“I can’t believe this is happening to me! Zuri panicked as she shook her head and stared at her account balance. It was the middle of the month and she had a little over eighty thousand (Naira) left in her bank. To be fair, this would seem like a lot to some, but her expenses told a different story. This balance would barely make a dent in the bills she had piled up, and she wasn’t expecting any new funds ‘til the end of the month. Even then, she wouldn’t be able to cover the bills that has just arrived.”
In the very first chapter of The Smart Money Woman, this is how we are introduced to Zuri Goubadia, the protagonist of The Smart Money Book series, who finds herself in a position most women (African to millennial) know all too well, living from paycheck to paycheck with a middle-class lifestyle. Set in the hustle and bustle of Lagos, Nigeria, the book follows Zuri as she tackles debt, building her wealth, her career and relationships. She is joined on this journey by her friends Tami, Ladun, Adesuwa and Lara whose different circumstances and relationship with money adds to the texture of the multi-dimensional representation and complexity of the black woman (across the Diaspora and continent) in dealing with life’s many money ups and downs.
The author, Arese Ugwu is a high-powered entrepreneur in wealth management, executive producer and the voice behind The Smart Money Tribe podcast. She credits much of her success the many years in corporate Nigeria, being educated across Africa, Europe and Asia, and her own financial freedom journey.
I met Arese in 2019 at one of the events for the World Economic Forum on Africa in Cape Town, South Africa, and since then I've consumed and engaged with her products (from the books to the interviews) as she communicates financial management with a rich finesses.
Throughout the book series, Arese employs a principle of communicating financial wellness and wealth creation effortlessly through the circumstances of Zuri and her tribe, coupled with Smart Money Lessons and exercises that are practical enough even for the non-financial reader who is flirting with the idea of investing and financial freedom.
In the first book, The Smart Money Woman, where we first meet Zuri who finds herself in an insurmountable amount of debt, we are ushered into her state of wellbeing as she navigates her fears and beliefs about money that have led her to only a few thousand Nairas. Through the lived experiences of her shared relationships, the book does justice to unloading concepts like financial abuse, intrapreneurship, emergency funds, the power of networking and understanding the roots of your money language.
The evolution of Zuri, Tami, Ladun, Adesuwa and Lara’s relationship unfolds in The Smart Money Tribe, as Arese provides the readers with the Guide to Making Bank through the main theme of the book of group economics. From setting financial boundaries with family, to the transition of a lifestyle adjustment and raising capital for your business to setting a framework for group savings and investment consortiums, the second book of the series expands the concept of what a Smart Money Woman is and how her network influences her networth.
“Intrapreneurship is the implementation of start-up practices in large corporations to produce valued innovation. Those kinds of workers are value-driven, adopt critical thinking methodologies and use innovation to solve problems within the business.” – Smart Money Lesson, Intrapreneurship: Chapter 4, The Smart Money Tribe
How do all of these converge to bring you best-selling books that have impacted women across the continent to invest and build their wealth, and fall in love with these five fictional characters who have now been turned into a TV series? You’ll have to read the many chapters to find out.
Conversations about money for me have always been anxiety inducing, unless it was about spending it. As I’m going through my own Zuri (with a bit of Lara and Tami) financial journey of wealth creation through Vuyolwethu as a Service and InnovTel, all while in a wahala of a global pandemic, going into the new year with these two books that I re-read from December January to 2021 was the exact guide and affirmation that I needed.
The Smart Money Woman and The Smart Money Tribe are the books you need if you are ready to start making the necessary steps to understand the financial situation of your life, and take responsibility of the relationship that you have with money, as well the language and mindset that you carry about money into your relationships across the many facets of your life. And, with the Yoruba and pidgin spoken in the books, I’m positive that my next trip to Nigeria will be filled with more jollof and spicy rice, and a better understanding of the language
Over the past 18 months, the concept of impact and innovation has been heavily on my mind, business and personal development. From designing impact, to evaluating and unpacking it through learning and development gamification. In the journey to answer these questions (with the background in corporate innovation and impact acceleration), I established InnovTel and have been relentlessly enquiring and reiterating since the establishment of the firm, working and partnering with institutions from Europe to Africa to do so.
What has been the result?
