Banke Alawaye is dedicated to helping small business owners find a path to ‘business freedom’ by showing them how to work smarter. For her, the path to business freedom is paved with processes, templates and deliberate strategies to make it so. She explains, “My job is to show you how to create systems that can help you run a business that is both profitable and a joy to live with.”
This business leader and author of “Get Your Business Online” has gathered enormous experience working across various business fields over two decades and has discovered the main factor that is mitigating against the success of many young businesses in Africa. It is for this reason, she dedicates her career life to consulting for SME owners to help them create systems that make their businesses more profitable with a special interest in female entrepreneurs.
Banke Alawaye is passionate about the growth of your startup and already helping many put the right organizational systems in place. Enjoy this short interview.
Why do you, Banke Alawaye, consider yourself an ‘immensely’ successful person?
Success is in the mind. You make up your mind on what is important to you and hold on to your values. I consider myself immensely successful because everyday I wake up with gratitude for another day. The people I impact make me successful. There is an immense sense of satisfaction that comes from helping someone reach a goal.
These are the things that define success to me.
Can you enlighten us more on you being a “successful failure”?
I think that the fear of failure holds a lot of people back from reaching for their dreams. I have found that success only comes through failure. If you don’t try something out then you’ll never arrive at your desired end result.
While it’s good to research and plan, too much analysis leads to paralysis. A majority of people have ideas that they haven’t taken further because they are afraid it will fail.
But the great thing about failing at something is that you learn powerful lessons in the experience. Those lessons are what set you up for success in the end.
From your rich background of serving in various enviable capacities across the world, what is your topmost rule of business success you always want to share with young African entrepreneurs?
My number one lesson would be to harness the power of having systems in your organisation. Taking the time to create systems and processes will save you a lot of time and energy later on. You’ll be able to deliver consistently and customers know exactly what to expect from you. Having systems also mean that you can easily track resources and optimise for efficiency quickly.
Why did you finally decide to become a business consultant and do women find it more challenging to start-out in business than their male counterparts?
I’ve always loved the challenge of working on different things. Consulting allows me to learn about different industries as I’ve worked on very diverse projects.
I think running your own business has its challenges whether you’re male or female. Women have their unique challenges because women are predominantly the caregivers – in a family situation. So the woman then has to balance the demands of her business with other family commitments.
What strategies should aspiring entrepreneurs employ entering saturated markets?
Start from the premise that you have to be different. Whatever industry you’re in, you have to identify a segment that is underserved and carve out your niche.
What are some recurring challenges you’ve had to tackle when consulting for small business owners?
The one recurring challenge small business owners will tell you they face is lack of capital. But I find that when you dig deep the real challenges are a lack of planning and systems in their business.
Small business owners get caught up in the multiple roles they have to play in their business. They spend each day dealing with problems that crop up and not enough time creating the systems that will prevent the problems in the first place.
It’s a hard discipline and it may feel like things are spinning out of control. But the time spent creating solid systems for a small business is an investment that keeps paying back.
The client/customer is the lifeline of the business. How in particular will you suggest entrepreneurs take care of them?
Great customer service never goes out of style. In any industry, a business must create systems designed to make it easy for their customers to do business with them.
Are you an advocate of entrepreneurs gaining experience in the workplace before starting-out with their ideas and at what point should they make that bold decision?
Experience in the workplace can be a really good foundation but it is not essential. Each situation is unique and there isn’t a one-size prescription for all.
What are some marketing disasters small businesses do get themselves into?
I think all brands make mistakes in marketing sometimes. The most obvious one that comes to mind is, not clearly defining their target market beforehand. A brand that is not clear on its ideal customer profile will end up creating marketing collateral that won’t attract anyone.
What is your ultimate description of a successful small business owner?
Like I said before, success is very much an individual thing. In my opinion success includes having time for myself and family, running a business that I’m excited about and happy to work in ever day. And of course a business that provides a financial reward that can support you. If your business doesn’t pay the bills, it’s just a hobby.
Read more about Banke Alawaye
Banke Alawaye is a Chartered Management Consultant with a B.Sc in Computer Science, a Masters in Business Administration from Edinburgh Business School, Scotland and a Certificate in Entrepreneurial Management from Pan African Universityʼs Enterprise Development Centre and also a Member, British Computer Society.
She has worked in the technology space for over 20 years who started out as a programmer but had since combined her love for technology with her business skills gained as an investment banker and business consultant to create simple effective solutions for small businesses.
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Clinton Chibueze: Utiva Talents Transform African Businesses and Compete Globally
Utiva is providing the solution to the record graduate unfit for the business world in most African countries through their unique program that adequately equips students to be excellent and stand out in the business place. Utiva is an education enterprise that is using blended learning approach to bridge skill gap of teeming youths, especially undergraduates in Africa.
Clinton Chibueze is the Program Associate at Utiva based in Lagos, Nigeria. In this interview, he shares the major problems confronting the corporate world lacking skilled labor as only 9% of graduates are really prepared for the job market.
In explaining the nature of his work at Utiva, Clinton Chibueze said, “I work with students in about 20 universities, helping them get value for our engagements, training and internship program. I provide leadership to about 40 campus leads (2 per school), communicating the vision and the mission of Utiva to them, helping the organization scale its presence in all the schools and supporting our social impact mission.” He as well provides back-end support to the training program going on in the schools.
