How To Define Passion As an Entrepreneur
Prince Kofi Amoeabeng is the CEO of UT Bank Ghana. He delivered a speech, which was sponsored by Stanford SEED and the GSB Africa Business Club, about entrepreneurship at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. Here are the main lessons from the lecture.
- Find Your Niche
Sometimes entrepreneurs have to take matters into their own hands. Amoeabeng had been working as a businessman selling anything people would buy, but he wanted a more permanent job so went to the bank to apply for a loan to finance a new idea he had. The bank wouldn’t give him money even though he was qualified.
“If I cannot raise money from the banks, then I’m wondering who can raise money from the banks,” he said. “Well, I think there’s a serious gap here and look at providing financing for the SME sector, that is people like me.”
And that’s how he decided to start UT Bank.
- Challenges Require Creative Solutions
Entrepreneurs must narrow in on the specific challenges they face and find a way to overcome them.
“Generally, in Africa, I think the challenges come from, broadly speaking, two areas: One is infrastructure that governments must put in place for business to thrive — this wasn’t there,” he said. “Then the other one is the culture of the people who you have to deal with, that is the customers, the staff, things like that.”
He had to be creative to solve the dilemma of being able to keep track of their clients because there were no addresses in Ghana. They figured it out by having employees sketch a map using recognizable landmarks from the office to the client’s address and the client’s collateral.
- Know What Value You’re Providing and Do It Better Than the Rest
Procuring funding from a bank could take a month, and Amoeabeng wanted to drastically reduce the time it took to put money in the hands of qualified applicants for a loan. In Ghana’s informal small business sector, entrepreneurs needed the funding as soon as possible because of how it runs.
“If we don’t do loans fast enough, clients will lose business,” he said.
He had a new goal: Get money in the hands of qualified applicants within a week. He cut the process down to its essential components, and enacted measures to speed up the process until they reached their goal. Eventually, they reduced the length of the process to 48 hours.
- How Do You Define Passion?
According to Amoeabeng, there are two types of passion: (1) love for people and humanity, i.e., your customers and your employees and (2) love for a service or a product, i.e., what your business provides or sells. He said the way to find your passion is to see where your love for people and your love for services intersect.
His first 8 years working for UT Bank, he didn’t take a single day of leave. He was able to get out of bed every morning because he had a passion for what he was doing. And it paid off: UT Bank started with $20,000 in assets, now the company has assets of $600 million
- How to Foster Your Values in a Team
“It always starts with the leadership,” Amoebeng said. “There is no two ways about it.”
He treated his employees how he expected them to treat each other and the customers. He modeled the values he wanted to see in his employees: chief among them respect, loyalty and transparency. He also made time for one-on-one conversations with each team member to mentor them twice a year.
One of Amoeabeng’s most important values to success is asking, “Why not?” because if you don’t challenge yourself and innovate, you won’t grow personally and your business won’t be as successful as it can be. He also emphasized the need to respect everyone because every role in your company is important.
Watch the video from the Stanford Graduate School of Business below.