Said started his company, with few friends, 10 years ago, and against all the odds, has kept going on. His company has grown to become one of the industry’s great success stories, and they have now offices in 5 countries: France, Tunisia, Benin, Senegal and Ivory Coast.
In this interview, Said AGBANRIN shared his passion for business, his tips to handle adversity, and manage the downs and up of a growing company during 10 years. I loved speaking with Said.
SiliconAfrica (SA): You have started your first company with friends 15 years (?). Tell us what motivated you to get started?
I had just been promoted and worked as Head of Sales for a huge company. There were a lot of challenges and excitements.
I had to leave very early in the morning and did not return home until late at night. Because of it, I didn’t get to see my son very often.
Then something happened and changed all my apprehensions. My son got seriously ill, he was dying, and at his hospital bedside, I realized that I barely knew him. I spent all my time at work and I had no time for my family.
At that very moment, I promised myself that when he will recover, I will try to get a way out. I settled a 6 months plan and left my job despite all the benefits and implications.
The idea was to start something different, something that would serve others, especially companies. Fortunately, some friends of mine shared the same idea … that was the starting point…
SA: I remember you told me that when you got started, your services were welcome by your targeted customers but you didn’t have the money to finance your operations, and it was difficult to get the money. right?
Said: Of course. With the team, we developed a nice plan, including techniques, approaches, materials and tools that our targeted clients really appreciated. The actual problem was that we were unable to afford logistics costs before client pays.
Accommodations, flight tickets, were a big part of a project budget! It was very difficult to perform all required actions to ensure our customer satisfaction. This implied a lot of sacrifices, but we made it, that is the most important!
SA: You’ve decided to go into business with friends. I’ve met so many founders and investors who will advise against starting business with friends. What chemistry made your team to survive all the turmoil of a startup?
Said: My dreams of 2003 were to develop the firm MANEGERE Associés in France and create a subsidiary in Africa. 10 years later, MANAGERE Associés still exists and is present in 5 African countries, which is very important for us, especially as 70% of businesses die within five years.
The motivation of the partners is always the same, as in the pioneering phase, we are not bored, we all accommodate as the first day.
There were no chemistry or lucky matters. We were a team, driven by the same ambition and motivation, sharing the same principles and obeying to the same rules.
Of course, it is not easy, we had to do everything right without being profitable at first. But we all knew that our future was tied to that young company. The advantage of being friends also helps to some extent. We knew each other, and knew the other’s “likes” and “dislikes”. Commitment and respect did the rest…
SA: You company Manegere has grown up, and become profitable, and you have now operations in 5 countries. Tell us more about how did you get there?
Said: We started MANEGERE in France but doing business around the world, targeting African countries. Step by step, we got known and the business required more and more our presence in Africa. That’s when we created “MANEGERE ASSOCIES Afrique” in 2005, as a regional office for the whole Africa.
Some big projects change our mind and we created following “Manegere Afrique” others subsidiaries in Ivory Coast, Niger, Senegal and Tunisia. We are now more close to our client…
SA: We have many people reading this article who work for companies who might need your service, why should them buy your service instead of going to the competition. What differentiate you?
Said: Our Approach gives a lot of benefits to the client with an affordable cost. Starting with an “Immersion”, we literally immerse ourselves into the client situation prior to any action because we believe that we cannot comprehend a situation we do not know.
Then follows the service (training, or audit, accompaniment…) that is designed typically for the client context and constraints. Once the initial action has been performed, we accompany the participants helping them to practice what they have learned. We always adapt the best we can.
Also, our “performance contract” gives control to the client : our remuneration is indexed on satisfaction results
Another important thing is that our team is made of consultants with huge background. We know what we do…
SA: Now, we would like to know more about you. What is your background? How you got to be in France?
Said: My career began at 23, relatively early. Like many others students in my condition, I needed the means to afford my degree cost in biochemistry so, for the first 6 months, I had to do odd jobs
Sales Representative is an occupation that gives you enough time to learn and gain degrees while having a good living when you are efficient and hardworking.
A few months after starting to work at Paris Cable TV, I was offered a promotion as team leader, but the promotion had a price: full time work… no more time for studies. But, despite all that, I manage to get my Master’s degree in biochemistry…
Time passing too fast, I spent the following 12 years working there, being promoted every two years and being challenged and motivated every day
SA: France is known to be a very racist country, did you encounter discrimination in business or in daily life? How do you overcame daily racism and stay positive?
Said: Skill and Labor helped well. When you are skilled and a hard-worker, and you are not sorrowful, you will always take advantage…
I’m in France now for 30 years and from the beginning I decided not to pay attention to racism in general and on top of that I am convinced that if you are pro, people forget for a while your skin color. When you’re black and work as a sales representative, you have no right to make mistakes.
For instance, my white colleagues did not put ties in summer, but me, I was used to put on one almost all the time, because and it’s cliché but “a black with a tie is necessarily someone important”.
SA: With your experience, what piece of advice would you give to someone starting-up?
Said: This is not a very easy question, and I will quickly say:
- 1. Skills and labor can make people forget about your skin color in France.
- 2. But we have to be realistic and not hesitate when the time comes to hang our destiny to go higher
- 3. Ensure you get prepared properly and positively differentiated by yours actions
SA: How could our readers get in contact with you?
For any one, please feel free and inbox me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Twitter: @agbanrin https://twitter.com/agbanrin
94 rue de l’Ouest 75014
Tél : +33 1 44 75 70 07
Fax : +33 1 44 75 70 08
RCS Paris 444 865 877
SA: Thank you Said AGBANRIN, co-founder of Manegere.fr, a consulting and recruitment company based in France, Tunisia, Benin, Senegal and Ivory Coast