The hardest thing to do in business (Part 1).

___Building an efficient organization.

As an entrepreneur, you may have a great idea or innovation which you believe is going to change your community, your country, or maybe even the world we live in. And you’ll probably make a lot of money along the way. That’s allowed, and there’s nothing wrong with it, provided you don’t harm others, the environment, or break the law.

Go ahead, make money, be a billionaire, and you know I’ll be right there cheering you all the way! But before you can ever get there, you’ll have to build an efficient business organization, employing lots of people, because no one can do these things alone.

In this new series, I’m going to talk about what I call, “The hardest thing to do in business: building an efficient organization.”

You’ll face many different challenges as an entrepreneur, but the most difficult is building an efficient organization. What do I mean by efficient? Let me start with one formal definition: “Achieving maximum productivity with minimum wasted effort or expense.”

Most people fail dismally in this area. It’s at once the most difficult and most complex thing that any entrepreneur ever has to do. In this series, we’ll talk about many issues including registering a business, recruiting and hiring your team, and organizational structure.

This is business “MBA stuff” and if you just want to run a little bottle store, it might be tough for you, but if you think you can open more than one bottle store, hang around and see. As they say in my beloved Nigeria, “It’s for the senior class.”

You won’t be the next Dangote or Zuckerberg if you don’t know how to set up an efficient business organization.

To lay the foundations for this series, here’s another definition: The Cambridge dictionary describes “organization” as “a group whose members work together for a shared purpose in a continuing way.”

__The verb “organize” is also important here! It means, “to make the necessary plans for something to happen; arrange.”

Do I really need to write much more…? If only it were as simple and straightforward as it sounds!

Building an organization has many different aspects. Can you tell me the importance of nearly each and every word in these three definitions?

Organizations can be almost any size, but the ones I’ll be talking about here are ones that involve a hierarchy of authority and delegation: executive leadership, mid-level management, technical experts, frontline supervisors and employees in different departments, most with different operational functions.

This means a complex array of people with different talents and skills, like those I’m proud and blessed to have on our companies’ teams globally. Maybe different roles and gifts, but the key non-negotiable ingredients? Integrity, shared vision, mutual respect, accountability.

I won’t dwell on problems so much as solutions in this series, but to get started, here’s a list from a McKinsey report on some of the biggest challenges faced by companies (young and old) trying to build organizational capability:

# Organizational resistance to change.

# Lack of resources.

# Lack of credible metrics.

# (Lack of) identification of who is accountable for execution.

# Inability to gain attention and buy-in from line managers.

# Lack of senior management support.

# (Lack of) clear vision or objectives.

# Ineffective training approaches.

# Inconsistent application of methods, processes.

Now you see why I’ve said building an efficient organization is the hardest thing to do in business. But with great people on your team, all is possible!

We’ll get started on this and more next week.

To be continued. . .

by 16 Replies

About Strive Masiyiwa

Strive Masiyiwa is the Founder and Executive Chairman of Econet, a diversified global telecommunications group with operations and investments in over 15 countries. His business interests also include renewable energy, financial services, media and hospitality. Masiyiwa serves on a number of international boards, including Unilever, Rockefeller Foundation, the Council on Foreign Relations’ Global Advisory Board, the Africa Progress Panel, the UN Secretary General's Advisory Board for Sustainable Energy, Morehouse College, Hilton Foundation's Humanitarian Prize Jury and the Kenjin-Tatsujin International Advisory Council. He is one of the founders, with Sir Richard Branson, of the global think tank, the Carbon War Room, and a founding member of the Global Business Coalition on Education. Masiyiwa took over the Chairmanship of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) from Kofi Annan. He is also Chair of the Micronutrient Initiative, a global organization focused on ending child hunger and improving nutrition. In 2012, Masiyiwa was invited by President Obama to address leaders at the Camp David G-8 Summit on how to increase food production and end hunger in parts of Africa. In 2014, Masiyiwa was selected to Fortune Magazine’s list of the “World’s 50 Greatest Leaders”. As a philanthropist, he is a member of the Giving Pledge, and his contributions to education, health and development have been widely recognized. Masiyiwa and his wife finance the Higher Life Foundation, which provides scholarships to over 42,000 African orphans. In 2015, he was the recipient of the International Rescue Committee’s Freedom Award and was presented with a UN Foundation Global Leadership Award for the work of the Africa Against Ebola Solidarity Trust, which he chairs and helped establish to fund the deployment of African healthcare workers to combat the outbreak in West Africa.

