What I Gave Up to Start My Business - Uyai Effiong

We got talking with Areedi's Lead Consultant, Uyai Effiong, this week about running a successful business. Uyai has had over 5 years of consulting experience in Nigeria. She has experience with clients of varying sizes in industries such as financial services, oil & gas, FMCG as well as small businesses. She has designed business processes, streamlined supply chains, performed business diagnoses, reduced costs, improved workplace productivity, and trained employees. Her specialities include Strategy, Operations, Financial Services, Service Design, Process Design

What is your "productivity hack"?

Oooh, what a question! I have certain times of the day when I’m more productive – morning before 11, late afternoon, sometimes 10pm. So, I know what times I’m likely to get some heavy work done. I’m more likely to schedule meetings when I know I’d rather not be at my desk. (Although I’ve also learned to be flexible for my clients). I also use several to-do list type apps. Currently, I like Asana (to manage my team) and Todoist (to manage my personal to do list). I usually carry a notebook as well. Sometimes ideas come in the most interesting places!

What do you love the most about what you do? 

Meeting new people and businesses around Nigeria. People are doing such interesting things! I love the fact that many people have great business ideas. And I’m happy to help them improve their operations so that they can spend more time doing what they love. 

What do you look for when hiring staff?

I look for smart people who are curious about their environment. I need people who want to understand a business problem from many angles, and be serious about trying to find a solution. I also like people who can write impeccable English. Our work at Areedi requires a lot of documentation, so this requirement is really non-negotiable. 

If you could go back to before you started Areedi, what would you do differently?

Hmm, that’s tough. I’d probably spend more time networking, and less time in front of a computer. In my business, referrals are so important. My business grows based on who knows our work. Referrals are great, and I’m always thankful for them, but I could also be proactive and try to drum up more business. 

As a woman, how do you handle sexism in business?

Three categories: Ignore, Correct, Fight Back.

Ignore: Some comments are not worth responding to, so I ignore those. 
Correct: Some people genuinely don’t know their being sexist. I correct them and hope that they don’t do it again
Fight Back: Some cases require a response and continued pressure for the offender to do the right thing. 

This is probably the most cliche question you get asked but: what's your advice to people like you who want to step out and create their own thing?

Well, there’s no one path to success in business. Everyone is going to find their own way. However, I’d advise that anyone who wants to be successful has to be ready to work really, really hard. Hard work is non-negotiable. Also, no cutting corners for your customers or clients. If you’re going to do something and take people’s money, do it the right way. 

What did you give up to start your business?

Time! I gave up a lot of free time to do this business. In some jobs, you can be reasonably done with work at a certain hour in the evening. But with consulting, there’s always one thing or the other to do. Even when not physically working on a project, some client issues take over my headspace and I find my mind drifting back to work every so often. 

Just for fun, what's your favorite book? 

I don’t have one particular favorite – it changes quite often. So I’ll tell you what I’m reading – currently re-reading Nelson Mandela’s Long Walk to Freedom. It’s quite lengthy but always a good read.