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Vision, mission and values | Jun 7

Oluwaseyi Kehinde-Peters: helping entrepreneurs build the foundations of a company 

Vision, mission and values | Jun 7

An unfortunate truth is that many businesses fail within their first five years of operation. Oluwaseyi Kehinde-Peters explores why and how SMEs can move beyond their formative years.

Oluwaseyi Kehinde-Peters

Oluwaseyi Kehinde-Peters Founder, PAWEN

Reading Time 5 minutes

Growing up in Lagos, Nigeria, business strategist and social entrepreneur Oluwaseyi Kehinde-Peters couldn’t help but notice the stark contrast in the lifespan and growth trajectories of domestic start-ups versus foreign businesses. 

As a hub of investment and entrepreneurship, Lagos witnessed new businesses sprouting up daily, but sadly, many of them fizzled out before they could make a significant impact. Kehinde-Peters observed that domestic companies and entrepreneur-led businesses typically disappeared within five years, while multinationals and foreign businesses with similar business models seemed to be thriving for many years. This got her thinking about the reasons behind the contrast, leading her to pursue an MBA at the University of Bradford in 2013 to unravel the mystery. 

After graduating in 2015, Kehinde-Peters began working with SMEs in both the UK and across Africa, with a focus on supporting entrepreneurs to manage their people, processes, and performance to help them become profitable, achieve their corporate objectives, and scale their businesses sustainably.  

Through her work, she realised that businesses across the world were failing in their first five years for a similar reason. There was an assumption made by business leaders that passion combined with business opportunity would always equal success, with little acknowledgment that not all opportunities are profitable or sustainable. 

The foundational principles of sustainability and profitability 

According to Kehinde-Peters, profitability and sustainability are critical to scalability and growth. She believes that SMEs need to find the answers to some essential questions to successfully move beyond their formative years: 

  • Purpose: why are you in business? Your purpose for starting a business should be more than just making money as this will help you remain tied to your goal. 
  • Customer centricity: who is your customer, what problems are you solving for them and how? It is important that the way you solve problems for customers is unique and not easily mimicked. 
  • Business model: how profitable is your business model in the short and medium term? Making money in the short term is great but if you want longevity your business model has to be sustainable. 
  • Distribution: how effective is the distribution of your product or service and what competitive advantage do your distribution channels provide over your competition? An effective distribution model will maintain your place at the top of the food chain. 
  • Scenario planning: have you scenario-mapped the next five years? Preparing for problems that haven’t yet arisen allows you to create affective plans of action and lessens firefighting time. 

Build a relationship with the customer

Kehinde-Peters gives special attention to the second foundational principle: customer centricity:  who is your customer, what problems are you solving for your customer and how? These questions may sound common sense, but she argues that too many businesses persist in selling a product to the consumer instead of selling the benefits, i.e., how their product meets the needs of their customers.  

Entrepreneurs need to be able to tailor their products and services to meet the specific pain-points and aspirations of their customers. This requires actively listening to customer feedback, observing behaviours or interaction with the product, looking at all available customer data, and using that information to feed into product or service development. By doing so, businesses can differentiate themselves from their competitors and ultimately achieve long-term success. By engraining these principles into their everyday activities, SME leaders can avoid failure and successfully grow their businesses. 

How future proofing ensures resilience 

On the fifth principle of scenario-mapping, Kehinde-Peters urges all her clients to ask themselves the following questions now so that they can futureproof their businesses: 

  • Cash flow is the lifeblood of any business: what are your cash flow projections for the next three to five years and have you done a cashflow sensitivity analysis? How could a variance in your financial projection, due to factors outside of your control, impact your overall success?
  • External forces: what are the different external and internal scenarios that can impact your business and how can you prepare and position for these?  
  • Lifespan: can your business outlive you? What would happen to your business if for any reason you are not able to run the business tomorrow?  
  • Continue to evolve: in what direction should you and your employees evolve as a learning organisation to stay ahead of competition and keep up with trends? 
  • Technology and innovation: in an era where technology is rapidly advancing, how will you evolve your digital strategy to support your corporate objectives and keep up with market trends without impacting negatively on your profitability? 

Kehinde-Peters believes that having a long-term perspective is essential for entrepreneurs who want to achieve success in their business. Planning for growth from the outset, even if it may not seem feasible in the short term, is crucial to ensure that you can seize opportunities as they arise. This means building a strong foundation and setting up efficient systems and processes that can support your business as it scales. As Kehinde-Peters puts it, ‘It’s not just about being successful today, it’s also about being successful in five or ten years time.’ By thinking ahead and preparing for growth, entrepreneurs can position themselves for long-term success and sustainability. 

Purpose is key 

Kehinde-Peters believes that having a strong sense of purpose beyond just making money is crucial for entrepreneurs. When challenges arise, it is the purpose and values that serve as a rudder for navigating through them successfully. Without a clear sense of purpose, it can be difficult to find the strength to continue when faced with obstacles. Purpose also promotes efficiency as it helps you evaluate which opportunities to pursue or let go. When you have a clear purpose and set of values, you can use them as a framework to evaluate potential opportunities and decide whether they align with your goals and vision for your business. This can help you avoid getting side tracked by opportunities that may be lucrative in the short-term but do not contribute to your long-term objectives. 

About The Author

Oluwaseyi Kehinde-Peters

Oluwaseyi Kehinde-Peters Founder, PAWEN

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