8 Essential Skills Every Business Owner Needs to Learn

As an entrepreneur, I make sure to educate other ladypreneurs about the importance of investing in themselves.

While investing in yourself and business might cost you a lot of money, it gives you long-term benefits such as the advantage of building valuable skills that would benefit your business and improving your strengths over time.

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Let’s face the truth- the business world has changed from the way it was operated 20 years ago. Running a business on just sheer instinct isn’t enough anymore.

You have to stay on top of growing trends if you want your business to survive and succeed.

And that’s why I have put together this list of business skills and resources that every business owner needs to boost their business.

1. Relationship Building

Building great relationships especially with customers/clients is one of the ways to differentiate your business from competitors.

As a business owner, your relationships will take various forms, as you’ll meet different people; and need to wear different hats to maintain a good relationship.

I’d advise that the major categories of relationships you need to build are with:

  • Customers/Clients;
  • Business connections/ fellow entrepreneurs who can grow and support your business; and
  • Mentors

2.  Storytelling

Let’s face it! Everyone loves stories, no matter the age or economic status.

Incorporating storytelling into your business infuses a human touch customers can’t resist. It helps customers establish a human connection with your business.

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Some of the advantages of using storytelling for your business include:

  • It captivates your customers;
  • It makes your business relatable and approachable; and
  • It makes your business credible and trust-worthy.

3. Content Creation

Content is king! Yes, that might sound cliché, but it’s true.

Please note that content doesn’t have to be restricted to words alone. It could come in other forms such as videos, infographics, pictures, podcasts, whitepapers, case studies, etc.

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Don’t just display the products or services you’re offering. Go a step ahead by also offering value to your customers.

For example, do you sell fashion items? Spice up your brand by posting style inspirations, care of the items you sell, how to rock that item for different occasions, etc.

By providing good content, you not only let your customers know that you have their best interests at heart but also assert that buying from your business is the best decision they could ever make.

4. Customer Service

How many of you never returned to buy from a brand just because of poor customer experience? Lots of you, right?

The same principle applies to your customers too. As business owners, you have to realize that your customers are king, and so, must be treated like royalty.

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Providing excellent customer experience is one of the easiest ways to make your business stand out from other businesses.

It’s also one of the easiest ways to retain customers and get referrals.  Therefore, ensure you develop your customer skills and treat your customers with respect.

5. Financial Literacy/Management

If you want to run a successful business, you must know how money works. Click To Tweet

This means having an understanding of how much you can spend and how you should spend it.

Every cent you spend and generate must be accounted for. If you don’t know how to calculate your expenditure and revenue, it’s definitely time to become financially literate.

6. Management

When your business begins to grow, it will require expansion. And expansion translates to hiring more people to support you.

Once you do this, you need to ensure that the people on your team are doing what they are supposed to do and that they’re are doing it efficiently. Therefore, don’t be just a business owner.

Add "being a good manager" to the list of skills you need to possess. Click To Tweet

7. Leadership

A good business owner needs to have good leadership skills to run a team of other people.

When you are a good leader, it becomes easy to motivate and inspire greatness in your employees.

With proper leadership, employees, contractors, and even customers will respect you.

Please note that to be a leader isn’t to be bossy to inspire fear. Rather, a good leader brings the best out of people, listens to other people, shows them respect and showing them that you’re capable of leading them to achieve victory.

8. Hiring

I see a lot of business owners make the mistake of hiring the first person that shows an interest in working with/for them or has the qualifications they are looking for.

Unfortunately, that isn’t enough.

While hiring a person with an exemplary portfolio and good work history is good, you have to consider other variables such as their personality, beliefs and whether they are a perfect fit for your business’ culture.

Running a business is very demanding. Identify your weaknesses and invest in skills that that will provide your business with solid foundations.


Oluwatoyin Egedi: From Stay at Home Mom to Piloting Women Empowerment

Oluwatoyin Egedi is a Civil Engineer by training but an entrepreneur by decision. She currently sits as the CEO of Rullion Capacity Builders Foundation – a social enterprise that seeks to empower women with skills to start profitable businesses right from home.
The vision for her is to use the vehicle of skill acquisition to ameliorate women’s capacity and enhance their chances for economic enrichment.

 Why did you start a women empowerment center?

 
I started Rullion Capacity in 2014 – a women empowerment center from a personal encounter and insight into the need for women to be skilled and have the capacity to generate income as stay at home moms.
 
