Ask The Management Guru


As seen in GoWoman Magazine

"Effective management always means asking the right question" ~ Robert Heller

Dear MG,

I work for a management company that has recently been taken over by expatriates. Me and my other colleagues don't like the way that they have restricted us with their new rules. Also they tell us we smell bad. These new guys don't seem to respect us at all. Do you think that we should write about them in the paper and shame them?

Abu K. Freetown. Age 28

Dear Abu K,

I am sympathetic to you and your colleagues as most of us are skeptical about change and this cannot be easy for you. As human beings, it is instinctive for us to feel offended when criticised, but oftentimes we are advised to consider the reason why we are so affected by the comment. In my opinion, writing about them in the papers is definitely not the solution to the problem. I would deal with all the issues identified individually as follows:

1. You are now being managed by expatriates: Do you resent this because the quality of service is being affected or because they are changing processes that you thought worked? If the latter, you need to realise that different does not mean wrong and as long as you do not have ethical, legal or major cultural issues, you need to give them a chance to introduce the new processes and you might find that in the long run they will work better for the company and by extension, you. If there is an issue with the quality of service, rest assured that the shareholders or Board of Directors will deal with the management as soon as they realise how it is affecting the company.

2. You find them to be disrespectful: This is a sensitive subject as a lot of people find expatriates in Sierra Leone think they are more superior to the locals and speak to them in a disrespectful manner. This is an issue that should be discussed with the union and dealt with civilly so that you may continue working together and providing quality service for your clients. The union may want to suggest that the expatriates familiarise themselves with the culture of the country to ensure that they interact better with their employees. You may also consider whether there is any truth to the criticisms and find ways of working on them.

3. You feel there are too many new rules: In order for an organisation to survive, there needs to be policies and procedures and these must be adhered to by all employees. When they are first introduced, they will seem restrictive. However, as you continue to work for the company, they will become second nature and you might find that it makes work easier.

Finally, let me recommend you read Employee's Survival Guide to Change by Jeffrey M. Hiatt as it should assist you go through this transition process.

Dear MG,

I just started a fashion business. I have 3 tailors and a store manager. I recently found out that my store keeper who I really trust has been making deals with the tailors and taking orders behind my back. She has stolen thousands of dollars over the last couple of months and I have since fired her. Do you think people steal at work because they have to or is this my fault because I wasn't more watchful?

Afua O. Accra. Age 32

Dear Afua O,

It is rather unfortunate, but as long as controls within an organisation are insufficient, most employees will take advantage of the situation. Whereas one would always hope they have employees with integrity, it is also very important that sufficient internal controls are put in place to reduce the risk. If you have not already done so, I would advise you to pursue a course in Business Management which would enable you to run your business better. Hire a book-keeper and monitor the daily cash balances and orders taken. Seeing that it is a small business, you should be more involved in its day to day running until it is big enough for you to hire a Manager and even then, you must play a key role in managing it. I wish you the best of luck.

Dear MG,

I want to start a business in Sierra Leone. Most of the qualified applicants are from the diaspora. I was just wondering if you could kindly give advice as to whether to go for better qualified applicants with no experience of working in the local market or the other way around.

Musu C. London. Age 48

Dear Musu C,

Both scenarios have their advantages and disadvantages. Having better qualified staff with no experience means that they are well trained but would not necessarily know how to do the work that is assigned to them or about organisational procedures. However, you can always provide start up training for them, detailing your policies and procedures and how you wish for the work to be done. It could be advantageous in that they would not bring in any bad work habits to your organisation. On the other hand, having experienced staff means they would already know how to perform the duties that are required and you would be able to serve your clients better right from the start. However, without a formal background they may not have the fundamentals required. I would advise you to go for a majority of qualified staff as the organisation would be more respected. Take them through a thorough induction programme and review their performance in short intervals to start with. Hire a few experienced staff to carry out the work and encourage them to embark on formal training. Having said that, it all depends on the industry. I have given general advise based on the information you have provided.

Dear MG,

I own a domestic services agency in Monrovia. When I first started 3 years ago no one else was doing this here. But now everytime I turn around someone else has started the same business. It is a small market, so this is making business very competitive.

What do you think I can do to leverage my services over the competition? Someone has suggested that I go into a partnership with one or two of them. Do you think this is a good idea?

Jeneba T. Monrovia. Age 31

Dear Jeneba,

In business, there will always be competition. What you need to do is have a competitive advantage over the others. Carry out a marketing analysis which will provide you with the information required for you to recognise that advantage and use it to ensure that you are ahead of your competitors. Porter's five forces analysis and generic strategies would aid you in this venture. Partnering with another organisation is a good idea as you would have access to more resources to enable you to compete against the others. The phrase "two heads are better than one" applies here, however, it is also one that requires a lot of thought as "too many cooks spoil the broth". You need to ensure that the owners of the other company have the same values and vision as you or else you may end up sabotaging your business. You might even consider a different strategy for your business e.g. instead of trying to provide services to the whole market, you could standardise your service for an industry or two and ensure that the quality of service you provide is of the highest standard. Market your company well and rely on favourable references from your clients.

GuruSpeak:

Porter's five forces analysis - this is a framework that can be used for industry analysis and to develop a business strategy. It uses the following forces to determine how competitive the market is:

1. Threat of new entrants

2. Bargaining power of customers

3. Bargaining power of suppliers

4. Threat of substitute products

5. Intensity of competitive rivalry.

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