|Don’t sacrifice integrity for short-term gain|
|Wednesday, 13 June 2012 21:00|
US$7 500. Unfortunately, we had not bothered to spread our risk by insuring it against perils such as theft, accidental damage or loss due to sinking.
Since we are creatures of habit, we began to shop around for fishing equipment after a week.
We had not planned for this expenditure. We hopped from one shop to another looking for the best deal in Harare.
Eventually we approached Chris’ relative, Alec, who promised to supply the equipment and accessories at almost half the prices our dealers were quoting.
Alec sourced his equipment from South Africa and demanded that we pay him up front.
We trusted him based on the fact that Alec has been a cross-border trader from time immemorial. In addition, we wanted to support our own people.
We started by ordering equipment for US$500, which was delivered within four days. Another order for equipment worth US$1 000 was delivered within four days. We then placed an order for US$5 000 and he demanded cash up front and we complied.
Since then he has not been able to deliver this last batch of equipment. Among the excuses offered for failure to deliver are that some of the equipment was out of stock and his supplier in South Africa is waiting for her supplies from Taiwan and that some of the equipment was seized by Zimra.
He advised us that Zimra is still trying to establish the duties applicable to some of the equipment. Once the duties are established he would go to Beitbridge and retrieve the equipment from the “safe custody” of Zimra.
Ten months down the line our order is still far from being fulfilled, never mind our numerous telephone calls and constant visits to his house.
After every meeting he would promise to deliver the following week which necessitated us to either phone or visit him again.
At times we would pass up opportunities to go fishing just to wait for him. We cannot even compound the cost of lost fishing opportunities!
Everywhere I go I hear stories about how customers have been short-changed by fellow Zimbabwean individuals and companies.
I am saddened that many companies are shifting their loyalty from Zimbabwean suppliers to those in the region or overseas, with South African suppliers being the most preferred.
Though this is reducing the circulation of money among our people, many businessmen I interacted with argued that shifting their order book to South African companies is a business decision.
Short-changing customers includes undercharging and under-delivering, late delivery, no delivery of goods, shoddy products and delivering wrong products.
There appears to be a strong correlation between lying and low business standards.
Since 2008 most “honest” people have become serious liars in order to abdicate themselves from failure.
Lying is a reflection of failure and low standards. Lying is evidenced especially in the conversation that one hears while riding in public transport especially commuter omnibuses.
How often have you heard someone promising another person to meet him/her in two minutes when it is obvious that he/she can only make it in 30 minutes? Is giving someone false hope sustainable?
Supporting our own people is indeed a noble economic proposition.
In his book, “The Capitalist Nigger”, Chiku Anyioke advocated for developing an economic “spider web” where money would circulate among the black people.
Recently I listened to Dr Gideon Gono addressing a meeting called by the Affirmative Action Group.
He said the sustainable indigenisation programme he envisaged could be achieved through a “supply chain empowerment strategy, by putting into place explicit procurement policies to ensure that Government departments, public enterprises, local authorities, and other companies outsource or buy from indigenous suppliers’’.
The current ideology of “I win; customer loses” will be a thorn in the flesh in any “spider web” initiative by the business community and Government.
Some of these short-changing activities are camouflaged under the lowest quotation provider.
The inappropriate culture was further enhanced during the hyperinflationary period where business people were preoccupied with short-term profit taking instead of long-term profitability.
During the same period customer care was thrown out of the window. However, the environment has changed which also demand corresponding paradigm shift in the mindsets of most of our local business people.
I got the shock my life when I visited Reno a few years ago. I ordered a pizza and was promised that it would be delivered in 30 minutes.
The delivery van arrived 15 minutes after the deadline and I was given the pizza for free.
I asked the reason for this peculiar behaviour and the delivery van driver said: “Man, we would rather give you this pizza for free than let you go around bad mouthing us.
“Remember you must do to others what you would expect them to do unto you. Enjoy your stay.’’
The lesson, which I subtly received, is that no company can hope to survive in a harsh competitive environment without upholding high standards and integrity. Disappointing customers is costly for any company. Failure to uphold high standards is a punishable offence the world over and Zimbabwe is not an exception.
The other lesson is that for a business to succeed in the long run it must be prepared to sacrifice short-term profits for the long-term survival of the company.
Our local entrepreneurs must appreciate that brand building and protection must be at the core of each business in order to survive and grow.
Indigenous business people need to appreciate that upholding high integrity and standards is better than short-term profits.
It is my humble submission that though we have erred in the past, it is now time to change and bring back the confidence our fellow Zimbabweans had in us.
As much as we need to see role models from somewhere, we can also become one if we spare a thought for high business standards and ethics.
l The writer is a managing consultant at CLC Training International. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org