This center was born at a time when I also needed to be empowered – I had just had my third baby and the few job interviews I attended didn’t expressly say, but once they learned I was married and had children, the odds tilted away from me.
Later, I realized that in an employers’ eyes, a married woman with children meant more off days, more sick leaves, the bottom line, fewer work hours. Without getting any offers, I decided that rather than just sit at home idle, I would learn a skill. I settled for small chops and cocktails.
 
The program was very affordable as it was subsidized by the church and I was amazed at the number of women who attended the skill empowerment. With the knowledge, I garnered from working in the advertising industry before being a stay at home mum, in no time I was selling my finger foods at events and was making some income even though I was working from home.
 
Soon, I discovered that a lot of the other women who attended that program with me were not grounded in basic business skills and were waiting to get funds to rent a space before they start a business. Instantly, I knew this was an error, and thought about how I could change this.
 
I gathered a group of friends and with further discussions, we saw there was a need to change the mindset of so many women who think being a stay at home moms meant being without avenues to generate income.
 
We launched a skill acquisition program laced with business skills in financial literacy, customer service, brand management, legal aspects of business, marketing and sales.
 
Our first program was a flop as we were still quite unknown but we persisted and created more awareness. Using social media as a very strong marketing tool, we had more attendees.
 
So far, we have trained over 400 women who have largely gone on to start their small businesses and some who do not have the financial capacity to start, are currently employed until they can.
 
Our first skill acquisition program was a flop as we were still quite unknown but we persisted and created more awareness using Social Media Click To Tweet

There are quite a number of women empowerment organizations, what makes yours stand out?

In striving for excellence in a sector where there are so many mushroom operators, in 2016, we became an accredited vocational center for Trade Test 1, 2 and 3 and NABTEB (National Business and Technical Examinations Board) exams which further qualifies our trainees to work anywhere in the world.
Last year, we observed that a critical challenge our trainees had was having access to capital to purchase equipment. This led us to seek and partner with MISS – Micro Investment Support Services (an equipment leasing company led by Mrs. Elizabeth Ehigiamusoe).
With this, our trainees can purchase equipment on loan of up to N500,000 over a tenor of 12 months with a very affordable interest rate.
Furthermore, we observed that though our students now had the equipment and technical know-how for business and already had products, a bigger challenge was getting ready buyers. The answer to this was The Women’s Entrepreneurship Fair (WEF) with the vision to connect our women to customers, investors and the government.
 
We had 2 editions last year with women-focused brands such as Access Bank Women banking, Molfix Diapers, Guardian Life, Nobel Carpet and rugs (Lush Hair), Cake World, Orijin Zero, Bella Naija, Fero Mobile, De-united Foods Limited, Cadbury, United Capital Limited, LSETF, among others throwing their weight behind the massively successful event.
A lot of our women are still reaping the dividends of those shopping exhibitions and we are looking forward to having more in the near future
Without getting any offers, I decided that rather than just sit at home idle, I would learn a skill - Oluwatoyin Egedi Click To Tweet

What Challenges have you encountered on this journey?

 
Remember I mentioned I was thrown into this journey not of my own will but because of circumstances around me at the time. So it has not been a smooth journey but I’ve been determined as I currently enjoy what I do. Below are some challenges I faced:
1. Wrong Structure:  We are a registered social enterprise with the CAC but without any formal educational background in the team, we struggled with the structure a bit before we found our footing.
Working with the Federal Ministry of Labour and Productivity’s trade test modules and syllabus likewise NABTEB’s has helped us put a proper structure in place
2. Getting skilled workers:  This was difficult for the courses we offer at Rullion but we had to overcome. Courses such as Cosmetology ( hairdressing, nail fixing, makeup and gele tying, Fashion design and accessories, catering and hotel works, and so forth) but as trainers, we have embraced the importance of training and re-training.
 
Some people are of the opinion that if you train your staff, they’ll leave you and become competition. But what if you don’t train them and they stay? It comes back to hurt your brand and what you aim to achieve. Besides, collaboration is a new competition.
 
We can’t do all the work, so if our ex-staff leaves and sets up hers, that’s great as we then have a branch in that other location where we can refer willing  trainees
3. Inadequate Funding: We initially set out to offer our training programs at no fee at all but without a fund base, we couldn’t keep up with the standards we seek to deliver.
 
