African Family Business Vol. 1 Issue 1

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Maria-Andoh: The Family Business Was Calling Her Home

Volume 1 Issue 1
Contents Family Business Africa | Volume 1 Issue 1 Editor and Publisher Dennis O. Oteng, DBA, MBA, MS Managing Editor Charles Sosnik Associate Editor Ian Egan Art Director Monty Todd Web Services Max Shulman © 2023 Ravens Consulting GH. Family Business Africa Magazine is published four times per year by Ravens Consulting GH. It is available free of charge to subscribers as well as interested business executives worldwide. To start your free subscription, visit Articles submitted to Family Business Africa Magazine may be edited for style and content prior to publication. Views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent Family Business Africa Magazine policies or positions. Please seek permission from the publisher before reproducing articles. 04 A Sweet Big Lie Told to African Startups By Jumanne
08 See the Light in You By
12 What does Leadership Look Like? By
18 THE CUPPA CAPPUCCINO STORY 26 A Father and Son Team Double Down on White Rhinos By Jessica Willemse 32 Once More, from the Top: Why African family firms are resilient By Dennis Oteng, DBA, MBA, MS 36 Considering Sales Across Borders? By Michael Spencer 40 EdTech in Egypt: Preparing Students for Success in the Global Economy By Howard Lewis 46 Is Your Business for Sale and Are You Exit-Ready? By Angelo
The Cover Story
Rajabu Mtambalike
Mac Bogert

A Sweet Big Lie

Told to African Startups


Ilove to write controversial articles because it makes us think. Recently, the amount of startup capital coming to Africa has increased significantly, and the money raised for African startups reached $5B in 2021. A few unicorns have emerged in some of the more mature African startup ecosystems, primarily Nigeria. The number of African startups attending reputed global accelerator programs such as the YC has also increased.

Does This Mean Anything

Listening to the late Ali Mufuruki TEDx Huston talk on “The African Rising Narrative, Is Africa Really Rising” made me question so many things concerning the amount of foreign capital raised by local startups in the narrative of measuring the progress of the African startup ecosystem. Are we setting the benchmark very low for ourselves? While the amount of capital raised per year can be one of the most critical parameters to pay attention to, it shouldn’t be the main focus. The amount of money coming to Africa is still left wanting when you compare it to other parts of the world. IPOs within the United States alone reached record high numbers, with 407 companies going IPO in 2021 generating $615B. If you compare this to the $5B that came into the whole African continent of 54 countries, you quickly realize that we are settling for less.

The Real Value of Startups

Maybe we should go slow with the valuation and exit thingy. My biggest fear is that African startups might fall into the “Silicon Valley Syndrome”, whereby founders will do anything to grow faster and get valued at a better price

even though the business struggles to create value for customers. There is an obsession with artificial valuations and not actual value created by startups on the ground. It creates a highly complex scenario for the local ecosystem whereby people outside the startup ecosystem struggle to understand the real value created by startups. To them, startups should offer more to grassroots communities beyond lucrative exits and crazy valuations. A traditional definition of what a startup is might do more harm than good, especially when facing policymakers and other social groups with no clue what a startup is. Whether we call them “Zebracons” or “Camels”, we need to find a way to make African startups look more like African businesses and not vehicles created to be sold to the highest bidders in the PE and stock markets.

Zebra companies are characterized by doing real business, not aiming to disrupt current markets, achieving profitability and demonstrating it for a while, and helping to solve a societal problem — Mara Zepeda CEO and co-founder of Switchboard

Real Metrics

Some startups are doing astonishingly well in addressing customer needs and proposing real value to their clients. Many startups get evaluated based on irrelevant aspects to the African market such as the school of the founders, the diversity of the teams, registration in foreign markets, and strategies to exit away from home. While it’s a free economy and therefore businesses can do whatever they want, I’m always asking myself what the long-term impact of this is. Will


Africa ever fix challenges facing their startup ecosystem and create wealth locally, or we will forever celebrate two or three startups that make it to the London or the New York stock exchange? Are we going to build robust support systems locally, or will we forever celebrate the ten African startups that made it to the Y Combinator? There are estimated to be over 3,300 startups in Nigeria alone in 2020. Are we expecting all of these to IPO at the London Stock Exchange or get acquired by some Russian company?

Are These Our Startups

I know there was a heated debate questioning the Africanacity of Jumia a few years ago when it was listed on the New

York stock exchange. There have always been discussions around foreign founders having a better chance to attract capital in Africa than Africans themselves, but that is not the point I want to make. Traditional SMEs create two-thirds of the currently available jobs in the African continent. What is known as the informal sector is what drives the African economy. Startups need to up their games. Formal SMEs contribute up to 40% of national income (GDP) in emerging economies. These numbers are significantly higher when informal SMEs are included. While startups play a vital role in disrupting sectors and accelerating digital and financial inclusion, their impact on job creation and decentralization of wealth through value

Estimated number of startups in selected African countries in 2020 — Statista


chains can be questionable. We can not afford to build startups for valuations and exits; we don’t have the Silicon Valley luxury. Eventually, any startup should exit at some point in time. At least a real value should be created on the ground. Most grassroots consumers don’t care much about valuations if it solves a problem. The average African won’t care about the paper worth of Mpesa; they just know they need the service to survive.

Necessity Versus Convenience

African founders are slowly moving away from imitating Silicon Valley products in African markets to copying what works in other African countries, which is massive progress. African founders must learn to unlearn Silicon Valley philosophies and be authentic to themselves. Building for African consumers is complex; everything is a basic need, and people always have to make challenging options when it comes to parting ways with their money. The same commission you want to get can do many things; buy an internet bundle, an electric unit, voice charges or even pay for lunch. African founders need to “Unsilicon Valley” their thinking and develop solutions and products that matter

in everyday African life. Of course, they will constantly be challenged to weigh options on whether to build for investors or for their customers. Go for the second; the first will follow you. It is good to think about exit strategies from the beginning, but it shouldn’t be what drives your mission. At least that is the advice I got from the few successful African founders that I have engaged.

Closing Thoughts

If I were an African founder today, which I am, my focus would be to build a real business. I don’t worry much about valuations and exits, but I care. If I can deliver value, there is always a chance of attracting capital or strategic partnerships that will accelerate my growth. I would focus on building robust local and international collaborations. My priority is always my customers and the value of creating for them. African startups and ecosystem actors need to move beyond valuations and exit strategies and focus on what matters most; the socioeconomic impact of the startups.

About the Author


People talk within themselves throughout waking time, which is known as internal conversation, internal monologue, self-talk, inner speech, inner discourse, or internal discourse. It is quite natural and normal. However, some people argue in their heads which leads to internal conflict, anxiety, and depression. Most challenges in individuals arise due to the arguments within their minds. When people feed their minds with negative information they evolve as negative individuals whereas when people feed their minds with positive information they evolve as positive individuals.

Don’t waste your precious mental time

When you argue in your head, you poison your mind and waste your precious time. It may have adverse effects on the people around you. People often think that wasting time is physical. It is mental as well. People waste more of their mental time and less physical time in their lives. When you think about negative people and unpleasant events from the past excessively, you waste your precious time mentally. Research shows that people waste 30 percent of their time thinking about their unpleasant past that cannot be changed. So, learn to live in the present without thinking about your unpleasant past and worrying about the future. Feed your mind with positive thoughts and work


and creatively to achieve success.

Avoid becoming a chronic over-thinker

Overcome the paralysis of analysis. Avoid thinking as follows: I wish I succeeded as an entrepreneur. I wish I was born into a healthy family. I wish I had a regular education. I wish I had education from eminent educational institutions. I wish I had a mentor or coach in my early life to become successful. Avoid irrational imaginative internal arguments. Be realistic and practical. Be positive and confident. See the light in you to lead your life with peace and happiness.

