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How SMEs Can Build A Formidable Brand

On this episode of your favorite business show on radio in Nigeria – the SME Digest Business Show, we interviewed the CEO, Chinmark Group as he discussed on how small businesses can grow their brand from scratch and build a thriving business. It is a must read for every business owner out there.

Let’s make welcome our guest..

Who are you and what do you?

I am Chinedu Marksman Ijiomah, the Chairman/President of Chinmark Group, an investment organisation that has consistently delivered returns on investment to its investors without failing over the years. We have made access to finance easy through our loans because of our good interest rate. Also, we are into construction, real estate, agriculture and sales of medical equipment.

How did it all begin?

The Chinmark brand started from a very humble beginning where I had to submit myself to mentorship under those who have been in the construction industry long before me. It got to a point where one of my mentors (Mr. Emmanuel), eventually opened up and showed me the trade secret behind the business. That was how the brand Chinmark Group started. 

How Were you Able to Build the Brand that young people are proud to be associated with?

First, what I would like to say is that a lot of small business owners are in a hurry. A lot of them want to arrive quick; so, they are building their businesses on fantasy. Most of them can’t wait for the business to break-even. They just want to draw from the little profit the business will generate from the onset and go on vacation abroad. That is not how you build a brand.

Building a brand requires integrity, excellence and being meticulous to the smallest details. Branding is not just what you study in school. You as an individual, you are a brand. If you are not a person of integrity and excellence, nobody wants to do business with you. I see a lot of business people today who fight their clients. It baffles me. I’ve seen a situation where a customer priced an item for half the price, and the seller responded in our local parlance; “na you buy am for me?” (meaning, were you the one who bought the goods for me?). That entrepreneur may think that customer is just one client, without the mindset that there are lot of prospective customers from that one customer. What some business owners failed to realise is that building a great brand is all in the linking – which means referrals is what grows the customer base of a business quickly and cheaply. When Mr. A is happy, he would connect Mrs. B to you. And Mrs. B will connect Miss C to you without you spending extra money on marketing. If you must build a viable brand, you must ensure you don’t burn bridges. 

Chinedu Marksman Ijiomah Chinmark Group - SME Digest
Chinedu Marksman Ijiomah, Chairman/President, Chinmark Group

What are Strategic Ways to Grow A Small Business?

The first step is that, you have to be intentional about your business. That begins with a clear vision of where you want to go, a precise written detail of how you want to get there, and undivided focus from the goals derived out of the vision. The second step will be to prove yourself trust worthy. Because of the encounter a lot of prospective customers have had with unscrupulous people in the past, a lot of them may demand that you deliver before payment. At this point a lot of SMEs get angry and pull out of the deal. This attitude is a clear evidence that some are not ready to build sustainable relationship. If money is your number one focus in business, you cannot build a viable brand.

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When you are asked to deliver a job before payment, it may require you to put in effort and financial resources, but be rest assured that you have earned a customer’s truth if you deliver before the time and you deliver an excellent job.

How do you manage the seven different businesses you have when a lot of MSMEs are still trying to manage one?

For any business to grow and expand, there must be a formidable structure in place. If you can put an efficient, effective and formidable structure in place, if you put any additional business on top it, it will soar. Most MSMEs build the entire life of their business around their person. When they are sick, the business is sick. When they travel, the business travels. You can’t grow a business like that let alone build multiple streams of income. As the Chairman and president of Chinmark Group, I am on salary. There are also people within the organisation who monitor the system to ensure it is working seamlessly. The system knows when it is overheating and needs expansion. The system knows when there is need for capacity building. The system knows when there is need to recruit more staff. So, build your business around a system and not yourself. We are into construction, medical equipment, investment, loans, agriculture etc.., and you can see that these are different sectors, but things are going on well. Why? Because there is a system in place. That system is what allows us bring in professionals to manage each of the different businesses under one structure.

Be willing to pay professionals and also learn to get out of the way to do the job you employed them for. Whether I am there or not, the business functions optimally.

Also read:  YouThrive: Access Bank set to empower over 700,000 MSMEs with 50bn loans

What are some of the requirements needed to build a functioning system?

There are a who lot of things required to build a business system. Let me just list about three that are very quintessential.

  1. Make your business legal: Register your business. Decide on a legal structure for your business. Every legal construct has advantages and disadvantages. Get your lawyer involved and think carefully about what will work best for you.
  2. Set up a financial model for your business: These are some of the questions you must provide answers to, to build your financial model. How much are you going to charge? What percentage do you have to charge to cover your overhead cost and still be profitable? How much will it cost to run the business? What revenue collection system will you use?
  3. Put a seamless operation model in place: Who and what do you need to maintain production?

These and some other things will go a long way in helping you build a system.

What procedures did you adopt in employing the young and vibrant members of your staff?

If you are coming for the money, just know that Chinmark Group is not the place for you. What we do is that, we take young Nigerians who can read and write and train them for the work we do. That is how we employ them. Sometimes, interviews are done via WhatsApp or normal phone call. I always ensure that members of my staff are well catered for, right from the early days. Those who have been with us saw that when the company expanded, they were carried along and rewarded duly? That made them got more committed to the task at hand. Also, our profit in the early days were used for expansion and not for my personal expenditure. They weren’t doing the job while I was doing the spending. We all were rewarded for the jobs well done.

What final advice do you have for the Nigerian MSMEs?

With all I have said, I must confess that my life is a life of grace. Everything I’ve done so far; it is simply because of God Factor.

I follow God’s leading and I have never regretted in any way. God factor cannot be overemphasized. I had a divine instruction to go all out on social media when I started. I obeyed and did as God instructed me. Today, I can confidently say that 99% of our customers are from social media.

We all need divine assistance to guide us and show us what part we should go. If you are a business person, don’t ever lose sight of divine help.



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