Aliko Dangote is a huge success, much loved and admired by many, especially those who have tried their hands on entrepreneurship and realized that it takes more than having a rich father to achieve what the Billionaire has been able to achieve.
Dangote’s life is a chronicle of business lessons and mentorship, especially for any entrepreneur wading through the ‘sometimes murky’ waters of entrepreneurship in Nigeria. But the biggest lessons from the calm Billionaire are tied around opportunities; identifying them early, and taking advantage of them.
Spot opportunities early
There can be nothing worse for a business person than for him to only discover an opportunity after his competitor has started exploring it. This trait can be learned with time, but in the case of this billionaire, one may say that he was born with it. From buying cartons of sweets to satisfy the cravings of his classmates as a pupil, Alhaji Aliko has further developed that ability to spot opportunities early.
They can be hidden in something another business is not doing right, or as in the case of the petroleum refining project, a vacuum in a sector. The Dangote refinery is yet to kick off operations fully, but several reports and predictions from experts are anticipating fantastic results for the company, as well as Nigeria (given the recurring fuel scarcity). The billionaire spotted an opportunity , and ventured in early enough to have used as much as five years planning for takeoff.
If you educate yourself enough, you can anticipate opportunities
The ability to anticipate opportunities before they even happen is an even better option for you. If you are creative and enlightened enough, you can anticipate opportunities in line with the expected future trends in the market. As we say it, some opportunities are based on what the consumer needs desperately and is willing to pay for. Other opportunities exist where the consumers do not even know what they need yet. It is you, the entrepreneur who will create the product and show them that they need it. For example, back in 1990, Dangote did ask the Central Bank of Nigeria to allow his transport company to take care of their fleet of vehicles. That business move paid off greatly, but it was really an anticipated opportunity, not one that the customer knew he needed.
Be firm and decisive. Decide what is worth pursuing, and when is the right time to pursue it.
Not every opportunity is meant to be pursued. And for some others, the timing may just be a bit off. Some opportunities are meant to be pursued right away, especially if they align with something you are doing already. Some others require months and years of preparation like the Dangote Refinery. When you decide, be firm with your decision.
Grab the opportunities as soon as you can
It is one thing to spot an opportunity and entirely another thing to be bold enough to take it by the horns. While addressing a group of young entrepreneurs a couple of years ago, Alhaji Dangote said “Entrepreneurship is all about opportunities” with a stern warning attached; “Don’t lose opportunities”.
In the same gathering, Dangote mentioned that sometimes entrepreneurs mourn their failures too long, only to discover later that their competitor has taken over the opportunities. You need to take time to find out why you failed, but you need to do it quickly because of competition.
Be open-minded to spot opportunities outside your current industry
Imagine what might have been the result if Dangote only focused on the food industry where he started. He would have missed out on several other opportunities. Keeping an open mind allowed him to move on to cement manufacturing when the opportunity came up, into sugar manufacturing, and most recently, petroleum refining. What would it have been if he buried his head in the food industry where he started. He would have missed out on several opportunities in other sectors.
As an entrepreneur, you should train your mind early enough to see opportunities and quickly identify the ones that are worth pursuing.