Most people understand that entrepreneurship is not easy. But there are many ways to make the journey less arduous. You can get a coach or mentor; Go through an accelerator/incubator; Work with a great team. The list goes on and on. Based on my experience, I came to the realization that to be a successful entrepreneur, there are some traits that must be innate.
Be afraid, but do it anyway! It’s not the absence of fear, but the mastery of fear, that makes the entrepreneur. Be scared, but don’t let the fear stop you. Let it propel you. It’s almost instinctive to be afraid when you have something bigger than you on the line. Fear can be a self-fulfilling prophecy if not harnessed correctly. Instead of allowing fear to cripple you, take it and use it as fuel to work that much harder on your ideas and your goals.
This is the fire in your belly. The determination to see things through that will help you with that pesky fear. It’s the helping hand that lifts you when you fall and tells you to try again. I love what Angela Lee Duckworth shares in her TED Talk on grit. She reinforces that it’s not the most talented or the smartest, but the grittiest that will succeed.
You know those light bulbs that go off in your mind while driving or taking a shower? That give you sleepless nights? Have you ever tried exploring these ideas? Ideas are many, but great ideas are scarce. No one can give them to you. You have to find them yourself. They can come from personal need or experience. They can come from a gap that you’ve identified. They don’t have to be novel ideas, but they do have to be ideas that people are willing to pay you for.
This goes without saying. Do what keeps you up at night, what keeps your adrenaline going, what drives you. Some people say: Forget passion and do what you are good at. You can be passionate about what you are good at, so passion is something you should continue to develop. It’s not something that will bring immediate success. We must do what we have to do to get by. But you haven’t lived life to the fullest until you get a chance to do what you are passionate about!
I have mentioned in the past that we have to bend and not break. Situations change minute by minute, from morning to night and day-by-day. Your innate ability to adapt to and survive situations can be the difference between success and failure.
Find what motivates you and run with it! Our levels of motivation wax and wane. But if you have something to hold onto, like that pot of gold at the end of the road, you will keep on going until you get there. It’s what keeps you going when all the money’s gone or when there was none to begin with. It’s what keeps you believing after you’ve heard your twentieth “NO.” Don’t stop believing.
Putting yourself in someone else’s shows is strength, not a weakness. Entrepreneurs have the responsibility to lead teams and to meet customer demands. You need to empathize with people so that you can lead well.
Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz is known for showing empathy in running his business. This has led to tremendous benefits for his employees and Starbucks as a company. Even Google values and understands the importance of empathy.
According to Project Aristotle, a study they released in 2017, empathy was among the soft skills exhibited by B-teams that brought the most important and innovative ideas. No one can teach you these traits. Having them does not mean that you will always succeed. It means that when you fail, you will be able to get back on your feet again and keep moving.
No one is an island and we all need to collaborate and lean on each other for support and guidance. There will be good days and bad days, long days and short days. There is no one exact script that you can follow. But whatever is in you, whatever drives you – hold on to it.
Article first published by Forbes, here.
CEO Profile: Bako Ambianda, A Global Business Disruptor
Bako Ambianda is the Founder, Chairman, and CEO of Labacorp Group of Companies (LGC), a dynamic diversified holding company with a portfolio of businesses and strategic investments in key sectors. He serves as the President and CEO of Labacorp Energy Limited (LEL), an indigenous oil and gas company with operations in the energy, mining, and power generation sectors primarily in Cameroon with extended operation’s in international markets.
A versatile and innovative entrepreneur, Mr. Bako also serves as the President and CEO of Labacorp Power Company (LPC), an independent power producer and renewable energy development company. He is also the Managing Partner of Labacorp Investments SARL (LIN), an acquisitions and investment management firm dedicated to African markets.
Well-known and respected as an International Development Expert, with the ability to assemble business and government leaders. Mr. Bako is the Founder, Chairman & CEO of ATIGS Group, Inc (Africa Trade & Investment Global Services), a trade promotion, project facilitation, and development company, that offers full spectrum of consulting and business development services to companies looking to expand or establish their operations in African markets. Mr. Bako is the creator and leading proponent of the “Afridevelopism” economic concept, and an active player in activities pertaining to trade, investment, and economic development in Africa. He is an indisputable powerful connector who has a strong track record of operational excellence, with an extensive global network.
