The Conundrum of Starting a Millionaire Business in Ghana from Nothing

Updated: Sep 10, 2021

Many dream, but few commit

In this article, I focus on sharing key points on start-ups can make strides amidst real business challenges in Ghana

Ghana is a developing country with so many untapped areas of development. Unlike the developed countries, Ghana is a haven for investors considering the virginity of developed ideas in the western world. The success stories of restaurants such as Marwako, Aboude, Papaye and now KFC and Burger King are all an indication of good business prospects amidst the economic challenges. Ghanaians were used to kiosks, container shops, and then moved to mini-marts and supermarkets up until malls emerged. The success stories of the first malls have generated more malls around the country. Today, the traditional cassava and plantain mix popularly called fufu has evolved into Neat Fufu, Neat Koko, etc. Untapped industries of fresh-cut fruits and natural juice have seen tremendous gains as Blue Skies leads with its innovative 5day Expiry fresh Fruit Juice.

If others could achieve such heights in Ghana, then many could even do better. The following three key points would assist with developing your millionaire project in Ghana out of nothing:

1. Develop the Idea

Just like any other part of the world, you can never fully optimize an idea without exploring all its possibilities. In Ghana, most people want to simply buy and sell. Shops are being built every now and then and are all quickly rented out. The focus of most people is “what works now”, “What’s the new fast-moving product now?”, “What business is trending now?”. People often want to always align themselves to what is working. Therefore, having an idea is not enough. Most people after dreaming and conceiving an idea do not move to the next step: Develop the idea.

The idea development stage is often jumped over, straight into the execution stage. The idea development stage is conceptualizing the idea into main ideas. Thus, giving a clear framework to the idea. At this key stage, it is no more just an idea but the status changes to a project. A project has preliminary works, works during the time of execution, and future projections after execution. Hence, three key areas need to be well elaborated: The Business Model [Modus Operandi of the Business]; Feasibility Studies on the Viability, Profitability, and Sustainability of the Business; The execution and future prospects of the project. This is all captured in a document called Business Plan.

2. Enter into Relational Thinking

Second, just like the African proverb says “If you want to go fast, go alone; but if you want to far, go with someone”. Ghanaian businesses often operate solo. Most people are overprotective to the extent that they do not want to share their ideas with partners who can help sharpen them. This solo ideology does not create giant business empires. It is very difficult to find any Ghanaian business, which is over 100 or even 50years old. Aside from the Government institutions and multinational corporations in Ghana, most businesses are below 50years old.

When ideas are run solo, when the initiator or the front-runner is no more, the business starts to dwindle and even gets obliterated. In the current Ghanaian economy, if start-ups are going to be successful then they need to enter into Relational Thinking. In the throes of early-onset business build-ups, you need to adopt a completely new approach from thinking and working alone to optimizing by surrounding yourself and involving the smartest, most high-integrity people. At this stage, you focus on building deep, long-term, win-win relationships and less on being solely goals-oriented.

But at this stage, you need to differentiate between Efficiency Thinking and Relational Thinking. The underlying difference between efficiency and relational thinking is the role and value of people. From the perspective of efficiency thinking, other people are a means to an end. In the context of relational thinking, people are the means and the end. Efficiency thinking asks, “What are my goals and how can I most rapidly achieve them with the greatest odds of success?” Relational thinking asks, “How can I constantly surround myself with the most amazing people and build deep relationships with them?

“By incorporating relational thinking into our lives, we not only increase the odds of achieving our goals; we co-create a more fulfilling journey with goals that enrich us.” -Michael Simmons, Forbes

3. Attracting the right people

As earlier elaborated, the cost of start-up capital in Ghana is highly expensive. Finding and consolidating the right people to form the team to execute the project is also difficult. In fact, a good team of investors can be the underpinning success of the start-up, but a bad one can obliterate even the strongest formed ideas. Knowing that investors can provide more than just capital to your business is also key. Actually, they can easily become resources for organizing, marketing, and realizing ideas. Hence, it is decisive to know what to look for in an investor.

But, how does a newbie in business, with fewer success stories, convince investors to listen and buy into an idea? Three vital traits are needed: Well-elaborated Business Plan; Good communication and accessibility; and Credibility and Honesty. It is a natural phenomenon for entrepreneurs to present business plans with best-case scenario figures to lure investors to fund new projects. But actually, the opposite is rather true. Investors are often focused on worst-case scenarios. This proves the business is sustainable and not just viable. In fact, being truthful is definitely non-negotiable.

“Nothing will torpedo an investor’s confidence in you faster than projecting everything through rose-coloured lenses. Making cautious or even negative projections shows investors you’re honest with them and also capable of being realistic about your project’s potential problems. Under-promising and over-delivering is your best bet, and an honest assessment of a project’s strengths and weaknesses is crucial” - Aaron Pitman and Ryan Goldschmidt founders of RA Domain Capital

Your best bet in communicating your idea is to prove it works. That is only achieved through a thorough market research and feasibility studies analysis. You build credibility by getting an idea going, and achieve small successes to demonstrate you have what it takes to see things through. Learn to be likable, look sharp, and exude positivity but show realism in execution.

Once you understand that investors are more than just providing cash, they become the consulting team and may even assist with the day-to-day operations. Define the role of investors as partners. Hence, you need to seek a more comprehensive group of partners with diverse expertise and experience needed for the achievement of the set goals. You need to accept constructive criticisms but do not downplay the importance of positivity in an investor. Supportive people can be the difference between a project’s success and failure. Do not expect all investors to be directly involved, others may be occupied with their own pursuits and yet can contribute significantly in cash, network leads, and good strategic developments.

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