RENEW Strategies

The Lessons I’ve Learned Working at RENEW

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Biruk Abayneh
| June 20, 2017

It’s not always easy to pinpoint what you’ve learned at a company, or the takeaways that can come from doing a job. As a portfolio manager and the Ethiopia operations manager, I’m always looking for ways to improve, and for ways that I can improve the company. However, it’s also important to know and realize, the lessons I’ve learned after working here for four years.

Coming to RENEW, I had a background in operations. I knew from my previous experiences, that in order to get things done, you can never give up. Working at RENEW continues to teach me the importance of this. On any given day, I can be dealing with government and other business connections who don’t always have the same objective that I do. It’s important not to take no for an answer, to do your due diligence and to be respectful. I’ve learned over the years that it’s important to do your research before heading out, so you’re armed with the proper knowledge and protocols to get items complete. It has allowed me to articulate issues, and has taught me different ways to accomplish tasks. I’ve learned that just because you get a no today, does not mean you’ll get the same answer tomorrow. Sometimes, it comes down to reading the person you’re dealing with. Do they look stressed out, are they having a hard time? Sometimes, I must make the decision to come back at a later point, and be respectful of where they are and understand their point of view. I’ve found that effectively communicating and respecting the people I’m dealing with really helps get the job done.

Working at RENEW has also taught me how to work with different cultures. Prior to joining the team, I had only worked with other people from Ethiopia. I was used to dealing with customs and values that Ethiopians hold dear and that are ingrained into their workers. Joining a team that had connections to North America, opened a whole new way of doing business. North American culture is very different to Ethiopian work culture; the work hours are sometimes longer, and value is placed more heavily on different outputs. Spending my days with Matt and Laura and learning about their circumstances and experiences, has taught me how to work with different cultures. It has been a learning experience to see how different our cultures are, but to also find the overlaps to work together successfully as a team.

Another lesson I’ve picked up is how to work with partner businesses. Being in the investment sector, I’ve had the opportunity to work first-hand with our portfolio companies. I’ve learned that it can be very difficult to manage other companies and the people that work for them, and I’ve found different ways to navigate the boundaries on how far you can push and pull to get things done. At times, I find I’m waiting on information to be delivered to me, and I’ve had to learn when it is time for me to push a little harder to get the information I need in order to provide timely and accurate information to our investors. Sometimes, this part of the job can be challenging and difficult, but it can also be very rewarding. When a company is successful, and when you can see that you’ve had something to do with their success, it’s a testament to the work that is being done here and it makes the process seem worth it.

The last big take away that I’ve realized to date, is how important internal business tools are. At RENEW, we’re constantly being pushed to use these tools to their full potential. One tool that has proven to be invaluable is the development and use of SOP’s (Standard Operating Procedures). When I first started, all the tricks, and minute details of the job we’re stored in my head, nothing was written down. By creating, and actively using SOP’s, I now have the freedom to think of more important, big ticket items, rather than the nitty gritty details of my job, that I would need to remember. Now, when I need to do these tasks, I know I have an SOP to turn to, if I need a refresher. I can honestly say that I use SOP’s religiously, and they have made my life easier. Another tool that has improved my work life, is the calendar. A simple tool, however, using it daily has helped me to lay out my days, and blocks off time for items I need to get done. Using these tools, and learning their use, has made me an effective portfolio and operations manager.

Overall, working at RENEW has taught me a lot about the industry, and how to be effective in my role. Before coming to this job, I had never had the chance to learn about private equity. It has been a great learning experience to see how this company and industry work within Ethiopia, and on a broader playing field. Working in Ethiopia, and working in a professional business setting, always has its challenges, but noticing the successes, and the takeaways from the job, make it a constant learning experience.

To find out more about RENEW or the IAN, contact us at, follow us on Twitter @RENEWLLC or find us on Instagram @impactangelnetwork. And be sure to check out our upcoming events, Pipeline Call, September 2017 Econ-Tourism Trip and October 2017 National Gathering