Building a Startup is Not Sexy
..You Got to Fold Your Sleeves and Be Ready
It is a new month!
A happy new month to you. Go out there and crush the second half of 2021
Today we share an article from Tayo Oviosu, the founder and Group CEO of Paga, a mobile payment company, building an ecosystem to enable people, digitally send and receive money as well as creating simple financial access for everyone. Tayo in his own words is living to change the face of Africa — one venture at a time. He has a passion to help entrepreneurs bring ideas to life and build scalable businesses. This passion is what led to co-founding Kairos Angels, a company on a mission to transform the world by partnering with visionary entrepreneurs to build scalable and sustainable businesses.
Here are 5 nuggets for you from his experience with Paga.
Not counting the time I went door to door selling smoke detectors for a few months before college, Paga, was my first true entrepreneurial venture. Reflecting on the Paga journey has been quite insightful for me, and I have pulled out a few nuggets I can share from my own experience and battle scars.
1. Work with a team — from the start (if possible) and always
The entrepreneurship journey can be very lonely. I suggest you go on the journey with other people (This is why Talemia created Startup Kleek. Click HERE to join their early-stage builders). If you are fortunate to have a co-founder at the start that is great, but even if not, always approach the journey as a team effort. This means that you need to be open to have your vision evolve to the collective vision. As long as it is directionally correct you should be comfortable with it. You’ll go much further and faster with a team. After Aisha and then Jay joined me on the Paga journey we achieved so much more in a shorter time span. I have learned the importance of thinking of the business as one would think of say a football team. You want the best person for each role on the team. People who are already GREAT at that function and love what they do. Over time your role as the entrepreneur or CEO changes to coaching and guiding the team — let them run. My favorite African proverb is worth mentioning:
If you want to go fast, go alone; If you want to go far, go together.
To go far with others they need room to do great and meaningful work.
2. Be transparent in all your dealings and build accountability
Working as a team both internally and with investors is all about forging and maintaining relationships. For long-term success, these relationships should not be transactional. You want people who buy into the vision and own it as theirs. With transparency you will build trust and people will be committed to the work at hand.
I highly recommend building accountability within your team (including the founder/co-founders) and also with your board/investors. If your business is too young for a board then try to have an advisory board. Advisors or board should be people who care about your success but who are not in the day to day of business. This gives them a degree of outside perspective that is helpful for the team and helps keep you accountable. I think accountability keeps you focused and responsible in your decision-making.
When I started Paga I had a group of people who had been advising me informally. We continued that for a few months then I brought them together for joint meetings. This saved me time but also having one conversation with multiple people brought more insights out. We then formally set up a board and 4 of the 5 advisors joined the board. The accountability of the board has really helped create discipline in our execution and if you get the board composition and its functioning right it can be very effective.
3. Have your books and legal documents in order — hire a good lawyer and accountant
One thing we see in Nigeria and similar emerging markets is entrepreneurs mixing personal finances with business finances. This is dangerous and can create issues for you down the line. I think from day one you should separate your personal finances from the business and set up the business properly as a going concern. If you need to finance the business then do so by funding it and accounting for that. Track all your expenses and be organized so it is easy for investors to understand the business. If you don’t have an accounting background I suggest you outsource the function but ensure it is happening properly.
I suggest you get a good lawyer who can help you navigate setting up your business and bring to your attention any regulations you need to comply with. It isn’t cheap to have lawyers but you should try to negotiate and get creative with the costs.
4. Gain work experience before starting a business
Yes, Mark Zuckerberg was 19 when he founded Facebook, and Bill Gates dropped out of Harvard to start Microsoft. But stop a second and ask why we have not seen more of these stories? An MIT study shows that the average age of entrepreneurs who have started high-growth companies is 45. The study also shows that people who have previously been employed in a particular sector in which they are starting a business are 125% more likely to be successful. But let’s take it from another angle.
Running a business is very much about leading people; selling always — internally and externally; managing a P&L. Most people who just finished university are not prepared for any of these things. Go and learn first…
Yes, you are incredibly smart. Your idea is brilliant. Please go get a job and continue building your skills. Then one day start a business.
5. Stay healthy and have FUN!
The entrepreneurial journey is long, lonely, and not as sexy as it seems. There is a lot of stress — some self-imposed and others from the environment and challenges you face. I highly recommend you focus on staying healthy — watching your diet and working out. In moments of high stress, this helps.
But, above all, make sure you and your team find time to have fun! Celebrate the victories, find time to hang out together socially, have some TGIFs. Do not lose sight of creating an environment that encourages it all.
There you have it,
I hope this has helped you.
Don’t forget to check back every week for new content specially curated to help, educate and teach you on your journey as a founder.
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