1. What was your first job?
When in late elementary or early middle school I was really into making greeting cards. I also tried to have my own jewellery company, [but] I think only my mom bought something. I also attempted to make footwear. I did a lot of interesting things when I was still a student. But my first real pay cheque was when working in a library at the US university I studied at.
2. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?
I sleep really well. The one thing I get overly obsessed with, and my team might say I am constantly bothering them about, is trying to make sure that whatever we are putting out on the website is as accurate as possible. And that’s quite difficult to do when it is entirely built around other people uploading information.
So we try to create processes to ensure we mitigate issues related to fraud – the first thing on a lot of people’s minds when doing anything online, especially related to property in both Ghana and Nigeria.
3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career and why?
Definitely my parents. Both are urban planners, and so am I by training. They both have a genuine interest in development and have always pushed me to try my best and to try new things. This opportunity at Lamudi wasn’t directly related to what I went to school [for], but they have always been very encouraging. Thanks to them I have this interest in development and properties.
4. What is the best professional advice you’ve ever received?
“Slow down.” I speak extremely quickly, especially when exited or passionate about something, but that is not exactly professional. So I need to speak slower.
But, probably the best professional advice I’ve ever been given concerns HR and hiring. It was along the lines of don’t be afraid to hire people different from you. We all have our strengths and weaknesses, and it is important to have a good understanding of what we are not good at, so that we can find others to complement us.
5. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?
I have a genuine interest in property development and land [issues]. I could talk about it to my agents and developers for hours. I love visiting the properties, seeing the plans and seeing something start from nothing to actually being built. On the flip side, I also have a genuine interest in technology. I would also like to think that I’ve created the right environment for my team to succeed.
6. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?
I have gone to business school. So I would definitely say my path to my career position is a little different than most people. What I think has worked to my advantage is I’ve learnt a lot on the job. I used to work with non-profits and also went to international schools – so I was involved in groups with many different people. Also my background in city planning involved a lot of teamwork and negotiation with different stakeholders. Thus my background in city planning has been useful and taught me a number of things.
7. How do you relax?
Sleeping. Also I love playing sports – frisbee [and] football. I also love going for a run and doing Zumba.
8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?
I’m usually up by 5:30am and at the office by 8am.
9. Your favourite job interview question?
When interviewing for Lamudi I will typically ask applicants what they dislike or would change about the website. I don’t like ‘yes’ people. I prefer those who challenge me, who are more than willing to provide criticism and of course are willing to do the work. It is not a trick question – I actually want to hear their feedback and appreciate it.
10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?
Don’t stop. Keep trying. When I started with Lamudi there were a lot of “nos”. A lot of the people who said no then, now use the website. So if you have a good product and are providing a really good service and it solves a problem, it might take some time [for people to buy in], especially if it’s something new in the market.
Akua Nyame-Mensah is the managing director for Lamudi in Ghana and Nigeria. Lamudi is an online real estate marketplace where property owners and agents list their property for rent or for sale. The company is a subsidiary of the Africa Internet Group (AIG).