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‘Tale Alimi: 5 Reasons Why Your Small Business Will Never Scale

Your business decisions should be driven by a clear strategy and not by trying to do it the way they do it without a clear direction.



This is the kind of headline you see and get a panic attack, especially if you have been working so hard and trying to keep hope alive!

I don’t mean to be the bearer of bad news, but I have seen it so much and experienced it myself after working with over 5,000 small businesses either in a training, coaching or consulting capacity.

I hear the hope in their voices and see the eagerness in their eyes. Maybe, just maybe they are about to create a business that will change the game from their kitchen to Wall Street like Carol’s Daughter.

I don’t have the heart to tell them it is not going to happen, so I decided to write an article and tell you (now I am not talking to anyone directly, but I am talking to everyone who needs to hear!)

These are the reasons:

The danger of a single channel

God bless Instagram! Maker of millennial millionaires and torture to generation Xers who can’t seem to get a hang of how to translate this single channel to millions. The next time I have a strategy session with a generation Xer who laments to me about their lack of business growth due to an inability to monetize Instagram, I am probably going to pull my hair out!

Instagram is an amazing social media channel to reach customers and it should be harnessed. However, if you are looking to scale your business in a country where over 70 percent of transactions are still done offline, you have to explore multiple channels to reach your customers.

Go where your customers are; believe me, they are in multiple places aside from Instagram. (I share more details about channels in my new book Small to Scale).

If that’s your only marketing channel, surely you are neglecting 70% of your market and you want to scale?

Your money is our money

After paying school fees from my business revenues, I am low on cash flow.” Alas! This was the lament of a client who was the breadwinner in her home. Can you blame her? Her children have to go to school. After all, why was she working so hard? 95% of businesses in Nigeria are micro-businesses and they struggle to grow because they are really just vehicles for the business owner to take care of their family needs.

I am sure you have heard several times that you should separate your business finance from your personal finance and instead pay yourself a salary. But how many of us are practicing this strictly? How do we grow or scale a business when we keep eroding the capital to meet our personal needs?

I know, I know, it’s not your fault. It’s the state of the economy and other life realities…

Doing it the way they do it

Hey ‘Tale, have you noticed that XYZ Company seems to be making a lot of money?”

Really,” I replied. “How do you know?”

Well, they just bought a new bus or opened a new store.

This is how the “Me too” strategy is killing a lot of small businesses who are attempting to copy others without really knowing what is happening behind the scenes.

There is nothing wrong with benchmarking with your industry colleagues, but making major business changes or decisions based on something you heard or think you understand is unreliable. Your business decisions should be driven by a clear strategy and not by trying to do it the way they do it without a clear direction.

I can do “bad” all by myself

One of the greatest tests I have seen small businesses fail is the hiring test. I know the excuses… “I can’t afford to hire the type or quality of staff that I need, so I will do everything by myself.” Okay, it might not be an excuse, it is your reality, right?

Some years ago, one of my clients hired a Chief Operating Officer who earned twice the salary of the Chief Executive Officer. I had to ask why that decision was made. I was told that the person came with many years of experience working in a multinational and that they wanted their small business to grow and operate at that standard. Suffice to say, the business experienced exponential growth in a few short years.

The next question I am usually asked is: what if I make the wrong hiring decision? My response is: like in everything in life, correct your mistake quickly. Learn from it and hire right the next time. However, what I see a lot of businesses doing is returning to the status quo. At least I will have one less person to pay – the business owners rationalizes. But how about the loss of revenues from trying to do it all by yourself and dropping the ball?

Planting an oak tree in a flowerpot

The thought of the analogy sounds ridiculous, right? But that’s what I see so many small business owners trying to do! People want to build million-dollar factories with a few hundred thousand Naira, and expect that by some miracle and pure resilience, things would translate as such. I am not saying you shouldn’t start small, I am a big advocate of starting small and scaling.

I am currently building my third business with the principle of starting small. However, what is different is the approach and the structure that would ensure that it scales. When you want to build a business that will scale, you build it with that mindset from day one. This will include your vision, your business structure, your capital structure, your business model and your team.

You have to lay the right foundation for the type of building you want to construct. If you have laid the foundation for a bungalow and you attempt to build an eight-story building on it, do you know what will happen? Then you know why many small businesses won’t scale!

Learn how to avoid these mistakes in my new book- “Small to Scale – The blueprint for transforming your small business into a high growth company” I am giving it out for free in ebook format to the first 10,000 people who subscribe to join the waitlist of our new finance matching and business support platform-Owoafara. Join at

'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 Comment

  1. Sisilag

    October 14, 2019 at 12:40 pm

    Nice writeup. Except I wonder bout #2. I started my consulting business to pay school fees. Luckily my overhead excluding salary is about 0.05%. Everything else I treat like salary. I am guilty of not having a foundation to scale the business and the workload is growing. I am beginning to think about it. But, I have to pay that school fees for the Kid.

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