Seven Habits of Successful African Entrepreneurs

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Entrepreneurial habits in successful businessmen are not innate. They are habits nurtured either deliberately or by accident. Here are seven habits common to most successful African entrepreneurs.

1. Always Keep your Word

Most countries in Africa do not have a credit database where potential and current business partners can look up your history before committing to do business with you. Potential business partners in Africa conduct their due diligence by asking around. Therefore, building your reputation as someone who always keeps their word is highly important. The most important thing about keeping your word is always keep your partners apprised. If you cannot meet expectations you’ve agreed with a business partner, ALWAYS inform them ahead of time. In most of sub-saharan Africa, your word is your credit rating.

2. Pay your Debts on Time

Paying your debts on time is another fundamental part of maintaining a great reputation. Most customers start by giving you a small debt to see how and when you will pay it off. No businessman wants a customer who makes them chase him all around to collect his cash. Paying your debt on time shows you are trustworthy and reliable. It earns you respect.

3. Avoid Short Cuts to Wealth

Most successful business people work hard CONSISTENTLY over long periods of time to build wealth. They are careful about risk and will never fall for someone who claims to double money or “wash cash” for them. Dante, Chris Kirubi, and Sam E. Jonah did not try to be over night successes. They believed in the power of wealth compounding over a long period. These men took calculated risks wisely and did not try shortcuts to wealth. That is why their wealth stayed with them and grew.

4. Keep Family, Friends, and Business Separate

Most successful business people in Africa learn early to keep their friends and family separate from their business. They keep a personal life where extended family members are welcomed to socialize, while maintaining clear professional boundaries. This involves learning early to respectfully say, “No.” You must learn to say no to family and friends who ask you to sponsor random baby naming showers, birthday parties, or a night of drinking at a local bar with friends. Politely but firmly saying no and creating clear professional and social boundaries is challenging, but you will eventually earn a reputation that will protect your business and in the long run provide you even more resources to help your extended family.

5. Be A Great Time Manager

Being a successful entrepreneur requires time management and creating a solid, prioritized TO-DO-LIST. You must have your time planned well and ensure that you are focused on the activities that grow your business. Keep your appointments with customers, but do not focus on unimportant things such as spending hours performing tasks that you can easily delegate.

6. Keep a Low Social, Political and Religious profile

Keeping a low profile means not showing off wealth and connections because this will only attract the wrong type of crowd to you. This also means not explicitly displaying your political beliefs. Unless you are in a dictatorship that requires displaying pictures of politicians in your place of business, avoid showing political support. Obviously, if you are a tenderpreneur – depending on government tenders and contracts to run your business – you must show political support. Successful entrepreneurs also avoid displaying lots of religious symbols unless showing religiosity is part of their marketing strategy.

7. Commitment and Perseverance

Most successful entrepreneurs in Africa are highly self-confident. They believe in their ideas when many people around them were naysayers. Self-confidence is what gives most entrepreneurs the passion to grow their business when it may have been easier to reach out to an uncle to help them find a job. Successful entrepreneurs are also very committed to succeeding because they understand that running a successful business is a marathon that requires high levels of energy, tenacity and perseverance.

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