" ITREALMS: Austin's Fireside Chat: Foundations of Entrepreneurship by Professor Murray Low - ITREALMS

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Austin's Fireside Chat: Foundations of Entrepreneurship by Professor Murray Low - ITREALMS

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Austin's Fireside Chat was enlightening. We discussed his company, CWG Plc, of which he is the Founder and Executive Vice Chairman. CWG Plc is Sub-Saharan Africa's largest systems integration company. CWG is a provider of information and communication technology (ICT) solutions and cloud solutions for SMEs to use for commerce and management. Austin demonstrated the entrepreneur's creed diagram and the transformation five-force model, which are critical to a company's success. He also talked about his missionary work, which was moving and provided us an inside look at who he is. Austin's chat was genuine and passionate, and I could relate to him on several levels.
L-R: Prof. Murray Low, Director Entrepreneurship Program CBS, Austin Okere, Founder CWG Plc and Entrepreneur-in-Residence CBS, Cliff Schorer, Director Entrepreneur-in-Residence Program, CBS
Austin Okere is a boss. We understood that from the case and he certainly proved to be a noble and distinguished individual. That said, his talk did come across as very corporate. I think it is important to always bring in someone at a later stage in their successful career, but it would be nice to see that person moving on to the next venture. If anything, I would maybe have Austin come in in person since he is such a charismatic personality.

Austin’s unique perspective on the world of entrepreneurship was a very refreshing perspective. Out of all the speakers, I felt that he displayed the most wisdom and pure intentions. It was clear that he chose entrepreneurship to give back to his society and to improve the lives of everyday people through technological innovation. My only feedback would be that the slides could have been shortened – the discussion was most engaging during the Q&A.

What an inspiring story.

It wasn’t until he told the story about how he always thought he was meant to be a priest that I got it.

That’s the vibe he gives off. The belief. The core culture. The concentration on what is important through easy times and difficult times.

Austin is a guy I would love to work for or with. I believe in his belief. I believe in his resolve.

This is the model of CEO that I admire most.

I think Austin is like a philosopher and strategist. I love the growth mindset of Austin. He is so wise and clam. When the stock price of the company declined 50% since the public listing, he is very clam to focus on what he can control and care about the fundamental of the business. He thinks stock price is beyond control, but if you make sure the sales grow, the stock price will take care itself and back to normal. I will remind myself to have this calm attitude.

Austin thinks challenges also present ample business opportunities. Trust is a currency of brand where the rule of law is immature. It’s important to build trust with customers. I appreciate that Austin created a new five forces model for transformation. The company need a vision during transition, and also need a capable and collaborative team, enough time, resources and resolve for successful transformation.

Austin is a leader. What resonated with me most from Austin’s talk is his perspective on building culture. I thought his emphasis on vision and team were particularly strong. I expect to see Austin running for office! I’m not familiar with how business is done in Africa and Nigeria specifically. I thought it would have been interesting to learn how business is done differently in these cultures and if he had any advice for entrepreneurs looking to start a business in a non-US country.

Austin was a fantastic addition to the entrepreneurs that we have spoken with. I resonated with how methodological he was and how the bigger picture for him was to give back and to grow others. His mission, business and life strategy appear to be aligned and translate in every word uttered.

What an inspirational story! Again, I learned the importance of perseverance and the hardships of a startup. Austin showed a theme of thinking BIG, being a dreamer and kept climbing. I really enjoyed learning about his five forces model for transformation: centered around vision, team, resolve, resources and time. It was inspiration to see that even after achieving success, he went onto make so much meaningful impact in the world. From saving children’s lives to building an academy he now building a long-lasting legacy.

My favorite quotes and take aways:

“The things we fear most in life are not necessarily our adversities but the fear of our anxieties and about what others might think.”

Trade offs he made

Exchanging affirmation for accomplishment

Exchanging security for significance

3 w’s that sustained him

Way power- aptitude, master of your field

Will power- attitude

Wait power- patience

The 3 W’s are spot on and I struggle with patience/wait power.

Look for people that inspire you.

What I learned from Austin:

Importance of attitude: Do not start a sentence with “because of” rather “in spite of” to show that you are not pointing fingers rather working to move forward

Entrepreneur is one who sees things before anyone else does – visionary

· Employee retention problem – started an academy to train people within 3 months and keep the best ones internal and worst ones to competitor

· “Never say die until the bones are rotten”

· Transformation journey – vision, team, resources, resolve and time

· A candle doesn’t lose anything by lighting other candles, it only makes the room brighter (sustainable shared responsibility)

· 3 W’s

o Way power – be as good as you could be

o Will Power - attitude

o Wait Power – Patience

· Tripod

o Farther, faster than anybody

o Technology and Finance person

I truly enjoyed today’s conversation with Austin Okere. Africa has seen an explosion of growth over the last couple of decades. As Austin pointed out, “All you need to do is follow the data to come to this conclusion.” Emerging markets present ample challenges and opportunities for investors and entrepreneurs alike. Concerning values and business culture, Austin pointed out that “In the West you could say that trust is taken for granted, but trust is important in all contexts.” He reminded us that things like brand, culture, and alignment are important, but trust undergirds them all. Austin also explained how “[investors and entrepreneurs] should not focus simply on blue chip companies, but also small and medium enterprises (SMEs), understanding that both are vitally important and need each other.

