One of my business goals is to grow into a conglomerate and since I set that goal; I have carefully been understudying the business leadership style of those successful entrepreneurs that have built a conglomerate from scratch.
If you are a loyal reader of this blog; you will come to acknowledge that I have the habit of setting audacious and overstretching long term goals. But I love it this way because it’s these overstretching goals that keep the entrepreneurial process of starting a business exciting.
In this article, I will be sharing some underground strategies and tips for building a business conglomerate from scratch which I learned from one of my business mentors. This business mentor of mine is Cosmos Maduka; founder of the Coscharis Group. Cosmos Maduka started Coscharis from scratch and built it into a conglomerate. How did he do it? And how can you replicate his business success strategies? Well, I will advice you read on.
Cosmos Maduka Quotes and Guide for Building a Conglomerate (Coscharis)
Starting a business conglomerate
1. The Coscharis story is a story of how we turned a two hundred naira; one man business into a conglomerate with over N15billion in shareholders funds in under 30years.
2. My friends, I tell you that unless you have a vivid picture in your mind of what you want to create; you will not be passionate about pursuing and actualizing the goal. The Coscharis Group’s journey to becoming a conglomerate is the actualization of a dream.
3. At the beginning, the enterprise was just me.
Raising startup capital for your business conglomerate
4. Those of you who have ever tried to find seed capital for your business; do not need me to tell you how difficult this can be.
5. Going the bank route to borrow was obviously an option that wasn’t available. However, growing organically was. That meant reinvesting every profit from the business into the business and making sure we created goodwill everywhere by religiously honoring our credit obligations.
6. Access to capital will continue to be a major challenge, even with all the hoopla about micro credit and SME financing which top government announced programmes for assisting growing businesses.
7. I have had cause to wonder sometimes how different things might have been for the group today, had we had access to more capital.
8. Many are of the opinion that banks are not there actively to help the entrepreneur but to take the little he has been able to accumulate. Their well dressed officials will ask for your business plan, marketing plan, strategic plan and every other plan. When you tell them you haven’t got one, they wonder how you can run a business without all these documents.
9. Today with professional managers in our team, we have the capacity to anticipate what banks usually ask and look for in granting loans to indigenous operators.
Growing a Business Conglomerate
10. Mind you that today, the Coscharis group is a conglomerate with interest in diverse business areas such as banking, technology, auto sales, auto parts, health, etc. it was not always so.
11. For over ten years, we stuck to the business where I had cut my teeth; motor parts. We understood the “ins” and “outs” of the business so well that we became a resource pool for policy makers seeking suggestions for ways to protect Nigeria’s interest in the international auto parts trade.
12. It was a major challenge to refuse to be distracted from our core business.
13. We, entrepreneurs may have strong vision and drive but generally, we do not always have hands-on business management skills or general economic knowledge to fully grasp the broader policy issues that may affect our business operations.
Structuring your business conglomerate into an organization
14. Unless you have grown a big company from scratch, you may find it difficult to understand the pain of making the transition from a successful one man show to a structured, system driven organization.
15. For most self made men, it is not easy at first to accept that the quality of system driven generated operations may be better than one’s own gut feeling.
16. Professionalizing our operations was a critical step in our journey to conglomerate-hood. This ensured that I was not forever mired in operational matters best delegated to professionals who, with the authority attached to their positions were too willing to accept the responsibility.
17. Professionalization was not an easy step for me in our growth. The decision to professionalize the business and compete in a structured form was a major turning point in the business. It brought the introduction of new roles in the company for people with expertise in specific areas.
18. I can tell you right away that one of the most deceptive simple things any entrepreneur will face is the selection of his business team. That’s because, even as we speak; it remains a never ending challenge.
19. Whatever the Coscharis group has achieved today is mostly because of the team we have assembled over the years and its commitment to realizing the vision of the company. Today, it’s rare for a bottleneck to arise simply because I am away.
Strategic planning and running a business conglomerate
20. Crystallizing a vision very early in the business has definitely helped us focus the minds of our people on how best to continually develop and refine strategies for achieving our vision.
21. Show me an entrepreneur in Nigeria whose business has not been made much vulnerable at least once by government’s policy reversals or unplanned changes in the business environment and I will show you a new comer to the business.
22. As for us in Coscharis Group, we have had so much experience in being taken unawares that we make it our business to find out from key policy leaders how they are thinking.
23. Every time you are about to spend money from the business, you can always ask yourself: “how much will this add to the bottom line.” If it will not give the business anything in return financially, you’d better think twice before parting with your hard earned cash.
24. I suppose that for the Coscharis Group, because of our extremely modest beginning; we never lost sight of the fact that to continue to build up capital, we must keep an eagle eye on cash flow at all times.
Developing a marketing strategy for your business conglomerate
25. To find ourselves with products for which there is no market is a luxury we can’t afford. That’s why we spend a lot of resources to track market.
26. At the beginning, it was really tough trying to sell to people who were used to buying from more established sources. And even though by the nature of the product we were selling, our potential customers were spread all over the nation. Moving goods to the market posed (and continues to pose) a daunting challenge because of the poor transporting network.
27. Our response was to make sure we created a first class market intelligence system that helped us figure out what people were looking before others did. It took some time to build a market perception that made customers believe was the place to go if they were in a hurry and if others didn’t have what they are looking for. And so, rather than look for the customers; the customers looked for us. It is still so today.
28. The Coscharis marketing is simple: know your customers and keep in touch with them.
29. We did not become a conglomerate right away. The journey has been long and hard. Many times we were tempted to throw in the towel but we has a clear vision; a dream.
30. I want to provoke all of us gathered here by suggesting we set five year growth and development goals for our various organizations and decide today which company to benchmark during the period. We must draw a thick line between our past and the future; we must have a new beginning. Let us roll our sleeves and get to work with a clear vision, a comprehensive business plan, and a people mobilized to go beyond self into collective action in our organization.