The biggest secrets for turning your small business into a big business (Part 2)

__Our ultimate objective as entrepreneurs is to turn our businesses into institutions.

All around us are businesses that have been around for decades, and some even for hundreds of years. The entrepreneurs who built these businesses are long gone, yet the companies continue to innovate by generating new products and services, sometimes expanding into humongous organizations.

Many of the founders would be totally astounded if they were ever to return and see what they started!

How do these companies survive and thrive without their founders?

__These companies have been able to re-invent themselves continuously and find new entrepreneurial leadership to take them forward.

As an exercise, why don’t you draw a list of companies that you deal with, or know that have been there for a long time. Ask yourself, “Who started this company?”

All these great companies were once started by young entrepreneurs just like you are right now. Long before they became global economic powerhouses, young entrepreneurs toiled for years to get capital, to hire people… Well, to deal with all the challenges YOU are dealing with right now!

Have you ever stopped to imagine just how much profit companies like Coca-Cola, Barclays Bank, Boeing, Mercedes-Benz, and many others have generated since their founders died?

___Where do those profits go now, since some of their founders no longer even have heirs to the great wealth machines they created?

These giant companies are listed on stock exchanges in the country of their founders, as well as other global exchanges. Their shares are now mostly owned by pension funds, and insurance companies, as well as private individuals. You might even be enjoying some of the profits through your pension fund, or insurance policy!

You’ll often hear politicians from the countries where these companies come from talk proudly refer to “our” companies or “our” national assets, or “our” champions… and let me tell you, those politicians will go out and fight for those companies to ensure they’re successful, because they know they bring lasting prosperity and national prestige back to the mother country.

__Africa has to build its own, just like China, India, Brazil and many others are now doing. We have to build and support our own wealth creation machines — companies that will fight in the global market place for us, even after the founder has long gone. And we have to do this without protectionism and xenophobia.

There are a number of simple things we have to do. Here are just a few:

#1. The entrepreneurs who build these companies must build them for the LONG term. This means we (as entrepreneurs) must first allow the business to become separate from us (as I said in Part One of this series). Then allow the business to become an institution that could function effectively without us (as founding entrepreneurs).

#2. We must allow our businesses to hire professionals (some of whom will be entrepreneurs themselves).

#3. We must ensure the company has an institutional DNA that allows it to grow even without us as founders.

This calls for citizens to see beyond the entrepreneurs who set them up. This isn’t easy in Africa, because our historical experience was from multinational companies that we saw as belonging to others.

__It calls for a change of mindset towards our own companies, particularly by policy makers.

For example, you might not like the flamboyant guy who runs around with a flashy car, but what if he leaves behind your country’s own Apple? (There were a lot of people who thought Steve Jobs was arrogant and anti-social when he was alive, but let me tell you, the American economy is oiled by billions generated today by the company he left them).

We must think beyond the individual who sets up and runs a business (even if we don’t like their lifestyle or political views). Our common “wealth” will come from our ability to support the institutional development of our own African companies!

At the national level, we must start looking at the businesses created by our entrepreneurs, irrespective of their size today, as “national enterprises.” There should be no difference between so called “private” enterprise and a state-owned company. They are both national enterprises, even if they are foreign owned (100%).

(I don’t teach politics; I teach economic national prosperity.)

As an exercise today, I would like you to list some national and pan-African businesses that you believe are or will become our future African champions. I want to see a minimum of 10 such companies from you!

One day you will be as proud of an African company as China is proud of Huawei and America is of Coca-Cola.

To be continued. . .

by 17 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

17 thoughts on “The biggest secrets for turning your small business into a big business (Part 2)

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.
    I have a huge collection of books about how many businesses were actually started. I always enjoy the stories of how some of the biggest companies in the world were started. I hope I can encourage you to do the same. There’s a book on every major company which you can find through Amazon, so please don’t ask for recommendations from me.

  2. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.
    Even if the entrepreneur is simply trying to make ends meet (in his or her mind), their business should be supported by national policies and strategies designed to make them bigger. I remember former President Obasanjo of Nigeria told me that part of his agenda whilst in office was to create large Nigerian companies like Dangote. He did not feel threatened by them. He urged them to get bigger and he tried to support their Pan African expansion.

  3. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 4.
    Back when he was Minister of Trade and Industry in South Africa, Alec Erwin called me when I arrived in South Africa. He personally encouraged me to use South Africa as a base to expand my business to other parts of Africa. He said I should call him if ever I needed support. I stayed and today we employ thousands of South Africans, and we’re proud of our contributions. He was able to do this because he looked beyond me as someone from another country, and saw the potential for South Africa, and Africa’s economy.

  4. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 5.
    When I was in India (Bangalore) recently I was told that one company whose founder has been dead for over 50 years, employs over 300,000 people in just that city alone!

  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    After the NBA Africa game on Saturday night, my wife and I rushed home to watch Usain Bolt’s last race!
    We were also in the Stadium in Beijing (2008) and London (2012) to see him run.

    #Proud of his extraordinary achievement.

    The World Championships are being broadcast on Kwese Sports 1 (KS1).They are not available on Kwese Free Sports Channel (KFS), because we do not have the rights for free broadcasting.
    You will need a decoder to follow this tournament.

    I enjoy any sport because it helps me to relax with my kids. We are all glued to Kwese Sports (all week) watching and cheering the African athletes!

  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Tatenda writes,

    Hello sir..
    I have many Angolan friends that find your words inspiring. However many of them don’t understand English. So I always translate for them. And they enjoy this platform as it had made them grow due to the elimination of the language barrier . Keep up the good work. Good bless you and everyone here.

