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‘Tale Alimi: 5 Tips to Help You Run Your Business as a Business & Not a Charity

Tale Alimi



A few months ago, we were in a business class for creative entrepreneurs and we told the participants that they would need to raise their prices if they want to run profitable businesses. They all looked downcast and this really puzzled me; so I probed a little and they told me they didn’t want to raise their prices so they won’t offend their customers!

For a lot of small business owners, their customers are like their friends and family. But how many times have you gone into a fast food chain or a standard retail store and they express sentiments about increasing their prices not to offend you? Especially when they face the risk at running at a loss and folding up, if they do not.

I see a lot of SME’s struggling to survive and though I empathize with the challenges in the country and the economy, most of us are emotionally attached to our business and this hinders our ability to grow and move ahead. If you want to start taking your business more seriously, I advise you to ensure the following:

Detach yourself from your customers
This is the first and most important step SMEs have to take. I know your family and friends are your loyal customers, but when it comes to your business, keep it as business! Charge them business rates, give them loyalty discounts, but don’t try to please them to the detriment of your business. Don’t spend too much time trying to please too few people, when you can spend that same time serving a lot more people.

 Detach yourself from your products
You might make the best weaves, or creams, or cakes or teach the best classes, but make sure it is what your customers really need! Find ways to ask them what they want (so I am asking you; am I providing you information you need or what you will like me to write about? Please answer in the comments section) If you have a sizeable number of people asking for the same things, make that your product or service focus. Don’t just create what you like, create what they need and would pay for.

Focus on providing value
Service delivery is very important to ensure that your customers are satisfied and keep coming back for more. I advise that you standardize your service delivery process. No matter how simple it is, let it be consistent so that your customer knows what to expect from you. Don’t say you serve tea at your salon and then they drink tea day one and they come back again and you say there is no tea! Provide value and provide it consistently.

Charge for the value you provide:
Once you have established the value you would be providing, charge for the value and communicate clearly what you will be charging. Have you ever gone to a top fast food restaurant that said: we don’t know how much the burgers would be, we are thinking of charging X amount? No way! They spell it our clearly and you buy it for what they charge. This should be the same for your business. Spell out clearly what you are charging and if people can’t afford it, they can buy something else or simply go away. If some people can’t buy the burger, they can decide to buy an ice cream cone. If they can’t afford the ice cream cone also, they will leave the queue for the next person to buy!

Show up at your business
I know your business is your ‘baby’ or passion or life dream, but please don’t treat your business with such sentiment. Don’t withdraw when things are not going well, don’t abandon it because it’s not yet giving you the returns you want. The oil that greases the wheels of your business is persistence and consistency. Once you have committed to this business, commit to showing up consistently. Get the knowledge you need to make necessary changes so that you can get results.

Stop treating your business like a charity and if you are serious about growing your business, you can also check out this information: ‘Are you a dreamer’

Photo Credit: Dreamstime | Mimagephotography

'Tale Alimi is the Co-founder and current CEO of Owoafara, a fund matching and business support platform for African MSME's. She is also the Lead strategist of Tale Alimi Global; a strategy consulting boutique focused on working with visionary and forward thinking SME's to take their business from small to scale. She is the author of Uplevel and her latest book Small to Scale. She has a Masters in Business Administration from Lagos business school, a certificate in personal coaching from the coaching academy UK. She is a social innovation fellow with the startingbloc institute in the United States. When she is not thinking about innovative business models, she is an avid fitness enthusiast. Learn more about her new startup Owoafara:( Get daily business inspiration when you follow her on twitter ( and get an insight into her life on Instagram (


  1. Teris

    August 24, 2015 at 9:22 am

    your instance:
    “…so I probed a little and they told me they didn’t want to raise their prices so they won’t offend their customers!…For a lot of small business owners, their customers are like their friends and family. But how many times have you gone into a fast food chain or a standard retail store and they express sentiments about increasing their prices not to offend you? ”

    customer-is-king and other such ideas requires that u give ur customers a heads-up, possibly a reason, why prices are changing – p’raps not in a large goods store – but i have come across even online retail outlets with popup notices.

