Creating the right structure in building a global brand

What do you consider your business to be? A Lemonade stand? A small business? A medium-size business?

What are your aspirations for your business? …do you want it to remain as Lagbaja & Sons? Me, myself & I Enterprises?

In today’s world with increased interest in entrepreneurship, it is critical that anyone starting a business should be intentional about the kind of business they want to build and the type of legacy they would want to leave behind. This is where the place of vision comes in. Great businesses are built on great vision and the ability to follow through. Thus, it’s important that one ensures the vision is to create value, attending to an identified need and filling a gap.

I had asked in the beginning if your business is a “lemonade stand.”

That is the term often used to describe businesses that were set up quickly with lots of passion but will fade into oblivion instantly when hit with the first sign of any challenge. Lemonade stands are not considered serious businesses as they are here today and poof- they are gone by tomorrow.

Do not allow your next business be a lemonade stand.

  1. Register a limited liability company: this is better than registering a sole proprietorship or a mere business name. Agreed, operating a sole proprietorship is less cumbersome but then it shows any external stakeholder that you are more interested in building income for yourself rather than in building a sustainable business and a legacy. In addition, it exposes you to personal liability for every action of the business given that you as an individual is not a separate entity from the business. On the other hand, a limited liability company has a life of its own and as a shareholder your liability is limited to your shareholding.

It has been observed that even after registration as a limited liability company, a lot of small business owners make the mistake of not separating themselves from the business and this is a recipe for disaster that should be avoided.

  1. Develop a Strategy and Business Plan: Ask yourself these few important questions: What is the purpose of my business? Who am I selling to? What are my goals? How will I finance start-up costs? These questions can be answered in a well-written business plan and it is important to ponder on them and come up with a detailed plan bearing in mind the nuances due of economic, cultural, governmental, and market conditions. In developing a plan, some key considerations are:
  • Define short-, medium-, and long-term strategy and set reasonable and measurable goals with success metrics. SMART goals are key.
  • Complete the business model and structure. Decide if you set up a separate company, a branch, or a sales office and when to do so in the life of the business.
  •  Develop an annual budget.
  • Draw up an implementation timeline to guide you.
  1. Build your team:It’s important to put a great team together to get the company running. Team size will depend on the nature of the business but it is essential that a formidable and reliable team is built over time. Investments in training and equipping the team with the requisite skills to add value to the business and manage it even in your absence is important.

Joe Zawadzki, CEO and founder of MediaMath, said entrepreneurs need to give the “people” element of their businesses the same attention they give their products.

“Your product is built by people,” Zawadski said. “Identifying your founding team, understanding what gaps exist, and [determining] how and when you will address them should be top priority. Figuring out how the team will work together … is equally important. Defining roles and responsibility, division of labour, how to give feedback or how to work together when not everyone is in the same room will save you a lot of headaches down the line.”

The above notwithstanding, it’s better to build your business on your own skill, family experience, or sound training, than on the skill of your staff or borrowed skill which leads to your being held to ransom.

  1. Brand yourself and advertise: Building a brand is key. Design a logo that is easily identifiable as your brand and consistently use it across all platforms: website, stationary, social media etc.

Create a marketing plan to guide your step-by-step approach to advertising. In today’s digital and tech world, a lot of adverts and branding campaigns can be undertaken online. Small businesses have to be mindful of their online footprints. Ensure your marketing materials are of stellar quality and punchy enough to attract the right audience. Businesses who understand how critical it is to have a great online presence will be a step ahead on starting out and remaining strong.

  1. Establish operating procedures and policies. These are mandatory for building a sustainable business. Don’t run the business off the cuff. Great institutions are built on sound operational principles. Some of these included having financial policies, standard operating procedures, staff handbook, risk management policies, ethic policy etc.

It is important to beware of businesses of low ethics based on racketeering, smuggling or heavily bribe dependent such as government contracts in a very corrupt system. Those businesses are up today and down tomorrow.

  1. Quality Assurance: With a lot of competition out there jostling for the same business, it’s important that exceptional service is provided to keep the clients coming back. Always benchmark your services with global standards and keep aspiring to improve on current offerings.

Building a successful business in not a walk in the park. It takes a lot of resilience and hard work especially in our terrain. Ensure your endeavour is one you enjoy. This will help you to endure when the hard times come as they will come. Ensure it does more than make money but offers an opportunity for service to humanity, creativity and innovation.

Partnership, a combination of strengths can be very critical. Two heads are always better than one.  I believe with focus and commitment on the part of the promoter, success is sure.

Written by Joyce Akpata, Director General at Nigerian-American Chamber of Commerce.


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