Rudolf Schirmer Ampofo-Domfeh, an emerging young businessman’s contribution to the growing economy of Ghana, and poverty alleviation.
-Transcript of an interview conducted by
by John Atanga, a PHD candidate at Walden University
Interview with Rudolf Schirmer Ampofo-Domfeh on Sunday, March 17, 2019 at his home office in Accra, Ghana. Rudolf Schirmer Ampofo-Domfeh is the Founder and Executive Chairman of The Rudolf & Schirmers Enterprises, a holding company which controls companies such Augson Global LLC, The Schirmer Investments limited, Format Builders & Contractors Limited and The Schirmers Group Inc. in New Jersey, USA. His interest are refined petroleum products, property development, construction, equipment & engineering, agriculture, investments and retail operating worldwide. He uses both local and foreign materials for home construction to serve low income teachers with affordable housing units. His product supported by Western institutions: Turkish EXIM, Express Trade, and NBSSI, GRA and the Rural enterprise program.
In my business, some government agencies and policies regulate my business such as the GRA for taxes purposes. The GRA deals with regulations. The GSA, FDA and NPA deals with consumer food, trade at the ports, and storage, which is part of the GRA institutions. The NPA organ regulates trade and refines products, oil, and petroleum. The high duties and taxes on my imports charges affect my business. Those who patronizes my businesses do not get increases
When I started business, it was not easy as a soft drink importer. It was a challenge, I set achievement goals by surrounding myself with experienced people. What sustained my business was diversifying my portfolio of products rather than staying with one business line. I use profits from one business area to support the core business segment of other areas. I never gave up, I was motivated to be successful. I took business values from my father, I had values from my family to help the needy through employment.
I experience failure due to the nonperformance of others / employee, who could not be trusted due to behavior problems. By attributing failure to customers I have trusted, I came to learn that business in Ghana, Africa is a challenge. A business owner must sign contracts with vendors or associate. To offer services I have to ensure to request for guarantee of payment by signing contracts and receiving securities such as bank guarantees, etc.
In my business, major transactions such as trade in petroleum products, housing development projects require access to credit funding. Some financing accesses are Turk EXIM, Guarantco, and the New York base Express Trade Capital assisting with access to financing. Building a good credit history has helped with financial acquisition. My import and export trade business receive low interest loans and export credit facility access from the Turks export / import Bank (EXIM). Guarantco is a London based firm that helps with the acquisition of bonds and other guarantee forms to access credit facilities from other financing institutions. Express Trade Capital in New York also helps with letters of credit as I am currently working with them to secure some funding to expand my footwear brand in the united states. However, international business does not depend on local bank, I rely more on international credits in my business activities and for my capital-intensive projects. The development banks also help with credit funding
The location of my businesses has been in Accra, Ghana and New Jersey, USA. I partner with the local Ghanaian community district assemblies and currently working with the teacher associations to develop affordable housing units for low- income teachers of the secondary and lay private schools. The primary goal is to deliver 20,000 affordable housing units for low-income teachers. The goal is to evaluate the cost technology of the housing project thus reducing the overall housing cost to low-income teacher’s base on the method of construction. Also, I am working with a couple of Government-owned universities to develop student housing units under our prime brand Augson Smart Hostels. Also, I work with some farmer groups providing them with farm equipment and other related inputs.
I think providing affordable low-income housing for teachers and agricultural mechanization services to farmers is a great service to the needy that could help accomplish my social mission as well as sustaining my business. Most teachers live in depilated homes as they pay rents through banks loans, which is not good. To improve on their lives in enabling teachers to be served and improved their live mean a lot to the poor. Services such as physical infrastructure in terms of energy and telecommunication supports small business development. increasing the output of small-medium-scale food crop producers through the provision of inputs credit, technology and access to marketing services along the agricultural value chain is a critical need to our Ghanaian local farmers which helps to reduce poverty in the rural settlement.
I have a management team who travel overseas countries such as in Turkey, Belarus, China, Dubai, USA, South Africa, Switzerland, UAE, etc to visit Companies and factories view comparable products, to learn and identify product lines that are performing overseas. The visitors bring back ideas, feedback, and opportunities. The team identifies business and nature of operations. I use that knowledge to improve on my products. Affordable home have change the lives of low income teachers Testimony: I visited the US to study the affordable housing market and found that the value of mortgage and credit rating that help with affordable housing, although it is driven by credit scores of buyers in the US. I had used this knowledge in Ghana to improve on my low-income teachers housing
I have use online training solutions for training. My financial studies used Coursera solutions for training on online certification. I have not attended or use NBSSI’s entrepreneurial training programs.
I think in doing business innovation matters, I surround myself with experience retired officers like CEOs and Directors of government institutions and renowned private firms on the my board of directors based on their experience and management capabilities. During the board of director meeting, I use computers software for human resources management and Corel server. The members of the board provide valuable knowledge used by my management team. Technological capabilities uses involve the HR software management for payroll, Corel software products for devices and monitor. I use marketing niche to patronize my business in reaching out to businesses. I use digital marketing to improve marketing and to reach out to customers via Internet online market. I also use medical people to help advertise on my products.
I use financial models to assist in decision making as to reliability and viability of my low- income housing project considering taxes and gross margin and identifying and ensuring all uncertainties. I review the exchange rates before making decisions. Before engaging in transactions and projects, I perform feasibilities studies followed by various business plans and designs using my real estate projects as an example. I evaluate the cost and services then I present to the technical and financial team and consultants to evaluate the construction cost and service that will be needed using the model for NPV, IRR, Basic Cost Ratio, and the completed financial model.
I use technology to improve my business. I use Microsoft office suite of application, Excel, Word, and PowerPoint. I use HR software and social media platform for digital marketing, web site and internet services. I also use HR software for payroll. Computers and other related gadgets usage have been very helpful. My managers who complete foreign tours are expected to make reports on how to perform any new strategies unveiled. I personally learn from companies on the tour to improve my deliverables. I learn from international businesses and leaders.
Poverty alleviation is the core reason why I seek to be a development of this country, Ghana. It is my inner desire to assist low-income and poor communities especially with the provision of shelter and jobs. That is why, my team and I are constantly researching and investing in new developments, ideas and initiatives that would benefit the low-and middle-income earners and the poor and rural communities. A typical example is my Augson Investment Program with a US$50 million investment threshold in Ghana for agricultural mechanization, irrigation and processing, affordable student and social housing, industrial and recreational facilities as well as slum upgrading and redevelopment, and rural water expansion and extension. This initiative is aimed at uplifting the low- and middle-income earners, and promote rural, urban and pere-urban development.
I pay my taxes to the government which I hope should help improve the performance of the Ghanaian economy. In my business, I ensure quality and safety without compromising on quality in the delivery of our products and services. I stay competitive in the market with the high-quality products that I offer at affordable prices. I do not also compromise on quality with products like my shoe brand, construction materials and other real estate developments, as I ultimate agenda is to offer the best to the low-income earners.
The Government do not employ people as much as businesses are doing. High taxes imposed by government affect businesses and their owners. They do not help the progress and growth of businesses in Ghana. As those customers who patronize the products and services of businesses do not get increases in their income, high taxes on business negatively affect us, and Businesses can fail and collapse. Example, if my salary hasn’t increased, and prices of critical products and services are constantly increasing, I cannot afford to purchase the same quantity that I used to because my purchasing power still remains unchanged. And so, if I was buy 10 units at price A, with price B, I may be able to afford just 6 units. And this kind of scenarios affect the growth of businesses in Ghana, and the economy in general.
So, I would say that businesses have a critical role in the development of country with poverty alleviation and growth of the economy. Thank you.