Avoid imaginary irrational arguments in your head

Here are some tips to avoid arguing in your head. Don’t take unhealthy criticism personally. Be thick-skinned. Avoid the individuals who enjoy arguing with others. Don’t react to them. Ignore them. Act positively. Detach from negative individuals and attach with positive individuals. Have selfawareness. Understand the power of internal monologue and leverage it constructively. Write down the journal. For instance, whenever there is an issue or conflict in my mind, I write it down. It serves as a therapy. I get relief and a solution for it. Additionally, I unlock the power of my subconscious mind to find solutions for problems and resolve them effectively.


Rehearsing arguments is a double-edged sword Research shows that rehearsing arguments in your mind ends up causing more harm than good, leading to mental illness and damaging your body. It adversely affects your mind and body. However, litigation lawyers often rehearse a lot mentally before they actually argue in the courts. Before writing an article or research paper, I play out the whole scenario. Before uploading a video on my YouTube channel, I play out the whole scenario. Before I attend an interview or podcast or webinar as a guest, I play out the whole scenario. It helps me contribute my best as I anticipate probable questions and rehearse my answers. So, playing out the whole scenario is a double-edged sword. It all depends on how you use your mind and subconscious mind.

Master your mind to lead your life mindfully

Avoid war in your head. Remember that the internal enemy is more dangerous than the external enemy. So, avoid your internal arguments to check your internal enemy. Calm down your irrational argumentative mind to lead your life mindfully and meaningfully. Your mind is a masterpiece. You can use it either for constructive or destructive activities. It is under your control. Don’t make a mess of it. Use it constructively to build a better world. To summarize, use the power of the subconscious mind positively to stop arguing in your head to excel as a positive individual and perceive others positively. You can talk great things with others and inspire them. Remember, you are what you feed your mind. So feed your mind positively to excel as a healthy individual. To conclude, avoid imaginary irrational arguments in your head to lead your life mindfully and meaningfully.

Professor M.S. Rao, Ph.D. is the Father of “Soft Leadership” and the Founder of MSR Leadership Consultants, India. He is an International Leadership Guru with forty-two years of experience and the author of fifty-two books including the award-winning ‘See the Light in You’ URL: dp/1949003132. He is a C-Suite advisor and global keynote speaker and brings a strategic eye and long-range vision given his multifaceted professional experience including military, teaching, training, research, consultancy, and philosophy. He is passionate about serving and making a difference in the lives of others. Professor Rao is a regular contributor to Entrepreneur Magazine, and trains a new generation of leaders through leadership education and publications. His vision is to build one million students as global leaders by 2030 URL:


“True Leadership only exists if people follow when they have the freedom not to.”

What does look like?

When I was doing leadership work with DLA (Defense Logistics Agency), my audience was mostly male, mostly retired military, and very, very blunt. Never in my years working with them did I have to ask myself, “I wonder what they’re thinking?”

As we wrestled with different perspectives about leadership—I did not serve in the military, so my thinking came from a different framework—we talked about our heroes, especially in war movies. I shared two film clips with them, one of John Wayne as Sergeant John Stryker in The Sands of Iwo Jima, the other of Tom Hanks as Captain John Miller in Saving Private Ryan.

John Wayne’s character is feared, brutal, admired. His Sergeant Stryker is estranged from all his personal relationships and drinks alcoholically.

--Jim Collins

Tom Hanks’s Captain Miller is loved, transparent, admired. His family is the center of his life. Their characters couldn’t be more different, yet they each led effectively. The class helped me untangle leadership: it’s not one thing, it’s about connecting as best we can, however we can, through our own lens to give other people a path forward. The class even gave me a taxonomy for leadership, after they asked me to leave them alone for a couple of hours while they hashed it out and boiled it down:

Vision. Courage. Influence.

“We need a positive vision of the future,” they told me, “Not complaining about the present or rehashing the past. We may not need the courage to run into a burning

building to save a child, but at least the courage to be open, even when we won’t be popular. And if we can’t change people’s hearts and minds, we’re wasting time.” I couldn’t have put it better myself.

Management and Leadership

As parents, troop leaders, teachers, administrators, neighbors, we shuttle between management and leadership all the time. Getting other people organized is management. Giving them a path to see the value of the way forward is leadership. Marking wrong answers on a test is management. Marking the correct answers is leadership.

I’m making these distinctions overly blackand-white for analysis; they are much more blended in action. From a learning perspective, when we manage learning, we


provide structure, a platform and a protocol to maintain stability, like the poles for a tent. Especially in the virtual classroom, we adopt LMS’s (Learning Management Systems). These “hold up the tent”, but they are not the tent. The tent is learning and that’s where the limits of management need attention. How we exercise control in our business, especially now with the explosion of virtuality, too often carries over from the assembly-line approach: When we seek to control what others learn, we tell them that we don’t trust them and we diminish their sense of efficacy.

In this crash of assumptions brought about by a virus colliding with technology, we must assume less external control and more re-alignment of each person’s efficacy: Management is about control of others. Leadership is about control of self.

McGregor, TESA, Drive

X and Y were the two endpoints for Douglas McGregor’s management model in the ‘60s. He noticed that managers fell into two basic views about their charges. X managers see their employees as working for them, that people needed to be pushed to performance: ”You have to watch people carefully or they’ll goof off,”

“Because I said so.”

Y managers see themselves as working for their employees—their role is creating a context for excellence, a place to explore and push possibility:

“Can you tell me more?”

“How can I help you implement this?”

Here’s the best part: All other things being equal (length of service, generation, education, skills and so on), both groups got the very behaviors from their people that their assumptions and behavior created. We can’t command people to learn without negating the very qualities we’re hoping to develop.

I worked for a time with TESA: Teacher Expectations and Student Achievement. My job was to help elementary school teachers accept their assumptions about performance and set them aside. These assumptions operated at a very subtle level—usually unconscious—and covered identifiers like gender, race, speech patterns, seating (front or back of class) and appearance. The data have led to some controversy, as data do, but my experience, via the


feedback from the teachers involved, was that they were surprised how much better their ‘low performers’ did, including more participation, leadership behaviors, social interaction as well as improving grades, once the teachers faced, and began removing, these assumptions. Drive is Daniel Pink’s opus to motivation. Based on lots of research, empirical studies as well as qualitative data, he develops a powerful argument that humans) are driven by three intrinsic needs:

1. To direct our own lives

2. To learn and create new things

3. To do better by ourselves and our world

The world of virtual learning provides the perfect platform to let these energies collide and prosper. For the traditional mindset, these are anathema. In our current upending of society due to the pandemic, the motives

for intrinsically driven learning (curiosity, engagement, and accountability) match the possibilities for web-based interaction. And we can make space in our thinking and practice for these to take root. Manager-as-boss doesn’t work here. Manager-as-leader does. As Ben Zander suggests, “The conductor of an orchestra doesn’t make a sound. He’s the only musician who doesn’t make a sound. He depends for his power—and his power is very great—on his ability to make other people powerful.”

Motivational sneakers

This fantastic (as in the Greek root which translates as to make real) collision of pandemic, technology, and flagging public education provides . . . crisis? Fear? Anxiety? Discomfort? Indeed, and each of these is also a symptom of possibility. I was working with a room full of scientists at the National Institute of Standards and


Technology some years back. We were having a terrific mélange of perspectives about change, stability, and safety. One of the folks in the room came up to me as I was packing up and he asked me a question: “You mentioned Metamorphosis, the short story, right?”