16 thoughts on “The hardest thing to do in business (Part 1).

  1. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 1. I once read somewhere: “If everything is important, then nothing is.” Time is precious. Building an efficient organization means hard choices. You may naturally get buried in day-to-day work, but never lose sight of the company’s vision and core values! Set your priorities each day and stick to them. Otherwise, chances are good that your scattered efforts will lead you (and maybe your whole organization) every which way, except forward. As I wrote a few weeks ago: “Know your strengths, and where you’re going.” This goes for companies, too!

    Reply
  2. Karlin Gunduza

    True indeed. I know of a couple of novel businesses which folded because of this. If I only new how to do this hard part in building a business I would dig those business models from their graves. May be I will learn one or 2 things from this series.

    Reply
  3. tendai mombeyarara

    Dear Doc.
    Please allow me to ask for advise because i am stuck.
    I presented a business proposal to three different banks seeking lease finance and all the three banks declined saying 1. The business project proposal is very good well researched with lots of potential to make money BUT can not sponsor a green project.Its new technology and has never been done in this country. 2.Look for investors set up run the business for two years then come back to us. 3.The other bank said if you had come a year earlier we could have extended lease financing.
    My question is how do we develop as a country or as a continent if we can not have access funding for green projects with latest advanced cutting edge technology in processing high quality goods to compete with imports both on prize and quality. How do we access and attract potential investors in an economy which has current short term challenges but huge potential in the medium to long term. Thank you.

    Reply
  4. Kwasi Yinkah

    This was a very powerful read and its exactly what i needed to read in order to keep gong forward as a young aspiring entrepreneur .Strive am Kwasi Yinkah and I am from South Africa and am currently doing my honours in Accounting.I have been awarded R500 000 by the Technological Agency of South Africa to prototype and test my business idea .My dream is to light up Africa wirelessly and provide electricity to those individuals that don’t have access .Could you please mentor me and provide me with business advice if possible .My email address is m.k.yinkah@gmail.com and cell number is 0735055747.I am really inspired by the work you have done ,looking forward to hearing from you.

    Reply
  5. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Ali Uchenna,
    One of my favorite students, writes:

    This is a big one, the very truth of your global tentacles, indeed for the senior class. Dish it as is hot, father Strive you are fixing us a hot plate, you are about to feed us your Strength.

    My reply:
    I want to “dish it hot” my brother. This is really one of my own personal strengths, and yet I’m still learning, and thinking about it every single day.
    Over the years I have met Entrepreneurs in business, and even social enterprises, who were amazingly gifted. And yet they failed spectacularly because they did not understand what I’m talking about in this series. The saddest thing was not that they failed, but they never knew why they failed!

    Reply
  6. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 2.
    There is nothing that unsettles me more than a disorganized person. I just don’t want them around me!
    Similarly, I don’t like disorganized situations of any kind.

    Reply
  7. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought 3.
    One of my favorite all time books, is a little book called Shackleton’s Way. I read this when I faced some of the toughest leadership challenges of my career. I was totally stunned when I read it. You would be wise to include it in your reading list. I don’t need to tell you where to find it, because that information is on your smartphone already.

    Reply
  8. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Victor Jibrin writes:

    Dr. Strive Masiyiwa I feel very privileged to be ‘informally’ trained by your posts on social media. I owe a great deal of my future success in entrepreneurship to you. Keep teaching while I assure you that I am one in many that are running with the torch light you are handing us. God bless you, sir.

