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17 Proven Strategies for Growing a Small Business in Nigeria

17 Proven Strategies for Growing a Small Business in Nigeria

Given the unfavourable economic situation in Nigeria, growing a small business is more difficult than ever. Successive governments are not making the economy ideal for business growth as well, so small businesses struggle to survive. Noting that less than 30% of new businesses grow through infancy to maturity, Nigerians have a lot to learn about growing small businesses in a multicultural nation of more than 230 million people.

This detailed guide covers 17 proven strategies for growing your small business in a challenging climate like Nigeria. With these outstanding strategies, you can accelerate your business growth to the point of making it a household name. These growth hacks do not guarantee overnight success, but they will set you on the path to gradually scale your small business to the point of profitability.

17 Proven Strategies for Growing a Small Business in Nigeria

17 Proven Strategies For Growing a Small Business in Nigeria

The growth tips outlined in this guide require persistence, hard work, creativity, and due process to yield results. They have been proven to work over a sustained period of time. They work regardless of the time, place, country, industry, and products or services involved. These 17 proven strategies for scaling your business in Nigeria would work for you if you diligently apply them to your startups.

1. Create a Realistic Business Plan

To succeed with your small business in Nigeria, you need a grand document to guide you. Your business plan is not only for you, it is also for potential investors and commercial lenders as well as future partners. So long before launch, create a realistic business plan that covers the type of business, target customers, financial outlay, estimated employees, projected profits, and market dynamics among others.

2. Employ Qualified People For Your Business

Hiring the wrong people is the surest way to kill a small business. In fact, most business owners in Nigeria complain of thieving staff, incompetent employees, and uncooperative hands. Many problematic employees are not only self-serving, they lack the vision of their employers. This issue may have stemmed from a faulty hiring process, and from a non-functional work culture.

To grow your business, you must hire the right people with the right attitude and visions. Do not forget that your employees must be well-paid in line with their experience and years of service, and they must undergo constant training for their roles and growth path. Having a round peg in a round hole ensures the progress of your business and the happiness of your staff.

3. Know Your Customers to Meet Their Needs

You are in business to meet the basic needs of your customers. Put in another way, your target customers put you in business. So before launching your business or developing products and services, you must fully know your customers. Knowing your customers entails knowing their demographics, their basic needs, their preferences, and changing tastes. Based on your customer research, you can create products, design product features, and develop an effective marketing strategy that works.

You must understand that knowing your customers also requires knowing your competitors. You must know the features and Unique Selling Point (USPs) that attract your target audience to your competitors’ products. To fully understand your customers’ needs, you must know how the economy affects your customers’ choices and how future trends determine consumer tastes.

SEE ALSO: 11 Top Sources of Funding For Your Business in Nigeria

4. Eliminate Business Risks

All businesses face constant threats that can undermine the success or viability of the enterprise. Your small business faces external risks from customers, suppliers, lenders, competitors, market forces, current government policies, and global events. It also faces internal risks from unfaithful employees, equipment breakdown, poor sales, and other business risks.

While it is not possible to eliminate all business threats, you can control them to reduce their risks. As an entrepreneur, bearing and managing risks is part of your job as a business owner, and this is what distinguishes you from a salaried employee. Effectively managing your risks will guarantee fewer disruptions to your business operations.

5. Adapt to Market Conditions

If you must survive as an individual or business brand in Nigeria, you must be highly adaptable to market conditions. Nigerians as a people adapt expertly to political and economic situations, and having survived a civil war, the country of more than 230 million people remains united due to its resilience. The same is true of Nigerian businesses and business owners.

Given the unstable economic climate in the country, Nigerian businesses must constantly adapt to political changes, electricity challenges, currency fluctuations, and other national issues. As part of adapting to market situations, your startup should be able to change directions quickly in terms of scaling down, expansion, price changes, product redesigns, and market penetration among others.