I enjoyed his talk. I learned that to make change you must have vision, a team, time, resources, and resolve. He encouraged us to stay set on your goal and he pointed out that you will experience setbacks. I am passionate about service and I appreciate that he has designed a mentorship experience after his business matured. He really believes in shared prosperity. Through his mentorship program, he can draw on his own experiences and setbacks to teach young business leaders. He encouraged us to look for people to inspire us.

What I learned from speaker:

· Culture and Values are important: people want to feel like they’re a part of something bigger. So is trust. Trust is a key currency to build relationships and business, especially in emerging markets with less institutions and regulation.

· Make lemonade with your lemons: Sometimes crisis can bring out the best in you, driving your teams to identify incredible opportunities, innovations, and efficiencies to improve how your firm operates.

· Need VTTRR to drive transformation: Key Vision at the center, Team, Resources, Time, Resolve

o Vision: everyone focused on the same goals, north star of where you are going

o Team: the right people focused on driving the vision, sharing the same value system

o Resources: the right funding, infrastructure, technology, and relationships to drive the vision forward

o Time: understanding of what you need and when you need it; also being nimble enough to take advantage of opportunities in the moment(s) they arise to drive the vision forward

o Resolve: Falling down 7 times and choosing to stand up 8

Speechless and in awe of your perspective – your conviction of purpose is palpable. Honored to have the opportunity to hear you speak, to be able to listen to the plethora of wisdom you so generously shared and to have so many great lights of insight to guide me moving forward. I will forever remember your discussion – I know that upon reflection there will be numerous more Such illustrative language to help shape and frame your point. Trust as a currency when it is not the mainstay – understanding the culture where doing business of fundamental importance (great reminder – even on micro vs macro level). Love the nuggets – key phrases like “trust is a key currency”, “the right partner & solution is key”, “never say die until the bones are rotten” ensured we had digestible/concrete takeaway lessons that are easy to recall (impactful wording). Although all speakers have highlighted values, Austin has been the first to really dig deep into HOW to deeply frame cultural components, vision, and values – absolutely LOVED the detail and attention paid to describing the building blocks (and how they fit together) with respect to creed/mantra/culture/values. Really incredible to see it broken down so beautifully. Such a seamless interweaving of story with message – really enjoyed the humanization of the story up front before diving into a “timeline” approach, such a powerful way to frame the discussion and engage the listeners. Transformation = Vision x Team x Time x Resources x Resolve – this simple “formula” packs incredible punch (especially powerful to start with vision and team)! Loved the comment about mastery OF purpose and the alignment IN vision as mechanisms to support the collaborative culture. So much value for us to take away and strive to implement. So incredibly inspired and blown away by your story and especially the AL academy – your mentorship for this next generation I have no doubt has already revolutionized many lives and it is a privilege to get to have had the opportunity to have you come speak to this class, thank you for your generosity of spirit and time. THANK YOU!


Enjoyed learning about how the opportunity/ the future is in Emerging Markets and finding out that Nigeria is second after USA in crypto!

Lessons Learned

· When everyone is working in a straight line as it is in developed markets, the competition is the same. However, in emerging markets you have the opportunity to see the turn and leverage that moment to leap forward big.

· Have a passion for what you do and work on things that matter that change people lives

· For your mission and your pitch don’t focus on the “because” say what is the alternative you are offering, think about it as “in spite of”

· If you are listening to people that is not going to work then you won’t achieve your mission

· You have to have a great team that complements you to be successful

· You have to be very clear about transformation and be ready to pivot and accept your mistakes

· We all need to be inspired by people and inspire other people as well

· Way Power, Will Power, Wait Power

Out of our speakers we heard from, I believe Austin is the one who had the most impact on his community. Really impressive to see how well connected his business was in different aspects of Nigeria IT infrastructure and technology at large.

It was really interesting to see his perspective on doing business in a developing market. I think his idea of being well positioned when the industry is about to take a turn was very compelling, and is a good insight for trying to achieve competitive advantage.

