7 Great Lessons to Learn from Econet Boss, Strive Masiyiwa
Strive Masiyiwa, one of Africa’s top telecoms mogul and Econet boss, takes his time and makes effort to share entrepreneurship tips on his Facebook page. Beyond sharing tips for business growth, Masiyiwa also has an awe-inspiring story of his entrepreneurial journey which is oh so closely striking to his first name.
Born in Zimbabwe, then called Rhodesia in 1961, Masiyiwa’s family eventually moved to Zambia where he grew up. Driven by purpose after university education in the UK, he returned home to help build the telecommunications industry in Zimbabwe but that journey was met with opposition from the Mugabe-controlled government, claiming it had a monopoly.
Indeed, Strive Masiyiwa saw something that even his government could not see which was why the government’s refusal to him, “must surely rank amongst the greatest follies in the world of business: They could have owned the Econet Wireless Group, but instead they declared war on me!” –His words exactly.
Today, Strive is the most successful Entrepreneur to emerge from Zimbabwe and East Africa in general. His influence spans Africa and the entire globe.
Also, Econet Wireless is easily Zimbabwe’s most successful corporation with a subscriber base of over 6 million and magnetising investors worldwide. Headquartered in Johannesburg, it has operations in Nigeria, Mauritius and Ivory Coast in Africa. Outside Africa, Econet operates in the UK and China.
Econet has a market capitalization in the region of $600 million.
What’s to learn from Masiyiwa’s daring pursuits?
1. Be relentless and determined:
Masiyiwa has met with fierce competition more than most entrepreneurs. When Masiyiwa lost his court cases in Zimbabwe, in 1994, he kept pushing and eventually won it in 1998. It was a telecomms license to provide cell phone service in Zimbabwe. The court declared that the government monopoly on telecommunications had violated the constitution’s guarantee of free speech.
Being in court with the government would have looked like an impossible and already lost case. Never allow yourself to become a “grasshopper in your own eyes,” even if others see you as nothing more than a grasshopper.
Masiyiwa has come to relish obstacles and challenges. To him, they’re opportunities in disguise. That outlook has made him a man very much in demand.
2. Helping others should cost nothing:
It is a thing of note that Masiyiwa has not published a book yet. Despite the persuasion from every corner to write a bestseller, Masiyiwa doesn’t believe in selling his business wisdom in book form but would rather grant interviews, write on his blog or make posts on Facebook for more people to have access to his knowledge.
Masiyiwa is Zimbabwe’s biggest philanthropist. For more than 20 years, Masiyiwa has used his wealth to provide scholarships to over 100,000 young Africans through his family foundation which he runs with his wife, TsiTsi Masiyiwa. He supports over 40,000 orphans with educational scholarships, as well as sponsoring students at universities in America, The United Kingdom, and China.
3. Separate Business from Relationships:
“When others look back at my business career one day, I hope they will see that I sought to emphasize the need for a boundary between business and politics – that you don’t go into politics so that you may prosper in business. Or use your business to advance politics..” Masiyiwa stated in his interview with The Focus.
Visit the chairman’s page on his company’s website and you notice connection with big names. From household business names such as British billionaire Richard Branson, to heads of state (African and global). Masiyiwa knows them all. Yet when it came to doing business, Masiyiwa stuck to a process.
If you’re dreaming of building a business that grows very big, it’s important to allow the business get a life of its own different from you and your influence.
4. When you see an opportunity, reach out and grab it:
Masiyiwa is a big advocate of people – particularly Africans – identifying needs in their community and creating a solution to meet needs. In 1994, 70% of Africans had never heard a Telephone ring. People all across Africa desperately needed a reliable and cost-effective means of reaching out to their loved ones and associates wherever they were in the world. That was a human need.
Masiyiwa, as a young engineer set out to change that. He had the technology to do it and access to substantial resources. Meeting human needs not only provides common amenities for the people who more than often wait for government provisions, it also creates capital and wealth for people.
In doing this, Masiyiwa recommends a lot about the need to use the Internet and mobile phone technology to develop new businesses, as well as to boost an old business.
5. Have Faith in God:
As a devout Christian, Masiyiwa’s values are of great importance to him. Instead of cutting corners and getting involved in corrupt practices, Masiyiwa prefers to wait it out in an audacity of faith. While struggling to establish Econet in both Zimbabwe and Nigeria, Masiyiwa was opposed to paying bribes to government officials and instead pursued his cases through the courts, which he eventually always won. This stands him out as an exceptional, upright entrepreneur and judging by Econet’s outstanding success, keeping faith in the process works.
6. Prepare and Practice:
Masiyiwa likes to dole out lots of wisdom in form of autobiography stories on his blog. In one of these stories, he speaks of how he bid for telecomm licence from the government of Botswana with 4 other already established companies; MTN, Vodacom (in partnership with Botswana Telecoms), Bharti of India and France Telecom (Orange). Mascom Wireless (which was short for Masiyiwa Communications) was barely a known name neither were members of his team. While competitors came in private jets, his team mates were barely able to afford land travel yet through weeks and weeks of planning and mock pitches, Mascom Wireless came in tops!
Now imagine the scenario: they faced global competitors; didn’t look affluent like their competitors plus they were also black! Inspite of the odds, putting in the work of preparing yourself gets you there where you once only dreamt of.
7. Eventually, what matters is Love:
Family love, love for spouse, love for friends are all more important to Masiyiwa than his business or status in the society. In one of his many afterthoughts, he shares, “I’m first and foremost a child of God, then a son to my mother, a husband to my wife and a dad to my children, a father to the fatherless, and a mentor to the next generation. Whatever title you give me will never be above those.”
This not only applies to the pursuit of wealth, but include the pursuit of a career. Channel some of that energy and passion into showing love to others without a profit for yourself. True fufilment comes when you eventually surround yourself with people and give love as you receive.