The Chief Executive Officer of Elevato, a consulting firm, Marie-Therese Phido, spoke to journalists on diverse issues as they affect sales, marketing and communications in Nigeria and the need for government to provide enabling framework for businesses to thrive. Raheem Akingbolu brings the excerpts:
What role do you think government can play in making Nigeria’s operating environment better for businesses?
In many conversations, government is blamed for the poor performance of many businesses. Let me cite an example. I attended the International Real Estate Conference recently, where key stakeholders in the industry and government gathered to discuss the challenges in the ease of doing business, regulation and financing in the sector. In every panel, government was put on the spot. The issue is, if government does not work optimally, by providing an enabling framework it affects everybody’s ability to succeed. It is an ecosystem that cascades down to everybody. This can clearly be seen in America, where the government appears to have gotten its policies right and it is having a booming effect on all aspects of business and employment in the country. In essence, yes, if businesses are deemed not to be performing as well as they can, especially since the situation is pervasive. I will say, government has a strong part to play in ensuring businesses succeed by providing an enabling environment and easing business conditions.
What sales and marketing challenges do you see organisations facing in Nigeria and West Africa?
Many businesses in Nigeria have a myriad of challenges both from a sales point of view and marketing. From a sales point of view, many do not have the fundamental understanding of “what problem am I solving or what are my buyer’s needs?’’. Many do not understand their customers, because they are not doing enough research to first ascertain the viability of a business or product before hitting the market. Research is the core of sales and marketing. This is one area that determines the success of any business or product. If you do not get it right, all of your sales and marketing channels will not work. I will advise all businesses, to ensure they do their research well and not be in a hurry to launch. This advice is for both big and small organisations. It is a perennial problem, that if we can spend time conducting a well done market entry or product research, we would be a lot more successful and achieve maximum results on our investments.
Your consulting firm, Elevato, is two years. In retrospect, how has it been running a business?
Prior to setting up Elevato in 2017, my career was shaped in the furnace of two of the four big consulting firms -KPMG and Deloitte. In both firms, I worked with the chief executive officers to develop, drive and implement the strategies of the firms as well as led the sales and marketing functions in Nigeria and the West Africa sub-region. Setting up the company in a period of economic recession came with its challenges. As a young firm, we were not immune to the challenges young firms face. But, we set out early to differentiate our solutions and institute clear customer orientation processes, where we could add value to our clients’ businesses by helping them with value adding strategic initiatives and creating more attractive selling propositions.
We have been able to retain our clients locally and in the West African region. We plan to expand and deepen our service initiatives across various sectors of the economy, especially in the areas of innovation, sales and marketing. We notice that a major problem we have in the country is innovation, many of us copy, are not original and even when we copy; we do not localise our offerings. In the last two years, we have added two products to our stable. Holler! a consumer review market platform and Boundless a thematic business magazine.
Having said that, two years after, can you share with us some of the firm’s milestones?
We have been able to achieve heights organisations that have been in business have not been able to reach. We have had the opportunity of working across five African countries, helping organisations there to define their strategies and providing business coaching services for them. We have provided strategy services to the foremost hotel in Nigeria, Transcorp Hilton. We work for the richest man in Africa, several banks, multinationals and companies in Nigeria. We have also brought in two additional partners to beef up our specialisation in strategy, innovation and human resources. These partners are experienced senior executives with experience from KPMG and Accenture. We are also in the process of becoming a sub-agent to a top 10 global sales and marketing organisation, where we will be given the franchise to provide sales and marketing consulting and training services in about 10 West African countries.
What are your niche areas?
Elevato is a company with competencies in strategy, innovation, sales, marketing, business coaching, branding & communication and human resources. Our DNA is working with our clients every step of the way and being committed to their success. Our unique value proposition is handholding our clients to work through and achieve results in business frameworks and models we advise them on. We help our clients to develop creative and innovative solutions to meeting their needs and achieve their strategic plans and growth aspirations. For example, we understand the fact that digitisation is the heart of most business processes. We have put in strong platforms to ensure that our clients weave technology into their offerings so that they continue to remain relevant as well as achieve efficiencies in their businesses.
What challenges are businesses operating in your niche facing?
It’s been tough. As I said earlier, we started our business in the recession and are still hoping for the economy to recover, to enable everybody succeed. What we have found out, is that many organisations have put a lot of their consulting needs on hold. Despite the fact that they realise the importance of having these services to improve their businesses they just cannot seem to afford paying consulting fees. This situation cuts across the big and the small. They have all decided to optimise and restructure their spending. A good consulting firm, can work in adverse economic environment. What it needs do is focus on the needs of its clients at each point in time and proffer the solutions that will solve the problems within each organisation’s life cycle and add value despite the challenging environment. In a nutshell, we aim to provide value at all times.
More foreign companies are entering Nigeria and looking for organisations to work with. Why will they want to work with your organisation?
We understand the terrain, as well as the region. In view of our experience, my partners and I, having worked with global consulting organisations like KPMG, Accenture, Deloitte and multinationals, we have provided solutions and advisory services to many companies who have come into the country and have succeeded. These experiences we can bring to bear on providing bespoke services for our clients and potential clients. We recognise that it is not a one size fits all, and are ready and willing to work to ensure that our clients get a service specifically attuned to meet their precise needs.
Is Elevato engaged in any CSR activities?
Elevato is passionate about the empowerment of women. Hannah’s Handmaiden is an initiative birthed to assist women without privilege. Our aim is to improve their self-confidence by creating positive change in their economic and social well-being. The initiative has assisted quite a number of women in the acquisition of vocational and IT skills and providing funds as startup capital. The initiative is also involved in mentoring youths and building competencies in them that will make them more employable or set them up on the path of establishing their own enterprises.
Where do you see Elevato in the next five years?
Our objective is to continue to work for the best organisations in Nigeria as well as contribute to the development of SMEs, being cognisant of the critical role they play in the economy of any nation. We will like to expand to other countries and across the globe. In the last two years we have worked for organisations in several countries such as Ivory Coast, Congo Brazzaville, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Togo, etc. We do not see ourselves as a local Nigerian organisation. Our aspiration is to be global and we are taking great strides to ensure that this happens either organically or by collaborating or partnering. We want to be the best in the areas we have chosen. We will do this focusing on human capital development within the organisation and keeping abreast of ground breaking solutions for our clients.