How do you build a great brand and business? why do you even have to? Building a business is a venture not everyone succeed at, building a great business demands even more skills, knowledge, determination and making many right decisions. As a Startup entrepreneur, it is only wise to learn as much as you can from successful business men. Today on BeInspired Show, we have Braimoh Bello, a leading research Scientist expose to us some secrets of building a great and successful business and brand.
Let’s know more about you?
I am Braimoh Bello, I’m a researcher, I like to think I’m a transformational ambassador. I have a passion to see young people chase and achieve their dreams. I’m also a university lecturer. I’ve been teaching at the University of Witwatersrand, both as a full time and visiting lecturer for the past 13 to 14 years now, and lecturing at a few other University in South Africa.
I’m a business man, I have a Research Company in Johannesburg, Centre for Statistical Analysis and Research, CESAR.
What inspired you to Startup CASER, venturing into entrepreneurship?
I will start with entrepreneurship and then narrow down to CASER. I haven’t looked at methodical research into the birth of entrepreneurs. It will be good to check what there is in public domain. But a quick study of very successful entrepreneurs that I have made, Bill Gates, Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, is that there is something that is common about entrepreneurs and that is; they started quite early in life. Almost everyone of them say to you that “when I was 13, I made something and I sold it, when I was 12, I made something and I sold it.” Bill Gates wrote his first computer program when he was 15, and he sold some of these things for money. Mark Zuckerberg as well, the same thing.
For me, the journey is not different. For some reason by design, I started to trade when I was quite young. And that’s because I had lost my mother pretty early in life. And I needed to raise money now and then. I knew what it meant to push wheelbarrow in the market, sell ice water, not pure water, pure water is new, those days, they call it ice water from the bucket, after or before school.
So naturally, I have learnt by design to exchange product or value for money. So now, I’ve grown up, I’m a researcher, I’m a lecturer, I’m working as a professional in one or two places in South Africa. It will probably be a natural output that I sit down one day and ask myself; “Do I not want to run my own company?” I’ve paid my dues, I’ve been a public health researcher for about 10 years. I know about the industry, so maybe I could use these skills now to start my own business. So one of the things I often say to young people is that whatever thy hands find to do, do it well. Do it with all thy might.
And that’s because we often are not very good at telling the future. Success in one thing predicts success in another thing. If you are a successful student, you are more likely to be a successful professional. By successful student I don’t necessarily mean having the best result, learning the techniques that make you succeed in school; time management, attention to details, and the likes… That was my journey, I did well in Academics and I went into the professional world with that confidence and I did very well in the professional world, I also then use that confidence to say “ok, I can do my own thing”.
For me, to answer your question in summery, it was both by design and also by the successes I achieved in my academic and professional lives.
Having run a successful business for a couple of years now, can you share with us some insight you have learnt in terms of building a great brand and a successful business?
*Laughs.. That’s a lecture, but I will try and make it very brief. To build a successful business, there are many things that you need. Building a business is probably one of the touchest endeavors any man can undertake. And that’s why people really respect CEO’s
In building a big brand, you don’t start your business out of anger, because your boss made you angry, they were not paying you well, so you go and say, ‘I’m starting my own’ that’s not a good motivation to starting a business. So I would say to build a successful brand, start for the right reasons. I say to people, it’s very easy to steal ideas, but it’s not easy to steal execution of ideas.
I could look at Mercy running BeInspired Show, and then, she starts going everywhere and I say “oh my, I think I should become a blogger as well, and become a media person” but truth of the matter is I don’t know the amount of paddling beneath the water that Mercy has done. The amount of work and networking and grinding. Start alright, if you want your business to succeed, in other words, start in the area of passion, and if you’re one of those who don’t believe in passion, do something that you like, something you are interested in. And of course, there is a big distinction between a business person and an entrepreneur.
A business person can buy a television for ten naira and sell it for 20 naira, but an entrepreneur doesn’t trade, he thinks about adding value. Well, if you want to be a business person, it’s fine, buy and sell anything. Of course, entrepreneurs are business men, but not all business men are entrepreneurs. For entrepreneurs, start alright, start in the areas of your dream and very closely related to that, be focus!
There aren’t many successful entrepreneurs that do a million things. If you think of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, you would know him for one thing. If you think of Bill Gates, you would know him for one thing. Think of Dangote, you would know him for one thing. Forget the many products, it’s still one thing. Some are in tech, some are in oil, consumer’s product, sales and the likes.
Be very focused on what you want to do and try to chase it. The fact that something is not producing result in the first one or two years, doesn’t mean you should dump it and do something else. You may need to grind.
