Lesson 5 is
Don't Start A Business With Anyone Who Lives Abroad
My business partner will tell you, it is hard enough getting someone in Ghana to focus on a business when they're working. You don't want to complicate that further by doing business with someone who is not even here.
You cannot run a business from the other side of the world. It just doesn't work. As obvious as this advice may seem when you read it, it is actually one that did not occur to me a year ago. And getting into business with partners who live abroad is a mistake I see many many returnees making.
See, when you're abroad, you look at Ghana and see all that is not right. Then you come up with brilliant business ideas and plans to solve some of Ghana's problems. Usually, you do the idea generation and business planning with friends and enroll your best buddies who are also abroad into partnering with you. Then one fine day, you find a great job in Ghana and decide to move. And you decide to finally get your business started but your business partners are still abroad. That's scenario 1.
Don't do this.
Why shouldn't you?
Because in all likelihood, it won't work. As I said in my opening sentence, it is difficult to focus on your business when you and your partner have day jobs but when you do it with someone who not only has a job but it on the other side of the world, what contribution could they possibly make beyond the planning stage?
Scenario 2 is you move to Ghana without a business idea, but you get here, identify an opportunity and get all excited. Then you decide to put together a team to execute your business idea but for some reason, you ignore all the talented,willing and ready people in Ghana and instead, decide to recruit your high school or college buddies who still live abroad.What you end up with is a situation much like in scenario 1 where your partners, however smart and hardworking are going to be of very little use to you. That is, if they are able to find time to work on your business idea at all. You know how demanding abroad jobs can be.
Scenario 3 is when both (all) of the founders or people with the vision for the business continue to live abroad and think for some reason that they are capable of the impossible - namely starting and running a business in Ghana from across the world and convince themselves that all they really need is a "business manager". I've seen this happen twice. Both times, fabulous people who are excited about their business idea. But their work and lives abroad get in the way and as long as they remain there, nothing gets done. The question I ask founders when I find them looking for business managers is: If you are so excited and passionate about this idea of yours, why aren't you moving here to do it? The response I get is....Oh I am. I'm planning my move back. And they make it seem like the move is going to happen in a month or two or even six. I haven't yet seen it happen even once. So my advice is : Don't agree to be the business manager unless you have actual reason to believe they're coming home in 6 months or whatever they say. Or well, you desperately need a job :)
Scenario 4 is when both business partners start off living in Ghana. They work well together to get the business started. Then in the very early stages, one of the partners moves abroad for school or work or some other reason and the remaining partner is left to single-handedly run the start-up. Don't agree to be the partner who is left on the ground to single-handedly run a start up. Especially not when you too have a day job and cannot be fully dedicated to building this venture.
Scenario 5 - And this will happen to you a lot when you move back home. Trust me. When you move back home, suddenly you're the one everyone abroad who has a business idea for Ghana will approach. So there are all these people who have business ideas. Call them friends or acquaintances, but until you move home, all they have is an idea. But because you moved, suddenly they'll try to get you to help get their idea off the ground. Initially, you'll feel special. You'll be excited all these people think you worthy to share their very nice ideas with you and thrilled that they're inviting you to be part of their team. So of course you'll say yes...until you realise one day, suddenly you're responsible for getting this idea off the ground. You need to register the business. You need to get a business permit. You need to open a bank account. Well, you're the one in Ghana. Why d'you think you're a business partner? haha
So, what's my advice? Don't start a business with people who are abroad. It is hard enough doing it with people who are in Ghana because day jobs get in the way.
Watch out for lesson 6