Networking for lawyers in Nigeria
Understanding this progression is critical for lawyers to network successfully in Nigeria, where relationships are a fundamental part of the Nigerian culture and key to doing business there.
APPRECIATE THE CULTURE
In Nigeria, there is great respect for seniority, position and education. It important to use people’s correct titles, so, for example, you might insult a Chief, by calling him Mister or by using the incorrect form of address for a Minister. It is advisable to listen to how a person is introduced to you, or introduces themselves, and to use that title.
The Nigerians have a flexible approach to time and do not want to be hurried when they first meet you. There may be wide-ranging discussions in meetings and appointment times may be flexible by up to two hours. Nigerians have respect for smart and well-dressed people, so it is important to ensure that you are always attired formally and smartly.
Nigerians like to entertain and so accept all invitations for their warm hospitality and enjoy the wonderful food and discussions. Nigerians enjoy talking about politics, relishing long and voluble discussion, which is a contrast with the English who are advised against discussing politics in networking situations.
TAKE AN INTEREST IN PEOPLE AND YOURSELF
Remember people’s names. Nigerian names often have meanings, such as Olaniyan, a boy’s name which means “Respected” and Oluwafadeyemi, which means that “God has honoured me with a crown”. Ask what a name means, how to pronounce it and associate the rhythm of the name with its meaning, to remember it.
Ask people well-informed ‘Open’ questions: who, what, where, when, how, how much and why? Questioning may be less of an interrogation by prefacing them with preliminaries, such as “I have always been interested in ..., so do tell me, what have you ...?”
Listen to the answers and do not just wait to ask the next question. In response to their replies, you can prepare a range of personal anecdotes, demonstrating your relevant education and experience, which will help people to remember you and strengthen the relationship.
FIND A HOOK, MAKE A COMMITMENT AND GAIN PERMISSION
Listening will also help you to identify a hook, which is an opportunity for you to strengthen the relationship. It may be something you talked about, have in common, or a way in which you can help that person. A hook is not necessarily work; it could be family, holidays or hobbies.
Make a commitment, such as sending an article which you have read or you have written, or suggesting that you introduce them to somebody that you think will be of interest to them. Then gain permission, and so confirm that they would be happy for you to keep in touch. For example, you may have discussed a person’s forthcoming visit to Abuja and he wants ideas on what to do over the week-end - your hook. You suggest a visit to Zuma Rock and you offer to send a link to this "Gateway to Abuja"– your commitment. The person welcomes your suggestion and so you have their permission.
When closing a conversation remember to give and receive business cards with the right hand only as it is considered rude to exchange anything with another person with your left hand.
FOLLOW-UP PERSONALLY AND REGULARLY
Send a ‘thank you’ to the hosts of any event. Follow up all the commitments you have made to each individual. Try and incorporate another commitment in that follow-up so that you can continue to develop the relationship through a series of regular contacts, beneficial to the recipient, over the long term.
Often one of the last questions you will be asked, is “When are you coming back?” Have an answer to that which demonstrates your commitment to building relationships in Nigeria.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.