“Yeah. It was very cool how we all ran with that.”

“Something you may not know- most people don’t- is that the caterpillar doesn’t change in little bits in the cocoon, you know, like its little legs get longer and its eyes and mouth change, and it grows wings, okay? It basically dissolves into this kind of organic paste and then starts from scratch. We only discovered this recently, but I thought you’d be interested.”

“Oh, yeah!”

What if we framed this collision as that kind of possibility, that we could be free of so many assumptions and biases about learning and build from “paste” instead of just tweaking around the edges, the metaphoric legs and wings, as it were? Then we could involve everyone by opening up the door of discovery and assembly of a new model so we all could be free to put on our motivational

sneakers and build together. I try to ask myself every day, “What am I thinking that prevents me from pushing forward, not pushing back?”

Here’s a link to a podcast about creating opportunities as we harness chaos:

Enjoy! About the author

Mac Bogert is President of AZA Learning. He began his career as an English teacher. For the past 25 years, Mac has focused on the intersection of leadership and learning. In between, He is a Musician, professional actor, yacht charter captain, staff development consultant, curriculum designer and author of Learning Chaos.




When Franka Maria-Andoh left Ghana for the United Kingdom after Sixth Form, she wanted to study law. It seemed the natural thing to do because she was a top English student in St. Mary’s Secondary School, a Catholic boarding school in the capital city of Accra.

Although accepted into Ealing College, she was late registering for college. That coupled with other reasons made her decide to go to work. The only work experience she had was working in her mother’s café, a popular eatery in Accra central called Cool Corner Café. Registering with an agency called Blue Arrow, she started working in the kitchen of a Council Café as a kitchen assistant.

“Sometimes you are where you are meant to be, even though you don’t think it’s a good place,” Andoh explained. “It was tough, physically and emotionally, dealing with clients coming into the

cafeteria and treating you as if you didn’t exist. It’s even more painful when you know what you’re capable of.”

But working from job to job taught her the workings of a café kitchen and more importantly, how to make a good English sandwich.

The UK was where Franka felt she found herself and gained confidence in her capabilities. The last feather in her cap was being hired out of more than 100 plus candidates to work with the Shoreditch Project Team, which in 1992 was the biggest education project in the United Kingdom.

“I remember the letter that Chrissie Farley, the principal of the school, wrote to me. I kept it for many years as a reminder that what people say isn’t what you are. It was such a thrill when we held an event at the Bank of England and my boss quoted something I wrote in my job application.”

The Cover Story

“In secondary school the teachers worked hard to kill our spirit and make us feel that we wouldn’t amount to anything. There was a clear agenda to just crush whatever self-confidence they felt you had. Self-confidence was a dangerous quality to have in secondary school.”

“I left the UK two days after I graduated from Croydon College,” said Franka. “I left because my parents wanted me back home. I had just come out of a long term relationship and I did not have the sort of support I needed for my emotional wellbeing. I remember how tight my mother held my hand, as if she was afraid I would get back on the plane to England.”

Franka found a job fairly quickly and began trying to assimilate into the system. She worked for a logistics company but found her confidence being eroded by the style of management in the company. Moving on, Franka worked as an Editor for a magazine and then made the decision to become an entrepreneur.

from the United Kingdom, my mom had lost her shop in Accra. It had just peaked and then the landlords decided not to renew her lease. So she was home and honestly a little bored. When I came up with the idea of the coffee shop, I saw her spring into action. My Dad had already given me permission and Mom helped not only financially, but managed the contractor and workers. I think my mother’s excitement was the continuation of her café, happening in her old age, in front of the house where it was much more secure than being in a rented property. She had built a brand only to give up on it and this was a lesson I learned early on.”

“I like to think that Josie’s Cuppa Cappuccino is a family business that had a break in between. By the time I came back

Franka never thought growing up that she would go into the food business, but remembers fondly her fascination with cookbooks and the strange sounding ingredients that went into the making of cakes and pastries. Often, she tried out recipes, wasting her mother’s ingredients and resulting in disastrous-looking cakes and other unrecognisable baked goods that she had attempted. “The one thing I saw was that my mother’s business gave her


an independence which I admired even more as I grew older,” said Franka. “She was a teacher who became a baker, then a career choice that someone told her was reserved for people with no education. But eventually, she owned a mechanised bakery, travelled twice a year and was able to support her children’s education overseas. My brothers and I all helped in the bakery. I remember being small and having a few loaves of bread on a round wooden tray, sitting at the bakery where walk-in clients could buy from me. I remember because one of the staff stole my sales from under the wooden tray and got fired that very day.”

Being home after six years of independence in the UK was challenging for Franka and when the café was done, it became a haven for her. It became a place that she could enjoy, and she understood that the intent of the space is what had carried the business through the past twentyfive years. Outside was a beautiful place for her, with the painted outdoor floors, the trees, and even the white plastic chairs. When she opened in 1997 the popular spots were exactly that, little bars in front or inside homes with tables and chairs serving beer and Ghanaian meals. Coffee was not a popular drink, nor tea for that matter, to be served throughout the day. With a small menu and a few drinks


including the cappuccino, business was very slow. She targeted the expatriate market, advertising in embassy newsletters, creating fliers and attending fairs.

“Sometimes we would only serve one sandwich a day,” she said. “Sometimes, the bread would go stale and we would throw it away. There were times when it was hard to pay salaries and bills. I did part-time jobs and designed jewellery to make ends meet.” But Franka decided that it was difficult to work part time and grow a budding business, so she made the choice to focus on Cuppa Cappuccino full-time. “I had to make that decision, because I would go into work and wear myself out and come back at midday already tired. At some point, it’s time to get out of the paddling pool and take a dive in the swimming pool.”

But time and consistency, as well as a constantly evolving space and quality products saw Cuppa Cappuccino grow steadily. Clients were always being engaged visually through art, colours, and the development of an outdoor area that made eating a pleasure for

Entrepreneurship is lonely and it’s crucial to have good support around you. Not necessarily folks who will agree with your every wild idea, but will ask you relevant questions and force you to think.

clients. Franka’s mother used to tease her, saying that Cuppa Cappuccino was like a child, always being dressed up. Staffing was the biggest issue… finding not only reliable and committed employees, but employees that were trustworthy. Some days, staff would not show up with all kinds of reasons from being sick to deaths in the family. They would collect their paychecks and not show up to work the next day, phones switched off. “There were days,” Franka said, “when I had to go into the kitchen to cook, be at the front taking orders, and sweep up. Before the business established a POS system, the handwritten VAT receipts helped some staff make a lot of money.”

What gave Franka a hands-on experience in every department. “Except accounting,” Franka says, “I’m not a numbers person.”

Her brother Robert Andoh, a retired small business consultant for the University of Georgia in Atlanta, has been supporting the business since his retirement by setting up systems and processes to curb losses and to ensure that the Accounts section of the company follows these systems and processes.

“It’s frustrating running a business in Ghana,” Franka says, “but I am super grateful to God for this gift of Cuppa Cappuccino. Josie’s was added to our name later when we moved from being an enterprise to a limited liability company. My mom was so proud to have her name in front of the building. I think it cemented the legacy for her. When we were listed as one of the leading cafes in Africa, I was in a car leaving a party when I saw that something had been shared with me on Facebook. Initially, when I saw the title, I assumed the person wanted to let me know who the leading cafes were because I was in the industry. When I saw Josie’s Cuppa Cappuccino listed, I burst into tears. It was so overwhelming.” They’ve had some high profile visitors to the café: Michael Essien, Manifest, DJ Black, Sarkodie, Jackie Appiah as well as Wole Soyinka and Christiane Amanpour who did an interview at the café and declared that was the best coffee she’d had whilst in Ghana. The BBC also interviewed one of the café’s regulars, a young man who had relocated like Franka


back to Ghana from the United Kingdom.

