A mediocre strategy ruthlessly executed is better than a good strategy not implemented.
As Sunny Bindra, Management Consultant and Writer introduced the round table panelists during the Strategy in Action Executive Program (SIA), the selection emulated diversity in gender, industry and age, but spoke one language; sticking to your BIG idea. The panel consisting of Mary Wamae, Director of Strategy at Equity Bank, Ahsan Manji, CEO of Weetabix East Africa and Martin Miruka, Chief Evangelist of Atom tdf, all SIA alumni brought in intriguing and insightful angles on their practical experience in as far as actionising strategy is concerned.
Sunny, also the program leader of this unique program opened the discussion by posing the question of having the BIG idea as a company, a phrase that has been resonating throughout the week-long program.
Question: Do you have that sense of the big idea A sense of philosophy that drives strategy?
Mary: The average age of the workforce at equity bank is 27 years. The biggest challenge is to get the young workforce at the bank to believe in the Equity idea. Equity bank focuses on the transformation of lives and drives a purpose of social economic transformation in the society. Despite the cultural and religious differences of people, the gaps and needs that need to be met are the same.
Strategy is not just about what to do but what NOT to do. Our customers have grown their businesses with Equity bank. We gave them loans worth thousands when they were startups and now the same customers are coming back for loans worth millions. The challenge became how to serve the customer who now fits in the premier banking facet. However, it is important for businesses not deviate from their core businesses.
Miruka: Our core business is to help businesses with their innovation and strategy. The strategy needs to have a social agenda and the profits will come later. It is crucial for businesses to focus on the customer. Find out What the problem is and how youre going to solve it. Businesses especially in Africa need to figure out how to move from a successful business to a successful brand. The big idea therefore is to transform African businesses to great brands.
Manji: Our strategy is how to make every Kenyan live a healthy life. A brand is important and Weetabix East Africas brand is a healthy brand. The big idea is how to wake up Kenyans to a healthy meal and become a predominant cereal manufacturer.
Question: In Africa, relevance of what we do is particularly important. How do you make sure that what youre doing is appropriate for your customer base?
Mary: Africa is a highly cash economy. When we looked at our customer base 10 years ago, the average age was about 37 years. 10 years later, the average age is 33 years. This means that the customer coming to the job market has no time to visit bank branches. This led to the popularization of mobile money transactions as they want to do transactions through their mobile phones. It is important to know where your customer is shifting as it is a dynamic market.
Manji: Breakfast cereals were not an Africa product. Initially we used to cater for the A-B market. We wanted to grow our customer base to the bottom of the pyramid as the consumers needed a cheaper priced product but high in quality. We therefore began packaging Weetabix cost 25KShs. Remaining relevant is a challenge therefore we have developed surveys so as to understand our customers. Through this we have understood their likes and dislikes and the market trends.
Miruka: Step 1: Acknowledge that you dont know is a good place to start.
Step 2: Listen through a combination of asking and observing. This will enable you to become relevant to your audience.
Step 3: Watch your customer instead of your competitor.
Strategy is implementation and unfortunately many managers spend time creating strategies which they do not implement.
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About Strategy in Action
Strategy in Action is designed for the East African context, and will impart techniques and methods that are proven in this part of the world. The curriculum is informed by leading consultants and Chief Executive Officers. It is a unique opportunity to attend a world-class course in a local setting.
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