The phenomenal growth of Grace International School within a period of fourteen years from erstwhile three bedroom bungalow in Maitama with four children of the Chairman of the Board of Trustees to the now sprawling School in Maitama, to Wuye School, then to the new world class ten hectares land space college in Kuje can only be explained by a school that is standing on her niche and her edge subsumed in her vision.
Bill Bryan, a counselor with the Northern Illinois SCORE, expressed his opinion this way on the need for a niche:
“The ultimate key to small business success is finding a niche that is not covered. If you can identify your own niche, you’ll probably do well. We are all trying to do business in an overcrowded marketplace and soft economy. The consumer is inundated with commercial messages and often does not know which way to turn. Too many choices and too many sellers compete for a buyer’s attention. It is enough to make some folks say, ‘To hell with it’ and stay home with their consumer Dollars.
Finding a market niche – which you must defend by operating superbly and providing customer service without peer – is the secret of financial success.
Jennifer Lawton founded a computer service company and then became senior vice president for corporate strategy of a major internet company and now has switched careers by buying Just Books, Inc., which she calls the ‘smallest but Oldest Bookstore in Greenwich, Connecticut.’ She has written a number of incisive articles for the small business web site of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation. Here is her interesting take on finding your niche and on niche marketing:
I have learned that niche marketing can play two ways. The first, which is what we do, is to have a niche-oriented company that you support with marketing and other ‘branding’ efforts. The second is to have a broad based company that seeks new markets, or a deeper experience, within a specific piece of the broad market.
One starts as a niche, the other carves a niche within a broader space. So when formulating your niche marketing campaign, you must first decide where you fit. Once you do, consider implementing the following five-point plan, which can play to either niche ‘face’:
1. Know yourself.
2. Know your goal.
3. Know your customer.
4. Keep it simple.
5. Have fun!
Many a time, people think that success is interlaced with smartness, devoid of integrity. This is really not the case. It is a question of you carving a place for yourself in a globalized market.
Hector Barreto is the former administrator of the U.S Small Business Administration (SBA). In his new book ‘The Engine of America: the Secrets to Small Business Success from entrepreneurs who have made it! (Compare prices) he reveals winning business strategies from CEOs of 50 successful small businesses (some of which are now large corporations), who share their experiences to help those starting and growing their own business. In this excerpt from Chapter 6, he explores the importance of finding your niche when you start your company, not as an afterthought.
The two most successful business men I know, Dimensions International Inc. Bob Wright and Fabrica International’s Al Frink, have both learned this lesson.
One thing I learned a long time ago says Wright is that ‘to be successful, you have to find a need and fill it. There are a lot of needs that are out there and you have to find them and then fill them. You must create a niche for yourself and then just work your tail off to make it happen.’
From onset as a school, we knew ourselves and our vision is ‘to be a leading world academy, through quality assurance.’ The key was quality assurance. Quality assurance was the vehicle to bring our school to the world arena where we now find ourselves today. We also know that the travelers in that vehicle must be the quality students we churn out to the world universities that must compete excellently with their colleagues from all over the world. Our definition of quality assurance started with quality teaching staff, quality and uncompromised teaching delivery to quality supervision in checks and counter checks. Quality and well engineered environment and quality management. All of these we subsumed in the fear of God. We located the void in the education system in Nigeria which was mainly failure of intergrity in tools and management of the apparatus of learning. That void we knew we could fill regardless of the challenges if we stay on our niche. Our niche could match the void in the education setting in the Nursery, the Primary and Tertiary unlike many of our contemporaries whose approaches are mismatches to this void: the fast lane profit driven approach. We really were not driven by the number and rapidity of our growth but the consistency of the stay on our niche and our vision. We knew the crowded education market and the interplays that were frosted with lack of integrity of teaching and manipulation of teaching apparatus to impress parents and win more market share of the educating population in Abuja and Nigeria on the philosophy of the end justifying the means could slow us down because of our tall niche and our vision. We were however undaunted because we knew at the end, our niche will bring glory to our school and Nigeria.
Before we could say ‘Jack Robbinson’, we started to hear our students distinguishing themselves in leading universities in the United Kingdom, United States of America and Asia. Sometimes we receive commendation letters written to our students for their excellent performance in foreign universities by their lecturers. In some other occasions, our students won scholarship of their universities host government in a particular discipline. Needless to talk about the laurels our students won in various competitions organized by some corporate bodies in Nigeria and their excellent performances in Nigerian universities. There was an amazing statement made by one of our former students who was in a leading university in London, she said ‘am shocked that our colleagues in Nigeria are not here most of whom we acclaimed to be very good’, it follows therefore that the great stride of our ex-students in leading world class universities within and without is in our niche which is also corroborated in our physical infrastructural expansionism.
Barr. Collins A. Aimuan is the Chairman of Grace Garden International School and College, Maitama, Wuye and Kuye, Abuja.