel Clason which dispenses financial advice through a collection of parables set in ancient Babylon. Through their experiences in business and managing household finance, the characters in the parables learn simple lessons in financial wisdom
That said, in this piece I share how legendary Lagos banker and philanthropist, Mr Tony Elumelu (C.O.N) helped me on on Zenvus. He provided great insights on May 28, 2015, during a dinner (he paid for it, good people), in Transcorp Hilton. The incoming President had released a draft Inaugural Speech. I had some challenges understanding the new roadmap for Nigeria. I met a legend and he explained. Too bad, that is my intellectual property and I am not sharing what he said. But it was so liberating that I did not even bother to attend the inauguration event. I spent the May 29, 2015, working on the business plan, to make sure all the ideas sync’d. Today, I have a great new unit in our business. Zenvus, a pioneering precision farming technology, is doing awesome. More Nigerians will have better Christmas and Sallah because of that idea and Zenvus. Watch the video.