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Chukwuma Nwanze: 2017 – The Year of Start-Ups & the Small Business

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In a few hours, the familiar greeting of “Happy New Year” will fill the air as we all begin the journey into yet another year. Most Nigerians (including myself) are created with the most optimistic DNA enmeshed in us. As such, we will expect the new year to bring with it tidings of peace, love, warmth and a better economic performance for both our nation and our respective businesses.

I have themed the 2017 financial year, “The Year of Start-ups and the Small Business” and while it may sound like wishful thinking to many, I do believe that for those entrepreneurs who have been working on great business ideas, and have done all that is required to go to the market, 2017 is a great time to venture out.

You may be wondering why I am so optimistic, given that as a nation, we are enduring our worst recession in decades. Inflation rate is over 18%, borrowing rates are above 30% per annum in most banks. Many businesses are failing. Most of our friends and loved ones have lost and may soon lose their jobs, the foreign exchange market is in topsy-turvy mode, and the list of negatives goes on and on. I am, however, of the opinion that we may have seen the worst of the recession. While I cannot categorically state that things will get better, I also do not expect things to get any worse.

Let us examine our macro-economic environment. I like to define the macro-economic environment as “those extraneous factors which are beyond our control but have a major influence on the outcomes of our businesses”. Let us focus on two elements of the macro-economic environment that you and I are familiar with to support my optimism.

1. Political Environment
By the end of 2016, the current government will have spent 19 months or 40% of its tenure. Without doubt, the political landscape with 2019 in view is already beginning to take shape; as such, I envisage that subtle campaigns across all tiers of Government will start taking place at some point in 2017. These campaigns will attempt to reach out to the people and giving the current economic circumstance, any campaign that doesn’t have an economic appeal may fall flat to the ground.

I therefore believe, that we will see a replica of some government programmes such as the Lagos Employment Trust Fund and the recently launched N-Power scheme across most states of the Federation. Where properly implemented these schemes have the potential to energize existing businesses and birth new businesses thereby combating unemployment and other social maladies.
So we have a choice, we can start positioning ourselves to be beneficiaries of these schemes or join the majority and say these schemes don’t work. I will rather position myself to participate than hear of people who benefited from these schemes when the opportunity is gone.

2. Economic Environment
Nigeria is officially in a recession and signs of an immediate turnaround were dealt a further blow when the Q3 report from the National Bureau of Statistics revealed a negative growth of 2.24%. Some analysts suggest there won’t be a rebound until the last quarter of 2017 where an estimated growth of about 0.6% is envisaged.

Economic indicators from GDP growth rate to inflation rate; from the balance on our foreign reserves account to our balance of payment position; from the barrels of crude oil sold to our foreign exchange market all reflect a weaker economy than in recent years. While I am not wishing away the challenges, I can’t but ask myself this question, in the 15 years of my professional experience, was there ever a time when I thought our economy was great? You may want to ask yourself that question. And if your answer, like mine is an emphatic “No”, then it is yet another reason for me to be optimistic….okay “cautiously optimistic”.

I also believe that the managers of our economy haven tried different things to steady the economy, would have learnt a thing or two – at least what not to do to an ailing economy. So I won’t be surprised if in 2017 we see some positive policy reversals, more stability and less tinkering with policies around the fundamentals of the economy. There is a direct relationship between the political environment and the Economic environment and our economic situation will form the theme for the 2019 elections campaign which like I said earlier will start at some point in 2017. This is another reason to be cautiously optimistic.

Here in Nigeria, many successful enterprises were birthed during seasons of economic malaise; same way many closed shop. In my last two articles, “5 reasons why small businesses fail” and “What small businesses can do to survive their early years”, I had attempted to point start-ups and small businesses to a path of both survival and sustainable growth. In 2017, I believe that individuals or start-ups who choose to be optimistic in addition to doing the right things (I have mentioned some in my last posts) stand a chance of weathering the storms.

There is a hymn we sang in my primary school with the wordings “he that is down needs fear no fall, he that is low has no pride…” we are already beaten by the economic challenges we are faced with and are therefore down.

Thankfully, when we fall down or are beaten to the ground, we have only two options. To stay down or to rise up. I believe we have nothing to lose in being cautiously optimistic, making a choice to stand up and not remain down on our backs.

