Building and sustaining an outsourcing business in Nigeria – Shola Adekoya

Shola Adekoya

Outsourcing generally connotes hiring a party outside an organization to carry out tasks and services that the employees would ordinarily have done. Business process outsourcing (BPO) is an activity where a company contracts its non-core work to an external party. That is what we do at Resource Intermediaries Limited (RIL). We are an indigenous company registered to engage in Human Resource Outsourcing, Recruitment and Training services. In the last 15 years we have built a clientele spread all over Nigeria and Ghana. Our approach is to leverage our knowledge and experience in responding to client’s business needs flexibly. Over time, our customers continue to gain tangible market advantages in three specific areas, rapid deployment of our systems and personnel, lower operating/transaction costs, and superior business management.

The terminology, outsourcing is usually wrongly used interchangeably with offshoring. Offshoring is a part of outsourcing. It is where an organization outsources services to a third party in a country outside the one the company is located. It is usually to get cheaper labour cost.

Outsourcing non-core FUNCTIONS activities like data entry, janitorial services, cashier/teller roles, factory workers, customer service roles and more, let companies focus solely on their core business operations. This way, they can only invest resources in tasks that matter the most.

The industry is really growing, though not all entrants are doing it right. As tons of companies are looking to outsource their non-core activities, there are huge business opportunities in the outsourcing industry for new providers. Outsourcing is a lucrative business and many companies outside Nigeria outsource their non-core functions, especially customer support to small BPO companies outside their countries. However, with the booming gig community, companies now hire freelancers to do the job for them as well but for structure, professionalism and better coordination, an outsourcing company is always a better option.

This means that you can start a BPO business that specialises in any of the following categories:
Sales, Market research, Data entry, Human resource management, Payroll Administration, IT Services, Inbound or outbound call center services, Digital marketing, Customer support and other back-office service.
In building an outsourcing business, here are a few simple steps to consider:

1. Decide on the BPO you prefer
Identifying your business niche is a key first step because when you zero in on a niche, it helps you determine: the specific industry sector, the activities your firm will need to undertake and your target market, for instance, you may decide to provide call center services to small companies in the retail industry. In this case, your sector is retail, your activities are call center services and the type of clients you work with are small companies.

When starting, please pick an outsourcing service you’re familiar with. For instance, you may think administrative work is simple but if you have no experience handling it, don’t offer the service. There’s a lot to learn from experience, rather than theory. You would do better sticking to the services you are trained on. We do this a lot at Resource Intermediaries Limited. We stick to our expertise as much as possible.

There two ways by which you can decide to position your new company.
i. The Horizontal BPO- These activities can be offered across different industries. For example, you could provide technical support across various industries like financial, retail and marketing. In this scenario, your service remains unchanged; however, the industry focus of your business varies. So, you would have clients from various industries.

ii. The Vertical BPO- These are services that are industry-specific. They are focused towards a specific product line. An example will be software coding activities which are specific to the information technology industry. Here, your industry focus remains the same while your offerings expand to include other activities within that industry.

2. Develop a working Business Plan
This document is a living document. You need to analyze the intricacies of your chosen niche and look at what your competitors are doing. It should have your company’s long-term direction, clear business budgets, objectives milestones and the business structure. This would help lenders and investors understand your business and see the prospects better.
While it’s important to develop a good plan, you need to review and update it regularly. This ensures that you’re always able to adapt to any new changes in the market.

3. Do The Paperwork
Once the above are all set, ensure you do all the statutory registrations. The industry is not regulated in Nigeria per se but you would need to get a recruiters’ license from the Federal Ministry of labour and productivity. They usually would request for certain statutory documents like Corporate Affairs Commission registration (this regulates the responsibilities and operations of firms in the country), health, pension, tax, risk insurance and few other things, before signing you up to commence business. Once you’ve received the recruiters’ license, you’re good to go. Sometimes, Laws and tax regulations can be complicated and confusing, so you can consult a legal expert to help with the registration and an outsourcing expert to help with the license.
They can easily break down the complexities of your registration process and identify laws that may be beneficial for your business.

AT RIL, our people are our greatest assets, therefore, we are passionate about recruiting aright and retaining them as well. We also ensure that the needed resources are provided for ease of work. For example, a BPO company needs all the regular resources businesses require, like office space and furniture or a shared co-work space, where you can have your staff all in one space and all office facilities are rendered including Wi-Fi. RIL runs a co-shared workspace called theBUNKer. We have them located at Yaba, Lekki, Ibadan and Abuja. Other things like computers and Workforce management, Communication and Performance Tracking Tools tools are necessary. Some firms such as call centres will also need specialized equipment. This varies based on the business. Remember not to spend money on tools you don’t need.

