Surviving the Tough Consulting Industry in Nigeria – Shola Ajani
1. Don't Compete
Competing with a market leader is suicidal. In fact, you may end up amplifying their brand. Had a client who against our advice insisted on setting up a Drinks Factory. The business failed and the premises is now occupied by Churches.
You don't compete on strength; you compete on a market leader’s weakness. The New Generation Banks in Nigeria leveraged on poor customer service to enter into the banking industry.
2. Innovate and Be Known for Something
Between 2004 and 2006, we tried with little success to sell our Recruitment Services in Nigeria. We made no headway until we introduced International Recruitment. We were signed up by Diamond Bank and UBA; almost overnight, we became the brand known for providing International Recruitment Services leading to a 2009 documentary by CNN.
3. Introduce New Products
Some years ago, UBA set up a subsidiary to recruit entry level officers. We approached UBA and offered to carry out the initial phase of the recruitment as they lacked the capacity to do so.
We also noticed retention problems with an organisation. What did we do? We offered a service that resolved the cause of poor staff retention.
4. Leverage on Your Track Record
Not too long after, First Bank Nigeria had the same business need, we approached them and referenced what we did for UBA as an example of our capabilities. Guess who got the job?
5. Solve the Client’s Needs not Problems
In 2013, a Company in Abuja approached us to recruit staffs. Their turnover was very high.
Our research revealed the cause of the high staff turnover; we rejected the assignment and advised the CEO what they real problems were. We ended up consulting for this company for nearly a year. Today, majority of the staffs recruited in 2013 as a result of the consulting assignment are still with this organisation. Problem of high staff turn over long gone.
Most clients always see the problem; as the Consultant, see the root cause.
They are 2 different things.
6. Extend Range of Services Offered
We were appointed to provide recruitment services for a large Oil and Gas Company in 2007, by 2013, we were providing additional services to the company. Think of other value offering you can offer. As an existing provider, you already have one foot in the door.
Pareto Principle comes to mind here. It is easier to grow your portfolio within a company than finding a new client.
7. You are competing in a Crowded Market
You are probably one of 100 plus companies trying to sell services to the same organisation, probably offering an existing services. Everyone wants to offer Change Management, Leadership training, etc, to the same company.
Base your pitch on existing business needs of the organisation or perceived developments that may affect the business in the future.
8. Think Emerging Trends and Future Needs
In 2009, we introduced the Human Capital Summit (HCS) as an annual conference and exhibition for the HR Profession in Nigeria. We explored topics such as remote and Flexible Working, Hot Desking, Job Sharing, etc, these were novel ideas then.
The HCS has since evolved into helping companies prepare for the future of work with the development of an assessment tool, we call FOWORA – Future of Work Organisational Readiness Assessment.
9. Reinvent Your Consultancy
As a consultancy, you must constantly reinvent yourself. Have a niche area. It is better to be a big fish in a small pond, than be in a small fish in the ocean.
Remember, you might have the first movers’ advantage but others would encroach on your area. There was MySpace before Facebook
10. Understand and proffer Solutions to Organisations Must Critical Challenges
Do your research.
What you are offering may not be the solution required, or perhaps someone else is already proving what you are offering.
Most organisation want you help them define growth strategies; new markets, new products, new businesses. Organisations want to understand how to better engage customers; brand, loyalty, customer acquisition, etc.
Organisations are asking how do we reduce cost without impacting on business. In the area of Human Capital, organisations want to know how they be the employer of choice, how fast can they complete hire to on boarding, they want to improve candidate experience when applying for jobs, how intuitive is their recruitment solution, can the candidate track the application process, how does the candidate experience reflect our brand, how do we engage talents and keep them sufficiently motivated?
How do we leverage on new technology and emerging opportunities; Big Data, AI, Cloud Technology, Social Mobility, etc.
To survive any market, provide solutions to organisations most pressing needs
Shola Ajani is the Founder of London School of Consulting