Austin’s entrepreneurial journey really added richness to the class. I loved hearing about the challenges and opportunities of doing business in Nigeria, and am amazed at how successful Austin was despite the odds. In fact, Austin epitomizes the optimism we talked about as being required for a career in entrepreneurship (i.e. calling it “despite” instead of “because of”). I wrote down so many quotes from his presentation. Mostly, Austin is very wise and I gained a lot hearing from him. In a previous company, we tried to gain alignment through values and a vision, and in fact we used the same template using pillars as Austin did. But while we didn’t really pull it off, Austin did, and I will remember this talk if I attempt to lead an alignment effort in the future. I also love how Austin is giving back through his academy. With all of the new entrepreneurs that will likely come out of it, Nigeria could be a great place to invest in the future

Austin is a true inspiration to every entrepreneur around the world. Although growth in developing countries is faster than developed countries, given the lack of infrastructure, technology, and education of the population makes it that much harder to succeed as an entrepreneur. Professor Low’s analogy of the tunnel the first day of class, is exactly what Austin had to go through in order to discover new paths. His success is such an inspiration.

This was a phenomenal lecture, and I am most grateful for your life lessons. As a relatively young entrepreneur, my why, the vison, the purpose was crystal clear. Maintaining that vision while surviving and growing my business got a bit murky. The mantra’s that you’ve shared with us today have helped to recenter my vision. Thank you.

The following lessons will stay with me for years to come:

- The entrepreneur’s creed: Service excellence / Customer Intimacy

- Difference between a hustler and entrepreneur. The person who sees farther anyone else

- We’re running at the speed of the fastest person in the room, that person might not be the CEO.

- The head, the heart, and the hand – each holds its own.

Reading and watching the Computer Warehouse cases, I already was in awe of what Austin has accomplished but meeting him over Zoom just magnified that by ten. I really enjoyed hearing from him about the twists and turns of setting up successful business in an emerging market, learning to see around corners and more importantly, about what drives him. I think that’s doing right by his employees and communities – at least that’s what I sensed from his presentation. All of our guest speakers have emphasized the importance of the soft skills, but it’s clear that Austin has really mastered the art of leadership, particularly leading through transformations or times of change. I really struggle with management at times, so hearing his philosophy around that was really insightful. In all such a helpful and inspiring conversation.

Mr. Okere is a blessed man - I do not mean by virtue of his success, but by his wisdom, poise and prescience. It is rare to meet someone who has fought so many odds to make things work for him and still be so humble and committed to a larger purpose. His advice of three W of Way Power, Will Power and Wait Power is simply invaluable. When I asked him why Dell Chose him he gave us the most profound advice and said ‘do the right thing – not once not twice but every time and show up on time and do your best every time.’ Austin also reflected on the difference between setback and failure. It is so important for entrepreneurs to know that difference and instill that sense of recognition of the difference between the two. Austin operates his business in Nigeria which is one of the harder geographies to operate in when it comes to the rule of law. It is important to Austin to have a sense of trust among his confidantes and I was impressed on how well he has been able to build his inner circle and consequently a wonderful business. Trust is a currency.

Austin’s story was remarkable; he was faced with many challenges but had the talent to launch and run a successful business; from retaining employees (who were tempted by higher salaries elsewhere), contenting with accounts receivable issues, to running a company during times of political uncertainty, he must have been under a lot of pressure – but he persevered and made intelligent decisions contributing to his company’s growth. With constantly changing technology, Austin’s industry requires a great deal of planning, expertise and visibility into future trends. Austin is self-made and impressive. It was an honor hearing him speak to our class. We learned a lot about the journey to becoming an entrepreneur through his story. Please thank him for us!

It was so interesting to hear about Austin’s journey. I really appreciated his outlook on pivoting when things aren’t working or things change, looking to get ahead in the curves, and the way he hires. Some of the main takeaways I had from our conversation with him is that trust is currency and the idea of “in spite of vs. because of” and how it plays into the growth mindset. I think my favorite quote from the entire conversation was “a candle doesn’t lose anything by lighting other candles.” Overall, I was so grateful that Austin shared his story with us. There were so many pivots he made and the way he continued to give back to his community throughout it all is inspiring.

Austin’s presentation was very honest, enlightening, and educational. I really loved the following insights he shared with us:

· Ensure there is a vision, a team that is competent and committed, have the right resources, and resolve (i.e., grit).

· Every little drop count’s (i.e., share your prosperity, It’s not just about you)

· A candle loses nothing by lighting other candles, it only makes the room brighter for all.

· Exchanging affirmation for accomplishment

o Exchanging security for significance

· Trading immediate victory for long term success

· Three W’s:

o Way Power – be as good as can be

o Will Power – have right attitude

o Wait Power- have patience

· Be aware of the “hero culture” and instead use “collaborative culture”

o Its not just one person carrying the weight of all the world’s problems, but it’s a group effort and we should run at the speed of the fastest person on the team.

Foundations of Entrepreneurship

Professor Murray Low

Austin Okere (5/18/22)

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