I will not go into a business unless I can see a “game changer”; something that we are going to do that is different from what others are doing. Let me give you an example; when we launched our operation in Zimbabwe in July 1998 it was almost two years after our two competitors had started their operations. It had never happened anywhere in the world that a third entrant into the market had overtaken such well-established competitors, let alone in less than two months!
Those who know me will tell you that I spend time every day just reading and catching up on what is going on in my industry. Even when I read a newspaper, I do so with a pen in my hand; marking things and following up for more information. “My people, perish for lack of knowledge”: In business, if you are not informed, you will perish.
Several years before I launched the networks in Botswana and Zimbabwe (our first two networks), I had come across an extraordinary new billing system from a company in Israel. This system, allowed an operator to charge a customer whilst they were talking rather than afterwards; this was completely revolutionary at the time. It was called “pre-paid”, and it was to completely revolutionise, the world of telecommunications; that was the “game changer”!
And yet very few people in the industry at the time seemed to take any notice of what that small company was doing, including the big international companies like Vodafone in the UK.
I put a team onto it and we worked quietly and methodically studying what they were doing. We locked up agreements with them, and ordered the equipment and our licenses were issued. That was the birth of our product called “Buddie- Prepaid”. It allowed us to provide service to millions of ordinary people who would otherwise not have got service. The rest is history as they say.
The principle I have laid out here applies whether you are running a business, or you are a professional working in a company, if you want your organisation to prosper you must find the “game changer”. Sometimes it comes through a single Big Bang product like Buddie, but most of the time it is incremental through a culture of constantly doing small things here and there that are innovative…
Here is my challenge to you, today:
I want you to look around at the job you do or the business you run and draw up a list of what you have done differently that gives your organisation a competitive edge. If there is nothing you have done in the last month, then you are threatening the future prosperity of your organisation.
Strive Masiyiwa is the founder and Executive Chairman of the Econet Group. He serves on several international boards including Unilever, and the Global Advisory boards of the Council on Foreign Relations and Stanford University. A board member of the Rockefeller Foundation for 15 years, he also serves as Chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). He is a co-founder of the Carbon War Room, Pathways for Prosperity, and the Global Business Coalition on Education. He and his wife, Tsitsi, co-founded the Higherlife Foundation and are signators of the Giving Pledge.View all posts by Strive Masiyiwa