16 Invaluable Business Lessons From Aliko Dangote’s Success Story

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This article is sequel to my previous article, How Aliko Dangote Rose to Become Africa’s Richest Man. Please read it to get a background information before reading this one especially if you are not too familiar with the Dangote story.

Many people believe that Aliko Dangote became wealthy and successful just because he came from a wealthy home and born with a silver spoon.
It is true that Aliko Dangote was born in a wealthy home however, his business success was not entire because of that. He took some steps and made some unique moves that made him whom he is today.

The purpose of this article is to highlight the distinguishing steps that Aliko Dangote took which made him a billionaire and how you too can learn from them for your own business success.

1. Don’t be afraid to take a business loan – I don’t encourage people to be in any form of debt or take loans unless it is a business loan.
Many people have access to business loans but they are afraid to take it. They reject and shy away from what many people are vigorously looking for.

There is a limit to how great your business can grow without additional finance for expansion.
Dangote got a N500, 000 loan from his grandfather. That was really a big sum of money as at that time. That loan contributed greatly to his business success. I have never seen a great business man who never took a business loan at one point or the other. Some businesses that are even large still seek and secure additional funding for expansion by going public and issuing shares of the company to investors.  Don’t be afraid to seek and secure business loans.

2. Go into manufacturing In Africa, trading is the most common type of business. Trading is good but don’t stop at being a trader, aim to be a manufacturer. Aim to manufacture the things you trade. Trading only circulate money, it hardly build great wealth and doesn’t create enough jobs as manufacturing does.
Manufacturing and exporting create jobs and builds your country economically and strengthens her currency by earning her foreign exchange. That is why the government supports  manufacturers and exporters by making policies that benefit manufactures and exporters.

The turning point in Dangote’s entreprenueral journey came when he decided to start manufacturing the things he was importing.

Importing doesn’t benefit our country as much as it benefits the country we import from. By importing we are helping the industries in the countries we import from and also creating jobs for the citizens of those countries.

China is growing economically everyday because it is a manufacturing and exporting country. Instead of focusing on importing and trading, why not also consider going into manufacturing and exporting. You can do it. When there is a will there is a way.

3. Work to learn, not just for money Many youth don’t want to hear this.Their main motivation for working is to make money. This ought not to be so. Money should not be your driving force for work especially, when you are at the early stage of your career.

Dangote first worked for his grandfather and that was where he got his entreprenueral drive and experience. On-the-job training is very important because it gives you the vital skills you need to excel in your chosen career. When you work to learn, later down the line, you will make the money you want.

4. Have a good distribution network for your product – This is a key factor in marketing your products. Without a good distribution network of wholesalers and retailers, your product marketing will not be successful.

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Focus on building a good distribution network for your product and your marketing would be easier and faster. Dangote is very good at this. Most of his products are household brands in Nigeria because of the solid and numerous distributors that work to get the products to the  consumers.

5. Go into business with a mindset to create value, not only to make money Money comes when you seek to create value. I can’t stress this enough. Many people don’t succeed in business because their products and services are not consumer friendly.

The old slogan that , ” the customer is king” is true. Consumers determine the success and failure of your products and services. You need their patronage to be in business. Therefore, you should always keep your consumers or customers in mind.
You should keep improving your products and services to meet the rising needs of your consumers. This is what Dangote group does. The company is always in search of new ways to improve their products so as to satisfy their customers.

6. Always have in mind that there is enormous wealth and opportunities in Nigeria and Africa Over 90% of Dangote’s investments are in Africa. Believe in Africa and you will reap the good in Africa. Dangote has a love for Nigeria and Africa that is why most of his investments are in Africa. He once said ,  “Nothing is going to help Nigeria like Nigerians bringing back their money. If you give me $5 billion today, I will invest everything here in Nigeria. I have not seen any country where you can make money like in Nigeria and I say it to anyone who cares to listen. The opportunities here are so tremendous.” That’s one of the reasons he is investing heavily in Africa and reaping the returns too.

I always tell people , especially the youth that there are alot of opportunities and wealth in Africa. However, you need to first believe this , else you won’t see the  opportunities or recognise them  when you see them. You don’t need to travel to Europe or America to become wealthy. You can make it here in Africa. If Dangote could and many others could make it, you too can.

7. As an entrepreneur, don’t fight the government – Pay your taxes and see the government as a partner in your progress. No matter how wealthy you become, you can’t be above the government. The government can create a favourable environment for your business to thrive. The government can also make policies that can stifle your business.

Dangote has always been in the good books of the Nigerian government and you should aim to also be. I don’t mean to bribe your way. I only mean you should be politically neutral, pay your tax and be law abiding.

