Dipo Oyewole, CEO of Sentinel Consult, has told Technology Times that with a smart mix of technology and entrepreneurship, Nigerian small businesses can grow amid prevailing economic challenges.
Oyewole says the challenge faced by over 17 million SMEs and other entrepreneurs in Nigeria are summed up thus: when, where, how to start, continue strong, be profitable and achieve sustainable success.
The CEO of a Nigerian consulting firm focused says that most start-ups and small businesses “are good technically” but lack business insight to drive growth of their enterprises.
Oyewole told Technology Times that Sentinel Consult, which primarily focuses on SMEs, was set up to help small businesses in Nigeria thrive by scaling infrastructure hurdles and other operating environment factors.
“Sentinel consult was borne out of how we found out that a lot of small businesses in Nigeria fail with different reasons, infrastructure and other environmental reasons and then we thought will we do something to bridge that gap knowing that SMEs are the powerhouse of a nation’s economy,” he says.
According to the Sentinel Consult CEO, “primarily our sole purpose is to provide our clients information that helps their business grow. So we know that even if you are a tech start-up, the information you need is to make sure that your business grows and that is where we come in to provide you with that information that will grow your business.”
These are the promises that Sentinel Consult has come to offer Nigerian SMEs by making available to them such tools like strategy and organisation, corporate development, sustainability, maximizing potentials in client’s idea, human resource management, among others, Oyewole says.
[quote font=”georgia” font_size=”22″ font_style=”italic” align=”left” arrow=”yes”]“Because our first responsibility is our clients and we need to make the best decisions for them, we don’t always encourage our clients to go and get loans. It is only when we see that you getting external funding is the best way for your business we can then advise you to go to this place or that place to get a facility or external funding”, Sentinel Consult CEO told Technology Times.[/quote]Speaking further, the Sentinel Consult CEO emphasized how important it is to keep information and ideas of both clients and prospective clients confidential in the consulting business.
According to him, Nigerians show concern over the protection of their ideas and that mentality is generally the reason most of them don’t patronise consulting businesses.
“Regarding why certain people don’t understand or patronise consulting businesses in Nigeria, especially the SMEs, it is not really so much on protection of ideas, but because of general mentality of Nigerians, if I might say so, to consulting. The same mentality we have towards R&D, research and development.
“People don’t understand that they need to invest in certain areas to make sure that their business grows. We come-in in an intervention capacity to make sure that your business grows.
In recognition of social media as a veritable marketing tool, Oyewole says Sentinel Consult encourages its clients to use online platforms to reach new market demographics, describing it as “the best way to reach people in recent time.”
According to him, “we have several businesses that we take pro bono. Two of them cut across different industries most especially the industry of arts, the make-up artists, the fashion designers, and we encourage them to use the social media space because it is currently the best way to reach people out there.”
According to Oyewole, “the Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and others, we have seen a lot of businesses grow from those social media platforms.”
On funding SMEs, Oyewole disclosed that Sentinel Consult is currently working with SMEDAN and Bank of Industry to ensure that funding is available for their clients, though he says they don’t always encourage clients to go for loan unless it becomes absolutely necessary.
“Because our first responsibility is our clients and we need to make the best decisions for them, we don’t always encourage our clients to go and get loans. It is only when we see that you getting external funding is the best way for your business we can then advise you to go to this place or that place to get a facility or external funding”, Sentinel Consult CEO told Technology Times.
To attract funding from some of these organisations, the Sentinel CEO advised Nigerian SMEs to always ensure that their business plans are “top notch and tight” because according to him, that has been the challenge faced by SMEDAN and Bank of Industry in releasing funds to SMEs.
“SMEDAN and Bank of Industry have been co-operating in releasing funds to SMEs but I believe the challenge they have, if I might say so, is sometimes small businesses in Nigeria don’t present themselves as if they are so bankable.
“We need to understand that they are putting a lot of risk on the line, so they need to be sure that your business plan is top notch and very tight, and then you need to show that the business will be profitable along the line”, Oyewole says.
Sentinel Consult is poised to be one of the best and prime consulting firms in Nigeria in the next five years, according to Oyewole, who says the company is projecting a client base of over 500 across Nigeria and West Africa.