Is Consulting in Nigeria Lucrative And How Long Will It Take Before I Breakthrough As A Startup Consultant?
A few years ago, I met a Nigerian in diaspora during my trip to a conference in San Diego, Ca. He had lived in the United States for 30 years! Like many other Nigerian professionals in the US, he wanted to come back home and consult.
He wanted to know, “Is consulting in Nigeria lucrative?”
Besides my friends in the diaspora, dozens of my executive coaching clients and highly paid professionals in Nigeria would like to quit their jobs and set up a consulting business in Nigeria. They first want to find out, “Is it profitable?” A colleague in the oil industry sent me an email, inquiring, “Ogbo, how did you find the courage to quit your Shell job and start a consulting business?”
Can You Make Money Consulting in Nigeria?
You can, but I’d by lying if I told you that it is an easy path.
First, a few facts.
Number One: the Big League – the aye’s – have it big time.
KPMG, PriceWaterhouseCooper, Phillips Consulting and maybe,Accenture, and a few others that momentarily skip me. Most big organizations and government agencies will not, repeat, will not, talk to you, if you are an unknown startup consultant. They deal with the Big League of consulting.
Nevertheless, there are ways around that. “Guerrilla marketing” is top on the list.
For example, I chased a project with a big financial institution for three years without success. They made it clear that they played only with the Big League. Finally, I told them, “I understand that elephants inspire respect and confidence. But there are crevices and corners in your boardroom that an elephant cannot enter. You need cockroaches! Many times, it is those small matters in corporate crevices, like King Solomon’s ‘little foxes,’ that ruin your organization. Allow me be your cockroach!”
They hired me.
The other way is creative visibility.
My life and business coaching program on TV for five years gave the corporates the opportunity to preview of my content. It worked. The CEO of an oil and gas concern expressly instructed his HR Manager, “Go find the guy called Ogbo Awoke Ogbo. He speaks on STV every Wednesday morning. I want him to handle our team building in our next retreat.” She did. That was how my relationship with his organization developed into many other consulting opportunities.
Third, join a Golf Club.
Enough said. Or, at least, network like crazy. The consultant survives more on professional networking than he ever could on rice, plantain and stew.
Blessed are you when you have any kind of relationship with the Lagos Business School (LBS) or the Enterprise Development Center (EDC) of the Pan Atlantic University. Those are the two main gateways to entrepreneurship in Nigeria. Nothing seems to happen in the Nigerian business world until it has passed through LBS and EDC. Virtually all the business plan competitions in Nigeria, including the YouWIN, Diamond Bank BET, ECOBANK’s ENVI, Etisalat and many more are singularly anchored by EDC. Besides, IFC, World Bank, Cherrie Blaire, Goldman Sachs and many international entrepreneurial initiatives look to EDC for partnership in delivering their programs. I don’t believe you want to ignore LBS and EDC if you want to succeed in consulting in Nigeria. Their networks are too rich to let pass.
Think Multiple Streams of Consulting Income
The other hard sell about consulting in Nigeria is that once the economy or the fortunes of an organization begins to decline, training and consulting become the first casualties in corporate budgets.
Your cashflow as a consultant is often a huge mess. Reason: You may get a very huge consulting project in one moment and at another not get any engagement for the next nine months or more. Think about other ways to earn money along your consulting value chain such as writing and speaking.
Sadly, startup consultants are very poorly priced in Nigeria. It is not uncommon for a Nigerian Company to pay a comedian N1.5 million for an event while they struggle to “do the speaker a favor” of a paltry N250,000 for the same event. Been there; I can tell you.
How Long Will It Take Before My Startup Consulting in Nigeria Becomes Profitable?
Other businesses in Nigeria may become profitable in about 3 – 5 years. But in consulting, speaking and coaching, plan for 10 years or more. One colleague in the industry had done nearly 15 years before his real breaks.
Ultimately, the greatest obstacle to your success as a startup consultant is the low value for knowledge in Nigeria. It’s a cultural problem you will soon notice.
I was hired by a State Government to speak to about 1,000 youth delegated from all their local governments.
Imagine my shock, when after my speech, they queued up to receive payment for coming to hear me speak! I pointed this out to one of the organizers. He chuckled and told me, “If you don’t promise them money, they won’t come!”
In other parts of the world, you pay to hear a speaker. In Nigeria, the speaker pays you to come to listen to him. We are in trouble.
The typical Nigerian struggles to pay for the intangible. Knowledge is not food. It is neither a car nor a house. It is not a cell phone. So, why pay for something you cannot eat right now?
That tide will change for consulting SMEs. You will make money. But can you pay the price of persisting and waiting?