‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose 10 questions to business leaders across the continent.
Candace Nkoth Bisseck, country manager, Kaymu (Cameroon)
1. What was your first job?
I’ve done so many things, but guess my very first job was volunteer work at the library in my home town – Edéa in Cameroon – when I was 17.
2. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
Taking the business to the next level and making sure my team enjoy working for Kaymu. If those two things are happening, I am excited and sleeping well.
3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
It’s not a person, but it’s definitely the fact that I moved from Ivory Coast to join a top business school in France. That literally changed everything, in terms of both career opportunities and expectations.
4. The best professional advice you’ve ever received?
One of my managers once told me that it’s better to be the boss of your village than an anonymous guy in a city. The meaning behind this advice was that sometimes you need to find your niche to shine. And honestly that’s what happened when I accepted the job to come back and work in Cameroon for this burgeoning e-business. That was definitely the most positively impactful advice I have ever received.
5. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I think the first thing is the team. You need to have a dream team to be successful. You need to trust and like the people you work with – that makes all the difference. Secondly, you must be prepared for growth. While success might be achieved with few business processes and without being too strict on some details, at the end of the day if you want to grow you need to have very strong foundations in the company. And these foundations will need to rely on good processes to be prepared for growth.
Thirdly I believe in what I do. As a country manager, as a boss or as entrepreneur, you must believe and love what you are working for. Those are my three main points.
6. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?
Neither business school nor directly on the job. I think you should first be attracted to a leadership position which might have happened at a young age. Maybe you held a leadership position in some association when you were younger, or maybe you were the first-born in your family, and you know how to manage people – something you learnt from your responsibilities. I definitely don’t think that you can simply learn those skills in business school, and it’s a bit risky to come into a leadership position on the job and not know where to start.
For those wanting to become leaders, I would suggest volunteering and investing yourself in maybe an association where you can practise leadership before getting into the real thing.
7. How do you relax?
Sport. I go to the gym at least three times a week when I can – that’s my main form of relaxation. I’m also trying to get more into meditation to be more collected because Cameroon is a pretty intense country and being the country manager is a pretty intense job as well.
8. What time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?
Ideally, I like to be there at 7:45am, but to be honest I’m usually at my desk by 8:15 or 8:30. However, I do believe the best work day starts earlier because you are calm, collected, and can plan your day and figure everything out before switching into problem-solving mode, which starts from 9am – when work can just become crazy.
9. Your favourite job interview question?
I like to ask potential employees to tell me about their career journey and what they have done before. I love storytelling. I love listening to people’s stories because it says so much about who they are, their dynamics, and the way they think.
When I was doing job interviews as a potential candidate, I believe this was one of my main advantages because I have a very uncommon story. And we are all kids at the end of the day; people like stories and I do too. So I like to know where potential candidates are coming from, what were their main challenges, and why did they made the decisions that led them to this point.
10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?
Try to define what you really, really want. It takes time and work to try to get to know what you want because Africans are often raised to do what others think they should do. So learn what it is you really love so that when the right opportunity arises you can tap into your real talent or passion and do what you really want to do. Go find what you love and try to make your passion your profession.
And when you have discovered what your passion is, work hard at it. Try finding some mentors, attending conferences and reading online about the industry or the profession that drives you. To sum up: be dedicated to your dream, and you will do well.
Candace Nkoth Bisseck is Cameroon’s country manager of the online marketplace Kaymu. The e-commerce platform is an initiative of the Africa Internet Group and allows buyers and sellers to trade a wide range of products online including home appliances, electronics and fashion.
Nkoth Bisseck is an MBA graduate who grew up in Cameroon. She also has experience working in Ivory Coast, France, Singapore and China.