‘Meet the Boss’ is a How we made it in Africa interview series where we pose the same ten questions to business leaders across the continent.
Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia, founder and managing partner, Oxford & Beaumont (Ghana)
1. What was your first job?
My first job was a summer crew member at Burger King at Thorpe Park, an amusement park in England.
2. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
One of my mentors Ian Walker, [who was] previously at the leading New York law firm Davis Polk & Wardwell. I met Ian when I was a timid undergraduate at the University of Oxford and daunted by the competitive recruitment effort.
His coaching and mentoring helped me develop confidence in myself to land one of only six training contracts at Travers Smith. Ian continued to support all of my efforts and to challenge me not to settle. He always challenged me, whether or not I could indeed do more, aim higher, etc, in anything I did. He still does, as a member of the advisory board of my law firm Oxford & Beaumont.
3. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
Probably cashflow. The nature of the advisory services we provide in our law firm means that it often takes several months for clients to settle our invoices for work done. Yet we need to continue to fund attractive compensation and general cost of doing business through internally generated funds.
4. What are the top reasons why you have been successful in business?
The people who I have surrounded myself with. In each of the businesses I am involved with, I work with a team of highly committed and talented people who consistently challenge and inspire me to do a better job in everything I do.
5. What are the best things about Ghana?
The sheer scale of the opportunities available in Ghana. Whatever the industry or sector, Ghana is a by all indices a very fast growing economy with tremendous potential fuelled by a fast growing middle class, a huge infrastructure deficit, increasing demand for cocoa and precious metals.
6. And the worst?
Lack of investment in education and healthcare over the years. The former is leading to a crop of poorly educated youth without the requisite tool kit to contribute their quota to society. The latter means that our hospitals are in a sorry state without some of the basic medical equipment and with talented but extremely frustrated (and underpaid) doctors.
7. Your future career plans?
I currently teach entrepreneurship part-time as an adjunct lecturer at a local university in Ghana. In a few years, once I have been able to implement my current seven year strategic plan at Oxford & Beaumont and groomed my successors, I’d like to teach full time.
8. How do you relax?
By watching movies, swimming, relaxing at the beach and entertaining friends. I have also recently become a father to the most adorable little boy Prince Elikem Junior. So now, I also relax by playing with him. I look forward to grooming him to make his fair contribution to society.
9. What is your message to Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs?
I’d like to encourage Africa’s young aspiring business people and entrepreneurs to focus on the things they are passionate about and to pursue those passions with integrity.
Too many times, young Africans simply follow what is expected of them (from family, friends and society) without stopping to figure out what it is they are most passionate about.
In my opinion, passion is the most important criteria for deciding on a job or on what entrepreneurship venture to pursue. It really is true that if you find a job you love you will never work a day in your life.
10. How can Africa realise its full potential?
Through education. I think Africa can realise its full potential only if African governments invest significantly in educating their people.
Ghanaian-born Elikem Nutifafa Kuenyehia is an entrepreneur, lawyer, author and an adjunct lecturer in entrepreneurship at the Ghana Institute of Management and Public Administration. In 2006 he founded Oxford & Beaumont, a leading corporate and commercial law firm in Ghana with offices in Accra and London, and has since advised clients such as Coca-Cola, Goldman Sachs, Shell International, Vodafone and Citibank. Kuenyehia, who is no stranger to awards, won the 2012 title of Young Business Leader of the Year at the West African All Africa Business Leaders Awards.