The Business of Leadership: Building business resilience for uncertain times

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Ruka Sanusi- Executive Director (GCIC)

In engaging and working with our entrepreneurs over the past few weeks on the impact of COVID-19 on their businesses, it is apparent that the ability of businesses to survive during and post COVID-19 will be highly dependent on the quality of the business’s leadership – from the Founder, through to the management team as well as the Board level.

From the onset, the Ghana Climate Innovation Centre has been unequivocal in its determination to raise and support transformational entrepreneurs and businesses that can respond effectively to the global challenges posed by global warming and climate change.  Whilst our approach in providing that support includes the provision of business advisory services, technical support services, policy advocacy, as well as financing, the approach has been underpinned by conviction that enterprises that will go the long-haul with their businesses are those that are led by Founders and CEOs who see beyond the euphoria of their novel idea and can move on from the excitement and responsiveness of that idea to deliver:

  1. A business founded on clear and strong operational models and regimes around their key value chain,
  2. A business staffed by values-aligned team members who buy into the business vision, are willing to grow with the SME, and are keenly committed to their personal and professional development whilst viewing their employment as a personal and professional opportunity to grow and ‘become’; and
  3. A business led and managed by a Founder and CEO with a courageous mindset, a mindset that is transformational and not purely transactional, and a mindset that recognizes that leading the business is not a sprint but a marathon – and even at that may be a steeple chase marathon with long-jumps, high-jumps, and hurdles along the way.

Ghana’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is teeming.  Tertiary institutions have introduced programs on entrepreneurship in their curriculums; the Government has introduced several related policies and support programs; the quantity of hubs, incubators, accelerators are increasing rapidly across Ghana – and with them the number of entrepreneurs, especially youth entrepreneurs.

Many such ‘business midwives’ and business hatchery institutions provide the only option for many start-ups and SMEs who find that they cannot access needed financing and business advisory support services from the formal business sector – these are either cost restrictive or start-ups cannot meet the stringent access criteria imposed by formal sector business support institutions.  With the range of pitch competitions, hackathons, grants, less costly but limited business support services that hubs and incubators offer, they become the only hope for many start-ups.

But for hubs and incubators the transformational approach in service delivery is also acutely relevant.  National development is about transformation, and business incubation is for transformation that leads to more directed development.  Not just physical transformation, but a full and complete transformation.  A transformation that queries where we are, where we want to get to, how we will get there – and when we get there how we won’t let up but develop further.

COVID-19 has definitively unearthed that to survive in the business sector you not only need a novel business idea and an ability to successfully pitch your idea to an investor.  COVID-19 has unearthed that to survive in the marketplace you also need to be a solid and pronounced business leader, and one who runs your business as such.  That’s where the mindset comes into it.

As a Climate Innovation Centre at Ashesi University, we imbibe the University’s mission is to raise ethical entrepreneurial leaders in Africa, leaders with critical thinking skills, concern for others, and the courage needed to transform the continent.

We determined from our outset that given the global climate emergency, climate innovators have to be especially supported because their innovation and enterprises present a clear and unequivocal solution to a pressing global challenge.  We deemed that it was even more important to not only therefore to support these enterprises with business tools and services, but also to support their leadership to be lateral and critical thinkers that have the capacity to lead enterprises that are solutions-based and transformational.  We determined to implement a 360 degrees approach in the delivery of our work as an inclusive growth green business incubator.

That approach focused on mindset optimization for the business leader and their team members, as well as tailored solutions across our workstreams for each enterprise.  As we are focused on climate change adaptation and mitigation measures, as a Centre we are also determined on ensuring the business resilience and adaptation of our enterprises and entrepreneurs. The former is operational, and the latter is strategic.

Such an approach can prepare for crisis management and business continuity planning in such a time as this.

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