He has been quoted many times in media, and received several honours and awards for catalyzing significant development initiatives to name a few: In 2019, he featured in the official African Union (AU) Invest in Africa Magazine as an African Diaspora that is playing a leading role in contributing to the development of Africa, and the magazine was distributed to the office of all African heads of state. He received the 2019 Africa SME Development Award by Africa Business Portal (ABP).
In 2018, Mr. Bako was named one of the Most Influential People of African Decent (Under 40) by MIPAD, and he also received the 2018 Global Business Disruptor Award by Professional Association of Young Africans (PAYA) in Texas. In 2018, Mr. Bako made history in hosting the Africa Trade & Investment Global Summit (ATIGS), the premier Africacentric business event held in the United States in 2018 at the Ronald Reagan Building and World Trade Center,Washington DC with over 2,300 high-level delegates from 92 countries.
The event also featured on the Nasdaq Tower,Times square, New York, the most valuable advertising spaces in the world. The ATIGS event which he founded in 2015 is a leading prestigious biennial Africa-global business conference and exhibition. In 2018, Mr. Bako hosted the first ever Africa House at the International South by Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. The event was powered by Africa Worldwide Alliance Partnerships (AfriWAPA), an initiative which he founded in 2017 to help African enterprises of all stages build their brands at mega international shows.
In 2016, he founded Solar Business Events, a portfolio of leading solar exhibitions and conferences including Solar Business Festival (SBF), and Solar Business Expo (SBE) which has been held successful in Texas, Chile, Florida, Mexico, and Coastal Rica. In 2016, the Solar Business Festival (SBF) became the largest solar trade show ever held in the state of Texas and was endorsed by Governor Gregg Arbor, Mayor Steve Alder, and Congressman Lloyd Doggett. In 2017, and 2018, Panasonic North America was the presenting Sponsor.
In 2015, he founded Global Attain Advancement (GAA), an international trade mission, publishing, and events company that implements trade programs, capacity building workshops, and high-quality events to help businesses connect with customers, lunch new products, promote their brands, and expand into new markets.
In 2012, he founded Bako Ambianda International (BAI), a professional development organization that focuses on unlocking the potentials of young professionals globally. Through BAI, he lunched The Bako University, to mentor, train and coach young professionals. Mr. Bako has spoken at several universities and authored six books on economic development and personal development including ‘Destined to Win In the Game of Life” “Ingredient to Uplift Your Journey”, “Who’s in Your Ears”, “Invest in Your Mindset”, “The Unstoppable Warrior” “Bako Nine Wisdom Keys” and “Fueling Africa’s Economic Development”.
He is armed with the knowledge, expertise, and understanding of business opportunities that exist in Africa, and speaks regularly at international gatherings on Solar Power, Doing Business in Africa, International Trade, Foreign Direct Investments (FDI), and Economic Development in Africa. He holds several board and advisory positions including PULSAR Development International Ltd, Evrensel Capital Partners Inc, AGRI-INVEST Sarl, Tiwala Markt Company LLC, and Asian-African Chamber of Commerce & Industry (AACCI).
Mr. Bako holds a BSc degree in Civil Engineering from the University of Texas at Austin, with advanced professional certificates in international development, strategic project management, and economic diplomacy. He is a global citizen, born and raised in Cameroon, Africa, and based in Houston, Texas (USA).
Interview: African Energy Chamber Executive Chairman, NJ Ayuk on Transforming Africa’s Energy Sector
A leading energy lawyer and a strong advocate for African entrepreneurs, NJ Ayuk is recognized as one of the foremost figures in African business today. Founder and CEO of Centurion Law Group, a pan-African law firm and the current chairman of the African Energy Chamber, NJ strives through his work to ensure that business, and especially oil and gas, impacts African societies in a positive way and drives local content development. In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, NJ shed light on the continent’s biggest energy challenges, the impact of the African Energy Chamber(AEC) in the continent’s energy, oil and gas sector. And how is AEC is becoming the entry door to Africa’s oil & gas sector. Excerpt.
Tell us about the African Energy Chamber and the gap it’s filling.