    My reply,
    This is fantastic!
    I really, really appreciate what you are doing.
    I would like to see others do the same with other local languages in their countries.

  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Andama writes,

    Most of the businesses in Africa are family owned businesses where the survivability and growth depend partially on the owners life and once he/she is gone, chances are there is no trained person or entrepreneurial leader who can take over and built up on the dreams and visions of the owner or the family members start to fight for the business for their own greed or benefit….

    My reply,
    The problem of family members fighting over a business when a founder dies is easily addressed. It should not happen if the founder follows the principles I have discussed in this and topics in this series.

    If an entrepreneur is set on developing a business which will survive and prosper after them the steps to take are really very simple because these are issues that have arisen and been addressed all over the world where Entrepreneurship has a longer history.
    It helps to read and study these subjects, and learn from the experience of others.

  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Ndi writes,

    The cause is that there a lot of people who still maintain the village mentality of opulence while their neighbours wallow in poverty. Its time we realise that success for one should mean success for all! A village of fisherman selling to other villages will prosper more than only one fisherman selling his fish to everyone in the village! None of us will have peace. Everyday we will be knocking on your gate borrowing fish or money from you. Let us learn to help build up each other

    My reply,
    Well spoken. We must see our success and prosperity in the success of others.
    When a company started by Nigerian entrepreneurs (Helios Towers) launched a successful Bond in Europe, I was ecstatic because I knew it would become easier for other African companies to do the same. Indeed a few months ago we also did a bond to raise $700m.
    With such a mindset I’m incapable of jealousy because I see benefit in the success of others.

  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Mosala writes,

    Sam Walter’s- “Made in America” I highly recommend.

    My reply,
    You meant Sam Walton, the founder of WalMart. I highly recommend it too.
    Well done.

  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Oladayo writes,

    How else can we say “Thank you” for this great revolution initiated by a philanthropic sacrifice despite your busy schedule. We are most grateful to God for the gift of your kind to our generation. The best way to say Thank you is to adhere to the teachings, principles and instructions including scriptural principles like the one you referred to in Exodus 18 and others. As a Pan African Entrprenuer i Believe our Continent will rise from the dust of false and wrong doctrines in all spheres and many Brands will Rise to outlive the founders. We are looking out for Brands like : Shoprite, Aspen Pharmacare, UBA, Econet, Rainbow Minerals, Seplat Oil, Dangote Cement, Innoson Motors, Coscharis Group, Kam Wire Industries, Synarge Group, METL Group, Nosak Group, Jonah Capital, Heirs Holdings, Philshare Global Resources Limited ( Start-up Diversified). Thank you sir

    My reply,
    Beautifully said.
    You are blessed.

  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Brighton writes,

    1776 Wealth of nations by Adam Smith,regarded the father of Economics. Described it this way: “It is not from the benevolence of the butcher, the brewer or the baker that we expect our dinner, but
    from their regard to their own interest.”
    So self interest in that context is just going for your goals.Which results in the good of the whole

    My reply,
    Well said.
    I’m sure you know that although Adam Smith is famous for his work developing the subject of economics, he actually wrote a lot more on the subject of his faith!

  12. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    I visited your website. Good start but keep working on it, particularly put the pictures at the top of the page.
    Try not to do too much but rather concentrate in a few core areas. Don’t start any new venture.
    Don’t set yourself deadlines like “I want to list in 3 years”, as this will put unnecessary pressure on you. It will happen soon enough.
    You need to strengthen yr team in finance.
    Take time out now and again, and go help some kids. It will be good for you and them.
    Wish you well.

  13. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Bankole writes,

    Dr Masiyiwa Has Subtly Shared His Secret Of Starting Great Businesses With Us Simply Put ” He Learned From Others”. However, The Internet Has Made A Lot Of Things So Easy, Some Notable Business Men And Women’s Biographies Are On The Net

    My reply,
    That is so true.
    Even if I wrote you a book a week, I cannot teach you everything you need to know. So I focus on principles, and one of them is the importance of reading and learning from others in business.

  14. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Banabasi writes,

    When I set up my business in 2011, I had only 2 employees. Now I have more than 100 employees, projects scattered around my country. I realised that I can’t be everywhere at the same time. I sat down and build up a system to control money movement, that is from the customer into the business and from the business to the bank. I put measures that I trust to avoid theft in the process. I also put a channel of communication protocol from every site foreman to the HR. Dispatch and requesting of resources can be easily followed and tressed. I entrusted authority to managers I trust and they exercute such authority on my behalf. I am working on putting measures and systems that can work without me but carried out the and produce the same product or service that I can produce myself. Even though I am not yet there but I am moving towards there. Sometimes I seat and watch as things are moving, It really satisfy my soul as an entrepreneur and we are receiving more jobs every day because we are organised. Mr Strive Masiyiwa I really need your guidance because the stage we are now it’s either we might go far or fall down. I sometimes feel afraid to make decisions when approached by big organisations proposing to give big jobs that I have never handle before. Find time sir to contact us because maybe one day we will testify how you have helped us out in terms of advice and mentorship.

    My reply,
    You are on your way to building a truly big company.
    Your focus on process must be incessant, but it has to go in tandem with getting the right people on board.
    Try not to run too quickly because that too can trip you up. Sometimes it is better to turn down a job if your organization is not ready.

  15. Oluseun

    I’m rooting for these 10 companies.
    1. Konga,
    2. Nerve mobile
    3. FarmCrowdy
    4. PayStack
    6. Andela
    7. Paga
    8. Printivo
    9.Outspokn Clothiers
    10. PrintArk


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