African Women Business Leaders Interview with Ruka Sanusi

Can you please describe you job role and workplace?
I am the Founder of Alldens Lane, a firm of business strategy advisors with a unique focus on providing executive and business coaching to professional female CEOs and entrepreneurs in Africa’s small and growing business sector.

Alldens Lane particularly supports emerging female business leaders to start, operate and grow their businesses more professionally and successfully, using international best practice tools. Our objective is to create future ready professional female business leaders, business leaders that are enabled and equipped to be tomorrow’s corporate giants.

What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship and mentoring others?
Entrepreneurship is a journey – a journey that requires the entrepreneur to demonstrate tremendous business tenacity, strategic intent, as well as strategic insight. To be a successful entrepreneur it is not enough to have a business idea.

Congruent with that is the need to understand the industry in which you operate, effectively and deliberately identify your target clientele, successfully and intentionally reach as well as serve them, and the need to have a responsive business operational framework, including systems and processes. All of this will test your leadership capacity and skills – and if you allow the process to, it will also grow your leadership capacity.

Congruent to all of that is the day to day coaching and mentoring of your employees – ensuring that they understand your business vision, ensuring that they consistently deliver to your brand vision in their execution of daily tasks and activities; and ensuring that your workplace provides them with the challenges as well as the necessary motivation to offer you their best. Successful entrepreneurship is a journey in lessons in living.

After all this success, what do you struggle with now?
My and Alldens Lane’s best is yet to come, and whilst I am thankful for what the brand has overcome and achieved thus far, but we still have a whole lot to accomplish vis-a-vis the brand vision. We continue to strive for greater heights and outcomes.

I wouldn’t say that I or the brand struggles with any particular item or issue. The key thing is that entrepreneurship will stretch you – personally and professionally. As such as an entrepreneur you have to constantly remember your why – why your business exists and who it exists to serve – and you must consistently ensure that your are operating your business dynamically to service the current and future needs of the constituents and the clientele that your serve – from how you brand, the staff you employ, your choice of third party suppliers, your pricing, and your own knowledge and insight about the industry in which you operate. All of these will add up to your brand reverence.

How do you achieve work-life balance?
Personally, I don’t struggle at all with work-life balance. I always schedule down time, and without it I will get lethargic. My work is very cerebral and I need to schedule that ‘me time’ within my daily and weekly schedule – whether that is my fitness schedule, time away alone in that scenic location to enjoy calmness and the beauty of creation, or even time at the day spa. These are part and parcel of my schedule.

Do you think women feel intimidated in business?
I am not sure that I do. West Africa has one of the highest rates of female entrepreneurs in the world – from micro entrepreneurs to small and medium sized business owners. Women are tremendously resilient and tenacious – and this comes across in their daily grind as business people and business traders – just look at the number of women business owners in Balogun market in Lagos or Makola market in Accra, for instance.
I think the bigger challenge that women in business face is that of targeted support on how to properly operate and grow their business – and that is not necessarily just about access to finance.

Women far less than man generally are not business savvy, even though they are business people – which sounds like a contradiction in terms but that is the reality of the situation. The fact is women are often in business because they have a passion for something or they need to survive and feed their families – neither of these variables prepares nor nurtures their business management capacity. Generally though a man would enter into business principally to make money – so their business savvyness is prevalent from the outset.

What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?
Have your wits about you and offer the world your best

Can you tell us about a hard problem you had to solve, and how you went about solving it?
To be honest we are solving hard problems every day – from thinking through how to best serve our current and future clientele, how to increase revenue, how to manage cashflow, how to ensure that the core team daily understand and better deliver on the brand promise; and how to execute the objectives in our strategic plan qualitatively and on time.

What did you learn yesterday/this week?
This week? Wow. I am learning that as the economy goes through cycles your business needs to be resilient to endure the hard times and needs the dynamism to enjoy, take advantage of the good times. There is nothing different about entrepreneurship and life in general!

What motivates you
My faith and hope in God, and the vision that He has entrusted in me to fulfill for women in business.

What are your hobbies? What do you do in your non-work time?
I love to spend quality time with like minded friends. I love engaging conversations over a sumptuous dramatic meal with close friends. I enjoy Africa travel and safaris. I love time spent in the Aburi mountains on long walks. I enjoy my time at the gym, my time at the day spa, my time with family. I embrace life!

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