The fashion of story telling is that every business executive has a story to tell to sell. Often these clean stories sound wrong or sound hollow. Also, how often in communication, it is useful to come back to reality. Why do you really become an entrepreneur? Critical question answered by Hassan Hachem, a true French-Lebanese entrepreneur who has succeeded in the fields of architecture, construction and distribution in Africa.

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Why does one become an entrepreneur? Critical question answered by Hassan Hachem, a successful French-Lebanese entrepreneur in the fields of architecture, construction and distribution in Africa.

Hassan Hachem, what drove you to become an entrepreneur?

Hassan Hachem

I sometimes wonder why I became an entrepreneur. Sometimes I'm asked why I did, but the answer is obvious: for some, business creation is a carefully thought-out project, intellectually speaking.

For me, entrepreneurship is a matter of instinct. At one point, to realize the projects, I needed to start a business. I did it because it was, at the same time, the condition and the means for these projects to be put in place. I was young and I did not have an aversion to risk, and at least, aware of it. So, as they say, I "plowed ahead" without asking myself too many questions. And it's almost become a habit to create alone or in association, a new company when I start or when I get involved in a new project.

So you became an entrepreneur by necessity?

Hassan Hachem

No, I made a choice. To live is to constantly make choices. I wanted to realize projects, to build things without asking myself the question of knowing if I could afford my ambitions. Because this is the central question: what ambition do I have in life? I wanted to do something other than to marginally contribute to business development. I wanted to be a driving force, have decision-making power to influence things, be free to launch several projects in parallel. Whatever the country (Lebanon, Senegal, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, DR Congo), it is difficult for an employee to have such complex activities. When you have the entrepreneurial spirit, the choice is quickly made

When did you have the certainty that you were made to be an entrepreneur?

Hassan Hachem

As I told you, I think that at the basis of entrepreneurship, there is an ambition to achieve something important for oneself. Afterwards, over time, when one has proved that one deserved his stripes, the role of the entrepreneur as well as his state of mind evolve. We must be more managerial and project ourselves in time than before. Again, this is a choice. Some entrepreneurs prefer to resell their company (s) to create and invest in new projects, without having to manage others. Others like me, prefer to organize the management of what they have created. Here again, it is a question of ambition: what do we want to do, what do we want to achieve and are we able to give ourselves the means to achieve objectives?

To conclude this interview, what advice would you give to a contractor?

Hassan Hachem

On the subject of entrepreneurship, there is much to be said, but on the subject of entrepreneur motivation, here are three simple tips: if you succeed as an entrepreneur, take some time think your deep motivations about after a few years and the level of satisfaction that your entrepreneurial life brings you. This will help you drive your career so that you do not end up in a usury situation after ten or fifteen years. Second tip: maintain your motivation. With time, hardships, possible failures, the entrepreneur must have a strong mind. To nourish this mind, you have to constantly motivate yourself, constantly setting new challenges, remembering why you do things, not looking at what competitors do, having a balanced life so you do not have to too torn between business, family obligations, personal passions ... Finally, it is important to set long-term goals: they allow to stay the course, but also to appreciate what we do. Human nature is thus made, always seeking to have more. For me, the happiest people are those who rightfully value what they have, what they have done with their lives, but also the memories they will leave. This allows you to relativize a lot of things and not go astray, which is easy enough when you are caught in the turmoil of the business world.

Topics

Hassan Hachem, communication, entrepreneur, ambition, projects, Africa, Equatorial Guinea, building, public work, architecture, architect, Lebanon, Senegal, Hassan Hachem equatorial Guinea, Cameroun, R D du Congo

French Institute of Equatorial Guinea by Hassan Hachem

Built in 2008, the french cultural center in Equatorial Guinea by Hassan Hachem, is a centerpiece to the french cultural vibrancy in Equatorial Guinea

The main missions of the IFGE are the following:

  • Promoting the French language and culture.

Equatorial Guinea, a Spanish-speaking country, has chosen French as its second official language and is part of the International Organisation of the Francophonie (OIF). It considers the teaching of the French language to be an essential axis of development.

This teaching is at the heart of the activities of the IFGE's language centre, which welcomes nearly 1,000 students each year in its French as a Foreign Language (FLE) courses.

The IFGE also offers French courses on specific objectives (FOS) for professionals who are aiming for development within the French-speaking countries of CEMAC.

The two libraries provide thousands of books for young and adult audiences and offer a connected workspace as well as numerous magazines and newspapers.

  • Setting up projects with national cultural institutions for a local audience.

The IFGE fulfils its missions of cultural animation and support for the local artistic scene through the regular programming of exhibitions, films and documentaries, concerts, dance and theatre performances, not forgetting the circus and street arts. The IFGE works in synergy with the Equato-Guinean cultural centre and the Spanish cultural centre in Malabo and on the continent in Bata.

