Entrepreneur and corporate lawyer, Mr Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia, has challenged Ghanaian entrepreneurs to deliberately build cultures that support their specific visions, missions, and aspirations, as the surest way to make their businesses outlive them.
He said that was the only way the country could move from the one-man micro and small scale dominated entrepreneurial landscape to a high-growth inter-generational businesses environment.
Mr Kuenyehia, the Managing Partner of Oxford and Beaumont Solicitors, one of the fastest growing law firms in the country which consults both locally and internationally, said the Ghanaian traditional culture was so strong on stereotypes, imagery, values and norms that it often found its way consciously or unconsciously into a business and became the default entrepreneurial culture.
“My research showed that too many of our entrepreneurs limit themselves by our cultural norms and barriers. This seems most peculiar given that most of our cultural norms and values were developed when we were predominantly a rural-based agrarian economy,” the corporate attorney said in Accra last week when he took his turn to deliver the Graduate School Prestigious Lecture at the Ghana Technology University.
Also an adjunct lecturer in Entrepreneurship at the Ghana Institute of management and Public Administration (GIMPA), Elikem’s disappointment in the absence of any local content entrepreneurial textbook motivated him to research and write a comprehensive book on Ghanaian entrepreneurship, Kuenyehia On Entrepreneurship, which has been touted as the first local content textbook on Ghanaian entrepreneurship.
He said the starting point for every Ghanaian entrepreneur should be a conversation with self that would enable them to identify their strengths and weaknesses as well as sifting through which cultural norms and values could be fused into the business culture.
“Part of that process of having a conversation with yourself and with your team is to filter out which cultural norms you want to embrace and which ones you’ll want to modify, as well as being clear which ones your business will have no room for,” he stressed.
In recognition that culture was a key competitive advantage, the firm had distilled it into a document, “the Oxford & Beaumont Way of doing business”.
“We agree with Herb Kelleher the legendary founder of South West Airlines that ‘Personality is strategy’ and like South West Airlines, we are conscious that our brand is based as much on our personality and spirit as it is on our technical legal excellence’
“We take inspiration from the Kofi Amoabengs, the Kofi Dadzies, the Steve Jobs, the Richard Bransons, the Donald Trumps, the Herman Chinery-Hesses etc and recognise that nobody ever built an insanely great company by being ordinary or by obeying convention….at least not yet,” he adds.
Some negative stereotypes
He cited some of the negative stereotypes and cultural values and how they affected the individual and the organisational culture.
For instance, the notion that children must be seen not heard assumes that children have nothing to contribute and this could translate into leaving out junior level staff in decision making process at the workplace. It doesn’t also encourage staff to develop their own unique voices or stand up for their beliefs.
Again the pervasive ‘wait till you are older’ belief suggests a mandatory waiting time before becoming a leader, while at the same time very little is done to prepare the young for leadership.
It is also often the case that the Ghanaian culture associates age or experience with wisdom or competence, suggesting that adults know best.
And suffice it to say that the ‘Obema Nsu’ maxim, to wit “a man does not cry” in business connotes business people should be heartless and that the field is reserved for only the hard core.
Mr Kuenyehia shared his personal experiences as well as others in the business world to motivate the graduate class and challenge them to dare to make a difference.
‘Leadership by listening’
He said ‘listening’ was an important tool entrepreneurs should embrace as part of their organisational culture.
“It’s the most powerful and certainly the most cost effective management tool that I know of. To listen, you need to create a culture of talking,” he advised.
He explained that although it was not easy to always listen when one owned the dream and was the leader, “when you do listen, you really create magic by crafting a strategy that’s unique to the people on the bus and which no one else can replicate.”
Source: Daily Graphic
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