The African Energy Chamber is based on a network of public and private executives that have been working towards the development of Africa’s oil and gas industry for several years now, mostly focusing on local content development. Seeing the need for Africa to have a stronger voice on the global energy scene and communicate better, we have opened up the organisation to all interested parties two years ago. Since then both the Chamber’s network and its activities have considerable grown. We have welcomed over a 100 new partners, both institutional and corporate from across Africa and have multiplied initiatives, especially when it comes to institutional capacity building, local content development and facilitating foreign investment and advisory.
How long as the chamber being in existence and how does your organisation measure it’s impact?
We work for the interest of African companies and entrepreneurs. Seeing the number of them reaching out to us for support over the past year has been the strongest indicator of our impact and ability to both represent African interests and unite the right network of partners towards common goals. We have increasingly received requests to assist African SMEs and larger oil services companies to expand across sub-Saharan Africa. This is a very good sign for the future growth of the African content: our companies are hungry and want to expand. We are also bringing lots of support to governments and governmental institutions in capacity building, especially within rapidly growing markets like South Sudan.
How’s the chamber being perceived both internationally and within the continent?
Internationally, we are mostly perceived as a source of information and an access door to some of Africa’s fastest-growing or most complex markets. The need for on-the-ground information and data on Africa is growing very rapidly and foreign investors are looking for reliable local partners and information providers, especially when it comes to finding their ways around Africa’s many different jurisdictions and ways of doing business.
From within the continent, we are increasingly seen as being a voice and conscience for the sector. We advocate for the issues at heart for African companies, entrepreneurs and people. Our industry needs a strong voice pushing for local content development and domestic capacity building and we are proud to have positioned ourselves as a key advocate in this regard.
What in your view is the biggest energy challenge in Africa?
Africa is plagued by many energy challenges, which are all opportunities, from energy affordability to infrastructure and lack of financing. While we address all of those as an institution, we do insist on the challenge of monetising resources, especially gas ones. By flaring gas like we have for decades, we have concretely burned billions of dollars worth of resources that could power our entire continent, hundreds of factories and create millions of jobs. We believe gas is the future of Africa’s energy industry, and creating monetisation opportunities across the board, from petrochemicals to power, from cement to petrochemicals manufacturing units, should be a priority.
What is Africa doing right in terms of it’s energy sector?
African nations have taken positive steps in engaging each other and exploring common opportunities. This manifests itself first on the international stage. Equatorial Guinea and Congo Brazzaville joined OPEC in 2017 and 2018, strengthening the African voice within the industry’s most influential organisation. But many other African countries have also joined the Declaration of Cooperation and frequently attend OPEC meetings like South Sudan, Chad, Uganda etc. International engagement from Africa is something that was missing and has been corrected. As a result of that, African governments and companies have also been increasingly talking to each other. Major projects are moving ahead thanks to this dialogue, be it the Tortue field between Senegal and Mauritania, or the recent gas unitisation agreement between Equatorial Guinea and Cameroon.
What surprises you about this sector and it’s future?
The unexploited potential is massive, and quite frankly overwhelming. In terms of oil & gas exploration, we believe that world-class global discoveries are to be made in the near future. The recent ones in Mozambique and Senegal are just the beginning. Beyond mere exploration, the potential for meeting the continent’s growing energy needs, addressing increasing energy consumption, and providing jobs to millions of young men and women is what will define the future of the sector. This represent billions of dollars at play, both for foreign investors willing to take risks and make lucrative deals, but especially for us Africans if we are able to seize the opportunities offered to us by our land.
Do you see the deepen of a private-public partnership drive growth in this sector?
We do not think there has been a serious deepening of private-public partnerships, which remain a major need for the sector. This would require a market-by-market analysis, as in some places the lack of PPPs is a regulatory one, while in others you actually do have successes but in other sectors such as infrastructure. Overall, the need for PPPs in the industry is there, and the power sector offers tremendous opportunities for such projects. However, many regulations need to be revised, public institutions need to adhere to stronger governance standards, and private investors must be made aware of the right opportunities and projects to get involved in.
What is your vision and goal for this chamber under your leadership?