Therefore, we asked our trainees to pay a small fee which we use to cover the overheads of running our programs but even with that we still require help to bolster the training programs we deliver and further enrich our capacity as learning is quite dynamic.
 
We also offer small short-term loans to the women we train. We want to include an internship program to our curriculum which we believe will further help deepen the knowledge of our students. A deterrent for an internship is funding – employers are willing to take on interns but are not willing and/or ready to give them an allowance to cover even their transportation.
 
If we could access funds, we can do this and much more
 
4. Online access:  We are based in Lagos, Nigeria. Though we’ve held training programs at Ogun State, Edo state and Rivers state, there is still a lot of work to do. With the explosion in the use of technology, it’s necessary and import to now migrate some of our training programs to online learning platforms and offer a Blended Learning curriculum.
 
If we can do this, we will have more reach. Funds have been the deterrent to properly execute this as we have inquiries from all over Nigeria which we cannot cover.
5.  Partnerships: If only a lot of us embraced collaboration rather than competition, we can all do the work better and faster.
 
We have approached a number of organizations who are doing similar work in the women empowerment space to partner with us especially outside Lagos state so that more women are economically empowered and in the process, mitigate and eventually eradicate poverty but the response has not been so encouraging as financial gratification is a key factor for a lot of them.
 

Do you think Government involvement can help with the challenges?

 
Yes, of course. There is almost no business that does not depend on infrastructure from the government – power, water, roads, etc.
 
At the moment, there is no room for growth in the micro business space because the cost of setting up even such a business is so high. You consider things like accommodation (there’s no regulation – the landlords are the alpha and omega and decide whatever rent they want), power.
 
You have to purchase your own power generating plant because you can’t rely on government’s supply, transporting yourself from one location to the other to offer service to customers eventually becomes a chore with bad roads and many man-hours lost due to traffic gridlock!
 
If all the government can provide for us is an enabling work environment with a stable economy, I tell you, we aren’t a lazy bunch – we will really go far.
 

Do you think there’s room for more women empowerment centers?

 
 
Of course! It is not enough! Women are quite pivotal to the transformation of any nation’s economy- history has a lot to say about this. We at Rullion have carved a niche for ourselves by targeting women, who have a minimum education of O’Levels, are somewhat computer literate and can communicate in Basic English.
 
What about illiterate women who only speak pidgin or just their local dialect? How about younger girls in secondary school who need to embrace the culture of entrepreneurship even before they go on to higher institutions to study?
 
The jobs they target are all the top corporations like Dangote, Nestle, OandO which were all started by entrepreneurs.
 
We also have to think about those outside Lagos and in other states of the Federation. So, the answer is Yes! We need a lot more women empowerment centers.
 
The challenge I see however is how to ensure the quality of what is taught at these centers. Because we wanted a certain standard, we had to push ourselves to put in some structure and we keep updating that as we go along.
 
A lot of these centers have just one facilitator teaching 100 people per time and then you wonder what exactly the people are learning because they don’t go further to carry out any practical sessions and the next thing is a graphic designer/printer issues them certificates.
 
There needs to be a body that ensures that centers comply with a certain minimum standard.

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Oghenekevwe Omotosho: I started Oh Wow Popcorn in my kitchen, now its selling across Nigeria

Oghenekevwe Omotosho is a graduate of computer engineering. She obtained her B.Eng at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology, Nigeria. She is also a creative thinker and serial entrepreneur.

Kevwe is the CEO and creative director of the unique popcorn brand – Gimme Oh Wow Popcorn & Events – makers of the popular Oh Wow! Popcorn brand. She is married with three children.

In this article, she talks about how she turned her passion for popcorn making into a business, and how she’s overcome challenges along the way.


How did you discover your passion for popcorn making?

Oh Wow Popcorn started in my kitchen. I used to make popcorn for my children and also used it to entertain guests at home. Also, I enjoyed creating new flavors of popcorn especially indigenous Nigerian flavors.

I got excited by the idea of making popcorn art and I offered the service of displaying a variety of flavors at every event, live popping or delivering to clients at their convenience.

 How did the brand Oh Wow Popcorn come about?

I realized it was going to be a business for me sooner or later when I started getting positive feedback from friends and family.

I made samples and took to my children’s’ school to do a little market research and their response was encouraging. So the journey began, it has been a massive adventure since then.

