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Kayode Omosebi: 5 Key Business Model Components MSMEs Need to Consider For Sustainability



dreamstime_l_10092672“Know thyself,” the ancients instruct us. Building on that, Shakespeare wrote, “To thine own self be true.” This, for an enterprise, is the essence of a business blueprint.

A successful MSME is a result of a few right turns and even more unmissed opportunities; certainly a blend of science and art. Most of the challenges facing MSMEs can be controlled and navigated with better understanding of the relevant industry including trends, market share, and applicable metrics. These define industry activity as well as specific business dynamics and a clear understanding of the company’s target position within the sector.

Recent experiences of many MSMEs I have come across serve as important lessons in terms of understanding, positioning, and predicting market trends.

Let us take a look at Tiger Brands’ (a South African FMCG company) foray into Nigeria’s Flour milling industry to reiterate how important it is to understand business dynamics.

In 2012, Tiger Brands sought to diversify its revenue base and increase the contribution of foreign sales to 30% of its total sales over a 5-10 year period. Thus, the company decided to acquire a 63.5% interest in Dangote Flour Mills (DFM) to take advantage of opportunities in the Nigerian milling sector and related food categories.  Thus Nigeria, with its attractive demography and its position as the second largest economy in 2012 became essential to the Company’s strategic growth on the continent. At the time, DFM had a good market share in both the flour and pasta market segment with strong brand, production and distribution capabilities and Tiger Brands’ intention was to further develop and grow DFM by bringing in its competence in milling and other links in the flour sector value chain.

So what went wrong?

Dangote Flour Mills, pre-Tiger Brands acquisition thrived on good business relationships with buyers from the Northern region which was more informal, and allowed for easy recoverability of credit sales. Also, DFM leveraged on synergy with other group subsidiaries, offering customers good deals on other Dangote products for purchase of any DFM products, both of which significantly supported revenue growth. However, the company faced a significant bottleneck to profitability, owing to its high exposure to finance charges arising from import loan facilities (dollar denominated) obtained to increase capacity and working capital for the business.

However, Tiger Brands, post-acquisition, introduced a formal structure, which properly segmented each business activity; thus reducing synergies across operations. This also severely severed most of the relationship benefits hitherto enjoyed by DFM. This new structure was also largely cash-based, which replaced the previous credit-based structure, and compelled consumers to seek alternative sources of required products, usually from competing firms which offered credit sales.

In the last full financial year before being acquired (2011), DFM reported turnover of N68bn with profit after tax of N1.96bn. That profit represented the company’s peak earnings and is thus far the last record of profitable operations, as DFM has since run a loss-making venture with an initial loss of NGN104.8mn recorded in the first quarter of 2012.

In the first five (5) months of its operations as DFM in Nigeria, Tiger’s earnings were diluted due to challenging and competitive market dynamics (related to stiff competition, rising costs), internal operational inefficiencies, as well as expensive debt funding carried over from pre-acquisition operations.

Tiger Brands described the Nigerian market as one with significant overcapacity and blamed aggressive pricing by competitors in the Nigerian flour market. At what point did it discover this significant overcapacity? How thorough was its understanding of the domestic industry dynamics?

Does Nigerian Flour milling industry offer great prospect in the long term? The answer is Yes, but Tiger Brands failed due to little understanding or “desktop” understanding of the business.

Thus, it is important to understand industry and business dynamics, and create a business model that can work perfectly around this. A model that articulates the logic and provides data and other evidence that demonstrates how your business creates and delivers value to customers. This should also outline the architecture of revenues, costs, and profits associated with the business delivering that value.

To get this perfectly right, you need to create the 5 key Business Model Components:

In a nutshell, this is your strategy to generate revenue. What you plan to sell, and what will convince people to buy. Value propositions, positioning, effective messaging, product/market fit.

Gross Margin
It is important for you to know how much of the pie you get to keep from each sale. Do you know your piece of the pie? For example, Shoprite and Spar know they run low gross margins. Their value game is one of low pricing, so they can’t mark up their products by an exorbitant amount and still play the value card.

Operating margin
For a business like PEP store, its slash and burn the expenses; no thrills, no frills. However, if you’re in the hospitality and luxury car business, it’s all about high style and lavish surroundings. Operators in both sectors operate and make decisions based on the knowledge of their operating model. Do you have a clear understanding of yours?

Working Capital
Indeed, ‘cash is king’. Do you understand your cash flow requirements? As you may or may not know, cash flow is significantly different from ‘revenue’. For example, if you operate a retail store, you experience first-hand the need for cash. You must spend cash to fill your store with products so they can be available when a customer walks in ready to buy. Thus, inventory consumes the most significant part of your working capital.

