A 14 February 2011 article in The East African (a regional business newspaper) titled Low Capacity the Reason Africa is Still Poor highlights the need for business management capacity building. As readers of this blog know, Karisimbi Business Partners is a Kigali-based management consulting firm offering long-term commitment and world-class advice. As a socially-motivated venture, we aim to offer high-impact guidance to high-impact ventures. Every day Karisimbi Partners interacts in very practical ways with a wide range of business operators in Rwanda. Below are some examples of what this looks like.
Consumer Products Sales & Marketing: Daily mentoring of the client’s sales manager for a large (500K USD annual turnover) consumer products company. This includes creating the template for establishing a baseline of existing customers, volumes, and prices – business has been operating for four years and this information isn’t available. It involves one-on-one mentoring including some basic guidance like the following:
Sales Manager: “I’ve spent the day out talking to customers promising them better quality and better service.”
Karisimbi Partner: “Please don’t promise anything unless you know how you are going to deliver on that promise. The first job has to be to listen to the customers’ concerns and let them know that the company is working hard to address those concerns. Secondly, start the conversation by simply asking them what would be required in order for them to be willing to distribute a small additional volume of your product. Let’s meet again in two days to review the list of customers and their responses to your questions.”
Project Management: Working with the client’s Director of Project Management to understand the current status of Project Management Reporting in a large (more than 5M USD annual turnover) construction company. Ultimately concluding that none of the daily, weekly or monthly reports focus on analyzing changes in critical path task schedules. Reporting only focuses on financial indicators. As a result, most of the company’s projects are delivered on budget, but significantly behind schedule. Currently developing and conducting one-on-one training for project managers on an Excel-based reporting process that focuses more heavily on adjustments to critical path task schedules.
Investing: Analyzing the variety of businesses within a holding group and advising the owner of the company where to invest the next 1M USD that he wants to put into his businesses. Realizing that most of the financial reporting is on a cash-basis (as opposed to accrual) and there are significant difficult-to-track transfers between different businesses and therefore limited insight into the true profit and loss individually attributed to any one business unit.
These interactions were not conducted through group “training” sessions. These were not theoretical or generalized approaches to particular aspects of business management. These were relationship-based practical interventions addressing particular challenges for particular people in particular companies. The impacts are clear and measurable and as advisors, Karisimbi Partners is actually held accountable in many ways by the client for the outcomes. In every one of these interactions, Rwandan business managers experienced significant growth in their business management capacity. And that growth will be passed on directly to sales people, project managers and investment analysts in those companies and other companies in those industries.
While our work often begins with asking many questions and delivering some analysis in the form of a report, interactions such as those described above suggest the report merely represents the beginning of the partnership we form with clients in order to ensure implementation. These implementations, while difficult and time-consuming, are where the greatest impact is possible…. and they are perhaps the most rewarding part of what we do.
This approach is not necessarily the only means of building business management capacity in Rwanda but it seems to be a method that is in demand by the marketplace and we believe that ultimately the market is what should drive approaches to business management capacity building.