Three years into my business, I got a very big job offer, from one of the biggest research companies in South Africa. They were offering to give me position to close my business. Not only that, they were also willing to employ one or two of my employees just to make me happy. It was very tempting, at a time when my business was still very grinding to get to where I want to be. But thankfully, I said no. It took a year for me to make that decision. They gave me that long to make a decision. Today, I’m glad I did not accept that offer.
Number one, start alright, two, be very clear about what you want, have focus. Number three, which I cannot overemphasized, because this is actually my passion. Be driven by quality and excellence.
Talk about a brand, there are different ways of categorizing brands, you could have a week brand, and a strong brand, you could have a poor brand and a good brand. It’s very possible that many people know about your brand, let’s say in Benin city, you can go on television and advertise your product, let’s say you have a bakery or a school, and people can rush there and want to buy your product or services, if you have no quality, if your brand does not have values, and does not put quality above every other thing, it’s going to go down in a couple of years. If you want to be a successful business person, have an honest conversation with yourself;
To build a very strong brand, you must be very passionate about quality. You must make sure that you give the absolute best. And if you need to get mentorship, if you need to be exposed to other ways of doing things, go do it.
The last thing that I would have to say in building a very good brand, is that you have to get the best team. You must work with the best people. I always didn’t get that right. Because when I was an employee, I was that employee you couldn’t sack. Because I had a very good attitude, I had a good work ethic, and my technical skills were not bad either. I believe that what makes good employees are their attitudes and their skills. It’s not good to be defective in one or the other.
I like to think that my preparation in Uniben, made me prepared for both. Skills and good attitude. I naturally thought the whole world was like that. I thought you could take someone and get them to do stuff. So occasionally, I did hire badly. I then realised that people come with a history. People come with a whole lot of history. A one hour motivational talk cannot change that. If someone comes with a badage; a distrust for the world, distrust for the society, that’s how the parents has brought them up, that’s what the society taught him or her, you cannot change that in one day.
It is Warren Buffet who says that “hire the best people, and then give them the opportunity to be awesome.” But you must first hire the best people. If you want to run a successful company, I cannot overemphasized the need for you to hire the best people. I will rap up by saying. Elon Musk, a man that I respect so much said; “Business is not difficult, you just have to get the best minds.” If you get the best minds, you will get the best product. And I went dam! How come no one taught me this when I was starting.
Go get Masters, go get PHD. If your selection process has to be three or four steps let it be. Don’t just get someone and say I will motivate him. You can have a mentorship programme, but to have a successful business, get the best minds.
Looking at Nigeria, where we are now, how would you project entrepreneurship in ten years time?
If you look at the emergence of bigger industries in more developed countries, they actually went through different phases. And one of such phases is small businesses, mushrooming here and there and that was because, things were difficult, people were small, trying to survive, having small shops outside their house.
What I foresee is that as we begin to develop, especially, in infrastructure, bigger companies will emerge. Small companies will merge to form bigger companies, and there is going to be a lot of partnership that’s going to happen. Either bigger companies are buying smaller companies and merging or smaller companies are patterning together to form bigger companies. And that really is better for everyone. Because the amount of energy and time that entrepreneurs put in their business is heavy. Most entrepreneurs don’t work for eight hours. But the reward is not often as good as their input because it’s a tough journey.
Presently, there are a lot of entrepreneurs in Nigeria, SME’s, people who are starting out. and that’s because many of them could not find jobs. As more smaller films merge, many of them can find jobs in those places. Put in eight hours, and probably have a more successful life. People like arguing that as we approach Articifial Intelligence, and use more AI, we should be working less and enjoying life more. But the future of entrepreneurship in Nigeria, I see small businesses merging, I see bigger factories coming up, big tech companies emerging, but the government must first provide a lift structure.
Looking at the fact that Nigeria is in dear need of Innovators and Impact driven entrepreneurs like you are, would you someday come here to Nigeria to start up a business or continue your business having spent so long in South Africa?
This is a conversation I’m having with myself, my staff, and friends. It’s something I look forward to doing. One reason I am resident in the continent, in South Africa is to contribute to the development of Africa. Nigeria is my home, the most important country in the continent. It’s something I would like to do. I appreciate the tough terrain, how it is to run a business here, so I don’t want to jump into it. I want to do my research properly, take baby steps, and be sure that when I do, we hit the ground running.
But one of the things I would hope that government can do for Nigeria; you see, I’m not just a motivational speaker, I’m also a scientist, what that means is that I’m very aware of the role of nurture and nature in determining who we become.
Nurture constitute all the decisions we have to make, information we get, you chasing your own life. “I can do it, I’m going to go out and do it” that’s nurture. But nature is really the context in which you find yourself. The truth of the matter is things are a lot easier in South Africa or in more developed countries. I have never left my office in South Africa to go and beg for government contract. I write proposals and I wait to hear whether I got the contract. And I get no less than 50 contract a year. And that’s because people are less corrupt. There is no country without corruption, but they are far less corrupt than Nigeria is. And then also, the system is more IT dependent. I don’t have to leave my office to go and beg somebody for contract, I send my proposal by email.