6. Build Customer Loyalty

One major strategy for staying in business is customer acquisition. As a business owner in Nigeria, you must constantly attract customers to your business using various marketing schemes. The best way to attract loyal customers is to give them products and services that they want, at the price they want, and in the manner and place they want it.

You must not only be good at attracting customers, you must be exceptional at keeping or retaining customers. Customers who are loyal to your brand keep you in business, and you must do everything within your capacity to keep them happy. To attract or keep customers, you may use advertising, customer loyalty programme, or product bonuses to boost sales.

7. Leverage Social Media

This is a social media era. The internet goes a long way in promoting businesses and boosting sales, but social media goes even further to build credibility and facilitate topical discussions. As a small business in Nigeria, your customers will like to interact with the faces behind the brand and provide instant feedback on company activities.

The biggest social media platforms that you can use to promote your products are Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, YouTube, LinkedIn, Twitter, and Reddit among others. You can create groups to grow a community of loyal customers on social media. The followers or subscribers you have in these communities will engage with you and stick to your brand.

8. Keep on Improving Your Products and Services

In Nigeria, money is hard to come by, so people want value for their money. It is not enough to have a satisfying product that Nigerians have been buying for years; they want you to innovate on product design, additional features, and extra satisfaction. Customers want you to add new benefits to existing products to give them value for money, and this is the only thing that can make them look away from your competitors.

9. Invest in Emerging Technologies

To remain relevant in your market, your small business must keep on evolving with the times. To demonstrate adaptations, you must automate your business by investing in emerging technologies. Investing in systems will make things easier for employees and enable your customers to patronize you much more easily.

Installing new software, investing in new equipment, upgrading the work culture, reaching customers where they are, and making it easier for customers to reach management are areas to invest in. These technologies should cover inventory management, product shipping, marketing automation, payroll management, customer relationship management, and even human resources among others.

10. Give Back to Your Community

Giving back to your community is called corporate social responsibility. It involves being of significant help to the community in which your business is hosted. It means helping the community to solve a particular problem or assisting in their endeavours to solve certain problems. Helping your community proves that you appreciate their patronage.

As a small business, you must give back to your community based on what you have earmarked and capable of giving without crippling your business. As part of your corporate social responsibility activities – you may give scholarships to community members, donate to cancer research, provide shelter for the homeless, and give free products to the poor in your area.

11. Attend and Host Local Events

To keep your brand in the mind of your target audience, you can attend or host local events that are of importance in your community. You can get involved in cultural activities, environmental programmes, religious sponsorships, and other community events that align with the visions and missions of your business organization.

When you organize or take part in local events, be sure to display your business banners, posters, boards, and promotional items at the events. Ensure that the MC or guest speakers put in a word for your business, and get your employees to wear promotional T-shirts that further your marketing objectives.

12. Be a Step Ahead of Your Business Rivals

To survive in a competitive business world, you have to stay on your toes. In Nigeria – and elsewhere around the world – this involves staying ahead of the competition. As a small business owner, you must take your competition seriously as much as you take your customers seriously. You can research your competition to know how they are performing with a view to beating them at their own game.

While your business rivals are ever mindful of every step you take, you must equally be aware of what your competitors are planning. You can research their marketing strategies, analyze their product features, and comprehend the extent of their market saturation. In the worst situation, you can position your product as an alternative if you are not able to upstage the competition; think of Pepsi and Coca-Cola, McClean and Close-Up, and DSTV and StarTimes.

13. Form Strategic Partnerships

It is rare for small businesses in Nigeria to merge with another or acquire another business. But if you have the capacity and come across a weak rival, you can acquire that rival business to inherit its existing customers. Forming strategic partnerships or initiative takeovers is helpful in expanding the influence of a business.

14. Identify New Income and Product Opportunities

Scaling a new business in Nigeria is very challenging, and it may take several years before a small business becomes viable. Viability is one thing, success is another thing. So to achieve viability and success, a small business may consider diversification. Diversifying into new markets will ensure new income and product opportunities.

