Thursday, 9 May 2013

What I learnt from Eagle paints

Critical Path
The most important thing in planning is to know your critical path, so often in planning, people focus on the big things and forget to sweat the small stuff. It is vital in your preparation to include a critical path and appoint responsibility for it. From making sure you have enough covers for your cans to enough labels for your season. These things are essential and often have long lead times that you can’t do anything about. They are just as important as the big stuff, I have seen multimillion pound production lines shut down because someone forgot to ensure there were spare ball bearings available
Percerption is everything.
You! are who people think you are. When I first started working at Eagle paints we were a small company amongst a host of small to mid-sized paint companies selling mainly to the local community and our sphere of influence. One of the first things we did was to place full page adverts in the most popular papers on strategic days before events that inspired people to paint, mainly religious holidays. We would put out nationwide adverts very professionally done with loads of contact info making us seem much larger than we really were.
Building Blocks
Let’s face it, you can’t run until you can walk, decide what blocks need to be put in place to enable you compete on the big stage and then  go about putting them in place and voila you will find yourself on stage. It may be building a top notch Laboratory for R & D , training staff for customer engagement , training staff to handle the increased work load , a website , a distribution network etc .Until you have you blocks you can’t have a building 
Stay Agile
When in growth mode it is important to keep on your toes you never know what is going to happen in the market. While we were building the brand we had to duck and dive to handle the change in conditions. The opening of  new land for development in the Lekki Ajah peninsular presented us with the problem of red algae due to the salt content, we came up with a market leader Eagle Xtra to combat this, we fought off adulterators and developed new products . Remaining Agile all the while, ready to switch direction at the drop of a paint brush
Know your customer
You need to know who your customers are. They may be in various groups ;  distributors, wholesalers retailers direct sales , being able to categorise them effectively and efficiently means you can always satisfy them,  giving out a service that is in keeping with their category. If possible appoint different staff to handle different groups so they specialize in solutions to common problems

Know your customers pain points.
You need to get out of the building and see your customers at work. Find out what is the pain they are experiencing. We found out that a lot of our distributors had landlord problem, this was a great blessing to us. We used the distributors as estate agents to roll out our distribution network.
 We found out deliveries during the day just didn’t make any sense with the traffic situation, so we endeavoured to plan all deliveries to happen against the flow of traffic. In collaboration with our drivers we could make more trips than would seem possible even during the busiest of times. We offered no quibble refunds, free estimates, pre painting treatment services , high end bespoke finishes, colours and high specification products.
We delivered 7 days a week and pioneered online and remote payment methods to make buying our product as easy as picking up the phone.

Love you customer
All customers were treated as family, relations that had to be cherished we knew their family’s health problems joys and pain we went out of our way to be sensitive to their needs and provide as much help as possible. Coming to the factory for most of our customers was a thing of joy they went out of their way to visit and would spend hours at times updating us on the minutiae of their lives we were very grateful for this privilege and encouraged it especially amongst older customers who let’s face it were more likely to be Landlord (s)
Brand Identity
What is your identity? Like most businesses in Nigeria brand identity doesn’t really matter you were probably established at a time when you had a captive audience, and since you rarely shop for your product it’s hard to have a sense of what others think of you.
I always took time out to talk to users of similar products and find out why they choose the other brand.  We had our first rebranding exercise due to the problem of fakes and adulterators in the market we choose to go with national green the Super Eagles where in ascendant  they had recently won the AFCON and done brilliantly in the Olympics some associations can’t go wrong.

 This was followed by democracy and the oil wind fall the banking boom and the era of expansion we needed something that was captivating clean and modern we were doing a lot with education at this time and were in love with all things Apple we came up with innovative packaging that was all about reduce recycle reuse and a logo that was automatically rechristened the Jesus Eagle cause it looked like a cross a fact that I am sure did not hurt our relationships with churches. The design was to help us stand out in the crowd.

Innovate Constantly
Our R & D lab became our favourite place in the factory we were constantly conducting experiments to make better products and would badger visiting sales men for samples and information.  We were always happy to test out products and share information with colleagues in the business we innovated everything from packaging , material (metal – Plastic) to universal packaging across all products saving us tons of cash tied up in inventory. We innovated product types, sales and marketing, delivery systems, and machines . We came up with better storage solutions  for chemicals, and waste management , we innovated the handling of chemicals, we created in house management software ,and tried visionary  staff welfare packages If we could make it better (and we could ) we did.