    My reply,
    Thank you Victor. I’m encouraged to keep doing it when I read this type of message. You and your colleagues on this platform are a blessing to me.
    I’m determined to help you become world beating entrepreneurs, and I will not stop trying until you realize your full potential. I believe in you!

    Reply
  9. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Charles writes:

    Thank you Dr. Masiyiwa for the wonderful stuff you are teaching us. I am particularly interested to learn from you on the subject of failure, when does failure stop being a learning process and totally become failure? I have been involved in many ventures some have had short term success but most have failed, in most cases I keep learning something albeit in a small way or I develop new opportunities out of failed ventures, can this be described as learning or “hustling”, a very popular term here in Kenya now

    My reply,
    There is always a lot you can learn from failure, most importantly, never to give up. However don’t make a virtue of failure by repeating the same mistakes. So make sure you have learnt the right lessons from any failure.

    Reply
  10. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought:
    When my business was still relatively small, there was nothing I enjoyed more than to visit with every single project, and meet with my staff. Sometimes I would visit a project several times a day. It was a wonderful way to run the business. But as it grew bigger and bigger, it became inefficient.
    So what do you do when the business is in 20, or 100 countries? Have you ever thought about it? Or, when the business has 500,000 employees like some of the global giants?
    These are the types of questions, this series must cause you to think about.

    Reply
  11. Strive Masiyiwa Post author

    Afterthought:
    This week I had the privilege of visiting the African Leadership University, in Mauritius. Hopefully one day, I will get a chance to write about this remarkable initiative and the amazing entrepreneurs behind it.
    #This is the future of Africa!
    Someone asked me to talk about the “Art of Leadership”, and I replied by saying, “before you turn your attention to the “art” of leadership, address yourself to the “science” of leadership first:
    Things like proper financial management, effective use of resources at your disposal. identifying skilled people, providing training to staff; getting basic processes in place, that are at the core of EVERY business.

    Reply
  12. Seth Akwasi Baah-Ansah

    Thanks for this series it has added to me as a budding entrepreneur and a business consultant. Would deploy your series in my supply company and grow. God bless you immensely Sir. Your protégé.

    Reply
  13. Daniel Isingoma

    WOW,…I’m glued to this Wisdom. Thank you very much Dr. Strive. I’m really looking forward to this continuous essential learning. I’ve always grappled with the question of how to move from single man enterprises to large multiple enterprises, being run efficiently. Now here comes the answers. Thanks Dr. Strive. Blessings Papa.

    Reply
  14. Anton

    Hi Strive ,
    I am a Kenyan living and working in UAE. I met a team of inventors from Asia with out-of-this world renewable energy inventions currently at inception stage.

    They are advancing the technology and most importantly they have secured sponsorship from EU to further develop the prototype to test commercial viability. The technology is believed to be of discruptive nature.
    Being buddies l managed to work out distributor rights in Africa and l would like to discuss this with you in person having noticed your interest in renewable energy in Africa.

    If you may kindly contact through provided email in order to persue further.

    Looking forward!
    Anton.

    Reply
  15. Collen Kaunda

    Thank you Dr Masiyiwa,

    I’ve been following your posts since 2014 and I’ve never taken the opportunity to comment and thank you for the inspiring and wise direction you provide. Running big organisations, seating and chairing various boards has to be a lot of work as well being a family man so thank you for taking the time out to sharing some of your knowledge with all the aspiring entrepreneurs.

    Reply
  16. Delivery platform

    The logistics business is not easy on the startups. It’s regulated. It’s hardware-driven (ships, rail, trucks, air). And there’s a reluctancy among the big players to change their business models.
    On demand consumer logistics space are burgeoning with several startups which are coming up with innovative technologies and approaches to revolutionise logistics solutions. In fact, this space has been emerging as one of the VC favourite avenues. Be it picking up any item from your doorstep and delivering it to some other place, or bringing daily essentials and food on demand, delivery with in minutes has become an essential business.

    Reply

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