The AEC is becoming the entry door to Africa’s oil & gas sector. We are already receiving lots of queries from new investors wishing to enter fast growth markets, and having local representatives on the ground is positioning us as a strong advisor and facilitator for foreign investors, while being able to properly communicate what is happening on the ground to the international energy community. On the second hand, we also want to be building domestic capacity, both by training and skilling Africans so they can take on additional responsibilities across the value chain, but also by bringing in more technology and best practices to our local companies so we contribute to boosting local content.
You own Centurion Law Group, tell us about this law firm and how are you managing these two big brands?
Centurion is a pan-African legal and advisory business specialised in oil & gas. We are leaders in frontier jurisdictions like Equatorial Guinea and South Sudan and do not shy away from working in what many wrongly perceive as challenging markets. More importantly, we are a firm who believes in African talent and have dedicated ourselves to train the next generation of African lawyers. It is very upsetting to see the amount of legal work on Africa that goes to London or New York when we have high-quality and highly-trained legal talent present on the continent. As such we are more than offering legal services; we are a law firm with a mission.
About NJ Ayuk:
A leading energy lawyer and a strong advocate for African entrepreneurs, NJ Ayuk is recognized as one of the foremost figures in African business today. A Global Shaper with the World Economic Forum, one of Forbes’ Top 10 Most Influential Men in Africa in 2015, and a well-known dealmaker in the petroleum and power sectors, NJ is dedicating his career to helping entrepreneurs find success and to building the careers of young African lawyers. As founder and CEO of Centurion Law Group, a pan-African law firm, NJ strives through his work to ensure that business, and especially oil and gas, impacts African societies in a positive way and drives local content development. He is the current chairman of the African Energy Chamber and author of ‘Big Barrels: African Oil and Gas and the Quest for Prosperity’. His second book, ‘Billions at Play: the Future of African energy’ is due for release at the end of the year.
A propos de NJ Ayuk:
NJ est un avocat de premier plan dans le domaine de l’énergie et un ardent défenseur des entrepreneurs africains, reconnu comme l’une des figures les plus en vue des entreprises africaines aujourd’hui. Il est un « Global Shaper » avec le Forum économique mondial, l’un des 10 hommes les plus influents de Forbes en Afrique en 2015, et un négociateur renommé dans les secteurs du pétrole et de l’énergie. Il est fondateur et PDG du Centurion Law Group et président actuel de la Chambre africaine de l’énergie et auteur du best-seller « Big Barrels : pétrole et gaz africains et la quête de la prospérité. » Son second ouvrage, « Des milliards en jeu : le future de l’énergie africaine » sera publie à la fin de l’année.
Lillian Barnard: Tech Enthusiast And First Female Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa
Lillian Barnard, a tech enthusiast and seasoned professional has spent over 20 years of her career working her way up the ladder in the information and communications technology (ICT) industry, both locally and abroad. And she’s found real success.
In March 2019, Lillian was appointed as the Managing Director, Microsoft South Africa in March, 2019. She became the first woman to hold the position since Microsoft reinvested in South Africa in the early 1990’s. In her words, She said “My experience, combined with my passion and commitment to continuous learning and understanding the technology trends positions me well to be successful in this industry.” In this interview with Alaba Ayinuola, Lillian spoke about her passion for technology, experiences in top executive positions in the ICT industry, her vision and goals for Microsoft under her leadership. Excerpt.
When you were young, what did you want to be when you grew up?
From as young as 12 years old, I realise the value of education and the importance of Mathematics. I was crystal clear that I was going to go to University and pursue a degree in Commerce. I was exceptionally fortunate that I was enabled the opportunity to realise this dream, especially in the era in which I grew up.
Recently, you were the first woman appointed as the Managing Director of Microsoft South Africa. How does this make you feel and were you surprised?
I am honoured to be the first woman to hold the position since Microsoft reinvested in the country in the early 1990s. I am extremely passionate about the possibilities of technology and how it can transform the industry, empower society and enable economic growth for South Africa, and Africa.
My first 3 months in role have been filled with excitement. In my first week, I had the opportunity to be part of a momentous occasion where Microsoft launched the opening of the state-of-the-art datacentres as well our multi-million-dollar investment to create economic opportunities for South Africa through the evolved Equity Equivalent Investment Programme (EEIP).
