Words of Wisdom from a Young Entrepreneur
Meet entrepreneur Hally Mass Jobe, the 30-year-old Managing Director of Atlas Energy Limited. Per Africa Outlook Magazine and the Wall Street Journal, Atlas is Gambia’s fastest growing company capturing 30% percent of the petroleum market share with an estimated sales revenue of $8 million USD, annually. After only five-years in business, Atlas employs a 500-plus workforce including full-time, part-time and contract workers across 28 commercial petroleum service stations and four depots.
Is entrepreneurship Africa’s saving grace?! Africa’s population is rapidly increasing with West Africa experiencing the fastest growth of any of the world’s regions. Unfortunately, due to poor leadership, mismanagement, corruption and lack of planning this growth has a negative impact on our economic development. With governments unable and/or unwilling to implement effective national employment policies, the low hanging fruit to mitigate the potential increase in poverty is to defer to entrepreneurship.
While entrepreneurship is a viable option for many, it is not for the faint of hearts. It demands every ounce of your being to achieve success and most importantly, financial stability. It means being “on” 24/7 —sacrificing personal and family time, and money. These challenges are ten-fold across Africa especially, Gambia.
Meet Hally Mass, the face of entrepreneurial success in The Gambia!
Tell us your story. Who is Hally Mass Jobe?
I am just your typical “A type” personality, trying to make a difference in this world. Those who know me, will tell you that I am very direct. What you see is what you get. I am adventurous to a fault, and very passionate about technology.
I care deeply about a lot of the issues in our society today, and do my best, in my little ways to address them.
Share with us a little bit about your career journey—did you always know you wanted to take over the family business?
In 2012, I graduated with a Computer and Environmental Science degree from the top university in Canada. Six months later, I was still struggling to find work. My first job out of university was selling phones for a company called Public Mobile. Before I knew it, I was juggling that job and working as a telemarketer. I, later worked as a teller at the Bank of Montreal. After 9 months, I was promoted to data analyst within Bank of Montreal’s Business Intelligence team.
I always thought I would end up in Silicon Valley because of my love for technology but I kind of fell into working for the “family business”. After sometime in Canada, I came back home to The Gambia to help set up Atlas. At the time, the plan was to return to Canada after a few months. However, after a short while, I abandoned my plans to return to Canada; building our company and brand became my mission. I started at Atlas managing the retail network, which comprised of 28 service stations. In the middle of negotiating a deal that would transform the company, our general manager resigned and we had to quickly fill the position. In October of 2017, we closed the deal with Oryx, one of Africa’s largest independent oil and gas companies. This sparked both a professional and personal transition. Atlas, was no longer a “family business”. It was now part of a much bigger group, present in over 20 countries across Africa. The entrance of Oryx marked a new chapter in my journey, as I was appointed Managing Director.
As a young managing director in a country where youth are told to stay in “their place”and “wait their turn”, what challenges have you encountered?
I, inherited a cross-generational workforce; this by far was the most challenging aspect of the job. Managing people older than you, some that were present at your naming ceremony always comes with its own challenges. Furthermore, trying to bridge the gap between the different mindsets across the different generations also proved to be challenging, at times. One thing that I am very proud of my team for is that they always gave me respect and allowed me to lead. However, it is interesting to note that the reaction from individuals outside the company was sometimes, quite the contrary. That is where I always focused my attention, to make sure that the first impression I left with people was always one of respect, diligence and competence.
What has been your proudest moment as managing director of Atlas?
I have a reputation of challenging my colleagues and pushing them out of their comfort zones, seeing them grow and become exceptional leaders is always something that I am very proud of. Also, I am very proud of the fact that we have created a safe working environment that encourages people to be open-minded and gives equal opportunities to all.
In your opinion, what is the most common obstacle African entrepreneurs face that other demographics perhaps, do not?
Access to finance, and an enabling environment remain the biggest challenge for us as African entrepreneurs. We are full of ideas and potential. However, to implement some of these ideas we need to be given the resources and conducive environment. Often times, business are taxed to death and opportunities are missed. Unless, something drastic changes I am afraid many African businesses will sadly continue to fail.
We need to remember that Africa’s development will only come from Africans. Therefore, we need to give our all to support African-owned businesses.
How do you stay productive, happy, and healthy given the magnitude of your job?
I try to find balance. I don’t succeed all the time but I make conscious efforts to allocate time to other things I enjoy. I work out regularly and I spend time with friends and family. I love taking very long drives to more often than not, places I am not familiar with in The Gambia for the sake of adventure. Many people don’t know this about me but I am an avid gardener, and an adrenaline junky!
What has been your biggest business mishap to-date? How did you bounce back and what did it teach you about yourself?
Work doesn’t come without it challenges, how we deal with them is what is truly important. I think of myself as a social entrepreneur, so I enjoy businesses that offer employment to others. We have had to shutdown businesses in the past because they weren’t working out and that can be very difficult especially, when you have to let people go. It’s important to know when to let go and pursue other opportunities, and when to pivot to adapt to a changing business environment.
What’s the best advice you have received as you continue to elevate your brand?
Do not simply exist to sell products. Be there for your customers and society as a whole, as long as you remember that and place them first, you will always succeed.
Do not be afraid of your size (professional success), use it to your advantage. Gambians, I believe have this belief that success is something to hide and be very modest about. As much as I agree about the modesty part, I agree with it only when it is personal success. Ever since, we began putting our company out there whether it is social media, television, radio or any medium that is suitable it has yield very positive outcomes, so far.
The Our Stories, Our Way Fast Three!
1. What’s your favorite song at the moment?
This is such a difficult question because I listen to everything from Bill Withers to J Cole, and I absolutely love Gambia music.
2. What’s your favorite relaxing activity?
I love exploring, and being next to the river bank at a lodge is one of my favourite things to do.
3. If you could tell your 22-year-old self one thing, what would it be?
At 22, I found myself working 3 jobs to make ends meet. So, if I could talk to my 22-year-old self, I would start by saying “Be patient, do what makes you happy because your life is only beginning. Don’t take things too seriously.”