Saturday, October 27, 2012

Retrospect and How to Handle the Change Ahead

2011 is come and gone; but not with the memories of events that shaped it. 2011 for me was a year of tremendous growth; unfortunately, it was also a year of critical challenges. I don't know how 2011 went for you but one lesson I picked up in 2011 was this:
"Challenges will never ever go away, and there's never going to be a smooth ride; be it in life of business."
This is a harsh reality but it's either you take it or leave it. Before I proceed further, I want you to understand that I am writing this article from the Nigerian perspective and with the Nigerian business terrain in mind but one thing I want you to know is this: the principles of business is universally applicable. The only difference in business across the globe is the time zone, business environments, political situations, culture and the rest of it. So be rest assured that this article will be of value to you.
In 2011, I started the year with high hopes and enthusiasm; and fortunately, the year ended on a good note but not without its challenges. For six, out of the 12 months of the year 2011, I was practically running on adrenaline. I got robbed at gun point, lost some valuables, ran my business on a high debt to equity ratio, had a strain on my intimate relationships and had my bank breathing fire down my heels. But in all, I survived and ended 2011 on a good note. I hope yours ended well too.
I spent the last days of 2011 discussing with my business team about our plans for 2011. I also mused over my long term personal goals and took time to set goals for 2012. By the last day of 2011, my team was ready for 2012 with a strategic growth plan. But we woke up on 2012 to receive the shocking news that the fuel subsidy has been removed abruptly; thereby sending the price of PMS from N65 to N140. This literally means that the price of goods and services alike are going to skyrocket in correlation with the new pump price of fuel. And sincerely speaking, it's going to affect everyone; both businesses and employees alike. So how do we respond to this change? I will go into that later.
Is this the only change in government policy we will see in 2011? My answer is no. There are going to be reforms initiated by the government that will sweep across Nigeria like a storm. And after the storm dies down, only two classes will be left standing; the rich and the poor. The middle class will be wiped out entirely.
As I write this now, there's a proposed policy that will see a restructuring and a creation of opportunities. With the proposed ban on the importation of rice and the incentives provided for the importation of power generation equipment and cassava processing machines. With the government tilting more support towards the agricultural industry and the current security challenges in the country, a lot of problems will be created; which will in turn create opportunities for smart entrepreneurs.
Analysts across the globe have predicted a tough 2012 and I don't doubt them. After all, they are financial analysts and better understand the statistics of a country's financials. But in the midst of the multiple problems; I see a great gap. I see a deep need waiting to be filled; all I see is a 2012 full of opportunities. Now I am not a soothsayer, religious fanatic or an extreme optimist. I am simply an entrepreneur trying hard to see things from the entrepreneurial perspective. Remember that entrepreneurs are opportunists. Now I am not saying I or my business is immune to the harsh business terrain of Nigeria and the ever changing government policies; what I want you to understand is that I am trying to squeeze out opportunities from the numerous problems that abound in Nigeria. You too can do the same. Do you want to know how? Read on.
How to Handle the Coming Change in 2012 and Subsequent years
1. Restructure your mindset
There are two sides to everything in life. It's either you are one side, or you are on the other side. It's either you are rich or you are poor. It's either you are part of the problem, or you are part of the solution. Most people only see one side to issues and that's why they remain stagnant.
To handle the coming change effectively, you must see the two sides of the coin. You must develop your mindset to work with the perception that there's an opportunity in every problem. You must disassociate yourself from those who only criticize the government and join the group of people who are willing to help the government solve its many problems. And most of all, you must make a stern resolve to be a solutions provider rather than being a complainant.
There's going to be a lot of opportunities in the following sectors: agriculture, education, food distribution, security, alternative power supply, etc. In the face the removal of subsidy, do you see a Nigeria where 5% - 10% of the population will be making short distance journeys with bicycles? Well, that's left for you to envision. This leads me to the next point.........................................
2. Start your own business
When I say "start your own business"; the message I am trying to shout out to you is this: "take control of your life." Observe the effects of most government policies and you will find out that the most affected people are the middle and low level employees; which make up the bulk of the population. I am not saying entrepreneurs are immune; it just that entrepreneurs (I mean smart entrepreneurs) know how to wriggle themselves around obstacles posed by the government. With the escalating inflation and ever increasing cost of living, employees get hit the most because their salary stays fixed, they are overworked with less pay and they risk being downsized without warning. All entrepreneurs do in the same situation faced by employees is to simply cut costs or raise prices after taking the necessary statistics into consideration. Considering all this, why would you want to remain an employee forever? Why not become an entrepreneur and take control of your life? The choice is yours.
3. Always have a plan B
The third strategy to effectively handle change is to always have a plan B. Things never go smoothly; things won't always go in your favor. So what do you do? You put a contingency plan in place; and how do you set the foundation for your plan B? You can begin by asking yourself questions that have the prefix: "What If."
What if the government bans............................?
What if the banks withdraw their support?
What if customers reject our innovation or idea?
What if we don't break even in the stipulated timeframe?
What if the labour congress goes on strike? How would it affect me and how can I reduce the corresponding effect?
The questions above are what set the need and formulation of a plan B in motion. With your plan B in place, situations may take you unaware but you will never lose your footing.
4. Respond quickly to change
One of the many challenges of building a business is responding quickly to change; which may come in the form of upcoming trend, change in government policy, customer feedback, internal crisis and the rest. Unfortunately, this does not only apply to businesses; it also applies to life. To survive and live the lifestyle of your choice, you must be able to respond quickly to change.
Now how do respond to quickly to change when all you see are problems? How do you respond quickly to change when all you do is compound the problems of the government by criticizing and organizing strikes/protests? How do you respond quickly to change when you are stuck in your job with a fixed salary? How do you respond to change when you don't have a plan B? If you critically analyze these questions, you will observe that responding quickly to change is nearly impossible without implementing the step one to three I shared with you above. Just as I said earlier, there are two sides to everything. It's either you adapt to change or you are crushed by it. The choice is yours.
In conclusion, I want to state clearly that 2012 will be gloomy, tough and a lot of people are going to break. It's a hard fact that can't be disputed. On the other hand, I also want to state clearly that 2012 is a year of opportunities; many are going to get richer this year and end the 2012 on a happy note. This is also a hard fact that cannot be disputed. Now the million dollar question is this: on which side of the table do you want to be? The choice still remains yours.

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