In every field or industry, entrepreneurs face diverse challenges and learn various things along the way. Last week, we spoke with Emmanuel Okafor of E_Classic Entertainment on how he gets customers to trust him with their events as a startup entrepreneur. From it, we learned the importance of never disappointing clients and being polite and honest with them always. You can read up on this interview here.
This week, that talk continues. We focus on the mistakes and unique challenges he has faced in his industry and the biggest lessons he has learnt as an entrepreneur in the entertainment industry. Here’s the conversation;
You’ll make mistakes and challenges will come but you must learn from them
What are some of the rookie mistakes you made at the start of your business when it comes to gaining the trust of your customers and connecting with an audience?
Making assumptions was one of my biggest rookie mistakes. Some people would call me and ask questions but I would assume they just want to get information from me and move. I reasoned that if they say I come highly recommended then why are they asking me questions. So, I was reluctant to answer questions at first.
That mistake threw me out of many events and that translated to me losing money. I took cognisance of it and adjusted.
As an MC, it is not good to sound too formal. People say I sound and act too seriously most of the time. That stopped me from connecting adequately with my audience at first. I had to take that suit of seriousness off and allow myself to really be in the event.
What are some of the challenges you have faced on your journey?
Challenges no dey finish. There will always be challenges at every event. The most common challenge I encounter is finding it hard to connect with an audience that is not my regular audience.
I was once an MC for a street concert and the first one or two hours of that concert was a disaster. It was when I realised that I wasn’t in an English speaking territory that I switched. Immediately, the crowd went wild with excitement and got into the event. That switch greatly helped me and changed the outcome of that event.
Many times, I’ve also faced the challenge of communicating with my audience. Once I notice that I am not communicating well or I’m finding it hard to get their attention, I start asking myself what to do. I’m thinking on the spot and trying to lead the crowd on. Immediately I discover what to do, I switch and there is an immediate response from the crowd.
Getting events is another challenge. As a startup competing with the bigger brands, it can be quite something. What I do to overcome this is to remind people that I am still in the MC business. I also beg for referrals like I’m begging for my life.
Sometimes, wrong timing can also be a challenge. For instance, for weddings, there’s a program I’m working with but sometimes the couple is not dressed, the guests have started leaving and people are not responding because they are tired. In this situation, I have to make sure I carry everybody along. This makes me learn to be creative and spontaneous on the spot.
Challenges will always pop up at events but they make me grow and learn new ways of doing things.
Work ethics and how much you learn from your mistakes take you far in entrepreneurship
What are the work ethics that guide how you do things?
Time management is very important in this business. I’ve been commended severally for my ability to keep to time. I was at a concert once and the artist didn’t want to leave the stage when his time was up, I went up and stood behind him and he had no choice but to stop. I also arrive very early for my events.
Another thing is, I try not to overstretch my time or talk too much so things don’t get boring. For instance, I can pass across a message at an event without adding extra talk to the message. It saves time and energy. Flexibility is also an important work ethic for me.
Time management, punctuality and flexibility are my core work ethics. I don’t joke with them at all. They are the reason I am still in this business today.
What are the major lessons you have learnt so far about connecting with your customers and the audience at your events?
Sometimes, customers will call and give me negative feedback. In this case, it is not in my place to get angry, even if they are wrong or misunderstood what happened at their event. When clients give me feedback during the event or afterwards, when I ask for it, I absorb it all.
Humans are naturally insatiable and no one can be perfect no matter what they do. People will always have complaints. So, I’ve learnt to take feedback in good grace.
I’ve also learnt to keep in touch with clients. Once in a while, I put a call across to them to check on them. This way, I am keeping the relationship intact. It can be as simple as calling a bride or groom to find out how they’re doing or just to send them my best wishes. This does it for people and it goes a long way in making them see that you care and remember you for future events and referrals. It is only when they don’t want the relationship that I back off.
Sometimes, when I want to say a few things at an event but realise a dignitary there might not be comfortable with it, I move on. For instance, when I’m anchoring a red carpet event, some people decline when I call them forward to take a photo and I respect that. Sometimes also, some people don’t want to answer certain questions, and I’ve learnt to not push them.
It’s important to never try to force things down people’s throats as an event MC. Flexibility does it for me. I just adapt to the situation around me to suit my clients.
The fashion industry is growing and still has space for more creative minds
You’ve sewn clothes with fashion designers before. What’s your opinion of the industry?
Nigeria is a developing country with developing entrepreneurs. I’ve heard a lot of funny stories about fashion designers and so I’ve become smart with them. I always tell my designer that I need my outfit days before I need it. This has saved me lots of headaches.
However, the fashion industry is a very lucrative one and one that can never be overpopulated. People are making clothes every day and a designer’s skill and creativity determine how far they go in the industry. PR is also as important in that industry as it is in the entertainment industry, and that is why I’m going into it soon.
What were your worst and best experiences with a fashion designer?
I had an event sometime in 2017 on a Sunday, it was a musical event. The designer brought my outfit on a Saturday and when I tried it on, I didn’t like it. I didn’t get to pick my design like usual and I didn’t like the style he sewed for me but I had to manage it. I wasn’t myself at that event even though people commented that I looked good. That was my worst day. From then on, I get my event attire ready weeks ahead of the event.
My best experience was in 2019. My designer got my design perfectly and delivered on time. I was over the moon that day.
What is your top advice for other entrepreneurs on connecting with their clients?
You want to keep that relationship intact. You want to be respectful, obedient and maintain a personal relationship with your clients except they don’t want it. Extend that hand of friendship to them and connect with them outside their event. Also, don’t be too official or rigid, be very friendly with them.
Remember that your customer is right and take their feedback in good faith. This feedback helps you grow and correct your mistakes, therefore, you don’t want to take them for granted. Ask questions from those that have gone ahead of you, make your research and keep learning.
Thank you very much for your time.
Thank you for this opportunity. I remain my humble self, Emanuel Okafor aka E_Classic.