When I was working in international development in Africa long before I got involved with doing business, I usually focused around two things before the New Year: Where I would spend the party and what my resolutions for the coming year would be. Well, both of them were rather short-lived and offered me very little direction.
Things have completely changed since I developed a business focused mind. The last two weeks I have spent reflecting on my progress this year and I have selected the areas I want to throw over board and those I want to develop further. I have also – for the first time in my life – spelled out my financial goals. In great detail. On an Excel sheet (no pressure!). Instead of worrying where I would spend New Year, I made a list of countries and conferences I plan to visit throughout 2015.
What about you?
What are your goals for 2015? Whatever they are, I hope they include long-term plans of magnitude; a mission that can change your life around and get you onto the path of abundance and happiness. I strongly believe that doing business in Africa would build a powerful context for such a personal life mission.
Let me share 8 powerful strategies that set you up for success in African business in 2015
1. Start an African business with a purpose
Making money and building a grand lifestyle is great, but if you can attach true purpose to it it will become powerful and bring you to life. Developing a mobile app is good, and so is exporting coffee, but both concepts can become lifeless if you only focus on the technical and financial aspects. Instead, create an app that would solve a serious need on the ground, or build a women farmers cooperative to get the coffee directly from them at fair prices. You will see lives touched and your business mission expand. And that energy will flow back to you.
2. Set yourself apart with your idea
Yes, you could open another bakery in Lagos or Lusaka and offer the usual range of cakes and breads. But if you bake to become the biggest lunch sandwich manufacturer in the city or you produce your frozen cake and bread selection brand for high-end supermarkets, you clearly set yourself apart and that opens the market faster for you.
3. Connect with your industry before you are successful
Many are hiding during the start-up phase. Don’t do that. If you are working on the realization of your idea in a certain industry you now belong to that industry. Go out there, visit expos, attend entrepreneur meetings, make connections with like-minded people on social media. This network, which you are building during the early stage of your business, will propel your business growth very soon. Therefore, be ready to invest courage, time, and money into building these connections.
4. Go where the action is
If you have room for flexibility make the most of it. Don’t choose your African home country for doing business because it feels good. Unless your country is a dynamic growth market, then of course, you are lucky. But successful business is not grown on emotions or personal perceptions, instead start your business in a market that is hugely dynamic and simply receptive for your idea.
5. Start small not in debt
You need significant capital for your startup and that has hindered you to make a first move? Don’t let the need for money delay your future, and don’t let it excuse your inaction. Instead, change your business strategy so you can start with just a hundred Dollars in hand. Many well-known African entrepreneurs have done just that. They have grown million Dollar businesses on shoe string budgets – from solar power in Tanzania to pig farming in Nigeria to organic skin care in South Africa. It is possible.
6. Smile when you face an African problem
You will be amazed how many people have started African businesses because they noticed a gap that personally annoyed them and they decided to find a solution for it. Bad finishing in the housing sector? Unable to find baby food in the supermarkets? Looking for a platform to connect? Inconveniences, chronic delays, poor quality, expensive foreign brands – you name it. These are your opportunities. Like an Nigerian entrepreneur, who could not find a black doll for his niece’s birthday. Today he is producing thousands of them and even gets orders from the US. What gap are you filling?
7. Build an African business that fits with your own needs
Are you a single mum, broke, need to take care of old dad at home, or want to be around family more – chose a home based business. You love to travel the world – well, easy to build a business around that. You are still in employment or education or you need to be ultra flexible for other reasons – build an African business online. You are based in Chicago or New Delhi and in no sitution to relocate to Africa? – link local products and services up with the African market from wherever you are. In short, there are many ways to tap into Africa’s markets regardless of your personal circumstances. Just do it.
8. Develop a vision around your African business. Ask yourself: Why?
This is hugely important. If you are simply thinking of doing business because you cannot stand your job or you want to pay off debts then it is surely practical and legitimate, but not visionary. Recall your dreams and wants in life. Strive for happiness and abundance. What do you see? Take time off to think of your goals in life and write them down. Start your African business to fulfill these goals and develop your plan over time into a vision of your perfect life. This is the answer to the why. This is what will keep you going and growing through the ups and the downs. It will make you feel very alive.
And last: I have been blogging for almost ten months now (researching African business for over two years)– facing many ups and downs. The biggest hurdle is done (I hope) and today I am looking forward to all that is to come and wish that we can grow this community and our connections together. I want to take this opportunity to thank all of you who have shown me trust, support, patience, and appreciation throughout the year, it meant a lot. And those of you who read my blog quietly, keep marching on. I wish you all much success and a Happy New Near 2015 and may the hope and love for Africa unite us all!
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