The answer has been consistent across verticals with the practice of three core principles in impact innovation, and that is built in the wire of understanding, designing and monitoring and evaluating the impact of your business. A few of these answers are also detailed in the seven free resources (mentioned below) which you can have access when you subscribe to the www.vdubese.com monthly newsletter.
Let’s unpack these principles:
Impact is the result of what value has been created from the immediate consumption of a product.
In late 2020, I was invited by Lufthansa Group’s Inaugural Impact Week for South Africa engaging in impact design and business innovation. Impact Week is a global design thinking challenge that promotes innovation and entrepreneurship and has been held in Nepal, Nigeria, and Colombia to mention a few.
At the heart of the keynote was designing impact, and how inclusion should inform the kind of innovation that has potential to be impactful and intelligent. I broke this down to what I identified as the 3 I’s of how to actualise (“Inclusion Informs Intelligent, Impactful Innovation”) and model impact into the process of engineering a solution as per the design thinking challenge.
Design thinking refers to the cognitive, strategic, and practical processes by design making this composition of this definition inclusive, that makes it inclusive. Marking the foundation of design thinking in creating a solution is inclusive, how can one enhance the model with intelligence and impact to truly capacitate its potential?
Getting started with the Impact Resource Playbook is a good starting point.
Understanding what impact is and means for your business the first step, and one in the right direction to fully actualise the evolution of the company (and product) value. Once you have the data and harnessed the intelligence, a framework must exist of how this impact will be delivered – a strategy if you will, that will aid and abet the execution. Tools like the Impact Delivery Framework resource that I’ve curated come in handy, whether you have established a company or are in the early stages of your business. What does this resource achieve? It is a 3 page document with a guide of questions to help you consult how your business has been delivering its impact, how it can enhance the experience and process for stakeholders, and whether the process is an opportunity for a model upgrade.
Monitor and Evaluate it
“Investors were looking for some kind of objectivity about the question ‘What is impact?’ And the SDGs do give a roadmap. Bridges uses the SDGs to source business opportunities, and CDC is incorporating them into the development impact thesis of every new investment. The SDGs have galvanized a tremendous amount and a growing amount of private sector capital,” - Michele Giddens, co-CEO at Bridges Fund Management, and a non-executive director on the board of CDC Group.
To echo Michele’s outline of what impact can be used for, from sourcing business opportunities to employing investment, the framework that you develop can achieve a great outcome that contribute to the firm’s triple bottom line . How you monitor, evaluate and report your impact strategy makes difference, one that can access you to funding opportunities or weaponise the board to distrust your implementation.
This e-book covers a soft introduction to M&E covering strategy, modelling, stakeholders and reporting. Get yours here!
The impact of your business far outlives the output that you produce, it’s the tree that you should have planted 20 years ago. I’m one who finds thrill in the use of alliteration, and for the sake of the topic, I’d say ‘Invest In Impact Innovation” for your business.
Is this where the impact innovation process ends?
No, it is only the beginning. Investing in this evolving process spans the risk investment framework of your business and informs its trajectory inclusive of financial returns. Innovation is a continuous process dedicated to optimization, it is about finding and leaving something better than you found it, and as the vision of the company and technology of the products becomes optimised with AI and annual upgrades, why can’t the same effort be employed to the value that your stakeholders get from consuming your product?
As I’m writing this, I’ve a bottle of Prosecco Doc Luxury opened and multitasking as a writer and an impassioned drinker of Italian sparkling wine with my flute champagne glass. And due to COVID-19 (well, to some extent), I’m at home in my bed going through how I’ve documented 2020 across my social media platforms and my somewhat illegible printed journal. It’s been a year that has qualified in many books as forgettable and unforgettable, and in its wholesome character has been one that has summoned courage and resilience.
This year started with the embrace of calling me out of familiar environments, and into new territories that knew my capabilities and added capacity along the way. When I left the firm that I was with in late February, I was sure of a few things which included a moderator engagement in Kigali, Rwanda as well as a deserved vacation to a few emirates in the United Arab of Emirates – the trajectory of my career and life was from this point onwards was what I could not have mapped out happening in a space of a few months.
After taking about three months to wallow in the reality that showcased itself through the violence of a pandemic, these months were filled with the relentless job applications acceptances and rejections (that returned with over or under qualified response, or non-culture fit), refining the messaging and positioning of my personal brand, upskilling and consulting businesses and startups in business innovation and strategy. Garnering the momentum in these months, through the work of consulting and continuous effort in Vuyolwethu As A Service was an opportunity to work in the wait, as well as prepare for what the months of stupendous grace that August and the months that followed would present.