8. Aim to go into businesses that satisfy the basic needs of man – Dangote invests mainly in products that satisfy the basic needs of man. That’s one of the reasons his busineses are very successful.

One of the businesses that satisfy a basic human need is agriculture. People can’t do without food and agricultural products. I always encourage people to go into agricultural businesses because it has an available market and high demand.

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9. Build a brand and preserve it – The name “Dangote” is a household name in Nigeria today because, someone was determined to build the grand and preserve the brand. Dangote once said ,  “To succeed in business, you must build a brand and never destroy it. One competitive advantage I had when I ventured into manufacturing was my brand, which I diligently built in the course of my trading.”

Building a brand involves ensuring that your products are top notch and optimally satisfy the needs of your customers. It involves putting your consumers first before profit. It  involves listening to customers complaints and attending to them as soon as possible. It also involves continuous improvement of your products and services by carrying out periodic customers surveys to find out how better you can meet the needs of your consumers or customers.

10. Be passionate and determinedYou cannot achieve anything great without passion and determination. Entreprenueral and business success are no exception. The world of business and entreprenurship has a lot of challenges and hurdles. Therefore, anyone who is not determined and passionate will easily get discouraged and back out.

Dangote couldn’t have become the billionaire he is today without surmounting the challenges that come with business and entreprenurship.

11. Always aim high but don’t be afraid or shy to start small Start small, dream big and aim high. If you meet Dangote today you will notice that he always aim high. His goal is to become the greatest industrialist in Africa. He is not relenting in this pursuit regardless of how wealthy he has become. He always believe that he can be greater than what he is.

Dangote started business at a very young age. Starting early gave him the opportunity to learn the basic rudiments of business and entrepreneurship.  “I can remember when I was in primary school, I would go and buy cartoons of sweets ( candy) and I would start selling them just to make money. I was so interested in business, even at that time,” he once remarked.

Start with what you have. If you are determined, focused and dedicated, you will reach your goal.

12. Financial education is very vital – Dangote went to university to study business administration before starting his business. He could have studied any other course but he chose to equip himself for the journey ahead. He knew his vision and was very passionate about it.

You must not necessarily go to study business in a regular university. However, you should always make delibrate effort to learn from every available source that you can. Read good books and research online. Visit myafribusiness.com weekly to get useful financial and business information. Also like our Facebook page to get latest updates about our latest articles and products.

13. Work with smart people – Dangote is often quoted to have said ” I always make sure I hire people that are smarter than me”. One skill that distinguishes great entrepreneurs from all others is the the ability to leverage other  people’s abilities and strengths to achieve great things.

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Learn to build a team. There is a limit to what you can achieve alone. Learn how to identify smart people and don’t be shy, intimidated or reluctant to woo them to join your team. Behind every great business is a great team. If you are the smartest person in your team, you won’t grow. Get smarter and skillful people into your team.  Build your team, nuture them, encourage and motivate them and you will achieve great things.

14. Diversify – I have never seen a wealthy man who has only one income source. Diversification is one of the greatest secrets of the rich. Dangote group is a conglomerate of diverse investments in a wide range of various sectors.

Diversification of investment helps to increase your income sources and returns. It’s helps to minimise the risk of capital lose by spreading your investments over a variety of sectors which cannot all go down the same time. It helps you to achieve a positive returns in one or more of your investments when some other investments in your portfolio are generating negative returns.

15.  Use your competitors to your advantage  Many people are afraid of competition. They are not happy anytime they see other people doing what they are doing. They have a feeling of fear and insecurity. Some can even go the extra mile to exterminate their competitors. This is ignorance.

Don’t be afraid of your competitors. They are there to make you better. They are there to make you unrelaxed and prevent you from being complacent. Know what your competitors are doing and find a way of improving on what they are doing and surpassing them by building better products and services.

  “Don’t kill the competition. Competition is healthy for businesses. It keeps you the entrepreneur on your toes” remarked Dangote.

16. Be generous – Dangote is generous. Through the Dangote foundation, many people have been helped in various ways.

I once read an amazing story of how  the late Arch Bishop Benson Idahosa pronounced a blessing on young Aliko Dangote many years ago just few years after Dangote got to Lagos in 1977 to start his business. He and his assistant were said to have given up their seats for Benson Idahosa’s  guests who wanted to board an aeroplane at the Benin City Airport going to Lagos, but the aircraft was already filled up to capacity with passengers. Having given up their seats, Dangote and his assistant got down the aeroplane had to postpone their trip to the following day.

Use the lessons above to your business and entreprenueral advancement and success. See you at the top! If you have any questions or comments regarding the article, kindly let me know using the comment section below.


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