Isaiah 1:3 (NIV) 'The ox knows its master, the donkey it owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.'
Otieno, the master welder is the technician who turned into a business owner overnight. He was all of a sudden a big man wearing big shoes. The technician (donkey), manager (glorified donkey) and business owner (master) all rolled into one.
Mistake No. 2: He entered into the business world with the technician’s perspective; the donkey mentality.
He was escaping from a master but forgot that he was to be his own master. He had to take the responsibilities of not only the technician but the manager and the business owner. We all know the work of the technician. Just wake up, receive instructions from the manager who in most cases barks them out and do the work, in this case make windows and doors. This is what Otieno used to do for a living before he got ideas of becoming a master. How many of us have come across those managers who talk with that scary tone and so loudly you’d think they are talking to someone who is 50m away and that time you are just next to them.
Let us analyse the manager. His typical day in the welding workshop is to distribute different tasks to the technicians and probably supervise them, to call suppliers of materials and ensure they have delivered, ensure their payments are done in good time, receive new orders from clients and probably negotiate with them etc. Otieno was expected to do all this as well as the dirty work. He was quick to realize that he needed some assistance. He therefore employed two welders. Orders were coming in droves and by the time I went to his workshop to negotiate the cost for my order, the workshop was a beehive of activities. One day when I had gone to see the progress of my order, I found a 22 wheeler being loaded with windows and doors. When I asked Otieno he told me they were going to Southern Sudan, some contractor had ordered them. That is the time I realized that Otieno was sitting on a gold mine…the gold mine ought to have exploded right before his very eyes.
However after some time, problems started creeping in: delayed deliveries, substandard work (the other welders would hardly match Otieno’s quality),un-satisfied and angry clients, unpaid suppliers, unhappy employees, name it. You can imagine, the fellow could sell some of the finished products to passers-by and the customers who had placed orders would find their stuff is not there. The workshop mutated from a beehive of activities to a sea of confusion, sometimes playing hide and seek with clients. I wveas a victim of the confusion and you can imagine the many references I gave but with a caution. I could tell anyone who saw the nice gate that the fellow is good but be ready to go through hell before you get what you want. This is how you lose customers.
The master welder was clearly overwhelmed. He was ill prepared for the expansion of the business. Did he even have a clue about expansion? Despite sometimes working for long hours, he never really staffed his business appropriately. Sometimes in an attempt to maintain quality, he would do almost all the work by himself. You can imagine a 1 horse power engine producing the output of 10 horse power engine. If you didn’t know in the 18th Century, some Scottish fellow was comparing the output of steam engines and the power of horse, hence horse power we use today.
For Otieno the manager in him was totally asleep, the strategic person in him was non-existent. Otieno and his employees were all donkeys without a master, hence the confusion. What would the manager in him have done differently?
1. He would have seen the need to have enough welders to satisfy the many orders that were streaming in.
2. He would have taken time to train the welders to ensure they are attaining similar quality to what he used to produce. After all, most of his clients came to him because of the quality.
3. He would have ensured that the raw materials are received in good time and are of right quality.
4. He’d ensure suppliers are paid in good time and even negotiate credit periods.
5. He’d ensure that customers are given truthful information in regards to delivery timelines. How about talking nicely to them and giving them updates. If he does not possess the sweet voice (ya kutoa nyoka pangoni), then a cute customer service lady is all he needed.
Maybe he needed a manager to take care of all these issues as he concentrated on the strategic aspects of his business.
He failed big time in one very important aspect of business: Business owners are meant to create systems that survive them. It is more of ensuring others do the work for you and satisfactorily so. It means that you may start the business and do the donkey work but you must outgrow that and let someone do it for you as you move on. In short the business must move from infancy to teenage hood and to maturity.
In the next post we shall talk about the creative element in business; the dreamer. Of course am yet to tell you whether Otieno’s business survived.