It’s often joked about that in 2020, you should at least come out with one skill and I suppose I took that joke a little too seriously. I’ve always been one to outsource the work of skills that I don’t have, which includes the building of this particular website, but through Innovtel, I had a bit too much time on my hands and tons of insomnia to challenge myself to build a website. Through this engagement came an opportunity to work with Lufthansa by being a keynote speaker at their inaugural Impact Week for South Africa and produce a guide of the talk available exclusively to my newsletter community; and a few weeks later, InnovTel (Pty) Ltd was born. Innovtel is an impact design studio that facilitates impact innovation and shared value through Marketing and MIL (monitoring, impact and learning and development). To date, we’ve worked with companies like the University of Cape Town and the Mastercard Foundation, and ShEquity and Bright Insights Global to mention a few, spanning our work across three continents and operating as a five figure business. I stubbornly had to let go of the idea of becoming an entrepreneur by 30, and honour the space in which I was and am being placed in at present.
The experience of shedding through loss of family and friendships, habitual lifestyles and an old self, commanded the fierce submission of the a new way of doing and being. Personally, one of the ways in which I did was through sitting and being at home instead of on a plane and sleeping in a newly made white sheet-fitted hotel room. It felt as if I had lost a sense of mobility and the perceived value that I had attached to it. At home, I had to buy a desk and set aside a space to operate as if I was in a hotel suite or an office, and it’s become a continued way of operating in awareness.
Words and paragraphs are not enough to encapsulate the year of the pivot that was, and the learnings and losses that it carried with it to benefit or throw us completely off. What new ways of being and doing have you had to adopt and adapt to?
I had a brief chat with Viresh Harduth who is the Vice President of Small Business, Sage Africa & Middle East about the vision and mission for Sage for small businesses across the region, and how your business can ready itself for the digital transformation and risk beyond COVID-19
1. Viresh, as Vice President of Small Business, Sage Africa & Middle East, what exactly does your role entail and how does it, and Sage support small businesses?
My job is to lead sales and renewals, channel development and customer engagement for our start-up and small business solutions portfolio. In practical terms, that means building awareness of our solutions in the marketplace, working with our business partners to help customers meet their business goals, and providing education and information to the market.
Sage’s vision in small business is to help our customers thrive by automating accounting and compliance and by coaching them to success. The way we do this is by reducing administration for our customers, helping customers to comply with tax regulations, and enabling businesses and their accountants to collaborate better.
2. In the established distinction of an SME and a Start-up, do Sage products apply to both? And at what stage should a business consider bringing in the skillset of accountancy and financing in their business, digitized or human capital?
Our goal at Sage is to build relationships with customers for life, so our Sage Business Cloud encompasses offerings for small businesses and start-ups through to sizeable medium businesses. Our solutions, designed for smaller businesses, are tailored to their specific needs, so they can subscribe and get up-and-running at an affordable cost.
Clients can start with a simple solution that makes it easy to invoice customers and track expenses, then move up the ladder to online and accounting solutions with richer functionality for budgeting, forecasting, multi-currency management, inventory tracking, employee self-service, debtors management and more.
Formal businesses – that is, limited companies – will need an accountant to prepare their annual financial statements. They will usually start by outsourcing to an accounting practice. Generally, it is only when the business grows into a larger and more complex operation that they will consider a permanent accountant. We are seeing accountants in practice become real advisors to small business clients, helping them with strategic advice around optimising costs and finding growth opportunities.
3. Before your current role, you were the Director of Optimisation and Operations at Sage International and I’d like to think that you, more than anyone else recognises the importance of embedding business optimization tools to contribute to your business’ success. How does and can Sage do this for small to medium businesses?
Our business solutions help our clients to optimise their business in two ways. Firstly, we streamline and automate many tasks for them, from financial recordkeeping, invoicing to filing tax submissions, saving them hours of human time each month. That time can then be directed to sales, strategy, billable work or other activities that add value. Automating red-tape and paperwork is a significant cost-saver.
