Don’t put yourself ahead of your business – McDan tells SMEs

Dr. Daniel McCauley - Founder and CEO, McDan Group

Founder and CEO of McDan Group, Dr. Daniel McCauley has urged owners of small and medium scale (SMEs) companies to remain anonymous behind their businesses and allow the business to grow based on systems and structures to ensure longevity. 

He was speaking during the special edition of the MTN Business Executive Breakfast Series on the theme “Accelerating SME Growth and Development – the role of Digitization”.

The virtual session was jointly organized by MTN Business and Business World.

According to the McDan Group boss, for more than a decade, he run McDan without anyone knowing who he was, adding that in the 1990s for instance, he had over a million dollars in his personal account but he still drove a Fiat Ritmo just to keep a low profile and allow the business to thrive.

Dr. Daniel McCauley noted that the bane of many SMEs and even some big businesses in Ghana is that the owners project themselves even more than the business and they end up attracting the kind of attention that impact the business negatively over time.

“I have gone the length and breadth of this world and usually when you mention McDan people think it is a foreign company because I never put myself ahead of the business like many business owners do in Ghana,” he said. “Never put yourself ahead of your business – you need to ride behind your business.”

Speaking of business growth and longevity over the years, it is worthy of note that McDan Shipping Company, now McDan Group, was established in November 1999 with customer brokerage as the main service it offered. But it has expanded its services to Freight Forwarding, including warehousing (Bonded and Non Bonded), Diplomatic Movements, Removal Services (Household and Corporate),Courier Services, Hauling, Project Cargo Movement, Ground Handling, Heavy Duty Movement, Cross Boarder Transportation, and Aviation Cargo Experts.

The company is the first and only Freight Forwarding Company to obtain the Air Carrier License in handling chartered cargo flights in Ghana and is currently the Cargo Sales Agent (CSA) for Ethiopian Airlines with worldwide connections.

McDan is headquartered in Accra and has branches in Tema, Takoradi, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Equatorial Guinea, plus a presence in over 2400 major air and sea ports worldwide with its partnership with WCA (World Cargo Alliance) and JC Trans.

Dr. Daniel McCauley said he could only achieve that feat by focusing on building structures and systems to drive the business, rather than projecting his personality and wealth in public.

He also urged the SMEs to be discipline and consistent in running their businesses, saying that business growth has to do with numbers and so there is a need to focus on increasing the numbers in terms of clients, revenue and presence; and that comes by “execution, execution, execution.”

“It is not rocket science to know that there is a need to separate business expenses from personal expenses – if you can’t maintain that discipline you business will collapse,” he said.

The McDan Group CEO emphasized that businesses do not need personalities to succeed but systems and structures and he believes that is what digitization brings to the table, adding that putting oneself ahead of the business breaks the systems and structures and leads to failure.

He noted that investors are often more interested in the kind of person running the business and whether he or she is someone who focuses on structures and systems or on projecting him or herself.

“If you are the type who projects yourself more, you are not likely to attract investors because as the saying goes, in horse racing we bet on the jokey and not the horse,”

Dr. McCauley noted that with McDan Entrepreneurship Challenge, the focus has always mainly been on the discipline of the young entrepreneur rather than the fine ideas he or she puts forward during the competition.

He explained that “there are people who have great ideas, but do not have the drive and discipline to translate them into successful business – there are people who do not have ideas but have what it takes to turn other people’s ideas into successful businesses and there is a third group of people who have great ideas and the discipline to make them work and investors are more interested in the second and third groups than the first.”

Speaking of McDan Entrepreneurship Challenge and digitization, the CEO said this year about 15,000 young entrepreneurs applied to participates in the challenge and a huge percentage of them were in the digital space, plus another appreciate percentage were in the agriculture sector but were proposing ways of using digitization to grow.

He also noted the criteria for participants of the challenge to file their reports and do a lot of stuff digitally rather than manually, and that is one of the ways McDan is driving digitization among SMEs in the country.

“Personally I speak with more than 500 young businesses and entrepreneurs every year – these are people and businesses I mentor and lately we have been emphasizing on digitization because I noticed that some of the ideas they have today, if I have had those ideas when I stared, I would have been at the same revenue level with Facebook and the rest by now,” he said.


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