Oh Wow Popcorn was formally launched on the 14th of February 2017 and to the glory of God, we have successfully weathered our fair share of what I call teething challenges. We keep on learning our lessons on this great entrepreneurial adventure and we have come out stronger and better for it.

We are proud to have revolutionized the popcorn and snacks making industry in Nigeria - @ohwowpopcorn Click To Tweet

Do you run your business full time? What did you do before starting Oh Wow Popcorn?

I am a serial entrepreneur, I already had a few other businesses including  Myfoodsupplies and I Sabi Work before my passion for popcorn lead me to start oh wow popcorn. I am currently running the three businesses.

Popcorn making may seem easy, but what major challenge have you encountered since launching, and how did you overcome them?

It has its own challenges. The most challenging was getting a business partner. I thought working with a partner would ease the pressure of running three businesses, but unfortunately, things didn’t work out as planned.

I took the bull by the horn and threw myself into building my businesses by training my staff and restructuring my time.

Another key challenge we have faced is getting acceptability for our brand of popcorn which is different from what Nigerians are used to. We have however been able to overcome this challenge.

Knowing that there are many other popcorn brands in the market, how do you make sure your brand is unique and set yourself aside from the crowd?

We stand out from other brands by being original, unique and creative. Our customer service is also excellent.

 What are you most proud of about the Oh Wow popcorn brand?

We are proud to have revolutionized the popcorn and snacks making industry in Nigeria.

Since inception, we’ve invented and introduced never seen before flavors like Kilishi popcorn and kulikuli popcorn into our specialized popcorn, and candy floss catering for various types of events.

We saw a great potential and are happy to fill the space, by making our clients’ events come alive in previously unimagined ways with our tasty and colorful creations.

When it comes to marketing, how far across Nigeria has your brand gone, and where can your products be found?

Although we are based in Lagos Nigeria, we receive orders from other parts of the country, such as Ibadan, Abuja, Ondo, and Benin.

I took the bull by the horn and threw myself into building my businesses by training my staff and restructuring my time - @ohwowpopcorn Click To Tweet

Beyond popcorn production, what else do you do as a brand?

We also cater for candy floss, ice cream, waffles, meat pie, chinchin, zobo etc.

What is your staff strength currently, and how do you manage them?

We currently have 4 permanent staff, and we also get temporary workers when necessary. I make sure everyone knows his/her job responsibility and concentrates on doing it.

How do you manage your work-life balance, as an entrepreneur?

I delegate duties to my staff and I try as much as possible to limit my work to some specific hours of the day, especially our social media management. Immediately my children get back from school.

I concentrate on being a mother and a wife, I take them through all their assignment, eating and gist time before bed. Once they’re asleep, I round up my social media engagement for the day.

What’s the next step for Oh Wow popcorn?

The next step for oh wow popcorn is to have a presence all through key cities in the country and the world at large. We look forward to being the number 1 popcorn brand in Africa catering for all types of events.

 Any advice for people with this same business idea?

I will advise you to start small, start with what you have. You may have to give a free service to showcase your work to potential clients. Your first impression can make or mar your brand

Nurture and grow your business through the early years just as you would nurture a child.

The most important tool you’ll need is your passion and drive to keep moving when the chips are down and it looks like you’re getting nowhere.

Be creative, be original, be unique.

Fill in the gap. Before the end of the year,…

I would like to have finalized all plans for the maiden edition of Oh wow popcorn day. It’s an event that would help us give back to our community. It has been scheduled for January 19th next year.


Sponsored Post.

 

Social Media: The Future of Customer Service?

It’s 6 am on a Tuesday and your alarm goes off for work. You leisurely roll over to grab your phone to stop the bothersome ringing. Yawn, stretch, scroll through your social media feed.

Sounds about right?

Our daily lives are deeply intertwined with technology, from the moment we wake up, to the time we go to sleep. The average daily time spent on social media is a whopping 116 minutes! That’s almost 2 hours a day!

It’s no surprise then, that for brands and businesses, social media has naturally evolved from being a platform for marketing, sharing content and driving sales to also an avenue for meeting customer service needs.

Don’t believe me? Let’s take a look at some stats real quick:

  • 67% of consumers have engaged a brand’s social media for customer service needs
  • 43% of consumers between the ages of 18-29 years old are more likely to use a brand’s social media sites for customer service interactions
  • 56% of consumers reported they would never use a company again after a poor customer service experience
  • 32% of consumers expect a response on social media within 30 minutes
  • Customers who engage with companies over social media spend up to 40% more money with those companies than other customers

Customers regard brands’ social media accounts as actual customer service channels, so it is imperative that brands view themselves in the same light.

