Earlier this week I attended a 25 years anniversary reception of a company which specialises in body beauty and care. I have known the company and its owner since the beginning and I am impressed by the growth it has gone through since its infancy. Mingling with other guests for a while I was looking forward to the official part as I was eager to hear what was going to be shared during the congratulatory speeches. After the kind words of the Master of Ceremonies, it was the owner of the company who took to the microphone first and she was glowing of happiness and pride while appreciating her staff and supporters. Some of the outstanding employees were also invited to the stage and it was clear to me that CEO and staff alike shared a feeling of pride and ownership, seldom witnessed in Ethiopia. In fact, they referred to each other as a family, supporting and encouraging each other to do the best they can for the company. So, what are some of the factors that contributed to this success story? Without pretending to be exhaustive, I’ll try to highlight some.
Not taking “No” for an answer. When the business owner came up with the idea of bodily wellbeing and a spa, all she heard from others was that this was a foreign concept and would not work in Ethiopia. Isn’t this the kind of response people often give to somebody with a new idea? In Ethiopia, things are done the Ethiopian way and new concepts from elsewhere will not work, is the consensus. New ideas are only picked up after somebody has proved that it works and becomes successful with it. By then the idea is copied by everybody else. This woman however, with the full and consistent support of her husband didn’t allow herself to be discouraged though and went ahead anyway, cashing her first payments not too long after that. The company has grown ever since and inspired many others to follow.
Having a vision and remaining focused. She came with an idea that developed into a vision and that vision became his dream. Next, she made sure that all she did was to make that dream come through and she didn’t allow herself to be distracted from that. There were plenty distractions and discouraging moments on the way of course but the vision stood out and the entrepreneur continued to pursue it.
Taking time out for strategic reflection. After the first few successful years there was a moment that the upward curve naturally began to flatten out. The business owner realised she needed to look into finding ways to expand and came up with the idea to begin a training centre. This turned out to be an important strategic decision indeed. Today there are few companies in the sector that have not been influenced by the training program and that have no workers that were trained there. The company jolted into 5th gear, never to stop again. Strategic planning is something that every business should do regularly, lest it will lose its competitive advantage and niche.
Taking responsibility. Such decisions show that the business owner took real management responsibility resulting into action that turned the situation into new directions. No being satisfied with the status quo and looking at what others will do, she looked at a bigger picture and went for it., taking charge of a new bolt move. Not doing so, will let the business grow smaller instead of bigger.
Involving the staff. However, in doing so she also listened to what staff had to say and the business is a success because employees are a part of it, feel recognised and thus became all the more creative in their thinking. This attitude of involving employees remained a lasting management strategy, resulting in them feeling part of the company, having a sense of ownership and taking responsibility.
Not settling for less. Having said that, the company also made sure it recruited employees that had the potential and the motivation to be what may be referred to “Team A players”.
Delegation. Recognizing potential in employees is a very important skill of a good manager, followed by the ability to unleash that potential, facilitate its further development, gradually giving away more responsibility and letting go, while providing effective coaching support on the way. Some workers will pick up the opportunity and develop into managers and leaders themselves.
Appreciation. In her own charming way, the business owner manages to encourage her staff and make them enthusiastic for the work they do, followed by generous appreciation for their effort. PPPP is an important principle here: Praise in public, punish in private. There was plenty of praise in public during this reception and I trust there will be effective feed back behind closed doors as regards matters that need improvement.
Globalisation. The business owner had connections abroad since early days of her life. She indeed took the opportunity to learn as much as possible from the ways things are done there. Coming back to Ethiopia she brought along this wealth of knowledge and skills, while realising all too well that applying blueprints wasn’t going to work indeed, adapting them to the Ethiopian context instead.
And so, a rather simple business idea developed into a mature company providing effective services to a growing number of clients and the sector at large. Well done Mulu. Keep standing out Byogenic.