|Joost van Gelder|
Together with Bid network, a Dutch NGO that connects small and medium sized African social enterprises to investors, Business Openers helped 14 entrepreneurs define their business strategy plan on just one page, also known as OGSM.
It’s been a month already since we headed back from Kampala. We still feel the energy we shared with the social enterprises and entrepreneurs that followed our 2-day workshops. We would like to share our discoveries, hoping that you will feel the African entrepreneurial spirit as well.
Building strategy only works if you adapt to local culture and habits
The saying ‘Culture eats strategy for breakfast’ is true. Respecting local values without losing sight of our Business strategy methodology was the driver of success. We are experienced in writing Business Plans. With 15 years of experience with Business Openers building on many more years in the corporate world, it seems that not many secrets are left to uncover. We know we always need to adapt our behavior to the audience, for example. However, organizing a workshop for not one uniform company, but for a group of entrepreneurs with different backgrounds made it more complex. Add the element of a completely different culture with other habits and values, and you can imagine us facing a challenge. By taking things a little easier than normal it worked out surprisingly well. Taking more time for personal stories, for example, created a common ground and lead to great business interaction. Learning to accept that people answer their phone in class or walk out for a few minutes to attend a business meeting on the parking lot is also part of the deal. This is simply how business is done in Uganda. Growing into a more relaxed sense of time and social interaction with fewer formalities, the one thing that struck us most was the deep dedication and passion we saw in the entrepreneurs we worked with. Clearly, keenness and commitment will get you far. Combined with dedication and passion, the sky is the limit.
Poultry, dried fruit, health or bio-based energy all talked the 1 Page Business Strategy language
The variety in business sectors we covered during the workshops went from fish-farming to complex IT-microfinancing solutions for farmers and cooperatives and from medical equipment and medical waste disposable to fruit juices and dried fruits. Poultry and of course (renewable) energies such as solar, briquettes, bio-based and even LPG were also present. Having such a diverse group of entrepreneurs in each workshop created a lot of energy. Learning from each other opened new ways of thinking for participants.
Working with such diverse companies gave us once again proof that OGSM works pretty much all the time, and is also effective between companies. Working the same methodology opened up new business opportunities between participants, as they all spoke the same business language. It doesn’t matter which business you are in, if you apply the rules and follow the letters O for Objective, G for Goals, S for Strategies and M for Measures (Dashboard and Actions), you will end up with a clear objective, effective strategies to get there and a logical, reasoned action plan to get it done. And you can help each other getting there.
Business size or life stage don’t matter
Also, the size and stage in the business life cycle are unimportant in business planning. We experienced this in The Netherlands and worldwide, working with (inter)national (r)etailers, air carriers, banks and the butcher around the corner to name a few. This also proved to be the case for the Ugandese companies. They found it very refreshing and helpful to reduce the usual 20 page business plans to a much more effective and readable 1 page business strategy. Entrepreneurs felt like they could give shape and direction to the ideas they always had in mind but sometimes felt insecure on how to connect them and effectively align them to their overall business objective.
How to maximize impact with Business Strategy Planning in two days
When strategizing for our regular clients in the Netherlands, France or elsewhere, we are used to sharpening ideas and fine-tune plans with thorough preparations in advance of the workshops. Alleviating the workload in each session, it makes all the more impact on business planning. Using our methodology, we asked participants to first prepare a SWOT analysis and a vision statement. Laying the basics of the business objective, we could work through defining relevant and measurable goals for the overall business objective in the first day: where do you want to be in 3 or 5 years (Objective), and how do you know you are on track (Goals)? Then we moved on to exploring the right strategies (Strategies), usually a set of 5 activities; for example customer acquisition, distribution networks, employee engagement, product innovation and collaboration with partners. The second day we focused on defining the action plan for each strategy, with corresponding Dashboard measures to keep the planning on track. After some more careful fine-tuning, many discussions and decision-making moments, entrepreneurs walked out the door with their entire strategy planning for the coming 3 to 5 years on one page! It fact, it also mentions when and who needs to do what!
Applying our expertise through the lens of our values and opening our hearts
At Business Openers, we apply our core values to direct our work and attitude towards business opportunities. It helped us and the entrepreneurs to become successful in their endeavors by innovating and leading for the future, infusing workshops with our energy and enthusiasm, challenging entrepreneurs on their plans and with an entrepreneurial spirit putting our expertise and methodology to create an effective and smart business plan.
It was a great pleasure to work with these talented Ugandan entrepreneurs and we look forward to seeing their strong social impact plans come to life in the years to come. We’ll meet again!
Joost van Gelder & Sophie Corlay