Secondly, we understand that making the most of business opportunities must be balanced with managing cash flow and keeping costs under control. Companies need a clear, real-time view of how the business is performing to achieve that goal. Our solutions empower them with the business performance information they need to make good financial choices that translate into higher revenues and profits.
Making an investment in your business’ digital transformation is an investment that takes more than one purchase and optimising one process, it is an evolving strategy that takes time, skills and the right technology.
4. As small businesses are moving from being digitally resistant to the aspirational observers and challengers, and ultimately digital natives, what would be your advice to founders of things to consider as they map out their digital strategy?
Digital technology doesn’t need to be as complex as some small businesses outside the tech industry might imagine. A good place to start is by identifying areas where manual processes are slowing you down, costing you money, restricting your flexibility or hampering your customer experience. From there, you can look for cloud-based solutions that address your pain points through automation. Many of these tools can be trialed for a month or two for free.
To sum up: digital technology is at its most powerful when you’re starting with the goal of solving a business problem. As a small business owner, you might have limited budget and time to rapidly incorporate new technologies and skills into your business, so look for the quick wins. And remember that the cloud can adapt as your business changes and grows, remaining a valuable business tool that evolves with you.
5. Your message to founders as they are coming out of Global Entrepreneurship Month, and into a 2021 that will definitely still require us to do business differently?.
At Sage, we know the pandemic has compounded the effects of the recession, and that many small businesses are struggling just to pay the rent and keep the lights on. Their grit and resilience are inspiring, as is the role they are playing in maintaining jobs and economic activity throughout this time. But if you are running a small business, you’ll know that platitudes are not going to be enough.
There are no quick fixes for the damage that the pandemic may have dealt to your cash reserves and your cash flow. Nonetheless, there are also opportunities to get closer to your customers and find new purpose in a crisis. Stay focused on your vision, watch your cashflow, and look out for how customer behaviour is changing. Aiming for small wins makes you flexible, adaptable, and able to make faster decisions.
It’s the year that no futurist or economist could have predicted, one inhabited by a virus that would (and still) impact livelihoods, businesses, economies and our way of living. The negative socio-economic rippling effect of COVID-19 has been felt across all vectors, and in a similar light, has inspired entrepreneurial and innovative activity that’s yielded products and partnerships that have impacted and pivoted the world as we know it. On the 14th of October, I announced such a partnership, a SAGE Partnership to benefit small businesses across South Africa.
In the midst of the pandemic, and after weeks of anxiously contemplating whether to take the plunge and spending a week of building a facilitated learning platform, I launched www.innovtel.org which houses courses, e-books and InnovTel and Teach webinars on impact innovation. Birthed through our first partnership with a global leading aviation company in providing advisory and mentorship on impact innovation, InnovTel (Pty) Ltd (an impact design studio that facilitates impact innovation and shared value through design, advisory and project management) was registered a company was born.
You’re probably thinking, what a crazy time to launch! Me too, at first. I also thought, what a relevant time to engage on impact and tools that can innovatively impact the way in which we practice and understand impact. A necessary opportunity to map out what impact means for your business, and what tools to use when listening to the potential impact and growth that can be achieved.
Recently, through InnovTel and Teach, which is one of the products of www.innovtel.org , we engaged with an entrepreneur on how she is building her multi-million venture, and one of the core principles of this impact was finances. She simply said to build your business as though you are building a legacy baby and it was her accountant who gave her this sage advice.
Being a small business owner, I knew that I could waste no time in tracking the finances of my business, and in my relationship with data and intelligence, Excel was my chosen tool of choice for my business, coupled with my relationship with my banker in understanding the trajectory that I wanted to take my business in. However, I knew I needed more to optimise my operations, and my partnership with SAGE could not have been more timeous, especially since I didn’t have an accountant on my business speed dial.
SAGE, a multinational enterprise software company, and I, will be engaging in #SAGEAdvice harnessing insights and expertise, and sharing how #SageForSmallBiz tools and capabilities for SMEs can optimize business operations through digitization. Over the next few months, we’ll be unpacking what this exactly means, and how things like automated processes, getting the right tools for your business finances, choosing the right business program partners, what impact is and how getting these process right and much more can contribute to the growth and success of your business.
For now, here’s a little gift from SAGE, an e-book guide with 10 tips to transform your productivity and how changing something as simple and important as your accounting admin can have a huge impact on your business.