Right job for right people
How a young entrepreneur created
popular recruitment website

Text: Ameyaw Debrah
Finding the right job after school has become a major headache for many Ghanaians. Often graduates find it difficult to get good jobs regardless of their qualifications. Employers, on the other hand, struggle to reach the right skilled personnel for their job offerings, creating the phenomenon of square pegs in round holes. This has resulted in the general dissatisfaction with the choice of careers and work force.

Richard Dogbe, a young and enterprising graduate of the University of Ghana, has created what appears to be a doubled-barreled solution for people looking for the right jobs, and employers looking for the right people to hire.

The beginning: business or politics
Told by Richard Dogbe, the CEO of JobHouse

We had a situation (and still have) where over 100,000 graduates were being churned out of our tertiary institutions each year, with fewer jobs being created. Most of the graduates lack key employable skills.

Originally, JobHouse was set up to help graduates to know about existing jobs that they would otherwise not have heard about and provide them with seasoned articles to help them improve their skills via our website.

Today, our strategy has changed since we've become a full-service employment agency.

Great ideas from humble beginnings

Photo from village in the Volta Region
I was born in Wli, a village in the Volta Region of Ghana. It's a border town to Togo.

Growing up in my village, life was tough. It began to make meaning when an uncle in Accra decided to sponsor my education going forward. With hard work and dedication, I excelled in my Junior High School exams and got admission to the prestigious Bishop Herman College. It was there that I had my first entrepreneurship experience.

I won the government scholarship for good performance in the first year and that granted me some extra cash. I decided to go into a letter-writing pad business. At the time, nicely designed writing pads were in high demand especially in a boys' school like ours. Though the venture was a big flop, great lessons were learnt.

After my secondary school education, I joined my uncle who was sponsoring my education in Accra. He was good to me. He gave me a lot of opportunities to practice my numerous business ideas.

Entrepreneurship comes from within

In 2007, I entered the University of Ghana. From the first semester, I engaged in all kinds of business activities. At a point I joined forces with two great friends and we formed a printing company right on campus. We were printing exercise books in tens of thousands, ballot sheets for residential hall and Student Representative Council elections.

By level 300, I teamed up with another colleague to train fellow students in website design, using what we termed at the time the "practical approach". We realized a number of students studying computer science and computer engineering at the time could not design websites. So we started organizing classes to equip them, of course at a fee. And it was a hit!
It was while working on this project that the idea for a job website came up. We had a situation where over 100,000 graduates were being churned out annually but fewer jobs were being created. So JobHouse was setup to tackle the situation. That was the beginning of JobHouse.
JobHouse team
Team at work
Girls from JobHouse

Growth in the face of challenges

JobHouse was started in January 2010. We are six years old now. The major problem we had in the beginning was unreliable and slow Internet. I was still an undergraduate student at this stage. The second was office space – most tenants wanted two or more years' advance payment.

To overcome the office space challenge, I had to make an arrangement with another company, which had office space. They arranged one of their staff to serve as my front desk executive. And this person managed all communications coming to JobHouse. This allowed me to work from home. In fact, I myself didn't have any space at that office. If I had to meet a client, my front desk executive would arrange that for me. To the outside world, JobHouse had a complete office and that was what mattered most. Thankfully, JobHouse now operates from a fully detached building with enough rooms to meet our requirements.
JobHouse office

Investing in a dream that supports the dreams of others

Since we started as a jobs website, we only needed laptop, Internet connection and manpower. I had a laptop at the time but reliable Internet connection was almost impossible and sharing my time between academics and updating the website was not easy.

To help propel the business, I had to rely on funds from other sources like organizing web design classes, the printing business and website design for a few clients. This helped me to hire some extra hands for the updating and promotion of the website whilst still in the university.

Soon our website became popular especially among tertiary students and fresh graduates. Before long, jobhouseghana.com became ranked among the top 5 most popular jobs sites in Ghana.

A section of JobHouse staff: operations and marketing
But despite the publicity we were enjoying, it took us about two years before we started making reliable revenue. The only thing that kept me going during those first two years was my passion for what I was doing. It was almost like a sport, it no longer felt like a job.
I was, and still am passionate about graduate employment opportunities and also equipping graduates with practical and employable skills. And it is this passion that changed the game for JobHouse. To better serve our vision, we decided to venture into Recruitment and HR Consultancy after the second year of operation.

Video interview with Richard Dogbe

Recruitment and HR Consultancy that stands out

We are a full-service employment agency and cover almost all aspects of HR practice. Our service charges are far lower than the market rates because technology makes us more efficient.
At our current rate, annual revenues range from GhC 250,000 to 300,000 (70,000 to 80,000 USD).
We have been able to achieve this without relying on external funding. Whatever we have achieved so far is as a result of personal funding and ploughing back of profits.

We have two main category of clients: employers and job seekers. Our marketing department is in charge of bringing in new clients and maintaining relationships with our existing clients. We deal with all kinds of businesses. For us the business size does not matter. The only exception is that, our services don't include domestic services and menial jobs.

As a recruitment agency, we take the hiring process very seriously with regards to the caliber of people we add to our team.. We only recruit people who are open-minded, ready to learn new things and have multiple skills. I have a very informal relationship with my team most of the time.
"The vision of JobHouse is to become an outsourcing powerhouse. We will continue to improve our HR outsourcing services and also develop strategies for Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) in general. This won't be easy but with the right partnerships and investors, we will surely get there".

Tips to starting your dream business

Running a business comes with many challenges the world over. In Ghana, the challenges could be more, with unreliable power, unreliable/expensive internet and "un-enabling" environment in general. Yet still, it pays to be an entrepreneur in Ghana. Here are my pieces of advice to young entrepreneurs in Ghana:

Before you venture into a particular business, examine yourself and find out whether you have a genuine passion for the activities relating to that business. Believe me or not, 95% of the time, you won't make any money at all from the first few months to few years, depending on the size of the business. In situations like this it is only your passion that will help you keep pursing your dream. Without passion, quitting is inevitable.

Patience is required for every new business. To borrow from Warren Buffet, you cannot get a baby in one month by impregnating nine women at a time. Some things just take time. And by patience, I don't mean folding of your arms and waiting for the "hit" to happen. I mean, continually investing in your new business, watching over day and night, working hard, and remaining focused on your vision.

Perhaps the bane of our educational system is the over concentration on academics to the detriment of practical knowledge. In secondary school, I learnt to type at 40 words per minute. I was a photographer. I also ventured into writing pad business. At the university I ventured into so many extra-curricular activities and businesses. Today, apart from God's blessing, I can attribute my success to the extra-curricular activities I engaged in while schooling.

You should by all means take academics seriously, but please don't miss out on opportunities for the acquisition of practical knowledge.
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