Success Story: How Emeka Okafor Is Running A Multimillion Naira Business Without Personal Money
Doing business in Nigeria has not been kind to business owners for sometime now as they struggle under the weight of high cost of operation, including the enormous cost in providing electricity for almost twenty four hours every day.
The impact of this on businesses is that they are drained of their current capital. That is, the money they should use to continually create their products or replenish their stock so that they could have something to sell to make money is gradually mopped up by operational exigencies beyond their control.
This pitiable state of not having enough funds to continually make their products available to sell to their customers has led not a few businesses to close shop in recent time, while many more are even now hovering on the precipice of bankruptcy.
The banks too are not helping matter; instead they are making the burden heavier for business owners to bear with their more than 25% interest on loans, thatâ€™s if you are able to satisfy their stringent requirements to get the loan in the first place.
To be able to keep a business afloat in the face of the acute shortage of cash against huge operational cost requires exceptional business savvy and intelligence.
It requires entrepreneurs to be on top in every area of their business, and come up with ideas and strategies to cut down on cost of operation, as well as inject risk free funds into their business.
Emeka Okafor is such an entrepreneur, who has not only been able to keep his business flourishing in spite of the vast challenges confronting the sector, but is doing it without his personal or borrowed money.
His stocks of digital electronic products, which include cameras, phones, ipods, laptops, play stations, etc., are ever kept fresh simply by his profound ability to maximise his intangible assets of trust, honesty, sincerity, and dedication to his business.
How His Success Story Began:
Emekaâ€™s journey into the world of business did not come by accident. He had always wanted to be a businessman right from childhood, and got himself prepared for it with an OND (Ordinary National Diploma), which he bagged in 1987 from the Enugu State Polytechnic.
With his diploma safely tucked away in his bag, Emeka did not want to waste any time looking for job, but decided to go into business immediately.
His decision received the complete support of his father, who however advised him to first go for apprenticeship training for a year under the supervision of an experienced businessman to gain practical knowledge of the business he intended to do.
Emeka humbly accepted the advice even though he had already passed through the four walls of a higher institution. The result of which was an invaluable knowledge and experience that have helped him to surmount the challenges of running and growing a business successfully.
â€œI learnt a lot of things; how to talk to customers, consumer behaviour, the environment and how to manage it. I learnt everything about the business; how to handle competition and the techniques you use to stay on top of competition.
“Business is not just knowing how much you buy your products and how much you sell them. Itâ€™s more than that. There are other important things you must know.
“For instance, the people in the business, how do they compete? What kind of pricing strategies do they use? These are very vital practical knowledge that you wonâ€™t get in school.
â€œLearning a business as apprentice after school helps you to understand your business environment. Business environment is dynamic, itâ€™s always changing, and you have to understand and adapt to it.
“What you learn in school may be someoneâ€™s experience in a different environment than your. Therefore, to succeed in your business you need to know how your environment works.
“There is no particular way of doing business, and there are no laid down rules – if there are, people donâ€™t follow them. Itâ€™s all about you been able to understand your environment, and run your business effectively and efficiently,â€ Emeka emphasised.
Having equipped and prepared himself strongly for business, Emeka launched his business, BROWNMARK Ltd in 1989 in Onitsha to distribute and sell electronic products.
However, after noticing the neck breaking competition in Onitsha, Emeka thought it wise to access market for his business in other parts of the country, and so moved his business to Lagos.
Emekaâ€™s Success Story Takes A New Turn
In the year 2000, Emeka could see the huge business opportunity in marketing digital electronic products that were then becoming popular with Nigerians. According to him, â€œWith the coming of IT into the country in the late 1990s, we saw an opportunity to help in distributing it. We saw that it is an ever moving product – an everyday thing â€“ which everybody, including children is using.
â€œAlso, there is constant innovation in the technology industry, thereby making new and better products always available for us to sell.â€
Guided by that vision, Emeka moved into digital products marketing business, putting aside the traditional electronic products he was marketing.
Today, judging by the remarkable successes he has achieved since then, there is no doubt that he is pleased with himself to have seen where the money was going to be made more in his industry.
With four branches so far (three in Lagos and one in Calabar), and plans to roll out more in other parts of the country in the nearest future, Emekaâ€™s business is sure headed for greater success.
Continual Personal Development Is Necessary To Maintain Success
Convinced that he needed to upgrade himself educationally to be able to take his business through the challenges of doing business in a modern economy, Emeka got enrolled into Lagos State University, where he read Business Administration, and graduated recently with a Bachelors of Science Degree.
The attainment of higher level of education is reflecting in the way he manages his business generally. For instance, he effectively manages a total staff strength of twelve, which include graduates, instituting systems that allow the branches to run smoothly without his constant presence.
He motivates his staff to increase their performance by establishing a healthy competition among them, with the top performing staff receiving rewards in form of bonuses and higher pay each month.
He places priority on good customer service, which is evident in the way his staff attend to their customers. I personally had a taste of their admirable customer service, the way when one of them, thinking I was a customer, politely attended to me when I arrived for this interview at their Ikeja branch.
He creates awareness and advertises his business using different platforms, such as printing and distributing leaflets and calendars; advertising in the papers, and making exhibitions at trade shows.
This is not withstanding the fact that he is not the only one marketing his type of products. However, his belief is that though there may be other people selling his type of products, by creating awareness for his business, anyone who needs digital electronic product can be guided to any of his branches where they can be sure of getting good quality products at affordable price.
He takes records and accounts keeping very seriously that he employs qualified graduate accountants to handle his business accounts and keep records.
Emekaâ€™ Success Story May Never Have Been Told If Not For His Impeccable Character
More than the strength of the systems and strategies which have accounted for the remarkable success his business has recorded, Emekaâ€™s recognition and maximum utilization of his intangible assets â€“ honesty, sincerity, and forthrightness â€“ have allowed his business to practically operate without needing his personal money.
Suppliers of his products run over themselves to have him stock their goods worth millions of Naira without money down, because they are sure he would pay back promptly after selling them, which he always do.
â€œThere are people who have been doing business without money, just like me. If you have good will you can do business without money. For instance, a lot of companies are comfortable giving me goods worth six to ten million Naira without asking for down payment. If I take from five companies, is that not over thirty million Naira worth of goods?
If you have been paying, they know you will pay back. To pay back you have to do your best to sell the goods. Basically, thatâ€™s what we are doing â€“ turning their money over. Once you are paying back, they want you to come and take more.
As you sell, you pay back. At the end of the day, you take your profit after selling the products and returning your suppliersâ€™ money.
However, you will have to be careful not to get carried away by the millions of Naira you may be seeing in your account. Itâ€™s not your money, but the suppliersâ€™ and so donâ€™t be tempted to spending it on something else.
Your profit margin per product may not be much, but since this relationship with the suppliers is continuous, you can expect your profit to build up over time, and you are able to keep your business going without using your own money,â€ Emeka reveals.
Emekaâ€™s experience with his suppliers simply confirms the saying: â€œa good name is better than silver or gold.â€ And that the intangible assets of an individual or business are worth as much as the tangible ones and should be carefully maintained and built.
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