Katy Sadé Adebayo, discusses here top five tips for launching a women-led consultancy in West Africa.
Make Collaboration a part of your company culture
Collaboration is the best way of extending your reach beyond your current network, and it’s also a great way to share and exchange knowledge with like-minded brands and individuals. When we initially launched our agency into Nigeria, it was important for us to be affiliated with brands who already had a presence there to build a reputation and gain trust among the audience and potential clients we were trying to attract. Collaborations can range between anything from a launch event to announce the opening of your agency (think about which food and beverage brands, restaurants, event production companies you can collaborate with), to a panel-talk hosted by other entrepreneurial women in Africa. A great tip for collaboration that’s worked for us is to partner with individuals or brands who are promoting a different service from yours to ensure that the partnership is mutually beneficial.
Never be affraid to ask questions
Asking questions is one of the most resourceful ways of finding out how other businesses are establishing success , what you’re doing well, and areas for improvement. There are more women-led businesses in Africa now than ever before, and a huge number of them are using social media platforms such as LinkedIn and Twitter to promote their work – reach out to them. Asking questions such as “What is the average rate you charge?” Or “How did you win your first client?” can save you a lot of time at the start of your career as an entrepreneur. When we first launched our agency, we made a list of women who we were inspired by, and wanted to ask questions about career building. We received extremely useful and motivational advice, and turns out that most of it came from our mum’s, sisters, and peers. Being good at receiving feedback is also a great skill to have which is transferable between team-management and client relationships.
Relationships are crucial to every business endeavour, and no matter what your business is, interacting with people effectively will help you to progress. I’ve been reading a great book by Keith Ferrazzi on the power of networking titled “Never Eat Alone” where he rightly observes that he “learned that real networking is about finding ways to make other people more successful”. Social Media is a great tool for networking, but it doesn’t substitute real face-to-face interaction. When launching an agency in Africa, search for conferences and mixers that are going on in your city and make sure you’re present. Take a friend or colleague with you, print out business cards, and find a way to vocally describe your business to people in a sentence or two.
Women are often underrepresented in decision making roles, even more so in countries within Africa than in Europe and America. In order to achieve gender-balance in presentations and discussions, or when pitching ideas to potential clients or investors, women must exude self-confidence to be clear, convincing, and inspirational. Public speaking at events and conferences is a great way to promote your business ideology and unique selling point, and working on your confidence is the best way to ensure your voice is heard. My business partner and I have found that the best meetings we’ve had in Lagos are those when we’ve given presentations to a room full of men who are CEO’s and decision makers, and been able to leave with a powerful first impression. My tips for building your confidence are: do your research, maintain eye contact, give a firm handshake.
Set audacious goals
To transform the global reality of business culture, and to have more women in positions of power and leadership, we must redefine narratives and set goals that will shatter the glass ceilings created to marginalise women. Goal setting is an effective way of tracking your business progress, and for holding yourself accountable. At our agency, we always make sure our goals are quantitative, and we find that sometimes changing long-term goals into more imminent objectives actually enables progression. Businesses will always face obstacles and challenges, and when you’re starting out its easy to get side-tracked and demotivated by failure. Through my experience, it is important to set audacious goals, and even if you fail, the knowledge gained in the process, and the outcome of the failure sets you up for even greater success.
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