Friday, July 8, 2011

A new type of agent

We’ve decided to try to create a new model of MTZ agent. I’m sure the idea has been done in other industries before, but it’ll be a first for us.

Outside of the Champion Agents that we directly manage, we picture that there are two types of new agents out there: those that have money but no time or inclination to manage a shop; and those that have time to manage a shop, but no money. In this post I want to tell you about our idea for the first group.

To date we’ve been approached by probably a half-dozen Zambian business men and women always asking the same thing: “I have some money, so how can I become one of your agents?” And our approach was always the same: “Here’s the contract, and here’s how much money you need, and here’s how you can check your statement, do your daily cash reconciliation, and get customer care support if you need help.”

But we’ve realized that this message is absolutely inadequate. These are businesspeople with money and multiple businesses already. They have no time. No time for customer care, or statements, or daily cash reconciliation processes. Our system isn’t difficult to master, but it does require a fair amount of ongoing oversight.

Because of these facts of the business, the end result for these potential agents has always been the same: they sign up, they put in the money, they get a manager or a niece or nephew to run the shop, then within a month or so the money is lost/stolen/unaccounted for and they close up shop.

So we thought of something different. What if all these people had to do was put in their money and we provided all the day-to-day management by training a person at head office and giving them a percentage of the revenue? We’d share the revenue earned from commission, with the outcome being the businessperson gets a steady stream of income and we get a new, liquid agent.

We’re going to try it in Kitwe, a Copperbelt mining town. For us who are always tight on cash, it’s a way to free up a lot of untapped capital and grow the liquidity of our network. But also, the businesspeople that may invest also know of other business opportunities and could open new doors for our agents. If we can generate a healthy and low-risk return for businesspeople keen to invest their money, then it could be a way for us to use the age-old owner-manager dynamic to grow our agent network much faster and further.

Graham Lettner,

Agent Manager.

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