Image credit: Ndidi Azaah
Popularly known as “The Navigator,” Ndidi Azaah is a business consultant and the founder of Zuriel Business Solutions; a business consultancy firm dedicated to helping businesses build customized business solutions that target their business needs, guarantees employee performance, business profitability and sustainability.
Ndidi got inspired to become a business consultant as a result of the struggles she witnessed entrepreneurs face for not having the right business foundation and structures necessary to help them financially, ensure growth and expansion, and build a sustainable business. She has worked with several business owners and businesses; locally and internationally to increase sales, create processes, and build a mindset that works for personal and business growth.
In this interview with Leading Ladies Africa, Ndidi tells us about Zuriel Business Solutions and its offerings, why female entrepreneurs must be confident and tips for young ladies sojourning into the entrepreneurship world. Lean in!
Can you briefly describe yourself and your business?
My name is Ndidi Azaah, a graduate of Library and Information Science from Delta State University. I also have an MBA in Business Administration from ESUT Business School, Enugu. I am a member of the Nigerian Institute of Management (NIM), certified as a Project Management Professional and also certified in Manufacturing Processes by Lagos Business School. I am very passionate and a people person. I strongly believe that you can get anything done or do anything, once you master how to influence people and their minds.
And that’s why my greatest definition of leadership is “being able to influence people to do what you want them to do, without them realizing they are doing it for you.” I love people.
I’ve had my little fair share of struggles. From staying at home for almost 5years before gaining admission into the university to attempting suicide, studying a course I disliked, been locked up… Finding myself in all of these challenges was my biggest gain.
Zuriel Business Solutions was birthed as a result of the struggles I experienced small and medium business owners go through in trying to bring to reality the innermost vision for their businesses. The struggles they had with handling growth when the business became bigger than them, and basically laying the right foundation for building a profitable and sustainable business. Since I started out as a sales officer and grew to marketing, customer service, operations, business development and having to manage an organization with 3 different strategic units, ensured that I learnt firsthand, what was needed to start and grow a profitable and sustainable business, and ensuring proper use of adequate resources.
Zuriel Business Solutions has a vision to be the most trusted business management firm, recognized and distinguished by its clients for delivering innovative solutions, with passion and uniqueness. Our core values are customized business solutions, a passion for professionalism and excellence, growth and great people. One unique thing about us is our understanding of the fact that a business is always a reflection of the personality of its owner; hence, our solutions are distinct. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, as we put into consideration, the values and realities of our clients.
What is it like, being an entrepreneur, and why did you choose to be one?
Wow! First of all, it is great being a female (laughs). Being a female entrepreneur in a time like this means that I put in more work in knowing myself, being confident, putting in more work in a possibly more aggressive manner to get results, be willing to be tested, tried and proven to gain “access to the table”.
While in the university, I wouldn’t have imagined being an entrepreneur. I always perused the idea of being an executive lady boss in an employed situation. That mentality did help a lot as I went through work life.
At the point in my life where I became a business development manager in a Haier Thermocool Showroom and witnessed the struggles my boss was having; having to create and implement a structure that completely changed the business, PZ Cussons taking note of the changes I made because I changed some of the things they did in our showroom, PZ sending me some of their franchise showroom owners and their managers to train, replicating results, I just knew then that I could do more for a lot of business owners and potential customers in other areas I plan to branch out to. That was when I knew I wanted to become an entrepreneur.
What new innovation have you introduced to your business?
My practical experience working for and with entrepreneurs reflects in the way I address issues with my clients. It is most definitely not textbook-like. Permit me to say this – I strongly believe that studying to become, and practising to become, don’t give the same results. Over time, they meet. So, I would say, I introduced a more street-wise approach to getting results for my clients.
Image credit: Ndidi Azaah
What will you say is responsible for your success so far?
Resilience. I am also self-motivated. I usually state that nobody has the power or right to put or talk me down. I alone have that power. My ability to stay strong in the face of challenges has kept me going. I live in Asaba where a lot of people have told me I can’t make it because of the mentality of the average person here. I’m constantly advised to move to Lagos to land bigger clients. Well, thanks to the internet, I am defeating that. So resilience, self-motivation and a genuine love to help has taken me thus far and is still taking me farther.
In your opinion, would you say that there are any unique challenges that female entrepreneurs face?
Absolutely! The average female entrepreneur, especially, at the point of establishing a start-up is sometimes seen as a joke, an opportunist, a rebel, an object to be taken advantage of, or whatever depending on her immediate environment (from both males and even females). This means that we have to put in more work, push harder and do virtually everything a little more extra than men to be taken seriously.
However, one thing I’ve found interesting is that once we prove we can handle our businesses excellently and profitably, we become respected, feared, admired, and a reference; either secretly or publicly. It will go from being seen as a joke to being seen as proud and few others, but at that point, I know the woman is winning (smiles).
One key factor that will make women excel more as entrepreneurs and in life is emotional intelligence, especially, as it regards self-awareness. This is one area the men folks do better. Once we become self-aware and own the fact of who we are and what we want, success becomes more reachable. Take a look at every successful woman, high emotional intelligence radiates from them.
What values and principles have helped you so far?
- Integrity, love and respect for people of every class.
- I’m always open to learning.
- I don’t judge what I don’t understand or don’t have full knowledge of.
Image credit: Ndidi Azaah
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced, and what’s kept you going?
Most of the challenges are from my immediate business environment. Most people don’t understand the need for a business consultant, basic training for them as business owners and their staff. They also find it difficult paying for knowledge.
Another issue is the tech aspect. I’m not tech-savvy; so, that’s a challenge, coupled with the fact that getting people who can help around me has been almost impossible.
The desire to succeed, being financially independent, wanting to see businesses handle their challenges from a point of knowledge and succeeding has kept me going. I don’t like the statistics that say most businesses shut down within the first 5 years. I want to see it change. Looking at it, the reason for such statistics is just lack of basic business knowledge; nothing extraordinary. I want to change that narrative.
2015 to 2017 was a very tough one. I was arrested and locked up in State CID and Alagbon, Lagos. Our accountant stole and being the Manager, I was held responsible and falsely accused. What saved me was the facts and figures presented and integrity. However, I learnt lessons from that experience that even the best business school may not teach. I use my story to teach employees and entrepreneurs some hard lessons.
What is your 5-Year plan for Zuriel Business Solutions?
My aspiration for the next 5 years is to see Zuriel Business Solutions create strategic business units, with trained professionals to handle consultancy services for the government and big organizations.
What do upcoming female entrepreneurs need to do to be successful in this path?
- Emotional Intelligence
- They need to be fearless and resilient. They should know they are worthy of great success and own it without apologies.
- They need to learn as much as possible, basic business skills. They may not master all, but learn the basics that have to do with their type of business and its industry.
- Study the competition. Find their weaknesses and areas they are not paying much attention to and use it as a strength/marketing point. “You cannot sell against what your competition does best and you don’t! You sell against what you do best that they don’t”.
- Interact and network with like-minded women.
- Understand the concept of work-life balance.
- Never stop seeking knowledge.
The Lady Boss Series is a weekly interview series that highlights the achievements and entrepreneurial journeys of African female entrepreneurs. The idea is to showcase the Leading Ladies who are transforming Africa and the African narrative through enterprise and business.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes leadership, inclusion and diversity for women of African descent.
If you know any kick-ass women of African Descent doing phenomenal things in enterprise, email firstname.lastname@example.org, and she could possibly be featured.