Seek for opportunities where no one is looking
Consider parallel businesses and the opportunities they present we were not in the distribution business but when distributors hounded by land lords came up to us with opportunities to buy property at give a way prices in their local areas we jumped at it , this old buildings were then renovated most times with little more than a smart paint job , when the government got round to improving the roads around them we found ourselves with a string of eye catching outlets on major roads around the metropolis 

Workers are people to.
Your workers are your most valuable resource you must make them happy and fulfilled to come to work , we gameified the whole pay structure and introduced a productivity scale that rewarded you not for your time at work but for how productive you had been while at work. This created an extremely positive, competitive and fair atmosphere.  This enabled us to produce volumes that would have been impossible any other way.
 Once workers are happy to come to work you would be surprised how little truancy absenteeism etc occur if a worker needed time off you knew it was genuine and expressed genuine concern for the problem or situation.
Know Your Numbers
Everything in the factory was whittled down to numbers excel was created for a reason, use it! You must know absolutely everything you need, what you produce, how much you sell, stock levels, when to restock, cost cost cost.
It’s essential to keep a tab on how much you paid last year on levies, and what the trend is, what your neighbour pays what your competitor pays and what are the tax codes applicable.  Your real operating costs must be determined, what are your margins on various products, what are your liabilities what are your fixed costs, what are your variable costs? What are your competitors’ margins? What is your break even? What are your objectives? And indeed what are your targets? Knowledge is king 
Crunch that Data
Learn to love data, it may seem like it’s not important but 3 years down the line when you have enough data to start seeing trends and to use for modelling you will realise that data is a beautiful thing and be glad for it.
Sort out a data management plan. Be as thorough as you can remember with data it’s always GARBAGE IN GARBAGE OUT so minimise the chances of data corruption by making to the best of your ability people responsible for the data they produce
Also ensure you have a fail-safe system, in place to prevent data corruption theft or loss
We were always willing to work with others apart from the break in monotony it gave you an insight into how others did things it increases your network,  knowledge and understanding of processes and things

Keep On top of the Paper work.
With all the data flying around, and all the due process that had to be followed, it was essential to keep on top of paper work. We outsourced most of our accounting and compliance functions which was a good way of staying ahead as all paper work had to be in order for their timely visits .Once again it pays to have a system in place and a check list and method I would often ensure one day of the week was reserved for checking up on paper work

Give yourselves time to plan
R & D can sometimes take as long as 6-8 years to test out products in the industry. We learnt to be patient, to build failing and learning into your cycles and time frames ,besides launching a new product  requires much more than the product itself.
Packaging, marketing, new partners, testing of supply chains, handling, educating the customers and building the market don’t happen overnight 

Stay in the market
The marketplace is where all things happen and you have to decide where your market is , HINT it is normally crowded with competitors , this is the best place to battle it out if you are looking for long term traction . The market never lies allowing you to keep an eye on your product offering , package , price , and selling point .
Selling Point
This is what makes you a compelling alternative to punters it is most important you hone this and stick to it. For us, our selling point was; the best price for the quality we offered . You could never beat us on this you may offer a better quality at a higher price or a lower quality at a lower price but you could never match our price and quality once again this was due to having an intimate knowledge of our numbers. We knew where our advantages lay, and by applying this in our ordering and timing, making use of data from our analysis, and hours spent in the Laboratory testing every sample that came our way we were able to deliver on our selling point constantly.

Work your social network
Be active and visible in your community; churches, mosques, schools, clubs and societies, associations old boy’s networks, PTA’s. The whole 9 yards should be brought to play. Be as charitable and supportive as you can, it is always the cheapest form of advertising .
Be fair in your dealings pricing etc have a policy you can defend nothing is worse for a customer than feeling he is been swindled or not appreciated. You don’t want unhappy customers, you want fans and evangelisers
Be of your time
By this I mean be modern, keep abreast of best practises and tools and machines. Always bring out products that your customers can relate to. Keep your eye on the edges of your customer demographics. Pay particular attention to what the youngest and oldest are asking for, surprisingly I found these sectors to always be the most cutting edge. The young you expect, but the old always came as a surprise! We forget the old also have as much time as the youths to investigate new things, and can normally back this with money. They are always also looking to cut out stress and have an army of grand kids advising.
Keep learning
This is perhaps the most important of all. There are journals and trade magazines for most industry, subscribe and read avidly and widely. We read everything from science to tech to business to design and politics we read and then circulated it freely, anyone could come into my office and pick up a magazine from the reception and we had them delivered every Friday.
 Courses were an integral part of our reward system and scholarships were dolled out like lollipops to kids
Just because you are paranoid doesn’t mean they are not out to get you
A healthy dose of paranoia is best for avoiding troubles
Moral Courage in the c-suite
At the end of the day you have to be able to stand by your morals
Have the courage to proceed in a brave new direction, and face new opportunities brought about by technology.

