New Nation Black Power List 2007

damonbuffini.jpgThe New Nation newspaper has compiled their 2007 Power List of the 50 most powerful black men and women in the UK.

I have to admit I had not heard of some of the people on this list, but it’s great to be introduced to new names and see their achievements.

In the UK we can be shy about celebrating success full stop. Very rarely do we hear about the success of people of colour, particularly those outside of the music, sports and entertainment worlds.

Here is the top ten for each gender:

Top Women
1. Baroness Scotland, Attorney general
2. Baroness Amos, Labour peer
3. Heather Rabbatts, Executive chair, Millwall Holdings plc
4. Naomi Campbell, Model
5. Clare Ighodaro, Non-executive director, Banking Code Standards Board
6. Baroness Howells, Labour Peer
7. Tandy Anderson, Co-founder/CEO, Select Models
8. Carol Lake, Managing Director and Co-head, Marketing, JP Morgan
9. Michelle Ogundehin, Editor, Elle Decoration
10. Sonita Alleyne, Director, Somethin’ Else

Top Men
1. Damon Buffini, Managing partner, Permira (pictured)
2. Mo Ibrahim, Chairman of Celtel International/Mo Ibrahim Foundation
3. Michael Prest, Physical oil trader
4. Trevor Faure, Vice-president & general counsel, Tyco International
5. Tidjane Thiam, Group executive director, Aviva Europe
6. Trevor Faure, Vice President and General Counsel, Tate & Lyle
7. Dr John Sentamu, Archbishop of York
8. Team Hamilton (Lewis & Anthony)
9. David Lammy MP, Skills Minister
10. Lee Jasper, Director of Equalities & Policing, GLA

Startups must go with the flow…

I’ve recently started a business which provides remote secretarial/admin assistance to small businesses. At least that was the inital idea. On paper, it all works exactly the way I want it to. In practise, however, I’ve discovered – amongst other things – that many people are resistant to the idea of passing information to people they don’t know, let alone cannot see, and often want someone who will physically be in their office for at least some of the time.

As a result, I’ve realized that I am required to make changes to my original business plan and go with the needs of the market. Initially, I was slightly perturbed by having to do that. At first I thought ‘wow, maybe I’ve got this all wrong’, but then I thought it would be more foolish of me to stick to my original plan when the market (my clients) were telling me it wanted something else. You can’t control life, and the market is essentially reflective of that. If you don’t adapt and/or can’t be flexible, it’s likely that your business will not survive.

Anyway, I was pleased to come across a great article by Marc Andreessen in which he states that “a startup’s initial business plan doesn’t matter that much, because it is very hard to determine up front exactly what combination of product and market will result in success.”

I have to say that I agree with him. First of all, I believe that while a business plan is important (for general direction, accessing finance etc) there can be an over-emphasis on it as the key navigational system for a startup. But, like a budget, a business plan has to take present needs/demands into account and be adjusted accordingly. Andreessen cites Microsoft, Intel and Oracle as examples of companies which have succeeded by being responsive to changes in the market.

I personally think you’d be hard pressed to find a successful business that has stuck rigidly to its original business plan. The major record companies in the music industry are an example of how you lose out when you are unwilling to respond to market demands.

Markets will change regardless – that’s life – so if you want to grow you have to go with the flow. Hence why the music industry sits with its mouth open while Apple continues to sell gazillions of songs through i-tunes.

Entrepreneurship in Africa

My last post was on the entrepreneurial mindset…The mindset is important, because everything begins first with a thought. So if your mind ain’t right, your life ain’t right.

Recently I’ve been reading various blogs about entrepreneurship in Africa. There is a lot going on business-wise and it’s great to see. Entrepreneurship is vital to continents or countries which have experienced, and are still experiencing, hardship – whether societal, culture, financial or other. Not just for economic reasons, but for the benefit of individual and collective pscyhology and consciousness.

As you can see from my previous post, I believe that the employee mindset (forgive me for being so hard on employees) is based on conformity, toeing the line, being led, following someone else’s rules, being other-directed, and ultimately allowing someone else to profit massively from your input.

In a way, this mindset is one that Africa has been stuck in for a long time. Africa was the employee of colonialism. It has been the employee of ineffective dictators and leaders. There are many who use, or have used, Africa to enrich themselves.

But now is the time for Africa to become its own boss. It’s not just physical businesses that Africa needs to build, but an entrepreneurial mindset of self-directness, leadership, creativity, opportunity and self-sufficiency.

The aid-for-Africa model creates a continent which is a lowly, dependent employee, unable to act without instruction from the boss (the World Bank, G8).

Africa as an entrepreneur is a continent which uses its own resources creatively for freedom – and eschews the so-called ‘security’ of binding loans and regular handouts. It is a different way of thinking, a different way of acting. The entrepreneur mindset is an empowered, and empowering, one.

We need African leaders to embrace the entrepreneur mentality. By embracing it, they would stop seeing themselves both as the top dog who can exploit his workers (the people of his country), and also as the over-worked, under-paid employees of certain (usually Western) organizations and bodies.

I believe African people have always had an entrepreneurial spirit. It is what led great people like Nelson Mandela and Kwame Nkrumah to fight for their countries and make such vital changes. It is what leads men and women to stand on African streets in scorching hot sun and sell shoes, sunglasses, or whatever they can get their hands on to provide for themselves and their families.

When we think of entrepreneurship we usually think of big business. It’s not just that. All Africans – leaders and citizens – need to embrace it as a way of life, an attitude.

Africa will realize its potential when it becomes an entrepreneur, setting its own terms and conditions, its own agenda, and works for itself.

The Mind of an Entrepreneur

As someone with a very strong entrepreneurial spirit, I’ve been reflecting on what distinguishes an entrepreneur from an employee.

The answer is simple: mindset. Entrepreneurs think differently from employees. You only need to sit down and talk about your own business, or being self-employed with most (employed) people to realize this.

Those who are in the strongholds of employment will mention words such as ‘security’ and ‘regular income’ a lot, while entrepreneurs have a different focus – looking at the benefits to be gained and opportunities. Most entrepreneurs also understand that the notion of ‘security’ in today’s workplace is a bit of a myth.

I have composed my own list of the differences between an employee and an entrepreneur. See if you agree – or feel free to add your own.

1. An entrepreneur focusses on opportunities (e.g. “I will find a way to make this happen because there is a lot to be gained”).

An employee focusses on limitations (e.g. “I couldn’t do that because I don’t have enough money”).

2. An entrepreneur will ‘feel the fear and do it [start a business] anyway’, knowing that there are no guarantees in life and you only fail if you don’t try.

An employee will let fear (“what if I don’t succeed?”) stop them from pursuing their dreams.

3. An entrepreneur is self-directed, and likes to set the rules.

An employee prefers beings told what to do by others.

4. An entrepreneur is an individual and somewhat of a rebel by nature.

An employee is a conformist, prefering to follow the status-quo.

5. An entrepreneur is interested in freedom.

An employee is interested in ‘security’.

6. An entrepreneur understands that risk is a necessary part of business and life.

An employee takes very few, if any, risks.

7. An entrepreneur can cope with uncertainty.

An employee is uncomfortable with uncertainty, and looks instead for guarantees.

8. An entrepreneur sees things that others don’t see.

An employee sees only what is infront of him.

9. An entrepreneur prefers to lead.

An employee prefers being led.

10. An entrepreneur focuses on being productive.

An employee focuses on being busy.