When you identify a new income and product opportunity, it will guarantee newer streams of income for your business. For consistency and expertise, it is best to diversify into newer businesses within your existing industry. For instance, if you are a book publisher, you can diversify into suppliers of book and printing materials for other players in the industry.

SEE ALSO: 21 Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Life of Aliko Dangote

15. Advertise Your Business Effectively

You cannot do without advertising your business for improved sales. Given that there are more than 250 ethnic tribes comprising the 230 million Nigerian population, you need a strategic advertising campaign to reach most of your target audience. Ads cost money and must be sustained for a significant period of time – but when properly done, it is very rewarding.

If you do not have a large budget for adverts in the traditional media – TV, radio, and newspapers – you can opt to promote your business on social media. Advertising on social media is not necessary if you have a large community of followers, and it can be as effective as traditional media. For better results, you may use a social media manager to help you out.

16. Invest in a Helpful Work Culture

Investing in a conducive work environment and instituting a progressive work culture will work in your company’s favour. When your employees work in an atmosphere of respect, appreciation, growth, and promotion, it will boost their morale and enable them to give their best. It will help them to work with the company’s external publics to achieve the business goals and objectives without any hassles.

17. Adhere to Government Regulations

When you operate a small business in any parts of Nigeria, you must adhere to local customs and government regulations. Violating regulatory tenets or local customs will offend your customers, and it will impact your business negatively. Your business must not be involved in any community scandals and it must operate within the confines of the law and of your host community.


21 Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Life of Aliko Dangote

21 Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Life of Aliko Dangote

If you are in Africa but have never heard of Aliko Dangote, then you must have been living under a rock. Undoubtedly the richest man in Africa with a net worth exceeding $20 billion, the entrepreneurial legacies of Dangote are worthy of study. Anyone who seriously desires to reproduce the success streaks of Dangote in business would be ready to learn his secrets.

If outstanding entrepreneurs and business students study the lives and times of wealthy people such as Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Jack Ma, Richard Branson, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Mukesh Ambani among others, then the entrepreneurial streaks of Aliko Dangote deserve greater scrutiny – for wealth creation purposes.

21 Entrepreneurial Lessons from the Life of Aliko Dangote

Who is Aliko Dangote?

Born on April 10, 1957, in Kano State, Dangote studied Business Administration at Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, and graduated in 1978. His parents and uncles were commodity traders, so Dangote began trading rice, salt, sugar, grains, and cement after his return to Nigeria. He founded Dangote Limited as his business enterprise and his breakthrough came in the 1990s when he went into cement manufacturing.

Given his outstanding success in cement production, Dangote ventured into sugar manufacturing and soon began manufacturing household products such as pasta, flour, noodles, salt, and other necessities. With huge governmental support under the administration of former President Olusegun Obasanjo, Dangote went into agriculture, real estate, oil and gas, telecommunications, and most recently, an oil refinery.

Over the years, Aliko Dangote emerged as the richest man in Africa with companies in more than 17 countries around the continent. Some of his companies under the Dangote Group include Dangote Cement Plc, Dangote Sugar Refinery, NASCON Allied Industries, Dangote Petroleum Refinery and Petrochemicals, and Dangote Foundation among others.

A taciturn and very modest man, Dangote is also a big philanthropist who revealed that he did not just become wealthy overnight.

“I built a conglomerate and emerged the richest black man in the world in 2008,” he revealed in an interview. “But it didn’t happen overnight. It took me 30 years to get to where I am today. Youths of today aspire to be like me, but they want to achieve it overnight. It’s not going to work. To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big. In the journey of entrepreneurship, tenacity of purpose is supreme.”

21 Lessons from the Business Successes of Aliko Dangote

Here are some of the top lessons you can learn from the wealthiest entrepreneur in Africa and the richest black man in the world:

1. Dangote is a University Graduate

Although thousands of millionaires around the world are school dropouts, Aliko Dangote demonstrates that quality education is essential to success. A university graduate, Dangote employed his academic qualifications in business administration to move his commodity trading business to the largest industrial conglomerate in Africa and beyond.