The Small and Medium Enterprises Development Association of Nigeria (SMEDAN) suggests that there are at least 17 million enterprises in Nigeria and these enterprises contribute about 50% of our GDP and 75% of national employment. Those figures include you and me; it suggests that despite the harsh operating environment we find ourselves in, we have without all the required support from the government, braved the odds and contributed immensely to our country’s growth and development.
I believe with the required government support and an enabling environment, we can achieve more. Nevertheless, we can still achieve progress in the face of daunting challenges, an environment filled with pessimism and stories of a failing economy if we are armed with the right mindset and the right business model.

I believe 2017 will be a better year for the economy – however marginal; new businesses will be born and entrepreneurship will thrive. I also believe 2017 will be “The Year of Start-Ups and The Small Business”.

What do you believe?

Photo Credit: Konstantin Sutyagin | Dreamstime.com

Chukwuma Nwanze is a faculty member of Arkounting Business Concepts. A financial advisory and management consulting firm which provides outsourced financial management and management consulting services to micro, small and medium scale enterprises.

23 Comments

  1. Mrs Victoria dada

    January 3, 2017 at 12:15 am

    I am looking forward to hearing from you

  2. Mrs Victoria dada

    January 3, 2017 at 12:16 am

    I’m looking forward to hearing from you.

  3. Adetayo Oresanya

    January 4, 2017 at 6:49 am

    Dear chukwuma, I totally agree with your thoughts. I can only pray confidence is restored in the minds of adventurous entrepreneurs like me. The cost of doing business is killing. Power, transport to bring my products from the rural areas to the urban cities, extremely bad roads, preservation of the perishable goods from the farm, security, many more. We are in business

  4. Chris

    January 4, 2017 at 6:53 am

    Nice piece. Been following your posts and I think it really makes a lot of sense. I am actually now truly considering starting up my restaurant. I will connect with you Chukwuma. Pls confirm your website is http://www.arkounting.com.ng

    • Chukwuma Nwanze

      January 4, 2017 at 7:34 am

      Hi Chris, thanks for the comment. You are right on the website. All the best as you venture out!

  5. Sean

    January 4, 2017 at 7:31 am

    Obviously there is a relationship between the political environment and the economic environment and these has a direct impact on the direction of the nation’s economy. Hence, the political dictators will want to harness these with different activities and programmes to support the mass towards 2019.

  6. Lazarus

    January 4, 2017 at 7:47 am

    If only we can see through beyond our natural sight, then you all will agree with me that 2017 is a year to start or grow our businesses. Perfect post by Chukwuma Nwanze.

  7. Gabe

    January 4, 2017 at 7:55 am

    A Prophetic Chief Accountant.
    I also foresee a lot of start-ups, although, what’s the going concern of these start-ups? What values can they add to affect the economy?
    Why are they even coming into the market in the first place?

    As we see the return of MMM to really affect start-ups also…

  8. Yetunde

    January 4, 2017 at 8:07 am

    2016 was a trying year for entrepreneurs; Business owners and customers experienced a sharp decline in purchasing power, the ripple effect of which led to thousands loosing their jobs. As you pointed out correctly, it is almost incomprehensible to imagine that things would get this bad, talk less of it getting worse. We really are looking forward to a better 2017, because HOPE is what has kept most businesses running. We hope the federal strategic teams will go back to the drawing board and proffer workable solutions.

  9. Rita Brodie-Mends

    January 4, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Well said Chukwuma. No doubt 2016 was quite challenging. I too I’m of the opinion that it cannot be worse. As entrepreneurs, we need to stay optimistic and focused. We need to put together all that we have learnt from our challenges in 2016 and work effectively to achieving better results in 2017.

  10. Gbenga M.

    January 4, 2017 at 9:02 am

    Hi Chukwuma, nice piece. My take on this is, u have to fall to make a significant rise. So what we are experiencing in Nigeria is very healthy for our growth if we face ot head on. And SMEs play a significant role in national development. Nigeria has depended too much on the “National Cake” without people exploring other avenues to develop firstly themselves then the country in general.
    I believe with new emerging markets and ideas from young , vibrant entrepreneurs the situation will surely change for the BEST!. Though it may seem very difficult initially but with consistency and focus’s we all can make Nigeria great. Good job man. ?

  11. Adekunle Funmilayo

    January 4, 2017 at 11:56 am

    Hi Chuks.. I totally agree with you a real example is that of my business though quite small but when i did a quick check and consider the capital invested and the returns it really made a lot of sense. Nice piece please keep it up!!!!