I’ve quickly come to the discovery that when I need a quick resolution to an issue from a business, my best bet is to tweet at them. No phone calls, no emails, not even a physical visit. Those 240 characters always do the trick! Social media is a double-edged sword for brands.

It’s a public, transparent forum where happy customers go to sing your praises but also the same platform in which irate customers go to unabashedly ‘drag’ you.

Consumers are quickly realizing that smart brands who value their image- as they should- are quicker to resolve their complaints and issues when aired on social media. Click To Tweet

Utilizing social channels for customer service purposes is no easy feat, but here are some steps in which to manage it effectively:

Utilize Social Media Listening Tools

There are various social media listening tools out there in which a simple google search will reveal, but my personal favorites are Hootsuite and Google alerts. 

Hootsuite is one of the most widely used social media monitoring tools which allows you to track and monitor certain words, phrases, terms and accounts across various social media platforms while Google alerts can be considered to be a free alternative which allows you to do the same, just across the web.

Contain Issues Before They Escalate

 Businesses must be proactive in ensuring they utilize other servicing channels such as phones and email to resolve the issues of aggrieved customers before they take to twitter, facebook, Instagram or even snapchat to complain. 

In the event a business isn’t quick enough to rectify issues, damage control is important when customers take to social media to vent and share negative experiences they may have encountered with your brand.

You know what they say, prevention is better than cure!

Respond Quickly!

 I like to call us millennials “the microwave generation”. From ordering meals to hailing cabs and even keeping up to date with the latest news and gossip, we’re so used to utilizing technology to satisfy our ‘instant everything’ needs. 

We want what we want when we want it. Chatbots are an effective tool for small business owners who don’t necessarily have the resources to respond live to client inquiries or complaints 24/7.

Also, they can be programmed to respond to frequently asked questions on platforms such as WhatsApp, Facebook, websites and more. This reduces the need for business owners to be available at all hours of the day.

Take It Off The Timeline

 In the event, irate customers go directly to social channels, as a business owner, you must pacify the customer publicly and take the conversation off the timeline as quickly as possible. 

This is particularly important when the issues are complex or you require the customer’s personal information such as a phone number, date of birth or address to resolve the issue.

In situations where the issue is quick and easy to resolve, it’s a great idea to engage the customer politely and efficiently right there on the timeline for all to see!

This not only reinforces the trust within existing customers but also showcases your brand in a great light to potential clients.

As a business owner, you must position yourself as one step ahead of your client - @TheBrandingP Click To Tweet

It’s no secret that companies don’t want their dirty laundry aired for current and prospective customers to see, and rightfully so!

As a business owner, you must position yourself as one step ahead of your client. Ensure your products and services deliver on your brand promise; and in the inevitable event where client dissatisfaction occurs, establish processes and procedures to manage these situations effectively.


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The Art of Customer Service every business should adopt

As important as branding and advertising are, one of the most important elements of selling a product/service is customer service.

Excellent customer service puts your business ahead of the competition as it is something that is often missing from the a lot of countries, especially the Ghanaian business model.

Small businesses tend to jump straight to digital marketing or advertising without taking a moment to fully understand their business model and industry and how their product (or service), pricing, place (online store or brick & mortar store) and people (service personnel) intertwine and affect the overall brand and ROI.

In case you didn’t know, people are one of the most important aspects of the business, that is service personnel across the production line or yourself if you are running a run man show.

Customer service does not begin and end at the point of transaction and as a small business owner, you must consider the pre-purchase experience, purchase experience, and post-purchase experience

So what does this mean for your business? 

Pre-purchase experience

This refers to the experience your customer has with your brand before they decide to purchase anything. Is your website appealing? Does it have enough information to allow the customer to make an informed decision – or are your photos outdated? How is your advertising?

Are people speaking positively about your brand?

Purchase experience

This is the actual moment of transaction where you exchange the product (or service) for payment. If you run an online store, you must consider your interface – is your website easy to navigate? How does your customer pay for their purchase – do you have Mobile Money integrated? Can they use a Visa Card?

There are many services in Ghana that allow you to develop a website that allows your customers to shop online. A personal favorite is Storefoundry, it works very well for small businesses in Ghana.

