Things to Consider When Starting a Business as a First-time Entrepreneur in Africa

We are going through a period in history that is unprecedented.  There is a new dawn of entrepreneurship all over the world. And Africa is part and parcel of that. A continent where more and more young people are challenging the status-quo and venturing into entrepreneurship. This is a great opportunity for Africa, where the youth make up a large proportion of the population. But this oppotrtunity can also be "laced with peril" as Eric Ries states in his book: "The Lean Startup".

This article seeks to review why its important for first-time entrepreneurs to be cautious as they venture into entrepreneurship. The article is partly inspired by the authors personal experience and partly by "The Lean startup" by Eric Ries.

As you brainstorm or work on your Startup idea, there are a couple of things you may want to keep in mind. One of them is managerial discipline. Many people going into business for the first time, need to realise that they are setting on a mission to create an institution, that in itself requires management. This is a point that is often missed by many young entreprenuers in Africa, but also elsewhere. They often do not realise that they should be bound by the same old and fine-tuned management principles that successful businesses over decades have been build upon.

There is probably a good reason for that, being that these new businesses are being created in a world that is fast-paced. And these entrepreneurs feel the need to keep pace with the way the world is changing around them. Thus adopting the old management principles feels like creating the all too hated bureaucracy that hinders the speed that these new entreprenuers long for. In some cases, one may argue that many of the young entrepreneurs today are not even aware of these management principles. The lack of which could be a major contributing factor whether a venture succeeds or fails.

With a complete lack of knowledge on management principles or the unwillingness to adopt these early in the startup ventures' livespan means that many young entrepreneurs tend to adopt the attitude of just diving into buiding business institutions we call startups, with the hope that they somehow would succeed. This approach may wok. It indeed works for a few. But in the majority of cases, it leads to "chaos" and failure.

Once such chaos sets in, reverting to traditional management principles is often too late, as these principles are ill-suited to deal with such chaos when they set in.

According to Eric Ries, every entrepreneur requires some level of managerial discipline in order to "harness the entrepreneurial opportunity" that we humans are endowed with. But because young african entrepreneurs lack a coherent management paradigm for new innovative ventures, we sometimes end up throwing our excess capacity around with wild abandon. We may still find ways to make money despite the chaos we create. But for each success, there are just too many failures. 

These failures are a complete waste of time and the resources. We can avoid this chaos. I wish I had avoided the chaos when I set out on my entrepreneurial journey. But I have learned my lesson and it is my wish, that every young entrepreneur starting a venture in Africa and elsewhere, would take the time to reflect on what kind of management principles they would adopt for their new ventures. 

One of such ways to avoid startup chaos that eventually leads to failure is adopting the "Lean Startup" methodology. The Lean startup is a set of principles that guides entrepreneurs as they build their ventures.

The Lean startup principles and methodology teaches entrepreneurs how to best steer their new ventures through the stormy waters, constantly adjusting their path until the final destination is arrived, which for example; could be the launch of the first product.  These adjustments are defined within a BUILD, MEASURE and LEARN feedback loop. This help businesses to know when to make an adjustment, which is typically referred to as a pivot.

We will be getting deeper into these feedback loops and pivoting in subsequent articles.

If you found the article interesting, please leave a note or simple share with others to help prevent the chaos that is often created as young entrepreneurs dive into buidling lasting business institutions.

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