Entrepreneur m akes a university business plan



Executive Summary

This paper will illustrate the background of Ashesi University and its founder Patrick Awuah's strategy and approach to establish the university and run its operations and the recommendations towards writing the new business plan Awuah is about to write. Patrick Awuah is the founder and president of Ashesi University, Ashesi is a private liberal college in Ghana. He was born in Ghana but left to follow an education in the US. He had a bachelor's degree from Swarthmore College and a master's degree in business administration from the Haas School of business from the University of California. Later, he had a doctorate from Swarthmore College. He worked for years as a program manager and engineer for the Microsoft Corporation in Seattle, and then he returned to Ghana to establish Ashesi University, which is now the only qualified Liberal Arts College in West Africa. Awuah got financial support from external donors like Microsoft. Beginning with a class of 30 students in 2002, Ashesi University now has more than 300 students; half of this number receives financial aid. Awuah has gained excellent reputation for his commitment to creating a model for quality private education in Africa (Harrington, 2008:1-14).

The difficulties

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The entrepreneur in this case, which is represented by Patrick Awuah, had faced different difficulties through out the running of the university operations. In country like Ghana where there are major problems regarding the curriculum and the style of teaching including the dishonesty of teaching and the problems of student's cheating, Awuah introduced a new approach. He emphasised and supported that all educational institutions should see education as anti-corrupted process to educate people to become confident citizens and leaders. There are many sides to this issue, but Awuah summarized them as improving academic and ethical excellence to move the level of the African students to become the future leaders and top of professionals. According to Awuah, Ghana needs to pay a lot more attention to quality in curriculum, regarding the approach to teaching, facilities available to students, and the relevance of the curriculum to accommodate the future needs. Awuah succeeded to make Ashesi's curriculum a distinguished one, the curriculum gathered the humanities, social sciences, mathematics and leadership courses, with majors in computer science, business administration and management information systems (Harrington, 2008: 5). The size of curriculum included both theoretical and quantitative approach, with an importance of professional thinking. Most of the graduates are working in Ghana, and other West African countries. Awuah expected that some of graduates would work internationally, and this aspect would serve the university because in fact they will be as measurement of the international ability and reputation of Ashesi University. The most important thing in Awuah's point of view is that to ensure that graduates will be efficient at their jobs and are able to handle the opportunities available in Africa.

On the other side come the economic difficulties. These difficulties are concerning the guarantee of donors' financial support through out the life time of the university (HBR, 1999: 151). The most important aspect for the university is to have the financial support available for its operations especially the Ashesi is planning for a residential campus and the university wants to continue providing financial aid for students. To look at the point very closely, it is important to examine the case of private universities in Ghana. Until very recently, private universities were not allowed in Ghana. During the last two decades, the Ghanaian government decided to encourage private participation in higher education (Harrington, 2008: 2). Corruption and the teaching dishonesty in the educational system of the country were some of the main problems especially that it is disturbing the flow of the educational process. Awuah has tried to establish a non-corrupted and honest teaching style in Ashesi University to influence others to take the same steps and more importantly is to maintain the vision and mission of the university in the first place (Barry, 2007:275). Being firm regarding the mission of the project, and trying to keep the ethical vision alive through out the implementation of the project has always served the project for other important issues like maintaining the validity to gain the financial support required. in other words, for the Ashesi case, This issue of maintaining the vision of the university is important for the donation process as well, because donors will want to see that the financial support is going to the right direction and the finances are not spent on unplanned processes (Hjorth and Kostera, 2007: 285). And in many cases, it is very difficult to maintain the same level of performance because these projects are basically about a long term approach, and the difficulty lies upon finding a donor who is willing to engage in a long term project. Awuah tried to maintain the level of the financial support in spite of the limited income. On the other hand, Ghana is moving towards building more sustainable economic system, and to strengthen the ability of attracting local funding (Harrington, 2008:3).

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Another problem was hiring the qualified staff for running this project as Awuah sometimes travels outside the country. The need to think about the specific qualifications available in employees is very important as the project grow. There is always a potential need for re-examining the quality of the staff through out the implementation of the project, and the relevance of their experiences to the needs of the university and their level of capability to run the project effectively and efficiently (Gerber, 1995: 98).

The recommendations

looking at the case of Ashesi University, the entrepreneurship's business plan which is provided to the beginning of the project was a very essential step to demonstrate the type of services that will be provided for the students, the type of students targeted in the project, the direct and the indirect competitors (Market analysis to other similar universities in Ghana), the location of the project, and the financial assumptions and risks of failure (Sahlman, 2008: 56). But, in this case, the entrepreneur ‘Patrick Awuah' is in need to put together an updated and a valid business plan for the coming years of the university's life. Putting the answer to all these aspects will make him more able to demonstrate the level of success and failure that might occur while implementing the business plan. This makes the business plan the first step to either continue with the project or hold back to find some urgent solutions. In Awuah's case, he has done a good effort regarding upgrading the quality of services provided and the curriculum by establishing a liberal arts university teaching important subjects like humanities, social sciences, African studies, and leadership (Harrington, 2008: 8). But, at this stage where the entrepreneur ‘Patrick Awuah' is about to write the new business plan for the university, he needs to have solid answers to the following points:

1- Awuah needs to look at the services and the curriculum provided to students, and demonstrate if that will be relevant in the coming years especially that Ashesi is having direct and indirect competitors. He needs to think about the points that make the university more distinguished among other market competitors through having a competitive analysis (HBR, 2008: 18).

2- Start a full assessment to the project by implementing SWOT analysis which is fully evaluating the Strengths, weaknesses, Opportunities, and threats for the project, in addition to assessing the project by applying the 7-S analysis which includes the evaluation of the university's structure, system, super ordinate goals, style, staff, skills, and success levels of the project implementation in the past years (HBS, 2005:8).

3- The financial aspect is a very important issue in Awuah's case. At first, he succeeded in providing the necessary funding for the start up of the project and for the first few year of the university's life through external donors who contributed to the financing and the growing of the university (Harrington, 2008: 8). The critical issues that face Awuah are how to maintain the same level of financial support in the coming years especially that the university is expanding its operations through building a residential campus. The important issue here is the sustainability of the project which is considered to be the estimate to evaluate the success of the project, in other words, having frequent and sustainable funding for the project operations (Calagione, 2005:184). Awuah succeeded through donors support to provide Ashesi with the necessary funding to the start up the project and the implement operations of the first few years of the university's life, but the question is (What if he could not get any more external funding?). The answer to this issue is to get full benefit from the Ghanaian government orientation towards upgrading and encouraging local funding. If Awuah made full evaluation to the new approach and strategy of the government, he will be able to have solid sustainability strategy for Ashesi especially that Ashesi had succeeded to build a good reputation in Ghana and outside Ghana. If Ashesi built a sustainable plan for the coming years, it will be very accessible in the future to have a priority when applying for local and external funding (HBR, 1999:124).

4- Planning for the Growth of the entrepreneurship. Looking at the growth of the university in the first few years, it had only 30 students in 2002 to more than 300 students in the following years (Harrington, 2008:8). This indicates that the university had succeeded to attract more students. So, the growth of the university in the coming years will be increased and maintained if Awuah's strategy was supported by examining and frequently upgrading the quality of services and curriculum available for the students, and rectifying the defects of teaching problems that occur during the life of the university, in addition to focusing on the competitors' orientation and choosing to be distinguished by quality and higher education excellence (Hisrich, 2010:35).


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