Sunday, November 7, 2010

The four pillars of a great organisation

Hi everyone,

The reality of starting a business from scratch is that at the beginning, you don't really know what will work. So you try a whole bunch of things and follow the traction. We launched as a money transfer business, chasing the dream of M-Pesa's success in Kenya. In 18 months, we have grown our money transfer business to over $600,000 turnover per month. To achieve this growth, we quickly learned that we had to become an agent business, and we now manage a network of over 220 agents in every region of Zambia. And to lock-in this agent network, we became an electronic voucher business, with our agents redeeming over 56,000 agriculture and food vouchers worth over $1,000,000 in October alone.

For an organisation to scale, it must have strong foundations. Below are the four pillars that are transforming Mobile Transactions from a good idea to a GREAT organisation:

1. Focus

As a business matures, it must constantly refocus its scarce resources for growth to accelerate. This is no easy feat, especially for a start-up business like ours that is building a new industry from the ground up.

Our focus is on increasing transaction volume. This means two things: a) capturing more value on our system by locking-in existing and new strategic customers in our sales pipeline, and b) growing the overall liquidity of our agent network. We have created two separate teams tasked with these objectives with clear KPIs to measure their progress.

2. Alignment

Alignment means orienting every single staff member in a common direction where every individual is adding value. This must start at the most senior level, and then filter downwards with buy-in at all levels.

We recently took our entire management team away on an off-site retreat to get everyone on the same page. The first day was limited to Brad, Brett, Keith, and I getting aligned on high-level strategy as Senior Management. The rest of the management team came the next day and we had two very productive days mixed with fun and work. We went through a process of redefining roles and responsibilities in a new organisational structure, identifying quick wins and game changing new deals to go after, and revisiting our guiding principles. Perhaps most importantly, we created shared stories and experiences that have re-energized everyone to push forward during these critical next few months.

3. Ownership

Businesses are only as good as the people who work in them, and good people must be enabled to succeed. We are very fortunate to have an excellent management team who are all 100% committed to achieving our vision of a cashless Africa.

One outcome of our retreat is to create cost and profit centres that will give our managers the ability to run their own units as if they were business owners. Managers of these centres will have real decision making power over who is on their team and how best to manage them to achieve measurable results. This new structure will need to be matched by each individual stepping up and taking full ownership over his or her role.

4. Accountability

Accountability is the feedback loop that ensures what is agreed is implemented to the best of our ability. Without accountability for both individual and team performance, the above three pillars are significantly weakened and we will not become the great organisation we all want to be.

We made a big step in creating a culture of accountability by bringing Keith in as our Chief Operations Officer. The first think Keith did was set deadlines for managers to present their quarterly budget and KPIs, which their performance will be measured against. He sent a strong message that there is no excuse for missing deadlines, and that we should all embrace this culture as it is the fastest way to accelerate both our business growth and individual careers.

Keith and I have divided responsibilities around these four pillars. My job as CEO is to keep our business focused on what's important, and ensuring everyone is aligned around our overall strategy. Keith is responsible for creating the right conditions for everyone to take ownership over their roles, and for holding each individual accountable for performance.

If we can continue this progress, I have no doubt we will be successful and one day make that infamous transition from "good to GREAT".



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