2. Dangote Started Small with What He Had

Aliko Dangote started a business with what he had. You must equally start with what you have. And you must start from where you are. Don’t wait till you have a big capital and all the resources before you launch your business. It is best to start with the little you have and then scale it to where you want it to be.

3. Dangote Knows How to Seize Opportunities

Dangote knows how to seize opportunities – and you must too. Entrepreneurship is all about identifying economic opportunities and seizing them before they become too obvious. To seize opportunities, you must be ready to take economic risks. But you must only take calculated risks; risks that align with your business goals and that do not undermine your business ethics.

4. Dangote Understands Consumer Trends

To succeed in business like Dangote does, you must understand consumer trends. You must be able to analyze popular tastes and the general direction in which the tastes are moving. Consumer tastes change within months or years, and successful products capture these tastes as they change or evolve. You must be able to determine what consumers would want in the next two years, and position your products to meet those future tastes.

5. Dangote Did Not Increase His Standard of Living

Anyone who knows Aliko Dangote can testify to his simple lifestyle. He does not live an opulent lifestyle or live to impress anyone. He is always himself with modest clothing, cars, and residence. This wealthiest man in Africa does not talk about money or discuss business in public; he pulls his strings from behind the scenes and no one knows what he is doing at any point in time.

6. Dangote Amassed the Best Business Teams in The Continent

As the richest black man in the world, Dangote has amazing business teams in place to manage every aspect of his large business. He is also a very detribalized business tycoon with no sense of racism. He employs large numbers of foreigners from all countries of the world and pays them top wages to work in his companies. He hires only the best to achieve the best in his businesses.

See Also: 11 Top Sources of Funding For Your Business in Nigeria

7. Dangote Patronizes and Works With Current Administrations

Although Dangote came to national limelight during the Obasanjo administration, the business magnate has learnt to work and excel under the subsequent Musa Yaradua administration, Jonathan Goodluck administration, Muhammadu Buhari administration, and the current Bola Tinubu government. Without being political in any way, this mogul is a master at making each successive government formulate policies that keep his business prosperous.

8. Dangote Invests In Household and Everyday Goods

Starting from a humble background of selling household commodities, Dangote instinctively knows that the money is in the food business. Today, his companies manufacture household necessities such as sugar, salt, pasta, noodles, flour, cooking oils, and cement. And understanding that the four oil refineries in Nigeria are producing below capacity, the businessman also went into oil refinery. So long individuals and families must eat every day; Dangote’s businesses will continue to bloom.

9. Dangote is A Huge Philanthropist With a Large Heart

Without making any noise about it, Dangote is one of the biggest philanthropists in Nigeria. Through his Dangote Foundation, the billionaire donates to health, economic, education, and other major causes around the country and beyond. In 2009, he donated $6.4 million to the construction of the world-class International Cancer Centre in Abuja. In 2012, he donated $2.6 million to flood victims in Nigeria, and he donated two dialysis machines to Lagos General Hospital in Marina.

The business tycoon gave $500,000 to UNICEF to fight measles outbreak in Nigeria, and he also gave millions of dollars to the African Union to eradicate Ebola disease in Africa. He also gives generously to eradicate poverty and improve healthcare and education across Africa

10. Dangote Sees Into The Future and Plans Long Term

Aliko Dangote seems to see into the future. He is a businessman who understands consumer trends and economic projections. His businesses seem to have been insulated from inflation, global economic crises, currency fluctuations, and political instabilities; the more the economic turmoils in the country and throughout the African continent, the more buoyant his businesses get. This is largely because he plans long-term and positions his businesses against future uncertainties.

11. Dangote Diversifies Into Several Industries

Apart from household necessities, Dangote is also into cement manufacturing, fertilizer production, and goods haulage with heavy trucks across the country. He has his finger in every pie. Everything he touches turns to gold. This canny Hausaman is highly prudent, visionary, calculative, and adventurous. He has a way of using one industry to boost another industry to his business successes.

