I have worked with a number of Nigerians in the diaspora who want to build businesses back home with the aim of either coming back to run the businesses or for the businesses to take care of their families here. These are great ideals. However, in most cases, the businesses don’t fly as a result of a number of factors.

I have been both a partner and a consultant to Nigerians in the diaspora. And what I glean from that interaction is my opinion about what they do wrong that may not really allow them to build the kind of businesses they want. A lot of money has been invested in trying to build businesses and it has gone down the drain.

Many have been burnt and have decided never to invest in businesses in Nigeria. Some diaspora has therefore resolved to wait until they are back in Nigeria to build their own business. This school of thought believes that they have to be personally involved in the business for it to work.

If most of the money being remitted to Nigerians is actually transformed into businesses, the economy of Nigerian cities and towns will be much better. Those businesses will end up creating employment and taking care of families. Growing local economies make people less dependent on people in the diaspora. I am an advocate for using these remittances to build businesses that will grow.

I had a partner and we started the business together. She was in the UK while I was in Nigeria. She was the CEO and in charge of the finances while I was in charge of marketing, product development, and other things. Everything was going well until we needed funds to expand our operations. At this point, she felt she has invested so much into it.

My reply was that she should also monetize the value I have been bringing in and see which one is greater. I worked on the startup for 7 days a week and 18 hours each day. I develop concepts, get clients and do the training and coaching. In the end, I had to find the funds to support the business while doing everything to build the business. I had to end the partnership.

  1. Believe That Idea Is Everything: Most diasporas get ideas that worked where they are and assume that they can work in Nigeria. They believe that idea is the foundation of business success. That is wrong. Ideas are free. You can find it everywhere. What you need is a business model, not an idea. Having an idea is the first step and the idea may be filled with bugs until you test it and validate that it is really a desirable, feasible, and viable idea. What works in the US may not really work in Nigeria without pivot, adaptation, and iteration.
  2. Assume They Understand Everything About A Business: Most Nigerians in the diaspora are employees who earn their money legitimately and want to invest their money back home. That is good. They believe that because they are in the US, UK, or Canada, they understand how to build a business. The truth is that you cannot build a business with an employee mindset. Knowing is quite different from experience. You may have textbook knowledge about every part of business, however, until you get into the trenches you won’t experience how a business really works. One of the challenges I have is the argument over what they think works, which doesn’t really work.

Starting a business anywhere is risky and riddled with uncertainty except you are getting a franchise or network marketing where you are doing copy and paste with the business model. If you are starting something from scratch, what you know and plan doesn’t matter. Your goal should be to reduce the risk and minimize the uncertainty. If you don’t do this you are setting your business for failing.

  1. See Money As The Highest Form of Value: I do understand that they are working for their money. As a result, they tend to value money more as the end that as a means to an end. Money is a tool of exchange. In business, you have to find a way to exchange money with something that is valuable that will end up helping you make more of it in the future. You have to value the contributions of people and monetize those contributions. You have to analyze how that contribution of value is important to you achieving your goals. Most people who work with Nigerians in the diaspora feel used and not valued. They are made to feel that money is more valuable than what they do.
  2. Want People To Whet Their Ego: When you study Nigerians in the diaspora who are starting businesses in Nigeria, you will find out that they surround themselves with yes men in the business and can’t stand those who will challenge their idea. Yes, men have killed more businesses than you know of. They only do and say what you want them to say. Even if they know something isn’t right, they keep quiet so that they don’t get seen as enemies of the person. In the end, a culture of fear instead of courage and innovation gets formed in the businesses. You need a team of people who can think for themselves and discuss with you as partners. They can disagree with you and follow a new opportunity and bear the consequence of their contributions.
  3. Don’t Understand What It Takes To Build a Business Model: Building a business model is a process. If you are focused on making money fast without first getting the foundation of the business right, you are setting your business up to fail. MY advice from my experience and studies is that you don’t ever employ anyone in business until you have first developed a business model that works. Without a working business model, people will play try and error with your investment. It is a validated business model that makes an idea works. The business model is the car and you are the driver. The culture is the fuel that powers the business model.

To minimize the failure rate and burn rate of diaspora businesses, we decided to help them develop a business model. If you have a business idea that you want to work on, don’t go ahead and start a business. Contact us to test the idea and develop and validate a business model for your business. Once you have a business model that works, you can then start employing people and scale your business. We work to develop the business model and also employ the first salespeople who will build the business. We will train them to be value creators and to expand the future of the business.

When you want to start a business in Nigeria, don’t look for a family member but professionals who understand what it takes to start and grow a business and leverage their services. You will be in safe hands. We are weary of idea peddlers. You need a business model design that works not an idea. We help people test their business ideas and build a business models around it so it can work.

Oladimeji Olutimehin is a Keynote Speaker, Value Giver Coach and Truly Human Consultant


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