Financing (or Investment)
Number one roadblock I hear business owners complain about is lack of capital. Yes it sometimes does take money to make money. But not always. So to understand the difference is key. We understand the importance of this factor and therefore provide investment and financing solutions to suit your business requirements.

Photo Credit: Dreamstime

Kayode is an Economist and Investment Banker with experience in investment research, corporate finance and investment banking.  He has built a sound knowledge of Sub-Saharan Africa economies and financial markets, with keen focus on Nigeria. He is passionate about the MSME field and aims to plug the funding gap hindering growth in this field. Having seen the obstacles that MSMEs often face when seeking funding to grow, Kayode is focused to link promising sustainable and viable businesses with the investments they need to get off the ground. Thus, he offers advisory and financing services to MSMEs that contributes to the growth and development of the nation. [email protected] @KayTrinity


  1. Bilojou

    February 15, 2016 at 3:45 pm

    Good write up, very educative. Where have you been Sir? we did not read from you since last year. I think you should hold seminars

  2. Keke 1

    February 15, 2016 at 3:48 pm

    So Tiger Brands just came to waste money in Nigeria and sold the business back to the owner. I even thought they’ve made so much and their exiting like the way private equity guys do

    • LL

      February 15, 2016 at 4:22 pm

      Many international brand underestimate the Nigerian market and its complexities. They just think numbers and nothing else. Many of us within Nigeria make the same mistake too. Great article above

  3. Dayo Aluko

    February 15, 2016 at 3:54 pm

    Nice post. Working capital remains my very big issue in my business. I deal with so many credit sales and it affects me in terms of re-stocking. What can i do sir?

    • Onyie

      February 15, 2016 at 9:54 pm

      Hi dayo,

      This can be a tricky situation and is actually common in retail. Have you heard about the cash conversion cycle? It’s Raw materials to inventory to sales to cash and back to raw materials. Now there’s also terms like accounts receivable and payable attributable to this cycle. So you sell your inventory on credit which means you have accounts receivables – people owing you money. You could also establish an accounts payable – you owing suppliers money to pay back when your receivables come in. The trick here is to make sure your payable days are longer than your receivables days. So when your receivables come in, you could even be in a position to buy more goods and sell before it’s time to meet your payables obligations.

      You could also adopt the method of motivating your credit customers to pay on time. Say you give them a 30day deadline for payment, you could tell them that if they pay in 20 days, they get a discount of 5% but will pay the full amount if they wait for the full 30days. This also helps with receivables/payables equation and could help improve your cash flow/ cash cycle greatly.

  4. Onri

    February 15, 2016 at 4:13 pm

    Interesting read. This is why I will choose a Bella Naija to any other blog.

  5. Fadekemi

    February 15, 2016 at 4:17 pm

    Very true but it’s not easy to have all these details and analyse. Are there consulting firms in Nigeria that does this for small business owners like us?

  6. Nigerian Writers Hub

    February 15, 2016 at 4:26 pm

    Best post I’ve read all day. Just what I need. Thanks

  7. Luqman

    February 15, 2016 at 4:35 pm

    The ABC of business. This is what every Nigerian fails to understand when venturing into a business, we all get into it because everyone else is making money that way. It is difficult to get it wrong if we understand the “dynamics” as the writer put it. Lovely read!

  8. A.Y

    February 15, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    Great article, the same thing happened to Woolworth and few other international businesses. It is very necessary to know the nitty-gritty of the business.

  9. Sefo Akanbi

    February 15, 2016 at 4:41 pm

    Well articulated brilliant in its class

  10. Gbolahan H

    February 15, 2016 at 4:42 pm

    Great post!

  11. Kingsley

    February 15, 2016 at 4:43 pm

    Great post! Thanks

  12. Jeremih

    February 15, 2016 at 5:04 pm

    Another interesting read to help my business. Thumbs up to Bella Naija for bringing this to us.

  13. @edDREAMZ

    February 15, 2016 at 5:26 pm

    Ooky seen….

  14. opcy alabi

    February 15, 2016 at 5:28 pm

    Good read. I love the examples, makes it easier for me to understand the point and to easily relate to the importance of understanding the business dynamics. Looking forward to more of this from experience mind like yours sir.

  15. Moore W

    February 15, 2016 at 5:50 pm

    Fantastic write-up.

  16. Diane Ijeoma

    February 15, 2016 at 5:53 pm

    Well said. Great post

  17. Henry Emefule

    February 15, 2016 at 5:55 pm

    This is quite right, but for me I always like to start and then understand the dynamics as i get along in the business. Then i fix things and get better. You can’t get it perfectly right without being on the field. Good write-up BTW

  18. Adeyinka

    February 16, 2016 at 8:49 am

    Yes, Fadekemi. We do some market research and competitive analysis for companies especially in the MSME categories. Please Let’s know your Business needs. Thank you. Daniel-Row Consulting

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