Samuel Amanor is the CEO of BlueSPACE Africa, a Ghanaian business focused on financial technology integration. BlueSPACE Africa builds financial systems and infrastructure that enable secure transactions.
1. Tell us about one of the toughest situations you’ve found yourself in as a business owner.
In Africa, most businesses struggle with liquidity issues. Clients may commit to your business, but find themselves unable to pay on time. What do you do when your biggest customers owe you millions of dollars, but they are unable to pay on time? You simply have to run the business as best as you can amid the liquidity issues.
What we have done to try and resolve the client’s inability to pay on time, is plan ahead. We factor three to six months of payment delays into our business relationships for both the private and public sectors. We also allow, and build, time buffers for when people are expected to pay and when they are, actually, able to make payment.
Another … [issue] is the lack of readily available talent to solve the challenges that come with growth. There are many opportunities, particularly in banking infrastructure and banking software systems, which are the backbone of financial institutions. More opportunities can be found in core banking systems, treasury systems, bond management systems and trading platforms, but it is increasingly difficult to find the right talent in this region.
In an effort to combat this shortage, we are moving to partner with talent organisations. … We are working with Executives in Africa, they help us strategise for talent readiness. We are also working with AB2020, an events platform and PR company, … [which] has helped us position our brand on the global market. Now, we can get more people interested in grabbing … opportunities.
2. Which business achievement are you most proud of?
I am proud to see an idea transform into a platform through which we can touch … lives. My employees are defining their own career paths, and gaining confidence in their future. It makes me happy to see that.
It’s also heartwarming to see this platform that we’ve created as BlueSPACE transform into an integral part of financial systems. The fact that we can share the digital transformation of financial services with people all over the world is beyond my wildest imagination. We can reach London, Paris, Amsterdam and more. It’s fantastic, I love it.
3. Describe your greatest weakness as an entrepreneur.
I have been talking about this with my friends these past few months. I think the greatest knowledge a person can have is self-awareness. Knowing who you are is important. Understand what you are good at and what you are weak at. [You must have] … the ability to identify your greatest opportunities and threats.
My greatest weakness is that I am limited. I cannot do everything. I am limited in how many initiatives I can chase and how many platforms I can be on. I cannot control things from end to end. As a result, I have moved into a collaborative mindset. I partner with my friends and colleagues. I bring partnership into every conversation that I have. I try not to be a jack of all trades and gently detach myself from things that are not my strong suit.
4. Which popular entrepreneurial advice do you disagree with?
As entrepreneurs, we are always told that, “The sky’s the limit,” and, “If you study hard and work hard, you will be successful.” This is a generic cliche.
My advice to young entrepreneurs would be, “Study the environment you are playing in. Understand the nuances in your environment and try and navigate your own path in those relative environments because one size does not fit all.”
5. Is there anything you wish you knew about entrepreneurship before you got started?
I wish I knew that it was such a lonely journey. Not everyone will go through the same challenges. Some challenges are unique to you, they are your load to carry. Not everybody can share in the depth and breadth of that challenge.
Entrepreneurship is a lonely journey. Even though people tend to revere it and talk about how beautiful it is, it is not an easy journey. You have to deal with partners, customers and multiple business aspects that take time to mature.
Majority of the time, you will be on that journey alone because you can’t always share everything with everybody. Your mind is occupied with all the different activities going on within your business and, sometimes, it is difficult to filter out the unimportant stuff.
I am growing and learning when to focus on business and when to take my mind off business.
On weekends, for example, I try to disconnect from work. If you don’t disconnect, business can consume everything, even your friends and family. You basically get consumed by the demands of your entrepreneurship journey. Until you go through the entrepreneurship journey, you can’t understand how occupying it gets. You have to go through the different waves and seasons of business before you start growing.