If you run an actual brick & mortar store, what is the ambiance like? Is it easy for customers to locate the products in your store? Are they on high shelves and do they always need an attendant to help?

Is your store so small that your customers can only come in one at a time? Is your shop attendant interactive, willing to help and offer alternatives? Or are they constantly on their phone?

Post-purchase experience

This covers your follow-ups and interaction with the client after the transaction. Are you bombarding them with irrelevant SMS messages and emails? If you provide a delivery service, was your delivery driver dressed appropriately?

Below are practical tips you can put into action to make sure your customer service is top notch.

  • Recruitment & Training – Recruitment and training is the beginning of providing excellent customer service. Even if you are running a run man show, you need to stay up to date on customer relationship trends and train yourself to always put the customer first.  If you are hiring others to handle the customer interaction, make sure you hire people who know and understand the vision of the brand and are willing to be brand ambassadors both inside and outside the workplace. Personnel must also be conversant in the industry-speak as well as in the product itself, in order to serve as a salesperson.
Hiring the right people will allow you to build the right company culture that is well aligned with the brand Click To Tweet
  • Go the extra mile – The data you collect from your customers serve many purposes. One of the main ones is to compile a mailing list for your newsletter but another important use would be to study your customer’s purchasing habits and stay a step ahead of them all the time. Group your customers by date of birth and send out a personal message to them via text message or Whatsapp, which has become a popular medium for business communication in Ghana. Get to know your customers personally, are they parents? Do they celebrate religious holidays? Make sure to reach out to them accordingly.
Reminding customers that you have them on your mind will make them feel involved with the brand. Click To Tweet
  • Feedback is key – Receiving feedback from your customers at least once a quarter is important. Simple tools such as Google Forms or Survey Monkey are helpful for designing easy to use surveys which gives you direct feedback from your customers and clients. This way, your clients feel involved with and connected to your brand.

 

  • Appearance – You and your staff’s appearance is one of the most important elements in building a strong brand. Ensure that staff (and yourself) look the part at all times. Customers appreciate a smile and a helping hand, as difficult as it may be on some occasions.

The best way to make sure your customer service is on point is to align the pre-purchase, purchase and post-purchase experience to ensure a smooth transaction!

Go forth and provide an excellent service!

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9 Business Lessons from My First Year of Business

Like many people, I was faced with the dilemma of deciding whether or not I needed to attend business school to start my business as I had no experience. However, I finally decided to be brave and start my business without any experience.

In my one year since starting, I have learned the following lessons.


1. Never take things too personally.

When operating with people, it’s often very easy to make arguments, criticism and other relations personal. However, if you want to succeed in the business world, you need to remember that at the end of the day, how you deal with your customers and partners is strictly business and not personal.

2. Separate your business life from your personal life.

When you have a friendly relationship with your clients, it is very easy for the lines to get blurred. Sometimes, this can end up in sticky situations where one party does not fulfill their end of the deal. To avoid these situations, it is important to set the lines clear between your business and your personal life. You need to maintain a work-life balance.

3. Be clear about your job description.

As a service based business, one of my ethos is going beyond and above for my clients. Sometimes, this results in taking up certain duties (aka unpaid labor) that are not part of my job description. This can get overwhelming.

Therefore, it is important to be clear about ALL the services that your offer from the onset. If necessary, you should draw up contracts that reflect your services and your limits.

4. Review your prices regularly.

You might be doing yourself a great disservice if in a bid to come across as affordable you under-price yourself. It is important to review your prices as often as possible. Especially when you’re in an industry like social media where your responsibilities are flexible and subject to change.

5. Be accountable.

In the absence of a business partner or a co-founder, you need to learn how to hold yourself accountable. This can be as easy as setting small, medium and long-term goals and working toward them. These goals are important to give you a sense of direction and to keep you in check.

6. Toot your horn.

One of the few things I still struggle with is putting myself out there as I’d like for my business to speak for itself. But the game has changed and the internet is over saturated. The only way for you to be noticed or to come across as a thought-leader or an expert in your field is if you put yourself out there.

There are no two ways about it. Do you want to be the go-to person for a particular service? Put yourself out there and let people know.

7. Have confidence in yourself.

When you are running a business, you’re gonna need all the confidence you can muster for the tough days ahead. You will face people who don’t believe in your dreams and your plans may even fail. It is important to keep believing in yourself even when others don’t.

