When a young person gets creative and establishes a product which is commendable, that person becomes a trail blazer who charts a path for others to follow. In the Human Resource and recruitment industry Jobhouse has gained intense popularity and credibility as it unites jobseekers and their potential employers on a daily basis. The BizzAfrica team caught up with the CEO and Co – founder of Jobhouse RICHARD DOGBE and this is what he had to say:
BizzAfrica: Tell us about yourself (education, family etc)
Richard: I started schooling from my village at Wli falls (middle part of Volta) for my primary school education. At that time I was staying with my grandfather who played a very instrumental role in my life. He was a teacher so he taught me how to spell correctly and read. And this really helped me to stand out among my contemporaries. Unfortunately my grandfather died after primary school I came to join my mum in the district capital and I continued my schooling from there. After the JSS I was fortunate to get to Bishop Herman College. And I thank God I went there as well. Truly you must be soldier before you go out or come in (as the motto goes). At Bishop Herman I got interested in computer where I did a little bit of hardware and learned how to use office application. I was also the lab prefect and represented my school in the Kofi Annan ICT Center Competition where we emerged second. I was also a photographer at the Secondary School. From Bishop Herman I went to the University of Ghana, Legon where I read Information Studies. Then I served as a National Service Person at the Institute for Sanitation and Development Studies at Legon. After my national service I studied for an MBA in marketing from university of Ghana business school and ended in 2014.
BizzAfrica: Let’s go straight to the Jobhouse story. How did it all begin?
Richard: Jobhouse started right on Legon campus. I think I was in my second year. I had this colleague who was reading computer engineering and we decided to work together to solve the accommodation problem on campus by use of a reservation software we created. We thought that it was a big project so we approached the hostels on campus including Ghana Hostels and International Student Hostel (ISH) and went to see the hostel managers. They seemed excited about the idea but later we discovered that the project was implemented without us.
BizzAfrica: So they stole your idea?
Richard: No. As I have grown as an entrepreneur, I have realized that we could have handled it in a different way and taken steps to ensure that we were not dealt with like that. I think we were not smart enough to handle that idea we carried.
So whiles we were waiting to start this software project we decided to do something in the interim. We started teaching people how to design website because we realized that the people who were doing computer science did not know how to do simple coding. We secured a lab, designed posters, and arranged for projectors to start our project.
BizzAfrica: Is that how Jobhouse started?
Richard: Yes. At the time ‘Ghanaweb’, ‘Business Ghana’ and ‘jobs in Ghana’ were the only ones that were advertising jobs. We realized that it would be difficult for fresh graduates to buy daily graphic every day to see posted jobs. So we took it upon ourselves to extract and list the jobs online and it didn’t take so long for Jobhouse to become popular. But along the line my partner and I entered into some difficulty with regards to how to make some money from the site so we separated and he went to do his own thing (Jobwebghana). For two years we did not gain revenue from Jobhouse. We were always investing money from our web designing class. Two years after my partner left my team and I changed our strategy and entered to strategic partnerships.
BizzAfrica: Which contract is the biggest that you have had so far?
Richard: The single biggest contract is the one from SADA. We make more money than that but that is single biggest. A company may ask us to recruit for them but not that huge number at once. And in terms of experience I am grateful to God because it pushed us to do more. So the experience has been very fantastic. And because of that we are dealing with government. Working with government agencies is not easy at all because by the very nature of public institutions you have to spend so much to get something very little done so it’s difficult to make profit. You have to advertise in the dailies when it involves positions such as the Director of a public institution.
“Some people are not patient enough for business. Ask yourself: “Can the idea work?” and “What are the necessary ingredients?” If you can answer those questions then you have the conviction to go ahead.” – Richard Dogbe.
So what would you say your successes have been so far?
Well I don’t think we have been very successful especially for the things we have planned to do. But I am grateful to God for the things he has done with us so one great thing that I think we have been able to do is getting an office space which we could call our own since we changed our strategy from not being only a job listing company but a recruitment agency. You know you have to build some credibility if you are into recruitment. If you don’t have an office nobody wants to offer big money. One thing that I am grateful to God for is that we have our own office space. And we did all that without any kind of financial assistance from anybody.
So what are some of the challenges you have faced?
Well I think that from the initial stages the problem has been reliable internet connectivity. For me internet connectivity was everything because it doesn’t matter which internet service provider you were dealing with they will fail you. I think the next challenge was office space. At the beginning we didn’t need one. All weneeded was that artificial sense of an office but sometimes you need to meet some partners and have some meetings. Also, consultancy required face to face interaction in order to build that credibility. In Nigeria, Tanzania and in Kenya we don’t have office space but we do have web presence.
Was there any point in time where you actually felt like quitting?
Well I have never felt like quitting because that is out of the question. But sometimes, you actually feel like you are going to crash. Because at a point even hosting was becoming a challenge for us. You go for some hosting package your traffic goes up and it’s like you’re going to crash the server and you have to move to another server but you are cash trapped. The passion from what I was doing was just too much and the support from my web design spurred me on so it made me persevere.
Let’s talk about Richard outside Jobhouse
Well, I am not married now but I believe I should get married by the end of the year. I have someone I am planning to marry. I have had a wonderful lady who has been with me all this while. It has been six years of dating. I proposed to her two years ago and I have been getting reminders to have the wedding (he laughs). I am an usher in church but I’m not a spiritus (spiritual person) because I don’t follow the spiritualties too much. I believe if I do I wouldn’t be able to think. I love football. I love to watch my favorite team Chelsea play. I am about 80 % extrovert. If I go home I mostly stay indoors. For now, I don’t have so much of a social life because I believe this is a very critical time in the life of this business. I have to make money to pay the people I work with. I believe that maybe by the time the wedding and other things come in I will have some social life. (He chuckles)
What is your message to young people who are coming up as entrepreneurs?
First of all don’t hope that you are going to make a lot of money when you start something. Chances are that you might never make it in terms of money. Chances are also that it might take you a long time to make money. Some people are not patient enough for business. Ask yourself: “Can the idea work” and “What are the necessary ingredients?” If you can answer those questions then you have the conviction to go ahead. Secondly, don’t worry yourself with unnecessary things that might not translate into results. As an entrepreneur when you are starting you cannot get everything right in terms of the legal requirements because you might not be in the position to manage things properly. So if you don’t take care those things can collapse your business. The most important thing is getting the business running and the product delivered. You don’t need a whole arsenal of things before you start. Nobody can deceive you that you don’t need money to start a business. You need money! Find means of making some cash. It could be from family or side on the side. So you must identify your cash cow, something that is bringing in some money. Then you can translate from an entrepreneur to a manager or CEO and then you can start paying your taxes and your employees.
thank you very much for your time
You are welcome.