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Seven-Up Boss Gives Strategic Tips For SME Growth

Strategic Tips For SME Growth


With a wealth of experience spanning over three decades, Ziad Maalouf, Managing Director of Seven-Up Bottling Company (SBC), is undoubtedly someone whom a small enterprise owner would value spending a few minutes with.

Over the weekend, 40 small and medium-sized enterprise owners had the luxury of hours of lectures and interaction with this highly experienced entrepreneur.

This opportunity was made possible through the SMEs Scale-Up Bootcamp, organised by SBC in partnership with Zenith Bank and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

After running his business and working with multinational companies in Asia, Ziad has dedicated over 17 years to working in Nigeria with SBC. He admires the spirit and business acumen of Nigerian entrepreneurs, and he believes in the importance of fostering the growth of this vital sector in the Nigerian economy by empowering entrepreneurs to scale. Participants at the bootcamp were enthusiastic about his depth of knowledge and found his practical and engaging presentation inspiring.

Here is a summary of scaling tips for budding entrepreneurs provided by Ziad:

Identify your ‘sweet spot’: A sweet spot is a combination of three things that every entrepreneur must get right. According to Ziad, not every idea will scale up. Ideas with the potential for scaling are those that harmonise your experience, passion, and address a genuine need in the world (or have the potential to do so). Ziad advised entrepreneurs that if their current business fails to encompass all three aspects, a reconsideration is necessary. “You might just be in the wrong business,” he emphasised.

Avoid look-alike recruitment: When Ziad mentioned this, almost all the entrepreneurs in the room felt guilty. It’s one of the traps several entrepreneurs fall into. He recommended the SABI (Strive, Accountability, Bonding and Innovation) formula for entrepreneurs when recruiting and task allocation. He said, as innovators, entrepreneurs should scout for talents and skills they lack in others.

Network: Ziad emphasises that startups often overlook the importance of networking. He asserts, “Your business won’t scale up until you elevate your relationships.” Additionally, he underscores the significance of a robust network in times of crisis, stating, “If you are scaling up, you need to be prepared for crises, as they will inevitably confront you, especially as a big company.”

Increase willingness to pay: This is tied to creating value that will make the customer want to pay more for your product or service. Ziad said businesses willing to scale must provide functional, social, and emotional value. “What many entrepreneurs don’t know is that customers are willing to pay more if you offer the value. This is what gives an edge over a competitor. When you have the value that the world needs, customers will neglect other products for yours.”

Distinguish cash and profit: According to Ziad, this is a part that has killed millions of SMEs. “Profit is not cash. Cash tells you how well your business is doing financially. It shows you how much you earned in a period, not how much you have left. A profitable business can run into trouble if it does not have cash. Cash is the oxygen of the business. Lose it and you are gone,” he said.

Teamwork: Ziad acknowledged that entrepreneurs want to be involved in every aspect, but warned that it’s a pitfall to avoid. He advised that a  passionate leader of a business should build a team and delegate work. “Spend more time on ideas to grow the business rather than stalling the growth by trying to micromanage,” he said.

Know when to take a loan: For growth and expansion, he said there is usually a need for a loan if your savings can’t cover the capital needed. “When I hear people say I run a debt-free company, I smile. It sounds stupid to me. For instance, I don’t see why you should not take a loan of N100m at 25% interest rate a year if it will yield you a profit of N200m in two years.  Another thing to note is to be honest with the banks when taking loans. Of the five Cs of lending (Character, Capacity, Condition, Capacity and Collateral), character is very key to accessing loans. Yes, we want to paint good pictures to impress the banks, but they also look at your sincerity and honesty while presenting your plan,” he said.

Adopt artificial intelligence: Ziad also advised entrepreneurs to adopt technology that will boost their productivity, efficiency, and quality of products and services. This, he said, is key to scaling in today’s business world.