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Entrepreneurial Principles from Nigeria’s Top C.E.Os

7 min read

Almost everyone is familiar with the “Big Guys” in Nigeria’s economy, but this is not the purpose of this piece. I will be sharing with you “Entrepreneurial Principles from Nigeria’s Top C.E.Os” words of entrepreneurs who have through the thick  and tough manage their way to the top. This is the secret steps that leads to success and how to remain significant in your trade and craft.


  1. Reading – read, read, read!
  2. Curiosity – always ask questions
  3. Challenge – challenge the status quo
  4. Passion – it takes you extra mile
  5. Attention – respect details
  6. Focus – keep your eyes on the ball
  7. Diligence – hard work pays all the time!
  8. Creatively – the key to finding new solutions to problems
  9. Resilience – no matter the what, bounce back!
  10. Analyze – think deeply and widely
  11. Learn – stay abreast of new knowledge, learn continuously
  12. Self-motivation – be your own cheerleader
  13. Money – seek the greater glory first
  14. Network – stay in touch with professional peers
  15. Travel – it is also a form of learning


  1. Innovation: innovation provides solutions. That is what the likes of Bill Gates do. Zuckerberg is providing a solution. Look at Uber and Airbnb. The biggest taxi company in the world doesn’t have a cab, and the biggest hotel doesn’t have a room. They scanned the environment, saw a problem and provided the solutions. Be a solution provider. Sell the idea first to people that will provide money for you to do the business before you go to the market – if you cannot attract equity for that business, chances are you may not sell that business even if you got all the money to do it. Young people need to start being innovative, not duplicating what someone is doing. You make money by providing a solution.
  2. Set high ethical standards: In your business, you wouldn’t tell your finance manager ‘we need to bride Mr. A’ and then expect him not to pinch out of that bride. Or ask your accountant to ‘raise a cheque for ten million naira for a family wedding but name it ABC and bring it for my signature’ and expect that he would not take his own. Maintaining high ethical standards is the only way you will be able to sustain your business.
  3. Have a board: It is very important you have a board even if the business is small. Get some experienced people to populate the board. Whenever there is a problem, you can call a board meeting and benefit from their wide experience. A board peopled by experienced individuals is a support system that any serious business must have as a protection against difficult moments.



  1. Start from the bottom. You cannot build what you don’t know anything about. Forehand knowledge is very critical to the success of a company. You may start from internship.
  2. Be ready to be stretched. For example, the printing industry is a pressure cooker. You may call your wife that you will be home by 8pm, along the line, something crops up in the production department, and your attention is needed, and you won’t get home until 1am.
  3. Be prepared for adversity. This country does not reward hard work. It makes people that are hard working to feel that they are not doing enough. Some say it is one of the fantastic places on earth to make huge profits in business. It is not impossible, but it is difficult to do business in Nigeria.
  4. Structure! You don’t grow a business to put structures in place; you put structures in place to grow a business.
  5. Numbers matter in business. You need to have your fingers handy. You have to be a financial person.
  6. Hire slowly. Don’t rush to hire because you feel you can hire more. Most times, there is a disparity between the person that was interviewed and the person that came to do the job. More often than not, you are disappointed at the person recruited because he has not measured to your expectation.


  1. Think, plan, and share. As you envision the idea, write it down. Share it with a few people and ask yourself, what problem is this idea solving? Having shared your idea with the right people; receive their criticism, then go over the idea and fine-tune it. Mind you, share only with people whose judgment you trust, so that they can help to bring you up and not down.
  2. Envision how it will happen. What is the roadmap? What do I need? You now think again, I don’t have the money. But what do I have in my hands? Even Jesus had two fishes and five loaves of bread. You will always have something in your hand, something little. It is not about the size but about the little that can grow in your hands. And so, you say, what do I have? That is where the People Bank come in, the people you know. Where are the uncles and aunts whom you have sown respects to in the past? The love that they have for you will help you get free office space, free advice. You must have served other people. It is a cycle.
  3. Find partners. Go out and share your dreams boldly and politely. As a young entrepreneur, go out and meet people. Network!
  4. Look good, make lasting impressions. In other words, be clean, pleasant and presentable. Have a mint in your bag, invest in perfumes, wear a clean shirt and tie, iron your trousers and wear a clean shoe.
  5. Do your homework. You cannot sit before a king and not have your ideas together. Before you go out to a king you should refine your ideas. You must not be arrogant. Learn humility. It is a life skill. Anything you need to know in life, learn it. Get knowledge, get exposure. Grow. Those were the kind of things we did.
  6. Be focused. What kept us going was the commitment to create something for our own lives. With commitment you are not ashamed to do what is needed, the sacrifice to pay for the realization of your vision. You’ve just got to be focused on your dream. We have a twenty-year vision: that in twenty years, we would have built a critical mass of young people that are leaders in this country. That is our main focus, every other thing that came along our way was God’s blessing on the sideline.



  1. Follow your passion. You should not just venture into things anyhow; it has to be something you are good at. Each of us has talents. When you lack passion for a thing, your effort will be wasted eventually.
  2. Learn and grow. Give yourself time to learn the important aspects of your trade before you set off on your ambition. To be a chef, for example, you have to volunteer to work in a restaurant and understand the ropes.
  3. Start small. Whether you have money or not, start small. Grow before you expand. There is no need starting something big and then seeing it fail.
  4. Have integrity. Having integrity includes being honest to people and to yourself. We pay our taxes. There is no reason for my business to have issues with the law. Do the right thing. Be known for doing the right thing.
  5. Treat your staffs with respect. You will get the best out of them. Nigerians are hardworking! If you have one employee, treat him or her with respect so that when you have 20 staffs that other staff will impart what you have impacted in her into others.
  6. Be disciplined. Discipline and integrity are my own watchwords. For every seed you sow, you will have to account for it.
  7. Do not put all your eggs in one basket. Explore your other passions. Fashion is eighty percent of what I do but I have diversified into real estate and food supplies.

© YouWiN! Publication “Successful Nigerian Entrepreneurs”

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