6. Build teams.
Leaders are important, teams are even more so. Building teams is of course much more difficult than the slogans we all spout. Identifying talent; supporting it through training, development and opportunity; regularly evaluating and giving feedback; providing opportunities for growth and stretch are all amongst the most difficult challenges a small company faces. At STRATEGIES! we still see building strong teams as one of our challenges. Today our business model is extremely lean and many members of our teams are external.
7. Build Systems.
The greatest challenge for all small businesses is building and implementing the tools, methods and procedures that ensure that quality services are delivered regularly over time. For services this is particularly challenging. At STRATEGIES! building systems has been one of the most important hurdles we continue to face. Over the years we have developed tools and methods on which our consultants are trained. Our services follow step-by-step processes which ensure the highest level of quality to our clients. As all small businesses though, getting all consultants to follow procedure consistently, notably under time pressure, remains an objective to be attained.
8. Build on Your Own Culture and History.
When we started STRATEGIES! few people thought an African firm could be competitive on questions of leadership and strategy. What people knew of our history and culture did not seem to inspire confidence in these areas. We did our homework. We studied history and culture from different parts of Africa and analyzed contemporary managers and leaders on our continent; we found excellent African leadership and strategy. So STRATEGIES! built services based on African leadership, used training methods based on African culture and enabled our clients to develop unique solutions for problems specific to the current African context. Today, these methods and tools are used not only on our own continent, but also with clients in the United States and Europe who have been inspired by concepts such as Adinkra, figures such as Queen Nzinga or Wangaari Mathai, to find solutions adapted to their own specific contexts.
9. Take a Stand, even when if doesn’t appear profitable, it will be. As an African firm, STRATEGIES! took the stand early in our development to employ young Africans and to ensure that at least 50% of our staff were women. Our objective was to give young Africans the opportunity not only for employment, but also to demonstrate their capacity to offer leadership and strategy services to the world. When we took this stand 20 years ago, it was out of principle. Today, Gender and Women’s Leadership as well as Youth issues such as employment and the informal economy constitute important aspects of our revenue stream. To work the long hours and intense periods that STRATEGIES! staff do, it is necessary for their work to have meaning in the larger community, for our country, our continent and our world. One of STRATEGIES! greatest strengths is the meaning and significance of our work in our lives as individuals.
10. Learn constantly as individuals, as teams and as an organization. Building an evaluation culture has been one of STRATEGIES! keys to success. We are a company that does not seek to blame, but seeks to analyze our strengths, acquire a deep understanding of our weaknesses and constantly adapt our solutions to the specific contexts and clients with which we work. The “blame culture” is one of the biggest barriers to growth in an organization. At STRATEGIES! we take individual and collective responsibility, spend the time to understand what we might have done wrong in certain situations, then use our creativity and collective intelligence to build a better solution for ourselves and for our clients. Evaluation creates a certain level of both individual and collective discomfort. It is important to build safe environments, work through the discomfort and remain focused increasing excellence within the organization.