8. Find time to improve your skills.

Work/Life can be overwhelming sometimes and before you know it, three months have gone by without you learning anything new. In this ever-changing world, there’s a need to constantly improve your skills.

Thankfully we have the internet at our disposal but finding the time can be a challenge. To fix this, make a schedule maybe during the public holidays and learn something that would directly improve your daily activities.

9. Customer service is key.

Just because you’re not selling a product to a consumer doesn’t mean customer service is any less important. You’re selling services. Treat your clients with courtesy. Referrals are still king.


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Facebook Live chat with Anita Ottenhof: How I built a world class hospitality business(Aug 23)

It’s certain that one thing that can make or break your business, is your approach to customer service.

Gone are the days of saying “This is Africa” as an excuse to mediocre and bad service delivery. It’s all over Jackie.

 Join us for a Facebook Live discussion on Wednesday, Aug 23rd, with hospitality and customer service expert –  Anita Ottenhof, who will teach you how excellent customer service can help you build a world class hospitality business.

Learn how to build a world class hospitality business with excellent customer service(Aug. 23) Click To Tweet

Anita Ottenhof operates a luxury boutique hotel in Ghana –  Villa Monticello which has a 100% female management team and has recently been nominated by the World Travel Awards in the category of Africa’s Leading Boutique Hotel.

Being in operation for  6 six years now, Anita wants to prove to the world that excellence can be achieved in Africa by an African woman.

Register below to join this session and ask Anita all your pressing questions.

Some of the topics we’ll cover

  • Breaking into the Hospitality Industry
  • How customer service can make or break your business
  • Training your staff to be customer service champions
  • 5 steps to having a customer service focused culture

Facebook Live Details:

Date: Wednesday, August 23rd, 2017

Time: Accra 1 pm // Lagos 2 pm // Joburg 3 pm

Where: facebook.com/sheleadsafrica/

Watch video here:

How excellent customer service can help you build a world clas…

She Leads Africa Facebook Live with Anita Ottenhof ( Senior Guest Relations Manager) – Villa Monticello. How I build a world class hospitality business. Join the She Leads Africa community by visiting SheLeadsAfrica.org/join

Posted by She Leads Africa on Wednesday, August 23, 2017

About Anita

With almost ten years of extensive experience in the hospitality and travel industry within Europe and Africa,  beginning  her career in Amsterdam with KLM, Flying Blue, Anita Ottenhof has a natural flair and passion for exceptional customer service, and for the past three years has been a part of the management team at Ghana’s premier luxury boutique hotel Villa Monticello.

Stemming from a credible background, she holds a degree in Travel and Hospitality Management from ROC College Leiden- Netherlands and a certificate for strategic marketing for hotels and restaurants from the Cornell Hospitality School in Ithaca, New York.

Having completed first class training at Africa’s leading boutique hotel – “The Saxon” and various hotels within the continent, Anita is well equipped to take on a challenge.  She is an innovative and versatile professional with excellent interpersonal skills and a drive for consistency with an eye for detail.

With a profound understanding of the hospitality industry, Anita foresees the need and acquirement for quality-trained hospitality personnel’s within Africa.

She is currently studying a HR course at the International Hotel School in Johannesburg, which will enable her to facilitate programs that will support the Human Resource division in her industry.

The Customer Service Series: Develop trust at a distance

If customers don't trust your business, your chances for success dramatically reduce Click To Tweet

Distrust is the bane of every entrepreneur’s (especially those operating in the ‘very’ skeptical Nigerian market) existence. So in this post, I’ll be talking about some easy ways you can build and sustain trust with your customers and consequently enjoy more patronage and customer loyalty & advocacy.

1. Have your customer’s best interests at heart

There are so many easy ways to do this, for example, you can make your website mobile friendly, let your payment portal be secure and hassle free, offer recommendations and helpful advice. Just endeavor to be thoughtful and empathetic in how you run your business and engage with customers. Plus, and this is very

Plus, and this is very key if your product/service is not the right fit for a customer, let them know that too. You don’t have to try to be all things to all people. Truth is you would get calls from prospects asking for some help in an area that’s not really your business’ thing. And while it may seem like ‘growth’ to take on that (new) customer, if that customer isn’t a good fit, it can actually stunt real growth.

In some cases, trying to work with customers who are not ideal clients can lead to such a bad experience for both your business and the customer that you actually create vocal detractors for your business! 