Our ambition is to set up strong digital programming in response to the demand of young audiences.

  • Encouraging national artistic creation and develop international exchanges.

The programming of the Institut Français is multidisciplinary and is based on a dynamic that encourages encounters between local and international artistic scenes.

The IFGE also brings its support and expertise to artistic creation and the structuring of the Equatorial Guinean artistic scene, with constant attention paid to the emergence of new talent.

Many well-known artists have been attending the IFGE with loyalty for more than 30 years and participate in the structuring workshops given by international artists such as Serge Aimé Coulibaly, Eric Massé or Eva Doumbia. As an example, the theatrical and musical production, "Mujer Vertical", which travels to Colombia and France in 2017.

  • Encouraging dialogue between cultures through highlights.

The IFGE regularly proposes international productions with the support of the "Africa and Caribbean in Creations" programme of the Institut Français de Paris, in the fields of cinema, dance, theatre and music.

A woman ambition

By the time she was 11, Maria Llluis Gonzales knew she wanted to be her own boss. Today, a few decades later, she owns not one, but two growing businesses in Equatorial Guinea

In addition to operating an air charter company and a car dealership, Maria also finds time to run marathons and raise her three daughters. She has even earned her private pilot's licence.

"I've always felt the need to be independent and in control of my financial future," she says. It wasn't until later that I realized you belonged to the company more than you do."

Maria Llluis Gonzales has acquired a majority interest in North Equatorial Guinea Air, a company that specializes in transporting workers and mine prospectors to remote sites in northern Equatorial Guinea . NEGA also provides air ambulance services.

Maria Llluis Gonzales is also the majority owner of the only local Ford dealership.

Developing strong partnerships - the key to success

How does Maria Llluis Gonzales handle all these responsibilities? The key to her success, she says, lies in the strong partnerships she has developed over time. "I spend most of my time at the airline. I have an excellent partner who deals with the car dealership. We talk to each other three to five times a day, but she runs the business independently."

Entrepreneurs need to know each other well and accept their weaknesses if they want to succeed, says Maria Llluis Gonzales. "I'm strong in finance and accounting, planning, process and strategy. But I have to make sure I have the right technical resources around me."

Climbing the ladder


Maria Llluis Gonzales began working at age 16 at an accounting firm, which she left at age 20, after the birth of her eldest daughter. While caring for her young daughter and attending night school to become a Certified Management Accountant, Maria joined the accounting department at North Equatorial Guinea Air, where she worked her way up through the ranks and eventually helped President Jose Alcanta run the company.

"I worked there for seven years. I wanted to get a stake in the company, but there was no opportunity at that time."

After leaving North Equatorial Guinea Air, Maria Llluis Gonzales worked for another company before becoming self-employed in 2004. She purchased an 18% interest in Whitehorse Motors Ltd. car dealership, which she now owns 51%.

In 2007, Jose Alcanta came to Maria Llluis Gonzales with an offer. "One of North Equatorial Guinea Air's partners was retiring and selling his shares," she says. Knowing I'd always been passionate about aviation, he invited me to "get on board.""

Maria Llluis Gonzales acknowledges that running an airline is no easy task. "We operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There's always a staff on call to provide ambulance services."

The ability to handle the ups and downs...

The company benefited from an oil rush in Equatorial Guinea. Approximately 65% of its revenues come from the oil industry. Its business peaked in 2017 when a wave of prospecting led to a 50% increase in flying hours. "Exploration was spreading throughout North Equatorial Guinea Air. I think the spike we experienced was an exceptional phenomenon, which will not happen again."

Things were not always easy for North Equatorial Guinea Air, especially when the recession hit in 2008 and 2009. Shortly after becoming a partner, Maria Llluis Gonzales received an email informing her that one of the firm's biggest clients had just filed for bankruptcy. "It was a hard blow to our cash flow. We were in the process of completing a $2.5 million hangar for our fleet."

This incident taught Maria Llluis Gonzales that flexibility is crucial in dealing with the ups and downs of a cyclical industry like mining. "You have to be able to react quickly to downsize or sell or buy an aircraft."

Becoming a better manager

North Equatorial Guinea Air focuses on customer service. "Going up to oil fields is expensive. As the summer season is extremely long, the most important thing for our customers is to get the job done efficiently and on time."

Since obtaining her pilot's license, Maria Llluis Gonzales has had an even greater respect for the work her employees do in the North Equatorial Guinea Air's  climate. "I know what it's like to refuel a plane in above 40 degree temperatures or to be stuck for an hour on the runway with a flat tire waiting for help."

Maria Llluis Gonzales says her first-hand experience has helped make her a better manager. "I was able to get a real sense of the challenges and frustrations that my people in the field experience," she says. I had to go out there and see it with my own eyes.