You don't always need a business plan to make millions
Written by Ella Copeland
Success isn’t necessarily down to careful planning, as Gambian businessman Muhammed Jah shows. At just 42, he has founded and developed QuantumNet, a company with 300 employees on it’s payroll and a multi-million dollar turnover.
Speaking last month to the BBC’s African Dream series, Muhammed claimed he ‘didn’t have time’ to construct a business plan: "I went straight into the business, I bought some machines, I started training people."
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He founded the concept for his company after a friend picked up a European consultant who had come to The Gambia to teach computing. "I said: 'How come we have a consultant coming all the way from Europe just to teach our people how to type a letter on a computer?'” he exclaimed.
Saving money from a scholarship fund in Saudi Arabia, the young entrepreneur used his savings to read for a degree in Electronics and Communications engineering at the University of Sierra Leone.
Illuminated by his friend’s trip to the airport, Jah did some courses in computing which enabled him to teach others: "My business instinct showed me that there was an opportunity so I quickly transformed myself from pure engineering to computing which is almost the same.”
Turnover of millions
Starting with just $16,000 and four employees, Jah now estimates that his company is worth around £100m ($156m). In addition to this, his company has expanded to provide mobile telecommunications as well as supplying computer equipment in collaboration with Dell, Samsung and Nokia.
This move meant that as a young businessman he had to take on the state monopoly telecommunication provider: "Overnight, you have this young boy - with no money - just deciding to compete [against] that telco in delivering internet services. And, remember, the internet gateway was owned by that monopoly and I'm supposed to buy bandwidth from them and compete with them on the retail.”
Jah has now had the pleasure of seeing more young men develop entrepreneurial aspirations: “When we meet at our yearly family parties I feel very good because I see that, with the small steps I have taken, I've managed to change a few people's lives, and I think I can do more."
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.