strive

Strive Masiyiwa: Building an Efficient Organisation – Part 4


__A great vision needs great people.

Organizational management is really about “people and process.” If you don’t know how to master these two, it doesn’t matter what you’ve invented, or how much money you’ve raised… you won’t make it in business.

It’s usually really hard to get the best people to join you when you’ve just started a business because you’re (rightly) considered too risky.

It’s particularly difficult when you, the founder, are yourself young and inexperienced. I know what I’m talking about because when I started out almost 30 years ago, I was only 26 years old and didn’t have either the money or reputation to attract people to work with me.

So I understand why most people in that situation will often turn to unemployed relatives and friends, who can sometimes be unskilled and even troublesome. Believe me, I’ve been there, and done that!

I almost laugh now when I look back, but I hired some people who were downright incompetent and almost got me killed… Remember I’m an electrical engineer by training, and some of my early recruits as electricians did not quite measure up!

In my own case, my partner and I did almost every kind of job in our little business. There was simply no room for “pretending to be the big man”! When we did a job for a customer, I was there myself, and sometimes when we finished, I joined the cleaners to make sure the customer’s premises were left clean. We did the work, the cleaning, the invoicing, and the books. We woke up early, and went to bed very late.

I never complained because it was “honest hard work” for a young man, and I enjoyed it. I interviewed every single person that I hired very carefully. I always looked for people who were skilled, sober, honest, and prepared to go the extra mile. I knew them personally, and their families.

I tried to be fair in every aspect of my dealings with my employees. It wasn’t just that I considered myself an honorable man, but I also knew that “people talk.” I wanted word to get out that I was a “fair guy” in an industry where people were often exploited, and owners of businesses were known to think of themselves first, particularly when they got paid, as I discussed last week.

When I did get paid, the first thing I tried to do was invest back in the business. In particular, I wanted my staff always to have the best tools for their job. I also wanted them to be proud of their employer. I was fastidious over things like uniforms, presentations and appearance before a customer.

Knowing that I didn’t always have the opportunity and money to hire the most skilled people, I focused a lot on training and workshops, which I handled myself. I drilled and drilled my staff. We talked about each job, and I allowed everyone to say something about what we learned. It’s great to have the big idea, but you must have an eye for the details.

Then one day it happened: I got a call from an engineer who worked for a highly reputable and well-established player in our industry. He wanted to join me. And soon it was a flood, with people prepared to take a pay cut for the opportunity to work with my young company.

Now remember what I said earlier: “People talk.” You want them to give you and your company a good reputation, one that attracts the best people to your business. The best people are the most profitable. That’s business!

In his bestselling book, “Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t,” Jim Collins writes, “Great vision without great people is irrelevant.”

Do you have the right people in your company focusing their time doing the right things?

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