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7 Questions with Kofi Wellborn Nunekpeku
7 Questions with Kofi Wellborn Nunekpeku
Name: Kofi Wellborn Nunekpeku
Current title: Co-Founder and CEO
Current organisation: WELL & WILL CORPORATIONS
Kofi Wellborn Nunekpeku is currently Co-Founder and CEO of WELL & WILL CORPORATIONS, a privately held Company located in Togo, West Africa. The activities of the subsidiary WELL & WILL’S TOGO led by his brother Kwami Wilson Nunekpeku, Co-Founder and CEO include the production and distribution of Liha Drink on the Togolese market.
Inspired by a traditional West African drink, Kofi W. Nunekpeku together with his brother Kwami Wilson Nunekpeku, they have innovated and launched in 2019 the “Liha Drink” a fermented corn and caramel based soft drink.
Kofi W. Nunekpeku has gained an extensive experience in the Financial Services Industry where he held several roles in internal auditing and controlling after graduating from “INSTITUT SUPERIEUR DE GESTION (ISG PARIS)” a French Business School in Paris.
The Liha Drink project has been carried out while in his role as Compliance Manager at HSBC in France.
1. What have you found most challenging as a leader of a small or medium enterprise?
Every day comes with its own challenges and as we are in our first years for growing the business, there is a lot on the schedule.
It’s important to plan well and learn to manage many priorities with little resources (Human, Financial and supply chain for instance).
On the other hand, the supply chain and financial challenges that we have encountered as part of our production and distribution of the Liha Drink are very rewarding, as these are opportunities to take bold actions and think outside the box in reaching sound solutions that could profit the business. Therefore, every challenge is embraced as an opportunity for self-development and for growing the business while it is important to remain focused on the next opportunities that lie ahead.
2. How did you become a leader of an SME? Can you please briefly tell the story?
When I was pursuing my degree at the ISG I’ve always believed that owning a business could be a great opportunity to unleash my full intellectual potential while creating value for customers, and contributing, even just a little, to the development of the African continent.
It finally felt like a dream come true when I had the opportunity to brain storm with my brother and came up with a business opportunity, which turned out to be the Liha Drink project inspired by a traditional drink.
The idea was simple, so was our observation. There is a variety of local and traditional food in Africa which are excellent sources of vitamins and nutriments accounting for a healthy diet.
The observation however revealed that some products available on the local Togolese market, as a consequence of our modern society could not be considered as healthy based on their ingredients, and yet these products are often chosen over traditional and local products. There came the opportunity, from being inspired by a traditional drink, and by taking action we have created a new recipe for a drink that is made of natural ingredients, and is additive and food preservative free. In March 2019 the Liha Drink brand is launched, and as from end of January 2021 the drink is served to our customers on the Togolese market with our Eco-friendly paper cups and without straws.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
Though every day is new and structured differently, I usually wake up at 6.00 A.M., however since the COVID-19 pandemic and the remote working I wake up at 7.00 A.M. take a shower, make a good hot coffee and depending on the day I take my turn for accompanying my kid to School at 8h15.
When I come back home, I will log-in to my computer and check my Agenda as part of my role at the Bank. Depending on my Agenda at the Bank, I will check-in quickly with my brother in Togo and take news of the business and the issues we are to deal with during the day.
When the matter is urgent, I try to come-up as quickly as possible with a solution, and during lunch time between noon and 2.P.M. I will then walk through the issue again and work on additional solutions.
In the afternoon and until the evening I continually exchange with my brother in order to synergize and ensure for every challenge we have set or have identified suitable solutions.
After dinner, I will then continue working with my brother, inquire on the daily sales, work on our strategy, our operational issues and finally exchange on the lessons learned.
On a typical day I work alone until 2 to 3 A.M to wake up at 7 A.M and it goes around like this the next day. It’s getting to 4 A.M as I’m answering to this “7 Questions to Leaders of Small and Medium Enterprises”.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The most significant leadership lesson I’ve learned is that, and even before the pandemic, I have been remote working with my brother which requires to avoid as much as possible any flaws in the communication, as these, ultimately will lead to misunderstanding and poor solutions.
The communication has to be concise and specific and it takes a lot of perseverance and patient to walk through the issues and the solutions, and if needed several times, until we understand one another.
If I would put it simply, before you speak you need to listen, understand, make sure you have the full picture, and it’s only then you can deliver a suitable solution.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
The one book I have read several times is “The 7 Habits of highly Effective People” by Steven R. Covey, a book that I have discovered during my summer studies in New York while enrolled for the ISG Business program in Paris. From the moment I read this book, I took comfort in what I had been applying until then, and continue to take into practice “Begin with the end in mind”
Many Years have passed and I have red many leadership books, still, I can also mention “The Motive” by Patrick M. Lencioni, because we need to identify and understand where our motivations lie as a Leader.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in an SME?
When starting a business, leadership capacity is built by leading by example and by surrounding oneself with the appropriate individuals from whom we could learn. In our turn, we can build a leadership capacity by making sure we are setting with our people the right mission statement and for the organization.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a leader of an SME so far?
The one meaningful story that comes on my mind is about meeting with the people of the company for the first time.
The morning before my brother introduced the meeting, I promptly offered my help to one of our people for loading the drink in the delivery truck. We exchanged greetings and some words, after which He had to go for the daily delivery, and I couldn’t get the opportunity to introduce myself.
During the meeting I saw in his face how surprised he was. After introducing myself to the whole group of people, I had a one-on-one conversation with that particular employee and realized a change in his attitude, therefore tried to make him at ease.
It had come clear to me in that very moment that as I could have borrowed power from my position and start giving orders, I was busy trying to lead by example and asking news about employees, explaining the vision of the Company and encouraging them in their work.
This remains a good memory and the beginning of what, I expect will progressively become an authentic and empowering Leadership.