With 20 years’ ICT experience in leadership roles in South Africa and Internationally. What’s the greatest hurdle you’ve encountered, and how did you overcome it?
I was fortunate that early in my career, I was identified as Top Talent, and as result was often placed in roles which I felt required more experience than I could offer at point. There were three key learnings that I had, which enabled to overcome an hurdle I faced.
Firstly, I realised that my diversity of thinking, my tenacity and my passion for what I do are they three things that often enable my success in any task.
Secondly, I realised that confidence in my abilities – and finding this quickly – was going to be important as I progressed in my career, because I always had ambitious goals.
Finally, and this is still true to this, life is going to be a continuous learning journey of self- discovery that you are going to have to embrace.
How has your background prepared you for success in the technology ecosystem?
I have more than 20 years’ experience in the ICT industry, and have held various executive positions with IBM and Vodacom, both locally and abroad, that have enabled me to gain extensive knowledge in sales, operations, business controls, strategy, business transformation and leadership.
This experience, combined with my passion and commitment to continuous learning and understanding the technology trends positions me well to be successful in this industry.
My time as an entrepreneur really taught me the importance of resilience, and to keep focusing on your end goal and not give up until you achieve it.
I have also been fortunate to have a number of strong mentors, through whom I have learnt some key leadership lessons, and in particular the importance of leading through inspiration, constant focus on your people and continuous communication.
Tell us about your philosophy and leadership style?
In South Africa, leaders must make learning a new way of life and have to become intentional about their learning agenda; because the tech industry is ever changing. This will ensure that you keep your skills current and it will ensure that you remain relevant.
In my journey to leadership, I learnt that it is critical to have faith in your capabilities and the confidence to express those capabilities through your authentic voice. My personal mandate is to ensure that through authenticity; I am transparent, honest and effective in communicating plans and goals for the organisation and doing so with clarity.
People has always been at the core of my focus. As a leader you must be transformational in your approach and build a diverse and inclusive workplace. It is fair to say that we all understand diversity, but inclusivity is so important, and this is all about focusing on the needs of every individual, ensuring that the right conditions are in place, so everyone can reach their full potential.
As a global organisation that is committed to finding new ways of empowering people to achieve more, we are constantly evolving and creating change from within, so we can provide the best possible service to our customers.
We obsess over what matters to our customers, becoming more diverse and inclusive in everything we do and create, operating as one company instead of multiple siloed businesses and lastly, to making a difference in the lives of each other, our customers and the world around us.
Our business is anchored in a growth mindset, this inspires us to be curious about our customers — learning all we can about their needs and challenges with a beginner’s mind — and then bringing innovative and practical solutions to meet their needs and surprise and delight them. We believe by applying a growth mindset, we have the ability to change the world; empowering every person and every organisation to achieve more.
What’s the best and worst decision you’ve ever made? And how were you able to turn the bad decision around?
I live with the philosophy that the only risks that we regret are the ones that we have not taken. As such, I focus on ensuring I deliver to best on all the decisions that I have taken, while learning and moving on from the ones that didn’t work out as planned.
What’s the greatest transformation in tech you’ve witnessed in your career and the next big thing in ecosystem?
We are in the midst of a technological revolution, the 4th industrial revolution, and I believe that artificial intelligence(AI) will be the defining technology of this time. Similar to the discovery of electricity or the development of the steam engine, I believe that AI will have the power to fundamentally change people’s lives, transforming industry and transforming society.
When developed at scale, quantum computing will change the world. Imagine a computer that could accurately model the natural world, allowing us to create real and practical solutions to climate change. A computer that could accurately model human biological systems, leading to new and incredible breakthroughs in medicine.
Women in technology are definitely in the minority, how are you encouraging and supporting women to come be part of the ecosystem?
Women are still under represented and having women’s representation in these fields is not only a matter of fairness, but our economies and societies also lose out when we fail to engage half of the world’s brainpower in our engines of innovation.
We need to encourage interest from the early years of development, combat stereotypes, train teachers to inspire girls to pursue STEM careers, develop curricula that are gender-sensitive, and mentor girls and young women to adopt different mind-sets.
