Tuesday, March 14, 2017

15 Lessons learnt from Dangote...

Couple of weeks ago, I had the privilege to be among the Young entrepreneurs who had the opportunity to meet with Dangote Aliko, known as "the richest man in Africa", one of the most renowned and biggest influencer in Africa. It was a unique moment,going beyond a typical pitch. Indeed, it was 30 crutial minutes when this great man deeply took his time to respond to questions and share his beliefs. And as I had taken note of 30 things I have learnt from such an interlock… After a moment of brainstorming, I narrowed it down and finally came up with the 15 things to capture the essence of this meeting with M. Dangote...

1. Dare to share
The first lesson was taught by the man who invited us to discover the amazing city of Marrakech. Amadou Diaw, the Founder of the Biggest Private University in Francophone West Africa decided to gather all of us together, in order to discuss about the "St Louis Forum". He has always believed in African Youth and has a strong belief in the power of sharing. And this unique opportunity he gave me to speak on behalf of the team, demonstrates such a statement.

2. Don’t lose opportunities
To the question asked by one of the entrepreneurs, regarding how he became such an influential entrepreneur, Dangote's answer was straight. He does believe that Entrepreneurship is all about opportunities. I bet most of the influential people would just tell you how “great they are” instead, he just mentioned that his secret was his capability to identify opportunities not only to invest, but to establish the Dangote Group at the age of just 20, moving it from a small trading firm, to one of the biggest conglomerates in Africa, with branches in Benin, Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, Senegal …

3. Everything happens for a reason!
Between the young boy who would buy and and sell boxes of sweets just to make money and the business man he became, there is food for thoughts. He did not just wake up and start doing business, even if his family used to be wealthy, he actually work hard to reach his success... He mentioned many times the how important it was to set the pace to success as everything happens for a reason…

4. What got you here, won’t get you there …
I mentioned earlier that it all started with a small company, then the organization focused on food industry, on cement manufacturing, on sugar trade and later on soft drinks… And he emphasized many times on the word “diversification”. Definitely because when you want to survive in an extremely competitive environment, you have to analyze the trends of the market, of course identifying opportunities as mentioned earlier, but most importantly, you need to understand that “whatever you start today, your competitor can do, even better, tomorrow”. So the more you get into diversification, the more you tend to have a competitive advantage…

5. Always have your vision in mind
“Because you have a long way to go, you cannot afford not to have a vision”. This was the whole thing I took from this interlock. In fact, it happens that from time to time, we lose focus. At the question what’s the piece of advice you’d give to the next generation of entrepreneurs, M. Dangote repeated “do not lose focus on what your vision is…” 

6. Africa’s future is in your hands
Surprisingly enough, the richest man of the world did insist in the fact of having a “healthy life, and sleeping enough”. Sincerely, that’s not something I was expecting, I was quiet surprised actually. But then he later explained that as the next generation of leaders, we did not have the right to be “compromised”. What else could we add to that, in a world where “rumor has it”. Having such a man believing so much in us being the next generation of leaders, and get him referring to the fact that one of the reason why he was investing that much in Africa was because, the future is here…

7. Be bold, Think Big.
“If you don’t thing big, you can’t grow” is one other sentence he did repeat. The one thing he considers our generation is lacking of, is to dare to create. At the era of Internet and new technologies, his suggestion is to dare to use our brain to create something which can benefit the community- thinking out of the box and setting the trend. But, and of course there is a “But” he insisted in the fact of identifying our own strengths and weaknesses, in order to address them.

8. Know your limits and go beyond…
"Once we accept our limits, we go beyond them". Albert Einstein said. People are often hedged in by boundaries, most of which are mental barriers that they themselves create. Mr Dangote's advice is to identify our limits and go beyond them!

9. Anticipate , dare to innovate
When you’re imaginative, even if you are lacking resources, you can still predict future trends in the market and propose something worth the investment. For example, back in 1990, Dangote did ask to the Central Bank of Nigeria to allow his transport company to take care of their fleet of vehicles. At that time and at that age, not only it was challenging, but it took some risks and couple of investments, but the end result was a successful and worthy initiative that paid off.

10. Make the best out of limited resources
From a family living in Kano, and a grandfather who was an influencer, he used to be challenged. This is the reason why he encourages Youth to make the best out of limited resources, as not everyone has the chance to find an investor. And in fact, because you’re able to get the best out of such a limited investment, a VC would be more willing to invest in you, rather than in your project. It’s all about sustainability....

11. Education is the basis
Don’t get tired of learning. Never get tired of learning. He calls out the fact that most of young people are eager to finish their studies and start a business, not knowing that you have to learn how to handle a business and how to deal with Human resources. Management is not just about assets, it’s about making sure that you have the right skills to stand in front of your team and tell them something which is worth the respect they will give you. If you have nothing to teach them, people will quickly step back. As he repeated several times, “Education is the pillar”.

12. Life is made of Up & Downs
He mentioned something spiritual. Life is not just about Ups, you also need to foresee the issues and threats, coming up your way. And you need to plan for that not only in terms of finance but in terms of resources. Life is not all perfect, you have Ups and Downs and you need to deal with it. You need to save money as you get at your peak, because there might be days where you may not get enough to sustain your entrepreneurial journey.

13. Failing is ok, as long as you realize why you did fail...
Of course he made bad decisions, and because he learnt from it, he was able to apply his learning in the other businesses he would start. Here is what he answered to an Entrepreneur asking what it is to fail as a entrepreneur. Not only, there is a need to understand why you failed, but you definitely need to do it quickly, as your competitor won’t give you the time to come back….

14. To whom much is given, much is expected
Mr Dangote invited us not to forget our community. In other words, he wants us to help the others as much as we have been supported at some point of time. In his vision, if we were meant to help each other in Africa and not always reach at foreigners, if we were willing to invest in our continent, rather than putting our investments outside of our countries, we would help Africa make a huge shift economically.

15. Be Humble ….
Is there was one thing to take away, that’s humility. A man worth Billions taking such a time to talk about FOREX issues in Nigeria, and vision for next generation of leaders, without complaints, and always with a smile, make me respect this man, beyond his fortune and the commit he has to develop his business, leaving a legacy as a leader, a true entrepreneur, a pioneer…

#NAG #entrepreneur #afrique #forum_de_saint_louis #dangote #aliko

Mandela Washington Fellow 2014

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