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 with an inside look at who he is. Austin’s chat was genuine and passionate, and I could relate to him on several levels.

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 calm. When the stock price of the company declined 50% since the public listing, he is very clam focused on what he can control and cared 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 of 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 the transition, and also need a capable and collaborative team, with 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 keeping climbing.  I really enjoyed learning about his five forces model for transformation: centred around vision, team, resolve, resources and time.  It was inspiring to see that even after achieving success, he went on to make so much meaningful impact on the world. From saving children’s lives to building an academy he now building a long-lasting legacy.

My favourite quotes and takeaways:

“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 but rather working to move forward

An 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 a 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
    • Way power – be as good as you could be
    • Will Power – attitude
    • Wait Power – Patience
  • Tripod
    • Farther, faster than anybody
    • 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 the change you must have the vision, a team, time, resources, and resolve. He encouraged us to stay set on our goals and he pointed out that we 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 the 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 fewer institutions and regulations.

  • 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 centre, Team, Resources, Time, Resolve
    • Vision: everyone focused on the same goals, the north star of where you are going
    • Team: the right people focused on driving the vision, sharing the same value system
    • Resources: the right funding, infrastructure, technology, and relationships to drive the vision forward
    • 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
    • Resolve: Falling down 7 times and choosing to stand up 8

Speechless and in awe of your perspective – your conviction of purpose is palpable. Honoured 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 is 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”, and “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 a 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 an incredible punch (especially powerful to start with vision and team)! Loved the comment about mastery OF purpose and the alignment of 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.