Invest In Africa (IIA) is an organisation set up by Tullow and a number of multinationals with the bold objective of creating thriving African economies.
It does so by helping local entrepreneurs access global markets and get fair share of the procurement contracts of these multinationals.
Last month, IIA turned four and in this article, written from my perspective as an Ambassador of IIA, I share a case study, representative of the outstanding work IIA is doing to help local entrepreneurs scale up.
Eight years ago when Godwin Akuamuah saw his last employer’s business begin to fail, he sought out an opportunity to do something that would earn him more than an employee’s faltering paycheck.
He took sudden interest in fire management systems, and recognising that they would be needed by big businesses, he bet on his own business, Right Consult and General Suppliers Limited, and sunk his life’s savings into it.
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Although Akuamuah, a trained teacher, had no knowledge of such systems, his salesman's instincts left him convinced that his was a worthwhile venture.
His trader mother introduced him at an early age to selling goods in the market, and his mason-farmer-contractor father introduced him to the hustle of making money from multiple income streams.
And so Akuamuah had always done something on the side to supplement his income. When he was a teacher in the government service, he would leave Asesewa on weekends with goods for Accra - where he was a distributor of choice.
He would then continue to Lome to buy clothes for sale in his shop (a joint business with his soon-to-be wife) in Juapong, and Asesewa his teaching post.
He’d co-started a logistics supply business at the port when he moved back to Accra from Asesewa.
This business would fold up in debt leaving Akuamuah with loans to pay off.
Next was a business advisory service that assisted small businesses to obtain credit from banks.
The pickings were lean, and small businesses didn't have big budgets to pay for such services.
Akuamuah went back into formal employment, working direct sales in Barclays Bank, (now Absa Group), then finally as a diary salesman before finding the right way to scale.
Akuamuah only had a one room office with sales people to begin with. He’d no inventory, no practical expertise and no track record.
If he was to succeed, he would need to convince people he was capable of delivering on these specialised systems that would typically cost tens of thousands of cedis.
Akuamuah played to his strengths though and built a strong sales team to help him work against his odds.
The years have shown that he was right on the money.
His client list include Unilever, Stanbic Bank, Ghana Revenue Authority, Coca Cola, MTN, Kasapreko and the Electoral Commission of Ghana.
Building a growth-oriented business
Akuamuah’s background (accounting and public administration) and work experience helped him build a strong business with an attention to structures from the onset.
He has been frugal with his earnings and has continuously invested profits back into the business to ensure growth, and much greater future gains.
“If I can invest money in internet or a printer to print proposals that would bring more business, I’d do that rather than buy two bags of cement, and stones and start to build a house now. I can buy a house later when the business grows.”
His years in client-facing roles have made customer focus the main focus of his business.
This translates into a clear understanding of customer needs at all times, the introduction of new technologies to answer these needs and an almost fanatic approach to acquiring product knowledge and domain training for himself and his staff.
This approach, was in part what earned Right Consult, the IIA Star Award for Excellence in recognition of its commitment to the ideals of the IIA in IIA SME Excellence Awards early this year.