Over time, the Igbo people residing in the eastern region of Nigeria have demonstrated their exceptional industriousness in their approach to business. And if you pay attention, you can pick core business lessons from the Igbos.
From their apprenticeship-based business model to their unwavering entrepreneurial spirit and effective sales and marketing strategies, the Igbos are widely recognized as an embodiment of expertise in the Nigerian business arena.
Despite the fact that this tribe nearly faced genocide during the Nigerian civil war, they have emerged as iconic business leaders, and there are numerous valuable business lessons that can be gleaned from their success. They are affectionately referred to as “importers” and “exporters,” and their accomplishments serve as a testament to their exceptional business acumen.
The Igbos, also known as the Ndigbos, constitute approximately 18% of Nigeria’s estimated population of 180 million. One cannot help but admire the resourcefulness and entrepreneurial acumen displayed by the Igbos.
This remarkable trait is not limited to Nigeria’s borders; the international community can also attest to the Igbos’ exceptional ability, particularly in the realm of import and export trade.
One of the quickest ways to acquire a skill or master a craft is to draw inspiration from those who have a proven track record of success in that particular field. The Igbos are a prime example of such individuals.
Therefore, let us look to the Igbos for guidance and adopt five valuable business lessons from their experiences.
5 Business Lessons From The Igbos
In this article, we will look at five core business lessons from the Igbos that you can use to grow your business.
Tenacity and Perseverance
The Nigerian business environment is notoriously challenging, making it difficult for entrepreneurs to establish and sustain their businesses.
Despite recent improvements in Nigeria’s ranking on the ease of doing business index, the reality on the ground is that doing business in Nigeria is far from straightforward. This is where tenacity comes in.
The Igbos, who have business acumen encoded in their DNA, are naturally tenacious. They possess an inherent doggedness that enables them to weather the storms of the Nigerian business landscape.
One of the essential business lessons we can learn from the Igbos is their ability to find a way to run their businesses, even in the most challenging circumstances. They view obstacles as opportunities to grow and are willing to swim against the tide.
Every entrepreneur should strive to cultivate these traits because they are critical to overcoming the first hurdle. It’s a well-known fact that tough times don’t last, but tough people do. That’s what separates entrepreneurs from everyone else. You must be resilient and persistent because what lies ahead is tough, and if you’re not tough enough, it will break you.
Apprenticeship and Mentorship
The Igbo tradition of apprenticeship is a reflection of their entrepreneurial spirit. This system involves inducting young Igbos, mostly into entrepreneurial ventures by established entrepreneurs, referred to locally as “Oga.”
The novice entrepreneur is then trained and groomed in the business of trade, importation, or any other field of interest. They become mentees under their Boss’ tutelage and learn the fundamentals of the business world based on their realities.
Undoubtedly, one of the valuable business lessons we can learn from the Igbos is their apprenticeship system. This has been tested and trusted for years, even beyond the conventional MBA.
The system involves hands-on learning on the field, where direct access to the market and its needs is available. It provides access to raw data, which helps define how to position one’s brand and the type of business model to use when engaging the market.
These are business secrets that cannot be learned from a book; they require direct engagement with the market. The success of the Igbos’ industrious nature is anchored in mentorship, where hands-on learning is from an expert in the field.
Flexibility is important in the business world, especially in Nigeria, where things are constantly changing. The Igbos know this and are very flexible. They can adapt to any situation, including changes in policies.
It’s important for entrepreneurs to be flexible and not stick to rigid systems. Innovation is happening quickly, and industries are changing. If you don’t adapt, you might fail.
The Covid-19 pandemic made this trait even more important. Businesses had to make changes to stay alive, and the Igbos have been doing this for a long time.
Another Shop; No Deal Slides Away
The Igbos have a business practice where they always have ‘another shop’. Believe me, there’s no other shop. It is a law in their “business constitution” that states that every viable business deal must be sealed.
If a customer wants to buy something they don’t have, they will say they need to check their other shop and may buy the item from another vendor in the same market, sharing the profit instead of losing the deal.
This is because every deal is important and can be profitable. As a business person, it’s important to treat every deal with respect because you never know which one will be successful and make a big difference.
Great Risk Appetite And Adventurous
The Igbo people’s entrepreneurial spirit is characterized by their remarkable risk-taking ability and adventurous mindset. While others may hesitate to venture into certain areas, the Igbo fearlessly and tirelessly take on challenges in their business pursuits, making risk-taking a regular part of their daily routine.
They are well-known for their ubiquitous presence in various regions of Nigeria and beyond, and their ability to adapt and assimilate to local cultures and customs makes them appear to be a part of those communities.
Their adventurous nature is not limited by geographic boundaries, as they keep a keen eye and ear out for new opportunities that they can leverage. When they identify a prospect, they are quick to seize it, whether it is within or outside of Nigeria.
This attitude explains why Igbo traders can be found in almost every corner of the world. They do not sit back and rest on their laurels, but instead keep moving forward, constantly searching for new places to explore and new opportunities to create.
In Nigeria, there are various tribes and cultures, but the Igbos from the eastern part of the country are widely considered the best in business.
They are involved in almost every profitable business, ranging from retail to shipping, hospitality, import, and export.
Their passion for doing business is unmatched, and their business acumen is natural, irrespective of age. Recognizing this strength, they have harnessed it to create wealth for themselves.
Which of these business lessons from the Igbos do you relate to the most? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.
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