With so many similar businesses springing up like mushrooms around Accra, Franka understands that for her business to survive she must up her game. Her focus now is on how the business can create a new community while making a difference to the existing community. “Honestly,” she says, “I see Cuppa as a ministry. I see it as an opportunity to serve and be of service to people. We’re able to create a space and food that makes people happy. That is a big joy for me. What’s going to make us stand out from other businesses is the core of who we are. The intent. We’re not copying others, we’re creating our own path as a business that makes a difference in people’s lives.”

Franka founded the Most Def Foundation smack in the middle of the pandemic and recently Cuppa Cappuccino hired two deaf employees. This was a giant leap for the company since there were no interpreters and the management and staff had to find a way to communicate with their deaf colleagues.

“Every time I walk into the shop and I see them, I feel a sense of gratitude and fulfilment. Why are we here on this earth,” Franka muses, “if we can make a difference in someone’s life? Change the trajectory of their story in a way that impacts generations after them. That’s how I’d like Cuppa Cappuccino to be remembered… as a place that cared about community and changed people’s life story.”


A Father and Son Team Double Down on White Rhinos

The Rhino Momma Project is a nonprofit organization started and based in Namibia that has made a significant impact in not only protecting the White Rhinoceros, but also growing worldwide rhino populations. The Project is passionate and very focused in their actions to save the magnificent White Rhinoceros from extinction. They do this through anti-poaching activities, conservation education, and as a top priority, breeding new calves to repopulate Namibia and Africa. The Project began as a hopeful child’s dreams and his love for rhinos, and it has grown into a successful and internationally known project today.

The Rhino Momma Project was born when owner Jaco Muller’s 16-year-old son Tristan was tasked to do a school project on conservation. The assignment included an oral presentation and had to be about an idea to help wildlife conservation in some way. Young Tristan got to thinking, and his passion and love for rhinos sparked an amazing idea. He

gave his presentation about his ideas for saving the White Rhino from extinction by repopulating Namibia and Africa through breeding as many calves as possible on his family’s reserve.

At first this idea first took his parents by surprise, but the more they thought about it the more they quickly came to recognize the brilliance and innovation of their 16-year-old son’s idea. Inspiration and determination took over, and the family started to take action. Before they knew it they had purchased their first rhino, a five-year-old bull which


they named Cedrick, in August 2011. To establish a breeding pair, a White Rhino cow with a heifer (female calf) was purchased at a game auction in May 2012. By January 2013 they celebrated the birth of their first calf and with that, the Rhino Momma Project took off.

As time went on, a deep love and respect was born for the White Rhino species in the Muller family. The family has since dedicated their lives and resources to protecting and breeding these magnificent animals. Jaco Muller and his wife, as well as Tristan Muller and his wife, all work at the project.

The Rhino Momma Project currently has breeding animals in three separate large breeding camps which are all over 3,700 acres each. All the animals are freeroaming in their respective camps and live almost as naturally as they would in the wild. The Muller family hopes to build up their breeding capacity so that 30+ calves are born at the Project every year, further increasing the impact on worldwide rhino populations. They regularly relocate the rhinos that are born on the reserve to different game reserves, lodges, and protected areas across Namibia, Africa, and the rest of the world.

Since the first calf was born in January 2012 through January 2023, 134 calves have been born under the auspices of the Rhino Momma Project. The fact that White Rhino populations are slowly but surely growing worldwide is a huge sign of success for

the Project and for rhino populations as a whole.

Of course, along with great success comes great challenges. It’s no secret that the greatest threat rhinos face is the everongoing poaching of these magnificent beasts for their horn. Incidents of poaching, after years of decline, have increased in recent years. Rhino poaching


is driven by the heavy demand for rhino horns in Asian countries, particularly China and Vietnam. While the horn is widely used in traditional Chinese medicines, it is increasingly sought after simply for its use as a status symbol to display success and wealth. Sadly, the wave of poaching that has cost many innocent rhinos their lives (as well as the lives of the rangers protecting them) does not seem to have an ending in the foreseeable future. As long as the demand is there, the poaching will continue.

As a result, the Muller family has taken great measures to protect the rhinos to whom they have dedicated their lives to saving. The Rhino Momma Project has set up an anti-poaching unit on the reserve grounds to protect the preserve and the animals 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. To maximize safety and security, the armed teams patrol the reserve day and night by car and by foot with a canine unit. As the preserve is so large, Jaco Muller has a gyrocopter and flies over the whole reserve daily for an eye-in-thesky perspective. Even though much of the landscape is covered in some areas with thick brush and trees, it still allows for a clearer view of what’s going on down below. It also allows for a fast reaction response in the case of an emergency. They are currently investigating the options of using drones equipped with thermal imaging cameras for night and daytime surveillance, but this is very costly and it is not an affordable option at the moment.

As a result of all this rapid growth, total monthly expenses have undergone a fivefold increase since 2012. In addition to other daily expenses increasing, they will soon have to increase the number of their APU team members even further as the rhino population numbers continue to increase.

But unfortunately, all those measures are not always enough. At the end of the day, the security and the well-being of the rhinos is their number one priority. So as poaching incidents continued to rise and rhino deaths started to increase in Namibia, the family knew that it was time to take drastic measures: it was time to remove the one thing that made the rhinoceros so magnificent, yet so threatened - their horns.

Rhino horn trimming has long been a controversial topic, as the horn of the rhino is the one feature that makes this


The Rhino Momma Project currently has breeding animals in three separate large breeding camps which are all over 3,700 acres each.

animal so unique. However, by removing the horn of rhinos they become less attractive to poachers, thus reducing poaching. It is heard that poachers will still kill rhinos that are dehorned, but dehorning them reduces that probability immensely. It’s the theory of diminishing returns; the risk is far greater than the end reward for a small, trimmed horn. Horn trimming is a quick and painless procedure that only takes between 10 to 15 minutes in the field and is done by a professional veterinarian team while the rhino is under anesthesia. As the horn is made of keratin, the same substance as human hair and nails, the procedure does not harm the animal at all.

The goal, if the available funds allow it, is to trim the horn of every two-year-old and older rhino every twelve months. With the costs of the veterinarians and the anesthesia, this procedure runs about $950 USD per individual.

At the start of this breeding program, the Rhino Momma Project made income predictions based on the sales of the rhino offspring they raised to lodges, private rhino farmers and large reserves. But due to the poaching onslaught in Namibia in particular but South Africa as a whole, the sales of live rhinos have come to a crashing halt. Due to the increase in poaching, people are too afraid to invest in rhinos and therefore the predicted income stream did not materialize.

As a non-profit organization, the Rhino

Momma Project relies on donations from the public and philanthropic organizations to keep going and operating. Over the years, Jaco Muller has used private funds from his other businesses to keep the project running, but it was not enough. In 2017 they realized that they needed a more stable source of income and thus decided to branch out into eco-tourism.

In November 2019, Kifaru Luxury Lodge and Bush Camp opened its doors to the public on Rhino Momma Project land. The name Kifaru means rhino in the native African language of Swahili and it is a very fitting name for the establishment. The lodge and bush camp was built on one side of the reserve where guests and tourists could come to relax, watch all the animals on the reserve and more importantly, see and support the Rhino Momma Project. The Kifaru Luxury Lodge and Bush Camp thus became the gateway to the Rhino Momma Project for the world. The majority of the funds generated through Kifaru would go directly to the Rhino Momma Project to keep it running and on its mission.