If you are an undergraduate or a graduate who wants to be talented and a highly skilled labour to your employers, enjoy this interview with Clinton Chibueze who recently graduated with Summa Cum Laude and join Utiva.
What is Utiva and what challenges in the market has necessitated its development?
Utiva is a system of learning which combines both traditional classroom approach with an online learning experience to deliver value to the students and to the market. This system of learning prepares students for work whether as entrepreneurs or intrapreneurs in the private and public sectors as well as with non-governmental organisations by refining and improving their work skills. In other words, Utiva is a finishing school.
The song of “University graduates are unemployable” is a major challenge in the market. What this phrase actually means is that most graduates lack the necessary skills for work in the 21st century. Think about this for a moment. Most undergrads spend almost 4 years studying plant and some rocks. That is fine, honestly. But the question is this: who is ready to absorb them into jobs afterwards? Most people become stranded and left out. Our job is to communicate constantly with the job market, understand the dynamics of this market, research into the skills global employers are recruiting for, come back to train college students in those schools and help these companies find our talents.
The problem is that if Africa refuses to equip its labor for productivity and other companies improve theirs, we will continue to have a nation of cheap labor.
How in practical terms are you closing the skills gap in the market?
Our model integrates online with traditional face-to-face class activities in a planned, pedagogically valuable manner to train undergrads for the future of work and business. Our one and half year programme is divided into three phases. At the beginning of the journey, the students are enrolled into a 6-day training programme (105 hours). This engagement with our faculty allows the students to focus on three broad areas: Project Management, Corporate Leadership and Lean Entrepreneurship. After this, competence and knowledge is tested against a 200-question examination and then we move each student into an intense 52 weeks Business Case Review program.
In addition, during this program, learning is coordinated through on-the-job program which we call the ‘Uternship’. Some of our students are paired with fast rising companies, some get into volunteering experiences, some even get to work directly with entrepreneurs and a few work directly with Utiva.
Why do you use Business Cases?
One of the reasons we use business cases as a good and more productive approach to learning is that many students are more inductive than deductive reasoners, which means that they learn better from examples than from logical development starting with basic principles. The use of case studies can therefore be a very effective classroom technique.
Case studies are long being used in business schools, law schools, medical schools and the social sciences, but they can be used in any discipline when instructors want students to explore how what they have learned applies to real world situations. Utiva cases come in many formats, from a simple “What would you do in this situation?” question to a detailed description of a situation with accompanying data to analyze. Whether to use a simple scenario-type case or a complex detailed one depends on your course objectives.
What are some of your success stories?
We currently work with an average of 500 students per school and have a presence in 20, that is about 10,000 schools with some variances. We have a 75-80% success rate at pairing our students to internship programs and ensuring they’re hired.
Since the days of our early setup, about 17% of our students have started their own businesses.
We are currently improving our Utiva500companies project which is structured to help us on-board the leading 500 companies in Sub-Saharan Africa into our programme for skilled labor.
Who qualifies to be trained at Utiva?
Utivans are learners, constant learners! Young people who are very meticulous. Hence, anyone who is open to learning. As long as you are an undergrad or a recent graduate, we are out to work with you.
What is the vision for this initiative to help improve the quality of graduates into the job market?
Utiva’s vision is to produce individuals who are capable of transforming African businesses and competing with global leading businesses. It’s that simple. We are building global brands by building Human Capital.
What does the support by major institutions like the NYU, the Atlas Corps and others mean for your operations at Utiva?
We are growing and are still learning. We always want to improve on standard and quality so we can train students who would be able to identify and tackle current issues. Many of our partners are committed to helping us build a strong learning framework and also revamp our pedagogy. For instance, the country director was trained in the United States for a year under the tutorship of Deloitte consulting and this is courtesy of one of our supporters, Atlas Corps..
In clear terms, how will a Utivan differ from the regular graduate?
Walk into an interview room, you’d see the difference. A Utivan is all-rounded and well grounded. An average Utivan has developed the Utiva 8 skill for the job market!
Tell us the caliber of your Utivan trainers.
Our trainers are highly experienced professionals in their areas of specialization. These trainers are accomplished practitioners, people who have carved a niche for themselves in the market and are well aware of the remote and immediate demands of the market. For example, Eyitayo Ogunmola, the Country Director for Utiva is an expert in Project Management, Emeka Ossai is a specialist in Corporate Leadership and currently the Chief Community Builder at Campus Labs, Tomilola Adejana, a Financial Technologist and Business Strategist and others alike.
What significant challenge exists as you implement this unique initiative?
Scale. There is more to do. There are more schools to cover. More people and more. Especially in some disconnected communities in the country.
How soon does your oufit intend to roll out Utiva to other African countries?
We have tested our programme in 2 other African countries. We are building a scalable model which can be tested anywhere. We are the future of human capital development in Sub-Saharan Africa.
Read more about Clinton Chibueze
Clinton Chibueze, Program Associate at Utiva and an emerging Corporate Leader in Global Education is passionate about functional education for African youths and helping young people in Sub-Saharan Africa transition from school to work. His biggest aspiration is to work in the space of policy development and educational program implementation.
Clinton Chibueze has gathered experience in Leadership and Management as well as a demonstrated history in writing, proofreading, editing and teaching. He holds a certificate in Project Management and an alumnus of Common Purpose in 2017, a global institute which trains youth for leadership. His is a Classics graduate from the University of Ibadan who just graduated with a Summa Cum Laude.
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