Bringing a family business into a new era of growth: Michael Arkutu ’09

December 1, 2019
When 
Apex Shipping Commercial Company (ASCO) was awarded the leading haulage and logistics company in Ghana in 2017, General Manager Michael Arkutu ’09 barely made it in time to join his colleagues on stage. For most of the event, he had been working to ensure that a client’s unusually late shipment was cleared smoothly from the country’s main port. It is the sort of juggling he has become used to since starting his career with the logistics company started by his father twenty-three years ago.

Since graduating from Ashesi in 2009, Michael has worked in various roles within ASCO, growing his understanding of the family business. And with their father gradually stepping back from the company, Michael and his brother Prince are leading the company into a new phase of growth. From designing new workflow policies, investing in new technology and ramping up on branding and marketing, the two have brought ASCO into more prominence as a leading Ghanaian business titan. The company’s clients now include many major organizations in Ghana, including the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Tullow Oil, and Forewin Ghana Limited.

 

 

“A few years ago the local logistics industry was mostly unregulated and largely informal,” shared Michael. “Almost everything was paper-based and manual; from type-writers to long paper-trails of things to do. This often slowed down service. Few companies in the largely conservative industry have invested in the structures and systems that allow for efficiency today. These were some of the gaps we have been committed to closing at ASCO.”

For David Arkutu, Michael’s father, seeing his sons stepping into their roles as leaders at ASCO is a point of pride.

“From the first day of business, my dream was to build a Ghanaian company with international standards,” he shared. “That vision has guided us through the years, and we have now grown from modest beginnings to the position where we can now handle capital projects.”

 

 

“People sometimes assume working in a family business is easy,” Michael adds. “It’s not. The lines between business and family are easily blurred, and work follows you everywhere. So even a regular family meeting or casual visit can easily become a business meeting. There’s almost no time off.”

And for Michael, finding time off continues to be a tricky balancing act. With a goal to build another industry leader, he has recently set his sights on starting a local food business. A few years ago, he founded Micky Foods Limited, leveraging his experience from ASCO to produce favorite Ghanaian snacks for export. But his work in logistics continues to be what he is most proud of.

“Running any business requires commitment, especially when it’s a business that is essentially a family heirloom,’ he explains. “There’s a lot more at stake, but deep satisfaction in knowing that whatever successes the business achieves, serves to deepen its legacy for generations to come.”

 

 

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