Most times, people dabble into business without structure and they run their companies like businessmen instead of entrepreneurs. A business should be built to last and out-live the pioneers, founders and several generations, regardless of the number of staff. Get it right from the little beginnings and apply the learnings as you grow and expand. That is what you call a legacy business. You cannot have a legacy business if everything starts and ends with you. A one-man business does not always have to feel like one. You can run yours differently. With a properly set up structure, your business can run in your absence. It becomes an entity and not an individual. That way, things would work, staff would be happy and be retained and this ultimately brings a positive growth to the profit line because the staff will be productive, hence sales is certain. If it did not work for us at Resource Intermediaries Limited, I would not be saying it. Sometimes, people wonder if we are foreign-owned, and I gladly answer “WE ARE PROUDLY NIGERIAN”.

Now, talking about SUSTAINING THE OUTSOURCING BUSINESS already built, you need to first understand the factors that affect business in Nigeria. I have narrowed this down to three major things.

Understand Factors That Affect Businesses In Nigeria

Most businesses would succeed faster where the ecosystem and business environment are functional. This goes without saying. Regardless of the location geographically, or the type of business, there are certain factors needed for the success of a company.

1. Availability of the market – This is a major factor because of the large population of the Nigerian nation. If we go by the last count of 180 million Nigerians and we assume that 25% (45 Million) of this number is a possible market for different types of businesses, that is huge. Once you have a mindset that all you need is just a percentage of that number, it serves as a major driving force to want to succeed, knowing the immense possibilities out there.
2. Adequate Manpower – This is an important factor because they drive the business. They are very critical in controlling quality, product value and pricing due to costs tied to top-notch skills and labour. Unfortunately, the state of the educational system and ongoing brain drain in the country has had us grappling with the talents on ground. The RIL experience has made me realise that there is some sort of scarcity of quality manpower when compared with the number of people in the labour market. It becomes tough for small business owners because the industry giants get to entice these talents with better remuneration which SMEs cannot afford.

3. Availability of funds- During the RIL Finishing School Training (A workshop organized monthly to enhance the business skills of graduates, job seekers and Entrepreneurs), we have discovered that the major questions or confusion from the entrepreneurs, usually comes from how they can access funds. We have our formular for that and we always give participants who attend. For more information on this, log on to and chat with any of our reps. This is one major issue Nigerian businesses have. Only a few venture capital firms invest in Nigeria for several reasons bordering around the state of the economy. However, in recent times, a few Nigerian banks are becoming more friendly to SMEs. A couple of years ago, this was a tough nut to crack.

Now that we have an understanding of the Nigerian market and business, here are a few tips as to how we at Resource Intermediaries Limited have sustained the business.

1. Ensure Quality service/product speaks for you- The popular saying that ‘you are as good as your last product” is a general saying in the business world and there are no truer words. Dare to be different and do not follow the band wagon of compromise. Treat every relationship or transaction like it is the only opportunity you would ever get. We use our business managers and survey tools to get feedback from clients and use them to get better and improve on the business. When the prospect is negotiating too low, unbundle the offering by removing some services so you do not shoot yourself in the foot.

Read also: Nigeria’s debt crisis: A rethink is imperative!

2. Be the best at what you do- This can only be achieved with intentional learning and growing daily. Continue to get better at what you do, learn, unlearn and relearn as much as possible. Keep up will business trends and the everchanging business climate for your organizational survival and this will place your organisation at a great advantage with competitors. We have a budget for training and we ensure it is well used because the people of the organization need to be knowledgeable enough to take the organization to a next level.

3. Understand Finance – Business is beyond just making profit. Profit may be made even when the business is not successful. You could have n unhealthily high expense ratio or need to understand certain financial treatment or budgeting. Know your accounting books and ensure staff are carried along. Every staff of Resource Intermediaries Limited understands how to translate financial statements because apart from the business unit heads who use it to track performance and prepare reports, they are all exposed to it during our general meeting monthly where it is analyzed and explained for all to understand.

4. Be focused, dedicated and consistent- My MD would say, “when running a business and things don’t seem to be working, just stay there”. As long as you have your principle right and basic things all set, the business will grow. Work hard and work smart. Lead your team by example and they would follow without fear.

5. Get a Business Coach- This cannot be over-emphasied (pick any of our business coaches on Also get an experienced person already in the outsourcing space to hand-hold you while you learn from their experiences.

6. Let the structure work and Delegate- Allow your employees handle their bit with coaching and supervision for you. Follow the laid down structure and policies and be consistent in the implementation.

7. Break the ICE- This is the RIL sales mantra. I- Identify the prospects, C-Contact them an E-Extract value. Connect with people because as they say, your network is your net worth.

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