Ayo Alonge, [email protected]
Ebele Nwune is the Chief Executive Officer of Xpat Graphics Print Limited, a printing press based in Lagos and other parts of the country. The story of Nwune’s success in the printing business is that of a passionate entrepreneur who had to quit his banking job just to explore the potential in printing.
According to him, although there are challenges that greet the business, ranging from high interest rate to economic instability, the business is still a very lucrative one worth venturing into by willing entrepreneurs.
Nwune, in this interview, however, spoke to Daily Sun on how he mitigates the challenges, while also fielding questions that bother on competition and profitability in his line of business.
I was already in the business of printing as a banker. While in banking, I was doing business part time as a banker before opting out for printing full time. I had to quit because the banking job has limitations for a lot of us who have the drive for entrepreneurship. For example, you cannot grant an interview and you cannot place an advert for your corporate business. These were some of the things I considered before I quit. I was into business already before joining banking.
This is a business opportunity I have considered as very huge. It is a very lucrative endeavour where creativity comes in. Creativity helps you make a difference. It is an industry that gives the opportunity for more to be done through innovations. There is a huge opportunity in the printing industry.
I have been into banking and I understand what is called business and social networking. If you network properly, you will be able to get to where you are supposed to be in few years. If you know how to connect, the journey becomes easier for you. There is no business without its challenges and this one is not an exception. One of the major challenges here is manpower. That is, people knowing what to do without much supervision. Someone can have the interest but without the creative skills. Another challenge is the cost of the machineries. That can be very tasking. There are also some other challenges which are peculiar to the general business climate, like the traffic situation which is a tough one in Lagos.
In the business of printing, you need to understand what the customers need. You need to also know that the value you are delivering is according to customers’ description, not what you think is good. You need to meet up with the customer’s expectations and that is the way you can thrive. A lot of people don’t position properly. You need to position the business. What that means is that you must define the market you want to serve. You might choose to serve the manufacturers. Are you going to be positioning your business to them or to the consumers? When the people you want to serve do not know, you are not yet in business. Barely six months into the business, I made my first million. The business is not like buying and selling where the customer sees what he likes and pays for it immediately. There are always procedures for making good money. I was able to have an understanding of what a particular customer wants and by doing it in large numbers, I was able to attain that feat.
There are many ways to deal with high cost. First is to identify the type of jobs you can do that can fetch you the good profit margin. Even when the cost of materials is high, it is fine. From my experience in banking, there is what we call the 20/80 per cent rule where 20 per cent of the costing gives you 80 per cent profits margin.
You must be able to identify such type of jobs and look for ways to get it. When you do, you make maximum profits. For me, the business is very lucrative. In every endeavour you find yourself, you need to understand where the money is and go for it. Most people are into 80per cent of the jobs that don’t even give 20 per cent of the profit. If you are printing magazines, that gives a good margin and you make good money. You cannot compare it to getting a job that has to do with printing invitation cards. It is a business I would want to choose again, peradventure I come to another world, because the opportunities that abound here make it worth trying. Printing is one job that gives you enough money to fund another business that comes your way. Again, we sometimes give credit facilities to our clients but you give credit facilities to credible people who you know would surely pay.
Skills acquisition and apprenticeship
For now, I try to train those that work with me so they can give the value. We want to give the opportunity to as many who may want to come in. I am a writer too and I hope to write a book that would teach people on how good printing jobs are being done.
The first difference between what we have here and what is found in saner climes is that, technology wise, as far as printing is concerned, we are lagging behind when compared to saner climes. The dollar rate to the naira is a big cause of that for us here. The technology we have here is still encouraging to our people because we have not really had that drive to push for a more advanced technology found abroad. Imagine the high interest rate on loans here which is over 20 per cent. That cannot be compared to what is obtainable elsewhere. These are issues creating problems for the sector to thrive in Nigeria.
I am not entrepreneur that goes for loans because our environment is not even requiring us to get loans. Our people are still okay with the technology we have here. So, we don’t need any loan yet. We have the intention of running the business on a larger scale because printing is wide. You could choose to focus on packaging or security printing like bank security documents etc. The two of them are very lucrative because they have high requirements and huge demands. They have the huge market and the competition is very low. The few people that are in there are enjoying it.
The message I have for entrepreneurs and investors is to have clarity on what they are set to do. There is money on the streets and you need to know how to get it. Don’t even say I don’t know how to get the capital.
Once your vision is well articulated, you can easily attract creditors who would set you up. You would need to define points like your targeted customers and the intended profits to be made at a given period of time.