CEO insight: Be willing to close business units that can’t scale, even if profitable

Jérôme Lapaire

Asked about some of the business lessons he has learnt, Jérôme Lapaire, founder of the Africa-focused eyeglasses company Lapaire, emphasises the importance of being willing to close down a business unit that isn’t working. He cites his decision to abandon the company’s first business-to-business (B2B) approach, which focused on selling to company employees.

The business, which now has 58 stores in seven African countries, initially adopted a strategy of reaching potential customers through their workplaces, rather than through direct sales. Lapaire sent cold emails to Kenyan companies, offering their employees free eye tests and the option to purchase his company’s affordable eyewear.

Several prominent companies in Kenya signed up, including Uber, Bidco and Broadway Bakery.

Operating from Lapaire’s apartment, he and his small team – comprising two employees – travelled to companies by motorbike with mobile testing kits. The company replicated this model in Côte d’Ivoire and to some extent in Burkina Faso.

Although B2B sales were the foundation of the business and profitable, Lapaire realised that it wasn’t a scalable model. Challenges included complex unit economics, a finite number of potential corporate clients, frequent postponement of events, and staff often waiting idly for assignments to companies.

“I said we need to stop it and, yes, we will lose customers, we will lose revenue, but it doesn’t matter – the B2C approach, where we drive people to our location, is more scalable,” he explains.

Read our full interview with Jérôme Lapaire: Entrepreneur capitalises on Africa’s demand for affordable eyeglasses