Monthly Archives: August 2014

Strategy A to Z: Customer, Competition and Compliance. Part 2 of 3.

The essentials of Strategy in Business, Employees and the Workplace.

Building off of the previous part on understanding the Customer, Competition is the best indicator of how robust an economy is. Not only is competition favourable to the customer’s needs and range of choice, but it encourages innovation. Within the context of Globalisation, higher standards have been created by multinationals, with foreign expertise, technical know-how and regional insight, local organisations are challenged to further expand their strategy and capacity. The benefits for citizen entrepreneurs has been enhanced, as the possibility of entering global markets is facilitated through policy making instruments (EU-SADC, USA-Botswana, SACU, BITC, CDE, etc.) and improving on the invaluable local knowledge and networks they possess. The current environment Botswana finds herself in is one that’s dependent on Mining exports, State initiatives and Skills. We excel in all, except for the skills, as evidenced in multiple reports such as the Global Competitiveness Report for 2013. In the current market, competition isn’t just evident for businesses, but for professionals as well. With students enrolled for courses that might not be in demand and the workplace being more challenging for graduates to enter – competition amongst applicants is fierce.

What would apply in terms of a business would also be the same for a professional. Taking a page from Porter’s competitive advantage strategy, one would either have to be low in cost (taking a lower salary that the other job applicants) or differentiate themselves from the rest. This is a modern truth for young people today. Where graduate or students looking for attachment carry the same burden for transport money, same two page CV with similar content and same worries about how they can gain the experience needed to compliment their education. In a favourable nation such as ours, citizens have been given the opportunity to grow themselves through financial support and this later transcended as a benefit to private institutions increasing their revenues. It might not be ideal for current students, but when compared to other states, it is unparalleled.

The increase in competition for professionals, which are ever growing by the year, results in the need for one to improve themselves. No longer is a diploma/degree enough for the employment market, just as a service/product is for private businesses. Value must be added to your profile as a company or as an employee, as this would determine the sustainability in what you can offer and how it can benefit your customers or employer. In retrospect, Apple would not be where it is today if it were not for the market domination of Microsoft, neither would Samsung be if it were not for Apple – or Choppies versus Sefalana. There is a need to consistently improve and if the demands of your customer aren’t as sophisticated or challenging, then surely your competitors shall be.
The next aspect I shall touch on with regards to Strategy is Compliance.

Strategy A to Z: Customer, Competition and Compliance. Part 1 of 3.

The essentials of Strategy in Business, Employees and the Workplace.

Customer is always right. Most times this is correct and as a service provider, you’re in a worse position when the customer is actually wrong. I specify service provider because in this day and age, you cannot provide a product without providing some sort of service, be it after-sales or prior to the actual transaction. When the needs of a customer are not fulfilled, nothing else matters. With demands becoming more sophisticated and entities tailor-making their products according to market segmentation. More value is needed for less and at times, customers would be willing to pay more just because of the differential experience for a similar product than that with no appropriate service at all. For example, if I buy a cup of coffee at a fastfood restaurant, I might not be assisted with the kind of energy a customer with a full combo meal might get. This is the thinking that staff often resolve to, inclusive of those in the financial sector. A person with a higher disposable income would get more attention and value in comparison to one of less economic stature.

Aside from psychosocial dynamics, this difference in service delivery has been addressed through separating the preferential platforms. Where you find branches in entities differentiated in accordance with net earnings or affordability. Ensuring that resources are channelled appropriately without highlighting the differences in service provision. This resembles the state in which the World Bank reports Botswana’s poverty levels, where income inequality is amongst the highest in Sub-Saharan Africa. I state this not to highlight problems or how difficult customers can be, but to note the importance of articulating the needs of your customers. You can have the best products, best marketing strategy and most innovative staff compliment, but if you cannot appropriately identify your customer, all of these can be irrelevant. Identifying your customer enables appropriately articulating their needs, developing the metrics of communicating their needs and addressing them in the most value-adding manner.

With that in mind, Africa is no longer a basket case, one can no longer engage the same strategy in East Africa as with Southern Africa. Similarly between Botswana and South Africa, despite the close proximity and high trade relations. For example, when one looks at the mining sectors of the two countries, Botswana is stable in terms of labour developments and this could be attributed to it not having a history of violence. In comparison, strike-plagued South Africa and its citizens have a history of protest and injustice, this has transitioned from liberation to economic participation at its lowest level; employment conditions. Other differences are the fact that Botswana has a low population and as a result has been successful in managing natural resources, providing basic education for the majority and consciously fostering economic growth in partnership with the business community. Multinational companies need to acknowledge this reality and unfortunately, their local competitors have been just as complacent, which I shall touch on in the next part of this series.