In the mid-2000, I had the opportunity to be away from Ghana for a year to study for my Master’s, on scholarship – by the foreign office of that country. I returned to Ghana within a fortnight after submitting my dissertation, rejoined the Unicorn, took a week’s leave in December to return to my school to graduate and came back to Ghana.
I won’t forget a call I received the month before I returned after finishing my studies, from a senior of mine who lives the country of my stay abroad. He enquiried about my plans after school and I told him I was returning to Ghana. He exclaimed and asked whether I didn’t like it there, quite plainly wondering if I thought it was the best decision to make. At the time, there was a facility to take a 2 year working arrangement for work experience and, especially for graduates with my background, training and experience, it was a desired transition. Indeed, quite a number of Africans including fellow Ghanaians stayed back and are still there.
In returning to Ghana, as I have noted in associated topics in some of my books, I was clear in my mind that I was returning to a continent that didn’t have all the top-notch facilities and services I had quickly got used to abroad. In fact, when I came back home, I had to go through what one can call a “reverse cultural shock” – reintegrating into how things work back home. But I told myself that it is us, who must till the land and build the infrastructure and systems that we admire in countries elsewhere.
This week, I have been thinking of this same theme and my career journey since then. This time in relation to the elements of the spokes of the bicycle that represents the ecosystem we need for small businesses to thrive. And it is an ecosystem. A small business that tries to do everything from end to end will fail. We can only succeed when the supply networks that ensure that the process from farm to fork, from plantation to plate, from raw material to the end user – the consumer we all serve – is seamless and works well. So we need each spoke of that bicycle wheel to work well.
And to improve. And be strong. So we must be prepared to build the quality and to the standard we want. And this can only be done if we balance well impatience with poor delivery standards and performance with patience to give constructive feedback and to transfer world class systems knowledge to our service providers, who most times are also small businesses. To grow together.
So, when that courier company gets it wrong, lambast but give a second chance and coach. When that printer delivers a poorly bound book, reject it but show him what quality means and try again. Those who have worked in big world class systems need to help small business operators build to same standards.
We can only get better as we push to build our systems – together.
Remember, Rome was not built in a day but it was built every day.