I am no longer involved in the day to day running of Eagle paints , I am working on a couple of technology and lifestyle projects and can be found on twitter@akintundedisu

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Moving on with our transformation plans we have gone from a premium single brand paint company to a more or less white label paint company with over seven brands focused on delivering value for money in each price/quality range .

This process is just about complete we have released successfully into the market 5 different products filling the gap btw ultra premium and down and dirty discounts.

We have tweaked our website and “got out of the building” launched an ad campaign using analytics to track data this was our first iteration and we really wanted to know just who was out there we were pleasantly surprised to find out that it wasn’t who we thought we would find (end-users) but mainly marketers and painter/contractors from out of state

This proved we were on the right track as our ultimate aim is to build a community of buyers and sellers of eagle paints on the web across the nation

We developed a blackberry app call eagle using freelancers from and are updating it taking what we have learnt and making it better , this opened a whole new world of possibilities ....we demo’d it at , developersparapo a local tech meet up, got great reviews on and shall be doing android versions for its next iteration

We also experimented with a premium 0700 call eagle number and small adverts in the paper these were marginally successful locally but didn’t work nationwide which was the point.

The premium number was pointless. Vanity numbers don’t work on smart phones which our target audience have (duh) and further more in this day and age of mobile phones with infinite memories we have all lost the will to remember a number

We have developed a road map going forward for our online development based on lean start up methodology, customer development, and business model design :- To help us perfectly align our on and offfline roles.

We are rebuilding our online experience which involves building and deploying dummy sites for constant a/b testing of different functionalities ( we have the specs for and have wire framed the final site ) ,we will tweak the site as we build and learn and implement design details from dummy sites .

With the help of and we are listening to our customers engaging with them and letting them help us be what they want us to be

With what we learnt in Mumbai we have reengineered our whole manufacturing process and are ready to seriously disrupt the industry

We are energised by the prospect of creating jobs

Monday, 4 July 2011

What I learnt from Mumbai /Gap generation /media issues .

The power of the press , The times of India ( ) the award winning daily is available for the equivalent of 17 pence or near enough

In the last decade India has lifted 300 million people from extreme poverty , they have managed to raise the Bottom of the pyramid ,to create a working class with access to property rights and probably most spectacularly of all to manage a bubble and contain the subsequent burst trapping most of the wealth that was created in long term investments the Pages of the TOI are full of advertisements from SME


“When societies fail to respond to reduced circumstances through orderly downsizing, it isn’t because they don’t want to, it’s because they can’t”. Clay Shirky

Via @to2 ( )

Over 80% of Nigerians are under 30 years old ,over 80 % of all capital in Nigeria is in the hands of the over 50 years old

A generation / government of “Midnight Children” ( ) and parents, benefactors of the spoils of independence ,complacent, bourgeois and mired in bureaucracy . Accustomed to living off rents the nation is unable to “raise revenues above expenses, or cut expenses below revenues “ and so they are living in the gap

The collapse of complex business models ;

We live in the gap between the old and complex business models and the new and direct business model thanks to the amount of technology and the accessibility of it, entrepreneurs have the necessary tools required to create far reaching enterprises with very little capital.

Having just launched our first app ( a simple app giving product description, range and allowing you call directly a special sales line ) and seen the success and the problems that arose we are in development of our next upgrade / pivot and shall be applying lessons learnt from @TechRepublic ( )

One of the main issues we faced was exposure! Advertisement to get the word out , gaining traction :-

Caveat before you go starting up read this on start ups and technical founders :via @sitepointmatt ( )

Once you startup and are in need of media exposure ask yourself this :

  • Why are you advertising (the objectives)?
  • Who are you trying to influence (the target audience)?
  • What do you want to communicate about the brand (the message)?
  • Why do you think people will believe it (the reasons to believe/proof points)?
  • How do you want to say it (tone & manner)?
  • What do you think people will say after seeing/hearing it (the desired outcome)?
  • What can’t you say/do, and what do you have to say/do (the so-called ‘mandatories’)?