    but that is just bytheway.
    a lot of people have expressed the desire to have alternative incomes/start a biz; the main issues i have seen as detrimental in Nig include the desire to make back ur capital and profit in a hurry, not investing back into a surprise cash-cow, not investing real time/value in ur employees (for fear they will run with the secret to your success), surviving the upstart who kills market prices during a financial year, and frankly, a very hostile environment ranging from how policies are enforced to terrible infrastructure.

    most of your points are sound for a somewhat more established business.
    as an example, “detach urself from your products” section doesn’t tell the full story. if the practicality and cost efficiency and relative tasty-ness of using cassava flour to bake bread takes hold, it would flood the market and folks wont have a choice in the matter of buying what bread is available. nobody is going to send out feedback on what the public desires.

    i would really love to read a follow-up article that addresses the bare-bones tactics to establishing a thriving business for a dogged soul in a faithless economy like ours.

  2. Hilda

    August 24, 2015 at 9:23 am

    This article spoke right to me.
    I used to be very sentimental about my prices, giving ridiculous discounts and suffering a loss after doing my accounting.
    Worse part is they dont even appreciate it and act like they are doing me a favor. But now I put my foot down as I’m (my business) the one that suffers at the end of the day.
    When they say they can go to someone cheaper, I tell them no problem and thank you.

  3. Introvertedhumanist

    August 24, 2015 at 11:05 am

    Thank You Tale for this article…

  4. Bola

    August 24, 2015 at 11:41 am

    Very good read. In year 2 of running my business. I feel like this is exactly where I am.

    I think Teris has a point. This advice would have been terrible for me in my first year of business. I was cocky with talent, no portfolio and no experience: I had to prove my worth and build a portfolio. I did a lot of favors, worked with clients on their budget and didnt even break even for little over a year.

    That first year I used to gain credibility and now we’re just coasting: doing pretty well and doing all the things you listed above. If potential client cannot afford, they should go to the one they can afford o. We do not beg or chase anyone…unless of course we stand a lot to gain from them in form of publicity, reputation and money 🙂

  5. cissy_3000

    August 24, 2015 at 12:53 pm

    My advice to business consultant of over 13 years is that you always make your price competitive, never try to under price yourself otherwise you will price yourself out of the market. Always be aware what the competition is charging, if you cannot compete on price try to add more value to your service or product in other ways. This will set you apart from the rest, for example if you are a tailor, make sure you have good finishing, always deliver to time, let your customer know you have integrity and if you make a promise always keep to it.
    Customer care is important, look after your customers and they will always return or spread the word about your product or services. Word of mouth advertisement is priceless.

  6. Que

    August 24, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    very timely piece for me…. I battled with the first point— pricing…i’m still adjusting sef, but what i have learned to do is explain why the difference is happening, and keep my word…. You gotta be prepared to let some people go, but believe me, if you deliver as you have promised, it will only get better… letting some customers go even gave me the kick I needed to pursue the type of customers that could afford my work….now I focus on marketing to the necessary market… it is slowly working, now focusing on getting more of those people through the door, and back for more…

    Next stop…competitor analysis…thanks for this.

  7. love this

    August 24, 2015 at 6:01 pm

    Really pleased I read this at this moment. Just enough to remind me of what I know and some new tips which I haven’t been doing at all. Consistency is the biggest one I recognise in myself and other companies. Something like serving tea one day and not the next really speaks volumes. People don’t realise that customers really appreciate these small touches and we definitely notice when they are taken away, or only offered to some customers, that’s when we start to look for inconsistencies in the whole service.
    When I receive such great service in Nigeria I tell everyone that will hear about it. Not that generally it’s bad but to be honest customer services isn’t always our priority. Coming from the UK I can judge unfairly sometimes and trust me I’ve had some of the worst service in the UK but I admit I don’t expect it so much.

    Lastly I must say as someone who is self employed I have always found it hard to know what was fair to charge people. And that’s the problem, I was thinking about ‘fair’ instead of what makes sense for the work I was doing. Don’t know about others but when I have undercharged for my service I end up doing that service for them being angry and upset with myself. I think I’m fine now but this article has reminded me its maybe time I should look into changing things up.

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