4 Basic Tools for Success for Today’s African Young Entrepreneurs

Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Armand E.G. Goutondji a freelance English/French translator/interpreter and the owner of AEG.Communications, a T&I agency. It was first published on NairaBrains.com

Today’s business world is defined by a number of principles that affect almost every stakeholder: connectivity, mobility, speed, information, availability and many others. While the Western part of the world has fully integrated such principles in the realm of business, the situation is different elsewhere on the planet and particularly in Africa. However, that does not mean there is nothing to be done to change the status quo. On the contrary, a different approach could be suggested to include the above mentioned principles one by one in the African business context. The first step in such an approach would be to prescribe the tools of success for every young African entrepreneur.

Pen and notepad or “Creative thinking 101”

Call me conventional or out-of-touch but I firmly believe that there is nothing that can give you a better feeling of doing something (even if it’s nothing) than writing down something on a notepad. Of course nowadays, using a laptop or a phone to jot ideas down is more commonplace, but imagine the speed at which you can take out a pad and write something in it, anywhere and at anytime. Imagine the little space it takes in your pocket/bag compared to a laptop. Imagine the beauty of writing something down on paper, scratching it out, rewriting, circling, underlining, framing, etc. with a pen, right when you need it! And what’s more is that unless something happens to the pad, you can always go back to what you wrote, make amendments and draw inspiration to reformulate and refine your earlier thoughts. Imagine you have a better way to make money from your business? Sounds tempting right? How about you go get a pen and a notepad and write that idea down now!

Smartphone: be smart, get a smartphone!

People often ask me why I use different phones and my answer is simple: one is for my private life and the other ones for my businesses. Yes that’s right, you can’t always mix business with pleasure or with private life, and if you’ve noticed, the use of various phones by one owner has been the trend for a number of years on our continent, albeit for different reasons (mainly because of network interoperability and costs of communication).

On the other hand, the widespread availability of smartphones nowadays, coupled with their lower cost, now means you can get a good smartphone at an affordable price. With it comes a wide range of software additions (also known as applications or “apps”) that are specifically tailored for business: currency converter, stock market apps, newsreaders, etc; and the good news is that some of these applications are free! Of course to fully take advantage of such offers you’ll need one crucial element which we’ll talk about in the following paragraph: the Internet. But think about it, would you prefer still using that 3310 to handle business or would you rather have a Lumia 900? I say use both: one for business, one for private life.

Internet for the forward-thinker

Today’s business world partly revolves around two things: reach/availability & mobility. Indeed, as consumers want their questions answered right away the first business to accede to such requests is the one which will eventually make a profit. The Internet is key in today’s business world and your having access to it is critical. Whether you’re planning on having a global reach or even if your sights are only set on the local market, the web can be an ally for various reasons. In a previous article on entrepreneurship trends in Africa (available here), I mentioned the importance of research when developing a business and how the Internet can help you do that. But the internet offers much more than that. From generating ideas for business growth to networking with peers, from information on international standards to targeting one of the biggest contributor to local economies (the African Diaspora), opportunities for entrepreneurship and business development are endless thanks to our interconnectedness; it is only a matter of how you leverage this tool in order to exploit such a potential. As entrepreneur and marketing guru Mitch Joel explained in his book Six Pixels of Separation: everyone is connected, connect your business to everyone.

Laptop/netbook/tablet: the Tech Generation

As much as one might disapprove of Darwin’s theory of evolution, fortunately or unfortunately (depending on how you look at it) the business world is all about that: evolution, adaptation, survival of the fittest. As technology evolves, so should you and your business. Gone are the days of notes-based presentations or sales pitch, welcome interactive slideshows, 3D and social media. In the African context, though obstacles such as intermittent electricity supply and outdated ICT infrastructures can be daunting, there’s no better way to stay above the competition than by being IT-savvy with the basic tool: the computer. What impression do you think you create when you make a presentation complete with multimedia, videos, illustrations, all from a laptop, compared with someone doing the same but using paper? Add to that the following advantages:

mobility: you are no longer stuck on one desktop computer having to print documents or move them between computer and USB stick. Use your laptop everywhere and anywhere,
versatility: not only can you do everything you do on a desktop on a laptop but more: as mentioned earlier you can use it in place of a pen and notepad and for various tasks,
affordability: a good laptop today can cost you anything from US $400 to
US $1000. A netbook, while being even cheaper at US $300, gives you the added advantage of reduced size WITH increased professionalism,

style: every businessman/woman wants to be considered unique. What better way to make a statement than to attend a business meeting with a sleek netbook? If you are one of those who love gadgets, why not go then for a tablet? At an average price of US $500, it’s still a good deal if you have the means and you want the edge.

Add to the abovementioned advantages the paperless environment, internet connectivity via data or WiFi, the professional touch and there you have it!

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