So I’m hoping that Nigeria can set the system in place. This space that constitute nature. So that we make life easier for Nigerians and Nigeria business people. Lastly, there is something I believe in which Mark Zuckerberg happened to have mentioned not too long ago, it’s the universal basic income. The government needs to think about how they can support entrepreneurship. And there are more intelligent ways of supporting businesses. First of all, you have to have a data system for doing so. You can’t just go to Yaba market and start taking a list of people and giving them money.
I believe in universal basic income, which is the income you give to people who are not employed. So that they can have money for the most basic things.
The Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs, says that the fundamental needs of humans are physiological. But at the end of the pyramid, is the need to be creative, self actualization, being recognized and dignified. But nobody gets to that point without having the most basic things.
When you provide universal basic income, people are able to think to be more creative. Bill Gates will not have been who he is if he did not have food at home. He will not have been able to lock himself in the Harvard computer lab, where he locked himself and he got his first 1 million doller contract with Mark Allen, that would never have happened if they were here in Africa. They would not have had access to the University of Washington computer lab, they wouldn’t have had the time nor the energy. These guys were well fed. Bill Gates parents were rich. Mark Zuckerberg started to learn programming at the age of seven.
I say to people, never underestimate the creativity of a man who has eaten. When I left Nigeria to South Africa, I never thought I would write a best seller. I was just looking for a job. I wanted to finish my Masters degree in South Africa and get a job. But the moment I finished that, I said ohh, I could write a book, I wrote a book, and the book became a best seller. A man who has food in his stomach, a man who has eaten is the man who can think. What will the government do about universal basic income?
In South Africa, 17 million of the 56 million people are on social grants. They get money from the government and many European countries do the same. Even the America system and social security.
If you were to change one thing in Nigeria, what will it be and how will you go about it?
I could say I will change leadership, but the leaders are a reflection of the people. I would probably change mindset. There are many things I really would like to change, I will like to make sure every Nigerian has an ID, it’s not only a form of identification and fighting crime, it will help with social identity and social cohesion. The Nigeria project is falling apart right now because there is no Nigerian. We are not together. When you put ID’s in the hands of people, you will enhance the Nigeria project.
I’ve always thought that that is absolutely important for fighting crime and corruption. I will want to make that compulsory. You need to have it for banking. Whether your BVN will be tied to it or not, the BVN only came because the Nigeria project is not functioning. Otherwise, you shouldn’t have another BNV if you have an ID number. Everybody should use their ID for transaction. For buying jamb forms, for gaining admission to the university, for paying school fees, for getting business loan, for getting trader money, for getting a passport, for voting, for opening a bank account. You consolidate all of these data basis and you give a sense of identity to the Nigerian.
What effect will that bring about?
You cannot have development without statistics. We have no reliable statistics in Nigeria, Because we don’t know Nigerians. The proportion of Nigerians that has the ID, I don’t think is more than 60%, the proportion that use the ID is probably not more than 30%. You don’t know how many babies are born in Nigeria every year. You don’t know how many children should be in school unless you do a survey. There are three ways of getting data, population register, survey or surveillance. The most complete way is the population register which you then combine with surveillance. In South Africa, you can not go to kindergarten without an ID, the elderly in the village has an ID.
How would you advice the government of Nigeria in terms of advancing development and entrepreneurship in Nigeria?
Number one, have an ID system. That’s the foundation. Number two, people have emphasized over and over again electricity, it’s not rocket science. Ten thousand megawatts can be added to our grind in three to four years. Three will be, revamp the educational system. Increase the funding for education. Nigeria funding for education is one of the lowest in the world. UNESCO says that at least 25% of your annual budget should go into education. Also, for us to also have the best of employees, I think government need to set in place regulatory bodies. There are many employers in this country that get away with anything. Many employers who wants people to work seven days a week and pay them 15, 000 naira. We need a policy environment to solve such problems.
Any other thing you wound like to tell us?
What I would like to say is that entrepreneurs in Nigeria are doing very well. They are doing amazingly well as against the tough environment of doing business. It’s not just enough to grind and do your best, when there is no electricity, you buy generator. That’s great, I will also recommend that we continue to put more pressure on the government. We don’t do that enough in Nigeria. Put more pressure on the government! And force the government to do what they should be doing. We are hard working people, but often, we are too individualistic. We don’t come together to place a demand on the government and that has helped to build many other countries.
Wow wow wow.. So much value in one piece. The question now; what are you going to do after this? Remember to drop your comment at the comment box below. We like to hear from you.
Thank you for staying with us today on the Show, it’s Mercy Omoregie on BeInspired Show, see you next week Monday.
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