12. Dangote Builds On Partnerships and Industry Networks

Dangote is an acclaimed guru when it comes to leveraging professional and business relationships. He is also a magician at courting the love of governments, foreign agencies, international businesses, and authority figures. He is always able to harness the partnership of global organizations and regional alliances to further his business interests. Without this knack, his continental businesses across several industries would not be where they are today.

13. Dangote Has a Strong Work Ethics

Dangote is arguably a very hardworking entrepreneur. Being a visionary decision-maker and a calculating risk-taker, this astute businessman must live and work by very strong values to succeed. Some of the outstanding values he lives by are honesty, long hours of work, working overnight even when paid employees are asleep, personal discipline, humility, endurance, and religion among others.

14. Dangote Embraces Innovations and Adaptations

According to close associates, Dangote constantly works to outsmart himself. He follows global trends, market dynamics, industry development, knowledge acquisition, and technological innovations among others. He leverages his education and the core expertise of his management teams to stay ahead of the competition and win the approval of regional governments. He also adapts to the economic and political dynamics of each country he operates in.

15. Dangote Believes In His Industrial Visions

To succeed like Dangote, you must believe in yourself and in what you can do. This Nigerian billionaire does not believe in impossibilities, and you mustn’t believe in impossibility either. You must believe that there is a market awaiting you out there, and that you hold the solutions to people’s problems within and across the divides.

16. Dangote Knows His Strengths and Weaknesses

As an astute businessman and investor, Dangote knows his weaknesses and strengths. In your personal and business lives, you must know your limits and how far you can push your boundaries. Dangote has never been known for any family or business scandals, because he knows his limits. As an entrepreneur, you must operate within your limits to avoid personal scandals that could undermine the success of your endeavours.

17. Dangote is Working For The Needs of All of Africa

When you see yourself as a solution, you will navigate around problems to meet the needs of people. Dangote sees himself as the food solution of Africa. He believes that the majority of the problems of Africa would be solved if the food problem is taken out of the equation. He set out to put food on the table of African families by producing the majority of the staple foods they eat.

18. Dangote Works to Establish Socio-economic Impacts

This self-made billionaire goes beyond producing household foods and necessities to producing what people need to build their houses and the gases they need to run their cars. He manufactures cement, fertilizers, petrol, and industrial gases for industrial uses. All of Dangote’s undertakings are targeted at producing socio-economic solutions to the needs of Africans.

19. Dangote Does Not Dream Small; Knows No Impossibility

You can start small and dream big. Starting small does not mean you should dream small. Dreaming big will sustain and motivate you while starting small. As an entrepreneur, you must always dream and see possibilities even when you have no present resources to achieve them. Just like Dangote, your slogan should be “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.”

20. Dangote is a role model and inspiration for many

Dangote is a role model and inspiration to millions of people across the world. Successful and aspiring entrepreneurs hold him in high esteem across all industries, and politicians court his favour for their careers. His personal life is free from scandals, and his public life is blameless in every way. No one has ever accused this billionaire of saying or doing anything out of line.

21. Dangote is Not Afraid of Borrowing or Taking Loans

Although Dangote has never hinted at borrowing money to finance his many businesses, industrial experts believe he may have borrowed from banks along the way to expand his conglomerate. At any rate, you must not be afraid to take loans from banks and friends if you must scale your business or expand into other industries. If you must borrow to grow your business, then so be it.


In concluding this discourse on the 21 entrepreneurial lessons from the life of Aliko Dangote, you must imbibe these lessons to enjoy financial independence, entrepreneurial success, wealth creation streaks, and innovative creativity among other things. You must understand that to truly be a millionaire, you must be an entrepreneur who follows in the sure steps of Dangote, Warren Buffett, Jeff Bezos, and Richard Branson among others.