But as things turned out purely by chance, the timing couldn’t have been worse. The Kifaru Luxury Lodge and Bush Camp opened its doors in November 2019 and

As a non-profit organization, the Rhino Momma Project relies on donations from the public and philanthropic organizations to keep going and operating.

a few short months later, the Covid-19 pandemic hit in March 2020. All travel was cancelled, the tourism industry crumbled, and so did the income to benefit the rhinos. The extended Muller family just hunkered down, kept at it, and the Rhino Momma Project and all the rhinos survived and even thrived through the pandemic.

Now that the pandemic is over and tourism has opened its doors once more, they are hopeful that the Kifaru Luxury Lodge and Bush Camp will continue to draw visitors and tourists, allowing its guests to be awe-inspired by this magnificent species. The Muller family will continue to raise awareness of rhino conservation while continuing their fight against the extinction of the White Rhinoceros. They are determined

to continue to resolve these huge challenges with fresh innovative ideas so that they can continue their dream of breeding rhinos for Namibia, the African continent, and the world. Through sheer grit and determination they have come this far together, and have proven that no challenge is too big to triumph over.

As Jaco Muller says, “Fabienne Frederickson once said: ‘The things you are passionate about are not random. They are your calling.’ Without a doubt, saving the White Rhino from extinction has captured our hearts and become our calling and we will continue to do so for as long as possible.”

About the Author

To read more and donate:
Jessica Willemse is owner of Travel Tales Marketing in Namibia.

Once More, from the Top: Why African family firms are resilient

Managing Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series by Dennis O.

Bouncing back in a family way

The surge of the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruption of organizational systems has distorted the accuracy of predictions. Other adversities, not just pandemics, can befall organizations at any time because adversity does not discriminate. The severity of an adversity demands businesses to be resilient. The word “resilience” is based on an ancient Latin word “resilio” which means to “jump back” or “to bounce back.”

Family businesses are no exception when it comes to “bouncing back” in response to adversity. The term Family Business (FB) describes a business that is owned and controlled by two or more family members, and the management role of FBs are generally influenced through active participation, active shareholding, advisory roles and board membership.1 The adversities that befall FBs can be even more complex and have more psychological impacts than their non-family business counterparts. The


death of a family business leader or the incapacitation of a prominent member of the family from an automobile accident or any other family related adversities are events that predispose them to be more resilient. Family businesses may be more resilient than non-family businesses because of the interplay between love and money. Love and money are two powerful forces that embody the FB; these two forces are the main drive to survive adversity. Resilience can be considered on both a personal level and on an organizational level. The focus of this article is on organizational resilience, particularly in African family businesses. Again, some characteristics of the FBs that make them more resilient than any other type of organization will be revealed. Organizational resilience in family business is the ability to avoid, absorb, respond to, and recover from situations that could threaten their existence.2 The recovery of FBs from such situations hinges on key qualities such as long-term orientation, transgenerational succession, and entrenched family values that can manage negative events.

Entrenched family values

Family firms have a strong system of shared values, which enhance sense making when they come up against difficulties or challenges. People in organizations fall back on values in times of difficulties. Values serve as a guide for an organization’s survival.

African family businesses have various moral and societal values meant to regulate interpersonal relationships and preserve the integrity of the community. A sustainable African business possesses acceptable values that preclude members of the community from becoming rebellious against business success. African families have these values ingrained in the maxims which are communicated among the family from the breakfast table to bedtime. To enhance sustainability, family businesses, unlike non-family businesses, do not have a problem with communicating business values to all members.

“Bi a ko ba gbagbe oro ana, a ko ui ri enikan abasere” is a Yoruba proverb which means that unless we overlook past misdeeds, we will not be able to relate to one another. The impulse of this African proverb installs virtues of forgiveness, harmony and forwardlooking behavior to overcome negative occurrences from the past. Hurts and disappointments are relational events that destroy organizations. But African family businesses have proverbial values that help them to overlook wrongdoings. Resilient businesses are forward-looking.

Transgenerational succession

Resilience is seen as critical in FB because many of the owners expect to pass the ownership and management of the firm to the next generation of


family members. One prominent Ghanaian FB owner in the heat of the COVID-19 pandemic revealed that the lockdown had given her the opportunity to utilize the services of her children to the advantage of the business. During the lockdown, schools and other “non-relevant” workers were made to stay home; this was a great opportunity to employ “cheap” readily available hands. Since they were her children, she could easily work with them without observing any stringent social distancing protocols. Though unfortunate, non-family business workers who were to be compensated by law were made to stay home for the period to cut costs. The involvement of the next-generation in business activities was a result of the cost-cutting strategy for survival. It is easy to compensate children who just have basic needs (food, shelter, care and assurance) in tough times. The intention of the FB owners to pass their business to the next generation is a default for them to employ their services in hard times. Unfortunate events draw the nextgeneration closer to the business. A Nigerian “techpreneur” explained to me that, “Sometimes it is better to involve the next generation of children or family relatives in an African environment where property rights protection is weak.” He said this in reference to an Akan proverb that states, “Blood is thicker than water” and that you are safer with a relative in terms of business security and information protection. Many businesses have been victims of information loss or leakage by employees to opponents and even to the

media. It is unlikely that family members would sell information for personal gain. The next generation would keep the company in safe hands in order to protect or safeguard the “work, sweat and tears” of the senior generation. Indeed, the next generation’s involvement in the family business contributes to continuity.

Long-term orientation. When it comes to business continuity, family businesses have a futuristic lens. They think about the longer term. They associate conscientiousness and persistence with an enduring commitment to the business strategy. They tend to plan and forecast the long-range consequences of business decisions. A long-term viewpoint drives resilient systems, and FBs have that to their advantage. Typical decisions that depict long term thinking include longer tenures of CEOs or founders, patience through tough times, and non-economic goals.


Few founders or CEOs of family businesses delegate control of their businesses to outsiders. Some studies have proven the negative effect of longserving founder control on business continuity, while other schools of thought see the opposite. It is my belief that resilience can be improved by a long-serving leader; the moderating role of visionary leadership (one which has a long-term focus) on the relationship between a long-serving leader and organizational resilience must be emphasized. The long service of a visionary family business leader is invaluable. Some nations with visionary monarchs have seen tremendous development and success through the COVID-19 pandemic. Resilience can be affected when there is a power struggle in a business, but resilience may be minimal with forbearance in a family.

In times of crisis, non-economic goals keep organizations going. The ability to forego immediate gratification to achieve a desired future state is particularly important for family firms. Delayed gratification enables FBs to balance the economic goals of the business with the non-economic goals of the family. With patience, business families can embrace the positive emotions which are associated with an imagined future event, even in bad times. Many family businesses in Ghana gave back to the community with household necessities like food items. Corporate social responsibility (CSR) has

been the norm throughout the COVID pandemic, without any expectation of financial gain.

Family and non-family firms are not the same. Family businesses in Africa have strong value systems, invest in transgenerational succession and longterm orientation in times of crisis; such qualities make them different. The contribution of Family Businesses in Africa cannot be overstated. Its unique structure must be embraced by owners and managers to build stakeholder confidence. Their inherent characteristics differentiate them from their non-family counterparts. African families are built on deep family values that are passed on from one generation to the next. These are tried and tested and have proven to help the family thrive in times of adversity. An African Family Business borne out of this system has proven to stand the test of time.

About the author

Dennis Owusu Oteng is the Chief Executive Officer at Ravens Consulting GH (Family Business Consultancy).


Poza, D. (2014). Family Business. New York: South-Western: Cengage Learning. Lengnick-Hall, C. A. & Beck, T. E. (2005) “Adaptive fit versus robust transformation: how organizations respond to environmental change,” Journal of Management, 31(5), 738–757.