  12. Bolanle A

    January 4, 2017 at 11:59 am

    Nice post! I am also of the opinion that 2017 is a year of start ups. The current situation of the country has led a lot of organizations to downsize. Hence people need to start planning Beyond Paid Employment.
    People have also come to the realization that having multiple streams of income is a way to flourish during recession.

  13. Chima P.Ubechu

    January 4, 2017 at 4:30 pm

    Well-written article!!. Most of the new start-ups in 2017 will be by those who lost their jobs from 2015. So,it’s forced on them as a last alternative. While every commentator here is highly optimistic of economic success in 2017,I am not,becauee I still wonder what business you guys will run with a 30% interest on bank loans and still break even. With your naira speedily heading to N500 per $1.00,it still beats my immagination who will purchase their final products after adding the cost of all the factors of productions thereto,in an economy that is fastly wiping out its middle-class.

    Think about this: anybody in Nigeria who earns a salary or an income of N1m a month is in the middle-class category. But that’s about $2000 a month which my high school daughter earned last year working for an eatery during her vacation job in Texas. Please ponder on this because we all shop from the global market.

  14. Chiedu Nwanze

    January 4, 2017 at 4:55 pm

    Nice piece Chukwuma, enjoyed reading it and it filled me with such encouragement and optimism.

  15. Gaffrel

    January 4, 2017 at 5:02 pm

    Great piece,
    . . .i truly agree with you. With the recent reduction in number of advertised jobs through the 3rd and last quarter of 2016, which was around 76% and this consequently culmunated into reduction in job applications. I believe applicants will start looking inward to become entrepreneurals.
    we shall surely experience the birth of small and medium scale business in Nigeria. The way to go is to “create service that solve a general need”
    #ReceiveBrainandbechallenged#

  16. Gaffrel

    January 4, 2017 at 5:07 pm

    Great piece,
    . . .i truly agree with you. With the recent reduction in number of advertised jobs through the 3rd and last quarter of 2016, which was around 76% and this consequently culminated into reduction in job applications. I believe applicants will start looking inward to become entrepreneurals.
    we shall surely experience the birth of small and medium scale business in Nigeria. The way to go is to “create service that solve a general need”
    #ReceiveBrainandbechallenged#

  17. Afo

    January 4, 2017 at 5:43 pm

    I lean towards your quote ‘cautiously optimistic’. While I believe the challenges would not disappear overnight I believe opportunities abound in all these hurdles.
    Hence I believe it is truly the time to be daring.
    Looking forward to your next post.

    Quick questions Chuks: can you guys(Arkounting) provide your services to a small business like mine? My turnover is under N20 million or there about

    • Chukwuma Nwanze

      January 4, 2017 at 11:06 pm

      Yes we can @Afo. Please leave an email or contact we can reach you on.

  18. Becks with the good hair

    January 4, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    Interesting theme for the year..I like the sound of it. With the rave of enthusiasm to take on challenges which the begin of a new year heralds..it’s important that we small business owners are proactive in taking advantage opportunities as they arise. Nice piece in all..?

  19. Oluwakemi

    January 4, 2017 at 9:20 pm

    Beautiful piece! I totally agree with you, 2017 is a year to start businesses. Prayerfully take advantage of business opportunities that come our way or if you have any business idea pending, 2017 is the year to lunch it! I’m going to work on how I can grow my piggery business.Also people need to start planning beyond paid employment.Looking forward to a great year ahead.

  20. OKegbola oluwole

    January 5, 2017 at 11:00 am

    I also concur with your article chuks…

  21. Joseph Osodi

    January 8, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    This is the most captivating and well detailed post i have read in a long time… i see the future is looking good only if we follow through in the path way to recovery. I say we are in the biblical Years of faminie… in Joseph’s days when he interpreted the dream and saved up a lot..well the past team failed to save so here we are feeling the heat.

    2017 would be tight and somewhat difficult.. we only need to stay slim with expense..reduce frivolous living…. maintain a decent cost to income ratio and seek the cheapest ways to do business… continue in the path and 2018 might just bring the boom we so desire.

    Thanks Chux… i enjoyed reading this…. please do a follow up with STEPS TO STAYING AFLOAT FOR SMEs….

    – Kuku.

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