In Nigeria; press adverts are very expensive , they are also the only way to reach a broad audience quick

The one thing you shall soon discover with socialmedia is there is no point in fishing in your own pond

In Nigeria, the use of the internet is very limited and access is mainly by Mobile there are over 1million registered blackberry users in Lagos

The vast majority of its population is below 30 years and the vast majority of its wealth is trapped in the 50 and above age group

The opportunity lies in; creating a layer of SME’s to act as the glue between both groups

To create enterprise that requires relatively little start up capital, approx the cost of a used car

To use technology to provide information of goods and services available therefore increasing awareness and transparency

Fostering choice and efficiency

Ultimately reducing the price of goods increasing the relative value of labour encouraging enterprise creativity and thrift

Task :-

Using the power of Facebook To access the Gap Generation empowering them to utilise the labour capital of the under 30’s and access the financial capital of the over 50’s

Resoucery: tools ,rules and advice via Google , @rosiefresh ,@martinsoorjoo , ,

In the mean time I have gone to buy an android phone thanks to @TechRepublic

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

“People assume there's a market for what they're offering. Sometimes you have to create the market —not an easy task #SocEntChat

The week started with a couple of tweets from @saymama1 by the @theeconomist the first on diaspora bonds could lead to cheap finance if followed to its logical conclusion but then business is about making maximum profit right ? wrong .

The second was an article on Governor Fashola and the work he is doing in trying to transform Lagos not an easy task .

Last weekend I had been in Surulere for a wedding and had travelled from my Ikeja base taking 3rd mainland bridge gone sailing at the Marina and then taking western avenue back home via the wedding all along the transformation was incredible there were gardens along the route and people enjoying these recreational areas and people employed in the upkeep you can’t get more grass root than planting grass.

Surulere is a village it was built to house the displaced residence of isale eko the original heart of Lagos and it maintains this strong neighborhood feel ,it is intimate in size and individual in character while retaining its homogenous nature due to the plot sizes.This middle class enclave became hell on earth to live in with the failure of the national electrical power company in the 80’s The sound of the generators providing power was nothing short of apocalyptic

People who could left , rents failed , upkeep disappeared ,the roads and drains were washed away you couldn’t get a better pinup for the state of the nation .

And then Democracy came calling and the roads have been fixed the drains are being replaced and the gardens and recreational areas redone it is impressive during the day, and you wonder when the landlords will get on board and start sprucing up their buildings to complement the governments work. Dusk arrives and the sound of the generators kicks in, the air quality deteriorates, and all of a sudden you realize why all the houses are so dirty as you are reminded of the effects of smug and acid rain and the look of europe in the 70’s and 80’s

As a kid we would leave colorful Lego like Lagos and go on summer trips to dull grey London looking now at places like notting hill and maidavale funny how things change .

In other news a pilot scheme is due to be started shortly providing 10megawatts of electricity from gas turbines in ijora to lagos Island to serve street lights in 24 streets and core government facilitys the hospitals etc after a hiatus of of 40 years Lagos Island which had an electric grid and an electric tram before the city of London will once again have 24hr light albeit in just a few places

Being part of the solution we have decided to start to develop a platform that can deliver complimentary services to the government and create jobs for the populace SME are the largest providers of jobs in a city and we intend to be fully in support of this sector by bringing creative solutions so that when the generators are finally silenced and the cleanup begins in ernest we would have created the market in the meantime aluta continua what robertdeniro thought me via @hnshah “if you are not part of the solution you are part of the Problem

Problem/why not

1, no basic infrastructure roads rails or efficient transportation to allow for distribution safe and quickly therefore ability to expand network expensive and cumbersome warehouse have to be established with huge sitting inventory to enable a large enough range of colors and products are carried no capital available besides it wouldn’t be the most efficient use of capital

2,No community of painters decorators interior designers and architects exsist no forum to target through trade media or events

3, No distribution network like large home improvement centers or department stores to handle facilitate national distribution which means there are typically at least 5 middlemen involved in even the simplest building material trade

4, no information as to price or quality readily available , costing a project becomes a nightmare

5, the constant smog from generators defeats the idea of trying to maintain a pristine external walls


6, lagos alone has a gdp of 46 billiondollars it is the 3rd largest economy in Africaand is a developing nation

7, technology to produce base colors means inventory can be reduced and tinting machines have been reduced in price making them affordable meaning you can develop color centres selling a business instead of a product

8, 1 million bb sets in the market! smart phone technology means we can introduce apps in to the market as our primary marketing vehicle

9 a recognised brand giving us legitimacy

10 capability and technology required to scale