For those who do not know, COZA stands for The CommonWealth of Zion Assembly. COZA is an NGO. COZA was launched in the city of Ilorin in the year 1999 and has grown into a very vibrant organisation with over 20,000 members at her various branches. she has an ever-growing online community of followers. Below are 17 principles I believe every startup/founder needs to inculcate in order to build to last.
Dream big but start small
Everyone sees COZA now, LED lights, a world-class auditorium in her Abuja HQ, world-class hospitality and so on, and they forget that COZA wasn’t always like this. According to Rev. Biodun & Pst. Modele Fatoyinbo (Founders), COZA started in the bedroom of someone else’s house with about 15 people. She later moved her meetings into the sitting room of the same house and then later moved to a rented space where she paid N350 rent. COZA wasn’t even called COZA back then, she was called ‘divine delights’, COZA started as a club which held meetings on saturdays. Many of us do not want to start small. We first want to get that office space overlooking the waterfall in Lekki. I will compare the importance of starting small to the way a tree grows. Any tree that will grow tall and withstand terrible weather conditions like tornado’s (aka recession and the likes) has to first bear good and strong roots downwards. Even the whole world wasn’t built in a day. Founders please start small, grow, and enjoy the journey.
“Order comes before flow.” PB
Know/be able to communicate where you are going/how to get there
COZA has a vision and mission statement that can be found here. However, more important than having those statements is the fact that it is useless if it is not effectively communicated to stakeholders. Everyone who comes in contact with COZA knows that they have a ‘mandate to build a takeover generation’ even first time guests are sold the vision and mission from day one. Everyone knows COZA stands for spirituality and excellence and they make sure this is communicated in words and deeds. It is very essential for startups to effectively communicate their vision/mission in all they do because it is easier to attract the right kind of people to help build your dream when they know what you stand for.
“Startups shouldn’t just ‘say’ what they are about, they should ‘be’ what they are about.” Eyinimofe.
COZA is legally categorized as a non-profit organisation. It relies on gifts, offerings, tithes, donations and contributions from the public. COZA has built and manages a wide range of networks, so she doesn’t have to pay for everything she needs. A startup needs to have a strategy in place to build and manage good relationships. Where would Facebook be today without Sean Parker? ‘free is always better than cheap’.
Read also: Lesson 10 of my business lessons (1-10) from Sam Walton about Networking.
Build people not products
Build people not products/buildings. Many people believe COZA just appeared a few years ago; COZA has been around for over 17 years. It started in the city of Ilorin, Kwara State. So far, COZA has just 4 branches. 3 in Nigeria (Abuja, Ilorin and Lagos respectively), and one newly opened branch in Dubai. COZA is a firm believer in the principle ‘build the people, the people will build the organisation’. Dear startup founders, look into your organisation, are you building products or are you building people? The market can change at anytime, and it will; If you build product without building people, you will have nothing left when the market changes. However, if you build people, you will always get a return on your investment in spite of the market. COZA builds people not buildings; startups build people not products.
Write Write Write
COZA has grown into a household name, but still hasn’t outgrown her writing culture. This culture has been in place since her inception. According to COZA’s founders, many of the things that go on in the Organisation are things they had seen and written about many years prior. At the start of your business, you may have more ideas than you have funds to implement, and there are greats things you see your startup accomplishing. You need to develop a writing culture. Writing things down is the most reliable thing to do, especially at the early stage of your startup. If founders don’t write it all down, they might forget and/or they might not be able to accurately measure their progress.
At COZA, nothing just happens, many of the things you see today and decisions you see taken are things that have been in the hearts of the founders for years. There is such a thing as a goal behind a goal. Startups need to have a goal behind a goal that guides the decisions that they make. An example of a company having a goal behind a goal is Facebook. Facebook acquired Whatsapp for $22 Billion, even though Whatsapp had only turned over $10Million in revenue the year before.
COZA did not break out from any organisation. The founders are famous for saying that they did not start from the ground, but that they started from inside a big hole that was dug in the ground. There is a myth going on especially in Nigeria, that to build something great you have to be connected to a man or a woman in a powerful position. While some have built successful organisations like that, that is not a statute of general application. Whatever you lack most you can have most by reading up in that area. The founders are known for their vast reading on subjects that concern building and growing organisations. They read books about emotional intelligence, HR and so on. Like I also mentioned in my post about Sam Walton, reading is essential. I have not heard of any great leader who hasn’t read their way to the top.
“You might get to the top without reading, but you cannot stay at the top without it.” Eyinimofe.
Read also: Lesson 1 of my business lessons (1-10) from Sam Walton about reading.
COZA is consistent with her brand and message. Everything that COZA does, from pioneering the shop for free to pioneering the gratitude competition is all in line with her mission/vision statement to ‘takeover’. The way her members are taught to dress and present themselves is in line with her vision and mission and is consistent throughout all her branches. Startups need to be consistent with their brand and message. consistency is key because over time it builds trust in the minds of major stakeholders.
- Appraise your work
After every Sunday service, the leadership and the workforce hold an appraisal. The aim of the appraisal is to access the recently concluded service, give feedbacks, highlight observations and publicly recognise teams and departments that exceeded expectations. it is vital for startups to have appraisals to access progress and performance and to set short/long term goals. At Startupdemands for example, we have your appraisals every Saturday morning. Our appraisal covers three areas: the Individual, the team and the weekly tasks.