Considering Sales Across Borders?

The Power of In-Country Presence

Establishing a presence internationally is best accomplished via in-country strategic partners and resellers. Attempting to conduct international business from your local offices is not the way to go. There are several reasons for this, which I will explore in more depth here. But first, let’s have a closer look at what having a strategic partner and reseller means. Then we will explore the value and benefit derived from such an in-country approach.

A Smart Partnership

We are talking about a strategic partner, which in context would mean an established individual or organization incountry. Beyond the mutual benefit of your partnership, they should be aligned to your needs and wants as well as to your philosophical goals and purposes. While our world has never been more interconnected thanks to various communication and collaboration technologies, nothing beats being there, feet on the ground, when it comes to getting business done internationally. For example, this might be an organization doing global business on the ground in-


Scalability and sustainability.

The key to any successful international expansion strategy is the ability to scale revenue and subsequently sustain scalability year over year. This is something much easier to achieve with a strategic channel partner well in-tune with servicing the customers’ ongoing needs and wants.

Ability to create new market

opportunities. International strategic resellers can uncover new niche or vertical markets that would otherwise not be possible from your local sales team.

Local representation.

Nearly all in-country customers would prefer to deal with a local representative for a variety of reasons that stem from the fact (and strength) of being in closer communication to be able to see the project through to the end and really execute on plans and strategies by


providing whatever live communication and immediate follow-through is necessary. Mitigate financial risk. On the flip side, attempting to collect from late or delinquent accounts from your home country can make collecting money very difficult. Having a local representative can greatly alleviate this challenge. Additionally, strategic partners are more in tune with country protectionist laws and have better insight into transferring funds for payment of goods and services without being heavily taxed.


Speaking and having marketing materials available in the local language while communicating within those realities (including idioms, styles, values, customs and senses of humor or culture uniquely understood by the local public) will all work to avoid missing the mark and will lower any barriers to effectively delivering the message about features and benefits of your product or service. Logistics. Local strategic channel partners are very in tune with import duties, taxes and tariffs and will advise you on the best means for shipping product to the country without high import fees and through the most expedited way possible.


The costs associated with implementing international strategic channel partners is far more inexpensive than implementing an international, salary-based sales team. Often, this can be done on a revenue split with a non-exclusive license and a reasonable commission and renewal fees. This is infinitely superior to leasing a sales office while hiring staff and paying for marketing and promotion.

Finding a representative in-country in the same industry with non-competing products may be easier than you think. Without a myriad of up-front expenses, there will be plenty of money available to pay a productive representative team for their sales. Complications, hidden difficulties, and other barriers all related to time, distance, language, culture and the reality of simply not being there on the ground inevitably arise when administering business from afar.

While our world has never been more interconnected thanks to various communication and collaboration technologies, nothing beats the real thing when it comes to getting business done internationally.

Companies working in the international arena need to establish international strategic channel partners with the ability to be there locally, to see business through, and to ensure that your investment in the international market is an expansion that adds strength to your mission.

You can’t fake local

Most of all, when doing business internationally, you need to be familiar with the local customs, mannerisms, dialect and, yes, even the vibe. It is like the difference between writing a great letter to a customer that is heartfelt or using a translation matrix like Google Translate to write the letter. Can you get the point across? Yes. Can you capture all the nuances of the native language? Absolutely not. There are many things you just can’t know about a place unless you have lived in it. Almost every country or region has its own set of peculiarities. What is proper


in Tokyo does not work in San Francisco. What is proper in Johannesburg won’t fly in Sidney. Should you shake hands? For how long? How firm should the handshake be? Should you use your right hand, or left? Is it okay to offer to buy a drink in a lounge? When addressing a group, to whom should you be looking at? Should you be early to a meeting? Should you be late? What should you do when you exchange business cards?

And still more localisms

How does your prospect feel about small talk? How about a kiss on the cheek? Or getting naked and relaxing in a sauna? Should you offer a gift? What if you don’t speak the language?

The key is to show respect. You do this by caring enough to understand the local customs. Your goal is to form a personal relationship. With all the changes in international business over the past 50 years, one thing has rarely changed... People want to do business with their friends. In order to make friends, you have to be able to eliminate the barriers to forming that friendship.

Everywhere is different.

You can research it, and perhaps pick up some of the high points, but it is still not the same as having lived there and having done business there at a high level.

Side-stepping the possible pitfalls

Once you have your local representation in place, there are a few things you need to keep your eye on. First, you’ll need to be aware of politics and relations between your country and the prospective country. It’s simply a fact of life. Sometimes the politics can get in the way of a really good thing. Political decisions

can affect taxes, labor costs, raw material costs, transportation availability, education availability of employees and more – as well as the buying attitudes of the local populace. Often, these things are outside our control. An astute CEO sees all, including current political situations and potential situations. Next, you’ll want to be aware of currency valuations and devaluations. Differences in currency values and inflation surges can either make it easy or impossible to do business with certain countries. Although you can’t do anything about it, it pays to be aware of real or potential changes between countries.

New markets

Even though it takes a good bit of care to do business in other countries, let’s remember the upside: You are creating a whole new market for your product or service. Often, these new markets can have a voracious appetite for what you have to sell, even to the point of charging a premium and getting it. What may be commonplace in your country may be considered luxurious or even exotic in other countries. At the very least, you are increasing the number of potential customers for your products or services by multiples, and that is always a good thing.

About the author

Michael E. Spencer is the CEO and Founder of Global Expansion Strategies, a Silicon Valley based international, advisory, growth and investment firm working with companies to expand globally. Michael Spencer has more than 28 years of global leadership, management, operational, business development and investment experience in the international marketplace.


EdTech in Egypt: Preparing Students for Success in the Global Economy

Over the last two years, the pace of Africa’s digital transformation has accelerated. During the pandemic, demand for online access naturally increased while initiatives like the World Economic Forum’s Africa Growth Platform brought business and government together to speed up the continent’s digitisation.

Investment in technology will be

pivotal to Africa’s long-term economic growth, and EdTech is a key component of this as it can help young African students develop the skills they need to participate in the global economy. The widespread digitisation of learning in Africa presents clear challenges, not least in terms of infrastructure. But many African schools are already successfully embracing education technology, with one country leading the way.


With a population of over 104 million, Egypt has one of the biggest public education systems in MENA (Middle Eastern and North African). It also has the largest cohort of students who regularly engage with technology thanks to a ground-breaking, government-backed project known as the Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB).

Launched in 2015 by President Abdel El-Fattah El-Sisi, EKB is the world’s largest digital library providing learning resources and tools for educators, researchers, students, and the general public of Egypt. A part of Egypt’s widespread educational reforms, President El-Sisi’s goal for the EKB was to create an Egyptian Society that “learns, thinks and innovates.”

Available free of charge to the entire Egyptian population, EKB offers videos, articles, and other learning objects to help citizens of all ages develop knowledge and skills relevant to the 21st century. Over 25 of the world’s leading publishers have contributed videos, articles, images, audio files, interactive files and learning guides to create a library numbering in the millions. And in 2015 Discovery Education was delighted to be selected as a key founding partner, working alongside the likes of Britannica, Springer, and Oxford University Press.

Discovery Education was tasked with providing Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) focused digital content to the EKB for Egypt’s primary, preparatory and secondary

schools. Working in partnership with Dr Tarek Shawki – Egypt’s former Education Minister – we established a team in Cairo composed of experts from MENA, the United States, and the United Kingdom to create engaging content for over 23 million Egyptian students.

