In 1977, Aliko Dangote borrowed a few dollars from his grandfather. He refused to use the family name on his business (which was very popular) and started using his own name. Today, Dangote is one of the biggest brands in Africa, and the man behind the brand is also the wealthiest black person in the world. According to Forbes, he is worth $25 billion.
In my never-ending quest to learn the secrets to success in business, I asked Dangote some questions: “How did you build a multi-billion dollar conglomerate with so little capital?” And, “What should aspiring entrepreneurs do to reach the heights that you have reached?”
Here’s what he said:
I built a conglomerate and emerged the richest black person in the world but it didn’t happen overnight. It took me 30 years to get where I am today. Youth of today aspire to be like me but they want to achieve it overnight. It’s not going to work. To build a successful business, you must start small and dream big. In the journey of entrepreneurship, tenacity of purpose is supreme. I enjoy myself a lot but I derive more joy in working. I believe in hard work and one of my business success secrets is hard work.
Michael Jackson, the most successful entertainer of all time said, “The greatest education is watching the masters at work.” Dangote is a business icon. Here are three lessons I learned from Dangote that will transform your business if you put them into practice:
1. Build a Brand
Aliko Dangote is a firm believer in “brand power.” It is arguable that “Dangote” is the most popular name in the Africa. Dangote believes that to succeed in business, you must build a brand name and never destroy it. He believes the brand name “Dangote” was his backbone when he shifted from trading to manufacturing.
Some time ago, Coca Cola’s assets were estimated to be worth $3 billion, but the brand name Coca Cola was valued at over $80 billion. That is the virtually infinite power of a brand.
“The world is changing,” said Barry Diller. “Networks without a specific branding strategy (will) be killed.” This is one of the biggest secrets of Dangote. Remember that a house, no matter how well-furnished, cannot stand without a roof – and a product cannot survive without a strong brand.
2. Tenacity of Purpose
My favorite definition of tenacity is “stubbornness with a purpose.” Since 1977, Dangote has been in the game. He never drove a Ferrari a year after starting his first business. It took him a long time planning and staying focused to reach where he is today. Similarly, when Steve Jobs started Apple in the 70s, it also took him over 30 years before he became rich and famous.
According to Brian Tracy, the most successful people in any society are those who take the longest time period into consideration when making their day-to-day decisions. Warren Buffet has been in stocks for over two decades and he was hardly known until recently when he became a billionaire. The “law of time perspective” cannot be neglected when it comes to the game of wealth.
Dangote said, “In the journey of entrepreneurship, tenacity of purpose is supreme.” To succeed and become like Dangote, you have to take your time and build your firm, make long-range plans, set near-term and distant targets, and be tenacious. Never allow anything to distract you from your plans. With courage and tenacity of purpose, you will reach your goal.
3. Build Connections and Pray for Big Breaks
Dangote believes that for you to succeed in business you must build connections. You must strengthen your network in the business world. This can be achieved through signing joint ventures and partnership deals; forming strategic alliances; attending business events, gatherings and parties; and paying courtesy visits to those at the helm of public affairs.
It doesn’t stop at connections only. You must also pray and work for big breaks, which are vital to entrepreneurial survival. According to Dangote, he had his big break when he secured the license to import cement. Bill Gates had his big break when he negotiated and signed a deal with IBM. Opera Winfrey had hers when she started Harpo Studio Productions and acquired the full rights to her show—the Oprah Winfrey Show. Larry Elison had his big break when he secured a deal to build database software for the C.I.A.
Big breaks are always the beginning of a new dawn for every business. Dangote advises that you stay on the lookout for big breaks and prepare for them before they come.
Look out for the full story of Dangote’s entrepreneurial journey in my upcoming book from EarthPeople Media
Image via Dangote.com