Read also: Lesson 3 of my business lessons (1-10) from Sam Walton about Appraisals.
Have regular meetings
Once every week, yes every week, the COZA workforce have a meeting that’s compulsory for every worker to attend. They pray together, talk future plans and activities the organisation is going into. Startups founders need to have regular meetings with their staffs and associate. Here strategies and plans can be discussed for growth and expansion.
Strive to make a great first impression
They say you only have one chance at a great first impression, and COZA makes sure her first-time guests gets a great user experience. From coordinated parking to greeters at the entrance with shouts of greetings and celebration. Their guests indeed get an unforgettable experience. It is important to note that you only get one chance to make a positive or negative impression on customers. Unfortunately, customers are more likely to talk about you when you underperform or overperform. There rarely talk when you just meet their needs. You have to be either hot or cold. Being in the neutral ground cannot get you/keep you at the top.
Appreciate your associate
Reward excellence. COZA gives awards to her workforce volunteers in recognition for their selfless contributions. In every startup there are people who give 110% and there are people who just do the barest minimum. You have to find a system that identifies people’s contribution level and have a system in place to reward their commitment/contribution. Appreciation is an extrinsic motivator.
Read also: Lesson 9 of my business lessons (1-10) from Sam Walton about staff appraisal.
Have a Mentor
COZA has built a network of people around her that she calls mentors. COZA has different kinds of mentors I different areas. One common ground all her mentors have is that they have done/are doing great things with their lives, and they are making a great impact on the world. It is very important for startups founders to have mentors that they can look up to. Mentor’s can help guide some of the decisions founders make and also connect founders to their (Mentor’s) own pool of networks.
Reduce your costs
COZA is a big organisation, and will always be at risk of having even bigger costs. COZA has tried to keep some of her costs down in very different ways. For instance, COZA has only a few people on her payroll; she does not employ any drivers. The Founders and executive associates drive themselves. In COZA’s 17 year history, she has only ordained 4 full-time pastors. Startups have to ensure that they look through their processes and hierarchy and cut unnecessary costs. Startups have to plan their costs and ensure that only a small percentage of their earnings are spent on cost. Making a million Naira in revenue but having costs of a million Naira can determine whether a startup survives or not.
Have a corporate chant
COZA, like Wal-Mart, has a few corporate chants. From greetings like to asking first-time guests ‘where have you been?’ COZA has unified members with their chant. Startups, especially in the service industry should have a chant that unifies associates and makes them feel like one big happy family.
Read also Lesson 18 of my business lessons (11-20) from Sam Walton about corporate chants
Build to last
COZA is building to last, so she isn’t seeking immediate success. COZA started 17 years ago and she only has 4 branches to date. This is deliberate and strategic. In spite of all COZA has achieved, she still has this philosophy: ‘don’t let people clap for you too soon’. Startups should perfect their business model first before branching out. They should not get carried away by fancy headlines about their recent successes. Anybody can start a business. It takes persistence, dedication, self-control and hard work amongst other things to build to last.
Startup founders must sacrifice
It is said that sacrifice is ‘given up something good for something better’. It is not news that the founders of COZA made/still make many sacrifices to get COZA to this stage. The founders cut back on many luxuries they could have enjoyed for the sake of their dream. They did not splurge on cars and clothes but invested financially in seeing their dream actualized. Building a startup requires money and founders have to resist the temptation to pay themselves hefty salaries (a big cost driver) but reinvest profits back into the company. You are more likely to get investor funding when you show you have put your own funds to grow/kick-start your dreams.
In the spirit of exceeding customer expectation, here’s ‘nos. 18 & 19’ for good measure. Happy Feb14/17 in advance COZA. 🙂
Give Give Give
Many organisations never survive because they get all they can and can all the get. According to the Founders, one of COZA’s major secret for success is that ‘COZA gives dangerously’. The organisation is a separate entity from the founders, and so the organisation gives independent of her founders. COZA has built giving into her system. COZA gives the first portion of everything donated to her at the start of the year. COZA gives to charitable/NGO’s, individuals and so on. As a startup, you have to decide which portion of your proceeds will be given to out. To use a more formal word, you need to have a budget for your CSR (corporate social responsibility). No startup is too small to give. Note that giving doesn’t always have to be financial. You can give your time, your expertise, your product, your facility etc.
19. Take Calculated risks
One major thing those close to the Founders of COZA know is that the Founders take calculated risks. They never allow themselves to get too comfortable. One of the major risks COZA took was in 2008 when she moved to Abuja to open branch number 2 in 2008. After building and growing COZA Ilorin for many years, they packed their bags and left everything to start another branch afresh in Abuja. Many have made moves like that and have failed, many have also succeeded. Startup founders, listen up: ‘the only thing worse than failing is never trying at all’. No one ever achieved greatness without taking a risk. The major thing that happens when you take risks is that you learn. Success and failure are not destinations, they are only part of the process to something greater.
Build something great; Build to Last.
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Picture sources (*all picture credit: google):