After Beatrice Siaw relocated to Ghana from the United States in January 2010 she built a thriving business in the capital city of Accra. She opened Tribeca Hotel Ghana in July 2013.
Siaw, who is married to a Ghanaian man, is in the process of opening another.
While business is booming, the CEO says she has had to adjust to the Ghanaian way of doing business. She talks to TNJ.com about working and building a business in the African country, where many African-Americans have flocked. In 2013, TheGrio reported that there were some 3,000 American Blacks living in Accra alone.
TNJ.com: What were some things about the work culture in Ghana that you found different than the U.S.?
Beatrice Siaw: Ghanaians are a peaceful people. Many Ghanaians travel to the U.S. and various countries but the sentiment about work is vastly different in Ghana. For instance, if you are hiring a Ghanaian to be your accountant in Ghana there are no systems in place to properly check if the individual has the skill set or the educational background. The person will submit a resume, check references by calling numbers listed on the resume (which anyone can vouch for them), and possibly administer a test. Still, you might not get a qualified person. However, in the U.S there are various systems in place to hire the right candidate.
Also, if a Ghanaian arrives to work 5-10 minutes late, it’s considered to be acceptable but in the U.S., it is not.
In my own hotel, I work directly with the day-to-day operations of my company. In Ghana, most business owners have managers and the owner oversees the company from afar. It’s frowned upon if an owner is working at their own business.
TNJ.com: What were some of your challenges in dealing with the work culture there?
Beatrice Siaw: Most African countries are male dominated…Therefore, most men all over Africa view women to be a weaker vessel. In Ghana, when people see me, a 32-year-old owning a business, they are shocked. Some say, “It must be a family business” and when they find out it’s not, they are even more surprised.
But getting qualified people has been my biggest challenge in Ghana.
TNJ.com: What was your biggest lesson about adapting to another work culture?
Beatrice Siaw: In Ghana, you must have patience in working with people or else you will offend so many.
You also always have to find innovative ways to stay abreast of the industry. And training should always be constant.
As a woman, I believe that I must always be assertive and firm but kind to my staff or they will not take me seriously. I often find myself repeating my words and talking to my employees on their level. Otherwise, they feel like you’re arrogant, which is not the case.