As one of the world’s leading EdTech companies, Discovery Education was able to bring our experience to the table in a valuable way. Giving educators innovative new opportunities to design and deliver engaging learning experiences is what motivates us. So, it was hugely rewarding to be part of such a transformative project and to see first-hand the difference that technology – and in particular, digital media - can make for learning.

We began by creating digital assets which could easily be integrated into STEM lessons across Egypt. These included thousands of educational videos, in English and Arabic, which students and teachers could access via an exclusive web portal. We also devised a range of interactive resources aligned to the national curriculum including audio, text articles, images and interactives to boost student engagement and bring learning to life.

Initially, internet access was a challenge. But we were lucky that our work coincided with a push by the Egyptian Government to improve the country’s digital infrastructure. Within a short time of the project beginning, digital

whiteboards and tablets gradually became available in schools. And with at least 70% of homes having at least one smartphone, many teachers and students were also able to access our new digital learning content from home One of our biggest goals was to make learning fun, which would in turn encourage students to become lifelong learners. In today’s information economy this is something we take for granted, but in the developing world it is less well established. To reach its goal of becoming a ‘Learning Society,’ Egyptian society needed to experiment with new ways of learning with a focus on excitement and enjoyment.

At Discovery Education, we know from our experience in schools around the world that high-quality digital content makes learning fun. Technology is a natural draw for students, but the right digital media can transform teaching and learning and deliver a host of benefits for learners.

Firstly, technology makes learning hands-on so that students can fully participate in the process. When students are immersed, they are far more likely to learn. There is growing evidence that attention-grabbing digital content aids retention as well.

Digital content can also appeal to a variety of different learning styles. Videos, for example, provide visual cues which can engage students of all abilities and support those


with additional language needs.

And most importantly, digital media can open doors to real world learning, helping students explore different places and igniting their curiosity in other cultures. By bringing the real world into the classroom, Egypt is helping the newest generation to fully participate in the future global economy.

Within a year of launching the Egyptian Knowledge Bank (EKB), the initiative delivered amazing results. In our first year of 2016 we saw users conduct over 70 million searches resulting in 40 million files being downloaded and 250 thousand users registering for an EKB account. This early success – and the high uptake of our own digital content in schools – led the Government to ask Discovery Education to extend our partnership further and work with them to extend student access across the country.

While around 70% of Egyptian households have access to internet coverage, usually via a single smartphone, in rural areas such as the Sinai Peninsula or the Sudanese border access is limited. So, we worked with the Education Ministry to develop video lessons that could be broadcast

via their satellite television channel. The distribution of television programming in Egypt is nearly 100%, so this gave us a terrific opportunity to reach students everywhere.

In a big country like Egypt, having this existing satellite infrastructure really helped. It is a remote learning model that we believe can be replicated in a lot of countries across Africa. In Egypt, edtech and digital media became particularly invaluable during the pandemic. Today, we provide hours of originally produced online video programs which are broadcast daily.

Ensuring that our educational content is closely mapped to the curriculum is another key goal of our partnership with the Egyptian Government. Launched in February 2017, Curriculum ConnectTM is an innovative and exciting initiative providing teachers

and students online and mobile access to th ousands of vetted videos, articles, interactives, audio files, and images mapped to all Science and Math lessons for all grade levels. Connecting the Egyptian curriculum to engaging digital content means that teachers no longer need to search extensively for digital resources to support their lessons, and students can study in confidence.

In 2018, Ministry officials asked us if we could go further and develop curriculum for all students from Kindergarten through Grade 6 in collaboration with their curriculum department. Thinking of the enormous responsibility to lead curriculum development, we were keen to ensure equity of access so that students with limited connectivity –

those who lived remotely, for example – could access learning in the same way as their peers. This drive to close the education gap underpinned much of the new curriculum and continues to motivate our work in Egypt today.

One of the other key elements we wanted to deliver was the teaching of life skills alongside more traditional academic learning. The UNICEF Life Skills Framework - which highlights the importance of behaviours such as respect, listening and perseverance - was a great inspiration to the curricular leaders in Egypt. Today, every lesson we create has a life skill built-in with the aim of preparing Egypt’s students to be fully rounded global citizens. Professional development was another important facet of our partnership.


Egypt has long been an educational powerhouse in terms of the quality of its teachers in the MENA region. We were proud to support Egypt’s teachers as they encountered digital learning tools for the first time. We created a bespoke online professional learning programme, which allows teachers to show their growth and become fully engaged in what learning should look like in the classroom.

We also set up a powerful online network, the Discovery Education Online PD (Professional Development) to connect teachers with their most valuable resource - each other. This gave Egypt’s teachers and administrators a supportive learning environment to improve their practice, network with each other, share ideas, and focus on the joy of teaching and learning! To date we have trained over 250,000 teachers both in-person and on our unique online platform, and our educator network continues to grow.

As our partnership with Egypt enters its 9th year, we are proud to say that we have helped over 20 million students unlock the joy of learning and build valuable life skills. And as these students move up through secondary school and out into the world, we will be able to more clearly evidence how the partnership has impacted their life chances and impacted the Egyptian economy.

There is no doubt that by embracing EdTech, Egypt is preparing these students

An accomplished business leader with a deep understanding of the United Kingdom’s marketplace, Howard Lewis is the Managing Director, UK & International at Discovery Education.

Howard joined Discovery Education from Thomson Reuters, a global information, news and technology business where he was a member of an executive leadership team responsible for the goto-market strategy for that company’s European enterprise. Prior to Thomson Reuters, Howard held various general management and leadership positions at Experian, including holding the position of Managing Director for Irish business. During his time at Experian, Howard was responsible for multiple business units, served both the B2B and B2C markets across the public and private sectors, and was involved in identifying and integrating a number of the company’s key acquisitions. Howard started his career at Dun & Bradstreet, where he held a number of sales and sales leadership positions, including Head of Sales UK.


Is Your Business for Sale and Are You Exit-Ready?

So, you’ve decided to sell your business or have just begun considering it? If the thought has not crossed your mind yet, then perhaps you are perfectly happy with how things are running or you are passionate in believing that you may own your business forever, pass it along to your next of kin, and have it serve as your legacy. Regardless of your situation, selling a business is somewhat inevitable and in most cases, it is a life changing, complex, and highly emotional experience. Therefore, proper

planning and understanding of what selling your business will require and how you may optimize the experience, ultimately being “exit-ready,” are worth considering sooner rather than later.

Today’s Special: A Business Sale

My parents owned a stainless steel diner open 24/7 in Upstate New York for most of my childhood and adult life. My entire immediate family members as well as a few others worked there. At times, it seemed like the business was another sibling whose varying moods,


states of success and growth, and dayto-day stakeholder issues (i.e., customers, employees, vendors) made their way into family conversations and impacted our general well-being. So, when the decision to sell was finally made - a somewhat joyous, freeing moment, ripe with visions of retirement for my parents and general family sanity - little was known about what to expect, how to manage and optimize the transaction (and most importantly) how to function seamlessly and swiftly through it all. Just the time it took between making the decision and closing was well over one year. Many uncertain expectations, a roller coaster ride of emotion, and varying degrees of internal and external chaos transpired within that time frame making it nearly

unbearable throughout. Had our family been better prepared for what to expect it would likely not have been as drawnout or painful a process. This story eventually ended well with a successful sale and a well-deserved retirement for my parents. However, it did not come easy.

Fast-forward 20+ years to the point where I began considering selling my own education technology software-asa-service business. I was determined not to endure the same drawn out and uncertain experience that my parents had gone through while navigating towards a successful outcome. Even though it was a different business at a different time, many of the same concepts applied. I found myself asking


the most basic common questions, such as: Is now the right time? How much is my business worth? How long will this process take? What and who can help get me there? What legal and financial alternatives are there? And, based on various potential outcomes, what will life be like for myself, my family, and my employees after the sale?