I have played a pivotal in re-igniting the South African chapter of [email protected] and spurring a culture that encourages gender equality in the workplace.
At Microsoft, we start early in the pipeline by sparking girls’ interest in technology, for example:
- Our YouthSpark programmes seek to ensure that all youth have the opportunity to learn computer science through unique partnerships with governments, business, and non-profit organisations such as Code.org. Girls represent 52 percent of the total beneficiaries of YouthSpark. Through YouthSpark we spearhead an initiative, DigiGirlz which is aimed at giving middle and high school girls opportunities to learn about careers in technology, connect with Microsoft employees, and participate in hands-on computer and technology workshops.
- Microsoft started a movement, inspiring girls, as well as the parents, educators and nonprofits who encourage and support them, to #MakeWhatsNext. Not only does this open up opportunities for careers in the technology industry, but in our increasingly digital world, STEM skills also offer a leg up for those wanting to become researchers, consultants, business managers, teachers and many more.
What is your vision and goals for the Microsoft South Africa brand under your leadership?
- I believe that cloud computing presents a big opportunity for Microsoft in SA. Public cloud services are set to triple in the next five years. This is because a lot of businesses are looking to drive innovation from cloud services. The recent opening of the datacentres and EEIP investment talks to the heart of our focus for the next 2 – 3 years.
- I also want to work closely with our partners to make sure we continue to build the requisite skill sets so that South Africa can continue to take advantage of the fourth industrial revolution and become an emerging giant in this space. How we will skill our people to prepare them for the job of the future will also be a challenge.
- I want to continue driving the agenda of a more inclusive and diverse workplace by providing equal opportunities for men and women.
- As I mentioned earlier, I am passionate about the possibilities of technology and how it can transform the industry, empower society and enable economic growth for South Africa, and Africa.
- Together with our partner ecosystem, we are focussed on enabling business and Government to harness the opportunity presented by these emerging technologies in an ethical and inclusive manner to ensure that every individual is empowered and benefits from the digital era.
What are you seeing with organisations as Microsoft South Africa that have a social mission?
I believe that companies that have a social mission, aligned to their core business, tend to be more inspiring to their customers, partners and employees. People deeply commit to companies with an authentic higher purpose – and it enables them to be passionate about what they are doing!
It not just about doing good or doing business, it is about doing good business.
Teach us one word in your home language. What’s your favourite local dish and holiday spot in Africa.
In South Africa we are spoilt with our choice of incredible food. But, with the beautiful oceans surrounding, I have to say I love fish!
Her Short Bio:
Lillian Barnard was appointed as the Managing Director of Microsoft South Africa in March 2019. She joined Microsoft in May 2017 as Public Sector Director for South Africa, a role she held for almost two years.
Lillian has more than 20 years’ experience in the ICT industry. She is a seasoned professional with proven capabilities and a strong understanding of local market. Through the various executive positions that Lillian has held, both locally and abroad, she has gained extensive knowledge in sales, operations, business controls, strategy, business transformation and leadership. This experience, combined with her deep industry knowledge, positions her perfectly to strengthen Microsoft’s commitment to South Africa and its wishes to drive its digital transformation ambitions and empower governments, organisations and individuals to achieve more.
She has become renowned for building strong, high-performing teams that consistently deliver on their financial targets, while also bringing innovative digital solutions to her partners and customers. Having led large teams both locally and abroad, she is recognised for strength in developing people and creating an environment where everyone can do their best work.
Lillian is passionate about enabling a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. By drawing on her own experiences, she endeavours to create a culture that enables people to bring their authentic selves to the workplace and be embraced for that individuality. She has been pivotal in re-igniting the South African chapter of [email protected] and spurring a culture that encourages gender equality in the workplace.
Prior to joining Microsoft, Lillian served as Chief Sales Officer for Vodacom’s Enterprise Business for two years. She also headed LillianB Consulting Services where she was an advisor and coach to business leaders. During Lillian’s 15-year career at IBM, she held a number of key leadership positions, including working for 7-years at the IBM European Headquarters in France and Switzerland.
She previously served on the boards of Vodacom South Africa, Mango Airlines and Dad-fund Non-Profit Organization.
Lillian holds a BCom Honours in Business Economics from the University of the Western Cape.
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