We love our clients! These entrepreneurs are hard working, intelligent, driven, and lots of fun. On a daily basis, they keep us on our toes. The road to transformation may be rocky, but it’s never dull! Typically they have achieved their current scale through bootstrapping. The interest rates are extremely high (30%) and equity capital is quite scarce. Recently, Jan made time to smell and sip the coffee at a coffee-roasting firm in Cote d’Ivoire. Although this company is Kweku’s client, Jan spent a day with them to discuss their packaging needs and future launch into grocery stores.
The local coffee “barista” had interesting insight into the coffee brands and drinking patterns of the locals.
Also on this trip, while working with the mobile applications company, Jan and her client went to lunch at a restaurant with stuffed crocodiles on the wall. When we asked if they were real, the answer was “Oui!” On the same trip to Cote d’Ivoire, Ed delivered a marketing and sales plan to his client, a concrete paver and roof tile company, and provided an analysis on how to use volume discounts to increase productivity. The Nigerian dry cleaner was delighted to include Jan at the opening ceremony for their new branch in the capital city of Abuja. The entrepreneur’s pastor from Lagos was on hand to cut the ribbon and deliver a rousing oratory to dedicate the shop. As a visiting celebrity, Jan’s picture appeared on the pages of the largest newspaper in Lagos. A TV soap opera star was the MC of the celebration. At lunch after the celebration, he was constantly asked for autographs! Ed spent a week in Lagos with a custom office decorating company to work out the details of their ecommerce offering. The company had been encountering production bottlenecks because a critical machine, the edge binder, which applies veneer edge on plywood sheets, had not been working properly. Ed and his client told the production manager that they would be in the factory at 8:00 the next morning with flashlights and manuals to recalibrate the machine. When we arrived the next morning, the machine was up and running perfectly. We’re not sure whether the most powerful incentive was the shame of having the female managing director or the foreigner (Ed) fix the problem, but the machine has been working well since. Another highlight for Jan was her invitation to deliver a production course to the line workers at the pharmaceutical company. She discussed process flow and “bottlenecks” and then mocked up the factory line so management could listen to their suggestions for improvement. The line workers were delighted to be asked for their ideas. In fact it was such a hit with the first 25 workers, that the other 25 workers requested the same program, so Jan obliged and taught a second class. A note taker recorded all of their suggestions for improving the line and eliminating the "bottlenecks". At lunch, she saw that the Chairman had a personalized license plate! Jan worked with the CEO to develop a “pitch deck” to help the company raise money. When it was time to present, he was “nattily attired” and ready for the show! (BTW, the presentation went well.) Ed has been coaching the senior management of a leading Nigerian Internet Commerce firm on some difficult career and business decisions. He snagged us an invitation to the wedding of one of the principals in Lagos. Another of the managing directors, who brought his daughter to the reception, arrived in a custom made outfit. With another client, a Ghanaian Internet Services Provider, Ed has been coaching the managing director on preparing his team for the hyper growth that will occur as he closes a large capital investment to increase share in a rapidly growing market. Jan and the entrepreneur from the Electrical Services firm set specifications for two new websites and then interviewed a series of potential web developers before finding one that met their needs. Ed’s been helping an Agri-Business Information and Communications Company refine their positioning and strategy and recently worked with them to apply “Crossing the Chasm” to calibrate their strategic focus. At the Vertically-Integrated Produce Company, Ed has been helping to complete a business plan and financial model, and to obtain equity financing, hitting the pavement of Sand Hill Road, Accra style. As the business model is quite complex and unfamiliar to many investors, he and the entrepreneur have used the Business Model Canvas to support presentations. Jan helped sort out the data from the quality survey with the Dry Cleaner back in Lagos. When Jan visited the Paint Manufacturer recently, she was glad to see that the factory was humming and recent production was being shipped to clients. But, when she asked the status of the contract for a large northern Nigerian project that’s currently under negotiation, he said, “Sorry … no news. The client has gone to Mecca!” TIA. This is Africa. We continue to be inspired by these industrious and positive entrepreneurs. Their future is bright and we’re lucky to help them on their transformation journey.