6 Lessons and principles African entrepreneurs should learn from Steve Jobs

Looking at the success of the late Steve Jobs and Apple, what specific lessons can young African entrepreneurs learn? Ghanaian business writer and author made an extensive study of the life and work of Apple’s founder and compiled invaluable learnings, both based on success as well as failure. Club Africa asked Sarpong about the lessons and principles he describes in his book ‘The Laws of Entrepreneurship – unraveling Steve Jobs’.

The recently published book has generated a lot of interest around the continent and the world at large. G.K Sarpong’s work is currently in the Libraries of over 60 Senior High Schools and five universities in Ghana. In West Africa the business writer and author is appearing in television interviews, workshops and speaking engagements to discuss his book. In all of these occasions, Steve Jobs’ love for the functionality, affordability and usability of his products coupled with his peculiar leadership approach is widely admired.
“It is safe to say that the combination of these strengths has revolutionalised the technology industry in the 21st century,” Sarpong adds. “His wealth of experience is an important resource for every entrepreneur in the world today, especially in Africa.” But what in Jobs’ toolbox can aspiring young entrepreneurs take with them on their journey? G.K. Sarpong offers some critical themes in the book that are vital for success.

1. The Law of Innovation
G.K. Sarpong: “Any business organisation that will survive for more than a generation must be borne on the wings of visionary men. The wheels of vision grind on sustained innovation. New York Times columnist Joe Nocera once stated, "Steve Jobs is one of the great innovators in the history of modern Capitalism." The African business leader today who fails to innovate will die from stagnation.
Sustained innovation thrives by embracing the unknown. The young entrepreneur in my village must be very receptive to new philosophies, notions and business concepts. The language of business growth is called ‘risk-taking’ and tomorrow’s African business magnates must be prepared to embrace the unknown by taking calculated risks today.”

2. The Law of Sequence
“Wherever there are very gigantic problems, there are equally opportunities for the birth of billionaires. Solutions precede wealth. “When Jobs and his small team designed the original Macintosh in the early 1980s, his motivation was to make it “insanely” great. He never spoke of profit maximization or cost trade-offs,” Isaacson Walter once stated.
The young African entrepreneur who looks closely enough will realize that the challenges confronting the continent of Africa are simply billions packaged as problems waiting to be unraveled.
Zimbabwean billionaire Strive Masiyiwa also remarked, “We didn’t wake up and say we wanted to make billions of dollars; we said we wanted to extend telecommunications to all people of Africa.” The wealth in Africa is entrusted to entrepreneurs who are dedicated to providing solutions.”

3. The Law of Partnership
“The businessman who learns to forge meaningful business relationships anchored on shared vision, purpose and goals is ten times more likely to be successful than the loner businessman. The young African entrepreneur must understand and appreciate the need to seek relevant partnerships in his bid to build truly global enterprises. Today’s complex and highly specialized business environment means that partnership is a very important asset but it also demands that proper due-diligence must be undertaken before any commitment.
Steve Jobs after he returned to Apple in July 1997 remarked, “If we want to move forward and see Apple healthy again, we have to let go of a few things here. We have to let go of this notion that for Apple to win Microsoft has to lose.” 

4. The Law of Integrity
“Integrity is vital as the capital investment in any business enterprise. The 21st century African entrepreneur must be wary of short cuts and questionable means of making it in business. Any business organisation that thrives through fraudulent schemes will only survive as long as it is able to evade detection. A business established by fraudulent means will not stand during the day of scrutiny.”

5. The Principle of Ambition
“Ambition will separate the businessman who has a ten year strategic plan from the businessman who has no such plans. The builders of tomorrow’s multi-million industries must consciously be ambitious. Jobs once stated, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.”
The new generation of African entrepreneurs must be prepared to challenge the tide of convention. It takes ambition to build global business enterprises. What is not dared is never achieved. For tomorrow’s business successes, young African entrepreneurs must dream today.”

6. The Law of Failure
“Failure when allowed to travel it’s full cycle will produce an amazing stream of success. The law of failure states that; the seed in failure is the ammunition called experience. Jobs once noted, “―Getting fired from Apple was the best thing that could have ever happened to me.” The young African entrepreneur must appreciate that; failure should always be seen as part of the learning process. 
The most important question one must ask after a setback is how the failure has made him better person. As long as your failures make you a better business leader, you can be rest assured you are on the right path.”

G.K. Sarpong, business writer and author, is currently Policy Analyst for iWatch Africa (iwatchafrica.org). The Laws of Entrepreneurship (Unraveling Steve Jobs) by G.K. Sarpong is available on Amazon.

Photo Credits: G.K. Sarpong

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