The theme of the conference clearly brought great anticipation as it was a clarion call to women to ‘step up and stand out’. I am privileged to lead the rapporteur team each year and this year, it was an awesome experience attempting to document the passion through which the speakers delivered their message. There were a lot of standout speakers and moments at the conference, so I decided to focus on the business lessons I learnt and share 10 of them.
- Have a purpose and let it drive you-Yaw Nsakor, MD Unilever: As unassuming as this statement is, this is the foundation of every business and life on earth. He brought us to crux of the ‘why’. Every business owner should be clear about why they are in business and what purpose their business exists to achieve.
- Be authentic-Tara Durotoye, CEO House of Tara: This simple advice resonated with me because I see too many ‘me too strategies’ in today’s business world. These are people who are doing things because others are doing it. She encouraged us to build businesses that were authentic. For me this means share your own ‘unique voice’.
- Own your business strategy– Nnamdi Ezeigbo, MD SLOT: When I asked Mr. Ezeigbo what his opinion about competition was, he smiled and said; our strategy makes it difficult for competition to copy us. He encouraged business owners to develop their own business strategy and not outsource it to anyone, because they were the ones that understood the dynamics of their business better than anyone else.
- Have character, not just competence-Ibukun Awosika, Chairman designate First bank: Mrs Awosika said that companies were always on the lookout for business owners to put on their boards. She said it was easier to find people with competence that people with character. This is a call to business owners in Africa to do business with integrity, because you don’t know who is watching you.
- Be an expert in what you do and prepare extensively-Osaretin Demuren, Chairman GTBank: Mrs Demuren challenged us not to take any opportunity we are given for granted. This means honing your skills by learning so that you can be an expert in your field. Brian Tracy says that the top 10% in any industry are the one’s who are the most successful and make the most money and this is achieved because they are the experts in the industry.
- Define what success is to you– Yaw Nsakor, MD Unilever: Mr. Nsakor once again made a simple and loaded statement which challenges today’s trend of comparison as the gauge of success. He said success should have a personal and unique definition to everyone and we should all make our personal definition our own driving factor. This sound to me like: stay on your own lane as a business owner, stop looking next door gauge your progress. This might seem counter intuitive in today’s competitive world, but it makes perfect sense when you consider that every business has its own unique value proposition.
- Know your community-Tolu Sangowawa, Founder Dustbin Estate: this is an advice that came from Tolu a social advocate, but it holds a strong business lesson. As business owners, we must know our community and customers, to be able to serve them in the best possible way. You get to know your community by spending time with them and feeling their pain points. What she does so well in her social enterprise is what we can do in our businesses.
- Build an emotional connection with your customers– Tara Durotoye, CEO House of Tara: this is another sound advice from Tara. She shared an example of how her customers were emotionally invested in her brand because they truly cared about their customers. It is our duty as business owners to show that we are not just in it for the money, but we really care about our customers’. It reminds me of the saying: people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.
- Find your blue ocean by identifying problems within solutions– Nnamdi Ezeigbo, MD SLOT: this sounds like a reverse strategy formulation, but it makes perfect sense. So instead of businesses to keep looking to identify new solutions, they can look at existing solutions, find the gap and create a new solution to fill the gap!
- Honesty and empathy are top leadership skills today-Wendy Luhabe,: Mrs Luhabe was the keynote speaker of the event and she share some very insightful research. Top in the findings was the startling fact that honesty and empathy is what would bring success to today’s business leaders.
These lessons are simple, yet insightful and a true call to redefine the way we do business in today’s world.