I wanted to know what I could expect and better yet, what of this experience could I potentially control and learn from. To this end, my investors and I decided that as the acting Founder and CEO, I would run our own organic process. A ‘process’ is a term used in business sales transactions that means to prospect, present, negotiate, close, and transition a business sale with a potential buyer. Most businesses hire an investment banker (IB) or business broker to handle this portion which includes certain fixed costs as well as a percentage of the sale. In running the process myself, I gained a great appreciation for the expertise of IBs and brokers… specifically, how they can easily market to a network of potential buyers in your space and quickly surmise legal and financial alternatives. In addition, going solo allowed me to get intimate with the

varying steps of the process. Following are a few of my greatest take-aways.

Start with the End in Mind

In contemplating a sale of your business and the right timing of the transaction, start with simple questions to achieve some immediate baseline of your own exit-readiness. These include: What will the financial and emotional impact be to me, my family and those I most care about? How long will the sale process of my business take? Do I see myself continuing on as an operator/consultant with the business for some time post-sale transition, doing something else entirely, or simply retiring altogether? Who, inside and outside of my network and industry, can I trust to help me with the sale process?

Once you have answers to these questions, I recommend doing the math of your net return and weighing various exit scenarios.

For a more detailed approach on what to expect, get a hold of a due diligence checklist for your type of business within your industry. Due diligence is a


comprehensive appraisal of the financial, legal, and commercial aspects of a business that a prospective buyer will undertake, including the establishment of assets and liabilities. In short, due diligence is used to accurately evaluate the business’ value. It is usually conducted after a negotiated Letter of Intent, or LOI, has been agreed to and it can be pretty detailed. Think of due diligence as similar to the inspection of a house prior to changing ownership where each infraction and/or point of contention can impact the purchase price of the negotiation. You read that correctly, as it is always a subtraction from the negotiated and agreed upon purchase price. Therefore, it is in your best interest to place yourself in the acquirer’s shoes. Should anything on your due diligence checklist look concerning, it’s advised to circumvent and minimize risk immediately.

Value your Business Appropriately

In selling my business I received this advice often, and it rings true: “Your business is worth whatever someone is willing to pay for it.” In other words, how you value your business may not align with how potential acquirers may value your business. There are several methods to help determine the value of a business including the income approach, the market approach, and the asset approach.

multiples (i.e., 2x Revenue) used for specific industries are available publicly. Having a solid understanding of your business’ valuation calculated by way of your industry’s multiple applied to your trending financials, as well as the various similar transactions in your industry that calculated the average multiple, removes business valuation mystery and arms you with confidence. Having this data readily available illustrates to a potential acquirer that you are exit-savvy, you will not be taken advantage of, and you can defend a reasonable valuation of your business.

There are several factors that can push a higher or lower than average multiple. These may include year-overyear growth and trajectory (vs. industry average) as well as various risk factors such as the business’ succession plan, key market trends, and timing to name a few. Keep in mind that at some point in the process the acquirer will perform extensive due diligence, turning over every stone and analyzing each aspect of your business. Therefore, it’s critical to be upfront and honest with variables that in your opinion either act as value enhancers or detractors.

Tell Your Story/Sell A Vision

I preferred the market approach primarily for speed, which included sourcing comparables of similar type companies that have sold recently. Common

Part of running my own organic process included writing and assembling a CIM, or confidential information memorandum deck. A CIM deck is essentially the business’ story to tell. A CIM deck usually includes the history of the company, its secret sauce and accomplishments over


the years (i.e., key partners, milestones, sales, etc.), how you achieved product or service/market fit, the strength of the management team and processes, market opportunities, and vision for future success. The CIM deck also includes specific “metrics that matter’’ showing growth and value now and into the future. Some important metrics that matter include revenues by type, gross profit and margin, EBITDA, operating expense as a percentage of revenue, full time employees, cashflow, and customer acquisition costs (CAC). I like to always have a special X factor metric handy, such as profit per X, where your X can be employee, revenue, customer, product, or some other favorable-looking measurement. This illustrates your future-forward attention to profitability and cash flow.

Where your business may not warrant an extensive CIM deck, part of being exitready is always having a concise story, vision, and metrics that matter prepared for a potential acquirer. After all, it is your vision of success (and you, in some cases) that they are buying as much as the business itself. And you never know when someone will inquire about acquiring your business. Some highimpact questions to prepare for include:

How and why did you start the business?

What problem did you solve or what

secret hole in the market did you fill?

What makes your business defendably special and unique?

How beloved is your business by customers and do you have any stories to defend this?

Why is this transaction a great opportunity for an acquirer?

Have you considered selling your business and if so, how soon?

Brace Yourself for a Range of Emotions

Selling your business is a highly emotional experience. I didn’t realize this as much with my parents’ business exit as when I experienced it on my own. Severing personal and professional relationships - as well as no longer being the team leader, CEO, business sherpa, visionary, and absorber of all issues grand and miniscule - is an odd feeling when you are no longer in that po sition. I somehow got used to and welcomed the long hours, worrying about and resolving key issues, and being accountable for the company’s success or failure which included my employees’ livelihoods. I guess you could say the business became like an additional family member. (I detect a pattern in my own DNA.)

Selling your business is a highly emotional experience. I didn’t realize this as much with my parents’ business exit as when I experienced it on my own.

In any exit, you should expect some transaction and separation anxiety. Consider the impact on those within your exit orbit (family, employees, etc.) that are most important and involved with this transaction; share your intentions, as necessary, to ease into it and garner support from them. A good friend of mine advised me that as the Founder and CEO, someday I may not be the CEO but I will always be the Founder of that business. In other words, like a parent, no one can take that distinction away from me. I still find comfort in this statement when it comes to dealing with the emotions that accompanied my exit.

Life After Exit

What do YOU want to do after you sell your business? Please, take a moment to answer this question. Pay particular attention to the YOU in the equation. And be honest: Do YOU want to stay around to help manage the company and team as part of a transition plan if given the opportunity and potentially work for someone else? Do YOU see yourself starting or running another business soon? Is this YOUR opportunity to take some time to either figure it out or retire? Lastly, can YOU afford and defend your decision?

Thinking through the why, what, and how of a happy life after exit, then writing it down and truly envisioning it like a well-rehearsed Olympic diver will help make it a reality.

see how confident I am in the future of the business and how they will benefit, or are they testing me to see if I am checked out already? Also, beware of specific exit gotcha terms like an “earn-out” clause, whereby some percentage of the purchase price is paid out upon the business achieving certain milestones (i.e., sales, revenue, profitability) which you may or may not be responsible for. This could quickly take the wind out of an attractive exit offer’s sail. That is where having an understanding of the business’ value, minimizing risk, understanding what you want, and being transparent with the business’ future potential is crucial.

Don’t Sell YourSELF Short

In closing, do not forget how and why you got here in the first place. You are an entrepreneur/business owner and likely made a choice to take on responsibility, assume uncertain risk, operate with accountability, and work as the synonymous representative of your business. That is never easy. And very few people have the confidence (let alone the drive, patience, grit, and sanity) to do it. The more exitready you are today, the more successful of an exit you may experience in the future.

About the Author

Some acquirers will probe you during M&A negotiations about your desires after the sale so be prepared. I always saw this as a bit of a trick question. Are they asking to

Angelo Biasi is a recently exited and serial entrepreneur-turned-coach. He is passionate about helping business leaders, committed to change, scale their businesses efficiently while reaching their personal and professional potential. Learn more at



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