Voices of African Women Entrepreneurs: 15 Lessons for Entrepreneurs


For the past 15 years, I have worked with entrepreneurs – as a member of the Management team at Alder Consulting.

I have had ringside seats at management tables and gained incredible perspectives on how to run an enterprise at an operational level. I have learned that to grow a credible organization beyond a one-man operation and to retain talent, certain principles are non-negotiable. You will find that most of them are about people.

Here are some of my top lessons:

1. Vision does not produce great products; operations and people do.You must match the scale and brilliance of your vision with the quality of your operations.  To bring your vision to life, you must invest in a well-oiled production machine.

2. Give talented people operational and financial responsibility. To develop your management cadre, allow staff to run business lines; giving them freedom to hire, fire, and operate the balance sheet. If you do not trust them to do so after a couple of years, you have not replicated yourself in them or they do not have the capacity for leadership. Then, you need to seriously consider recruiting managers from outside the company.

3. Encourage your staff to join boards and volunteer, deploying latent skills outside your company. After a couple of years in an organisation, staff begin to lose their competitive edge and may develop tunnel vision. Working on external projects refreshes them and exposes them to new ways of doing things.

4. Reward them and show appreciation. Always remember that many of your top managers put their lives on hold to help you achieve your vision. Do not let them regret it.  Money isn’t everything. Managers need to know they matter and that their contributions are appreciated.

5. Create a plan for staff development. Any appraisal system that isn\’t characterised by reward, punishment, and a clear plan for staff development is useless. Without these factors actively operating within your system, hardworking managers will become disillusioned and demoralised.

6. Demand performance. You should not keep chasing staff for deliverables. You will be mentally exhausted. Your best managers are those who require the least supervision. Retain them because without them you will never have the freedom to enjoy the fruit of your labour. You will be too busy working on mundane things.

7. Hire people who like what they do. Do not hire people who just need the money. They will make excuses for everything under the sun and eventually leave when they’ve built a nest egg at your expense.

8. Hire people who are as smart or smarter than you and hire young people for generational perspectives. You need quality minds to rub against yours or you won’t produce groundbreaking solutions.

9. Every organization needs a manager who looks out for staff. Many times CEOs are consumed with the business vision and staff issues are not at the top of their minds. This doesn\’t mean they are uncaring.

10. Communicating the vision is key. Regularly tell your managers where the company is headed or else they\’ll lose passion and drift away.

11. Never judge people for expressing their minds or dissatisfaction. Address the issues or else people will never tell you the truth again.

12. Create a deliberate wealth plan for staff. Determine that if people give their lives in service to your vision, in the future, they\’ll build houses, send their kids to great schools, and live well. Plan for this.

13. Money Matters. When a business unit persistently loses money, don\’t wait forever to act. Take drastic steps to fix it or discontinue it.

14. Don\’t spend money you don\’t have. Use the money you make for specific projects. Transfer funds from central accounts to project accounts and put them to use immediately. That way, you can\’t conveniently reach for funds in an “emergency”. (You should have savings for emergencies). If you do not fund the future and keep spending the present, you will never create growth or wealth.

15. You don’t have exclusivity of knowledge. When in doubt, ask those who have successfully done what you’re trying to achieve.


About the Author: 

Subomi Plumptre heads the corporate practice at Alder Consulting, Nigeria’s leading brand consulting firm. At Alder, she consults on idea development, business strategy, social media strategy, and brand development. She sits on the Board of A Figment of Imagination, and is a member of the Board of Trustees for The Leke Alder Foundation. She is also co-chair of the Management Board of the Nigeria Leadership Initiative (NLI) and an Associate of the Advertising Practitioners Council of Nigeria (APCON).

Follow her on twitter: https://twitter.com/subomiplumptre

2 thoughts on “Voices of African Women Entrepreneurs: 15 Lessons for Entrepreneurs”

  1. Lots of wisdom in this article, well done. This is a self-critiquing article. I have a great vision but executing the operations with limited resources is challenging. Lack of resources makes it extremely challenging to create quality products or services. One may have the vision but not the capcity to create the impact they desire… I know the Pyramids werent built in a day, but the challenges in operations can make you lose out on opportunities. Great Article Plumptre & Thank You AWP Network!

  2. Pingback: Voices of African Women Entrepreneurs: Subomi P...

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