2. Be capable of delivering on your promises

For example, 24 hours delivery should be just that. If for any reason you might not be able to make it happen then escalate (within the agreed time period) and by all means be apologetic while doing so.

Let the product do what you said it would do and let the service experience deliver the value that’s being paid for. Never over promise and under deliver!

3. Be honest and authentic

Do not collect money for a size 4, mistakenly deliver a size 3 and then make the return and refund process hellish and frustrating. Customers and clients are smart; they know when you’re being up front or when they are told a mistruth.

They’ll appreciate and admire you more when you admit to a mistake, rather than playing games or even worse, avoiding the topic altogether.

Finally, not to scare you, but what is always important to know is, the moment your business is not trusted by people, your chances for success within your market/industry are diminished dramatically.

Cheers!

The Customer Service Series: Don’t interrupt your customers

You're going to have to get your customers attention one way or the other, just don't interrupt them Click To Tweet

I’ll make this one very quick. Here’s a simple fact, people do not like ‘marketing interruptions’.

Take these two scenarios. You’re listening to a radio station but a jingle comes up, so you tuned out. You’re watching your favourite show and there’s a commercial break, so you pick up your phone to check your Twitter TL. If this sounds familiar to you, then you know what I’m talking about.

This is the age of ad blockers where people are paying a significant sum to avoid advertising. So you can imagine how irritating it can be for these people when brands/businesses somehow manage to break through and interrupt what they are doing.

As a business you have to be deliberate about not annoying your (prospective) customers and quite frankly, things like;

  • Incessant generic and ill-targeted advertising
  • Nonstop unsolicited emails
  • Bombarding a customer (after they’ve made a purchase) with marketing offers and updates

can be quite exasperating.

The right way to interrupt customers

The thing is you need your customers to notice you. However, if you’re going to interrupt your customers at all, you want to make sure that it is more for their gain than yours.

As you navigate this tricky landscape, you must ask yourself these three key questions:

  1. Is what I’m offering/doing/saying/sharing relevant?
  2. Are the message and the overall experience contextual?
  3. Is the journey enjoyable — or at least not unenjoyable?

At the end of the day, in one way or the other, you’d have to interrupt your (prospective) customer in other to be heard. The key is to try to find a balance between interrupting and creating relevant interesting brand experiences that they’d want to participate in.

Cheers!

The Customer Service Series: Be at the start of your customer’s journey

Think your customer's journey begins when they reach you? Think again Click To Tweet

Some weeks ago I started reading a book on customer experience called How to Wow by Adrian Swinscoe. The practical insights contained in the book are pretty much what inspired The Customer Service series.

Over the next few weeks, I’ll be sharing insights from this book alongside some of my own thoughts because what is knowledge if it isn’t shared? So, if you are a business owner looking to improve (or even craft) your customer experience you might want to:

  • Purchase the book, it’s available on Amazon
  • Follow this series and join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

Now, moving on to the first insight, I’d start by explaining what the term ‘customer journey’ means and entails.
Think of the customer journey as a roadmap detailing how a customer becomes aware of your brand/business, interacts with and buys from you–and beyond. The customer journey is the complete sum of experiences that customers go through when interacting with your business and brand.

Mock graphics for partners

INSIGHT 1: Be at the start of your customer’s journey

As a business owner, you might be tempted to think (wrongly) that your customer’s journey begins when he or she steps into your office or visits your website or sends you a DM. On the contrary, when you study the consumer buying process (see image below) you’d realize that in most cases it actually begins way earlier.

The-Consumer-Buying-Process

Let me give you a real-life example.

Two weeks ago I wanted to buy a ready to wear Ankara dress for a church event and because I didn’t know whom to speak to I went to Google. Some results came up but none were relevant and could solve my problem. On Instagram, I searched for the hashtag #ReadyToWearAnkaraDress and on Twitter, I asked my ‘followers’ for recommendations.

Now as a fashion designer/retailer who has ready to wear Ankara dresses as a product offering, why not consider running a Google AdWords campaign that’d bring up your business whenever relevant queries are done? What if your IG posts had the right hashtags? What if you proactively and regularly search out specific keywords on Twitter that relate to your business and product offerings? You’d easily have found a prospective customer (me) and begin to make your sales pitch rather than just waiting for me to find you by God’s grace.

dreezy smhDoes this make any sense?

So as regards your business you need to begin to ask some serious questions. What does your customer journey look like? Where does it start? And are you (always) there to reach out, offer help and make your sales pitch?