To succeed in business in Nigeria, you need a local team or business partner that’s “on-the-ground” to navigate the daily challenges that come with successfully developing a business in a very dynamic Nigerian market.
For international businesses and entrepreneurs that are not ready to take the full plunge of incorporating a local business in Nigeria, there is another route to success – partnerships. If you live outside Nigeria, identifying and working with a capable local business partner will provide the capability that’ll help you grow your business as you work remotely from the market.
To successfully implement this, you need to identify and vet the best partner to grow your business in Nigeria. Here are the steps to get you started on finding your ideal business partner In Nigeria.
Be clear on your current business objectives
Before you start seeking out a local business partner in the Nigerian market, it is very important for you to take some time to clarify exactly what you are looking to achieve. Being clear about your goals helps with two things.
First, it gives you the clarity on what you can possibly achieve with the resources that you have available. It helps you get specific on your requirements that allows you to understand the type of business partner that’s important for the current stage of your business development.
Secondly, it allows you to clearly communicate your goals and requirements to prospective partners. This will minimize the time and money spent in the discovery and evaluation phase – when you begin your partner search.
Define your business partner requirements
Once you are clear on your business objectives, the next step is to spend some time properly defining what your ideal business partner should look like.
Perhaps, you’ve realized that you do not completely understand your industry in Nigeria and over the next two months, you’d like to work with a market research team to help you extract credible market information.
In this case, you want to define what that ideal research team looks like. What are the competencies you want them to bring to your business? Do they have to have a certain amount of completed projects in their portfolio? Are communication and timeliness important to you? If you are looking for a distribution partner, do you need to see certain financial capabilities?
Besides the basic responsibilities, that are required to complete the task, make sure you include the “ideal” traits that you want from your business partner in your requirements. Here are the pros and cons of the different partners that you can engage in the Nigerian market.
Go scouting for your ‘ideal’ business partner
After defining your goals and your partnership requirements, it’s time to go out there and look for that ideal candidate.
If you have a strong professional network in Nigeria, that’s always the best place to start. Ask for some referrals and figure out whether your friends and colleagues can put you in contact with someone that fits your business partner description. Also, ask them to share your request with their network.
During this phase, you want to go as wide as you can to get a good list of prospects that you can move onto the next phase – the vetting process. However, don’t sit back and rely solely on your network. Send out requests on LinkedIn, Facebook groups, and other industry-specific online forums. If you reside in Nigeria, a good place to meet prospects is at industry conferences and forums.
Meet the prospects where you think they’d be. For instance, if you are in search for a distributor, go to the markets and ask the retailers where they source their products and work your way backward to find the top distributors of your product category.
Remember that, in this phase, you are trying to create a long list of possible business partners. If you are limited on your available resources to follow these steps, you can engage a scouting service to help you efficiently find your candidate.
Perform detailed vetting
Once you have created your long list of prospective business partners, it is time to narrow down on that list and shortlist the top candidates that meet your ideal requirements. Develop a simple scoring system that allows you to easily evaluate the candidate’s strength.
An example of this will be a “distributor scorecard” used to determine the strengths and capabilities of a distributor.
This scorecard could include factors such as “the extent of national coverage”, “financial strength”, “market expertise”. On a scale of 1 – 10, you can rank each factor to come up with an individual score for each prospect on the list. Make sure you remain objective throughout the process and include several pros and cons for each candidate on the list.
If you have a very long list, then eliminate low-scoring candidates on the list before progressing to the final step in the vetting stage – which is to set up face-to-face meetings.
Phone or in-person interviews are very important. You want to be able to see this person and interact with them to know whether they’d be someone you want to work with. None of your candidates should be selected without having this conversation or interview.
If you happen to be outside the country, try and set up virtual online meetings with the prospective business partner.
Create the proper incentive structure
At this stage, you should have at least one candidate that you are excited about.
If you don’t have at least one candidate, then you might have to adjust your initial expectations, focus on what needs to be tweaked and start the process again.
Finding an ideal business partner is not an easy task, but the rewards of working with a local partner that can help you reach your business goals in Nigeria can’t be overstated. Even when you do find that ideal partner, your job is not quite done yet. You still have to create the proper incentive structure to get them excited about working with you.
Remember that your local business partner also wants to grow their business or further their career, so they would want to know how working with you will be beneficial to them. Make sure you focus on creating a compelling case on why they should join you in a partnership.
Have a clear and signed agreement with your business partner
Once you get to this stage, you and your prospective ideal business partner should work together to make sure you sign a very clear mutually beneficial agreement. For instance, if you are going to partner with a consultant, use a business consulting agreement.
This agreement should outline the expectations, deliverables, milestones, compensation, agreement timeline, profit-sharing structure (if any), confidentiality clauses, and all the clauses that are pertinent to a successful business relationship.
To avoid any miscommunications, nothing should go undocumented. Put together an agreement and make sure both parties review, completely understand all terms and sign the agreement.
Build trust for a successful commercial relationship
Building trust is one of the most important things when doing business in Nigeria. Spend time identifying the right prospects that you can build trust with over time.
Once you get into a commercial relationship make sure you are providing the proper guidance for your local partner to ensure that you are both on the path to benefit from the relationship. Together you can both build your businesses and reap the benefits of complementing skill sets and strengths that you both bring to the table.