I grew up in Zambia, with an entrepreneurial father who owned a large national construction business, but I realised only recently the role that systems played in his success.
When moving house and packing up his old business records I came across boxes of manual delivery notes, checklists, duplicate note books and reporting templates that seemed to be used to monitor and administer almost everything – from people to stores and supplies to communications and multi-million Rand budgets.
These systems and management methods were in use long before computers, faxes and emails. They were utilised in remote parts of a country where education levels were very low and communication was erratic and at times non-existent.
As I paged through these papers I was struck by the power of those simple systems. It became clear that systems were the building blocks of growth and allowed his business, that started with one wheelbarrow, a cement mixer and a bakkie, to grow into a workforce of more than 2000 men and dozens of construction sites. It was these systems that allowed one man to build a really big business.
I often remind myself that systems are the building blocks of growth – and it’s systems that unlock progress in the business!
Catherine Wijnberg is CEO and Founder of Fetola, Enterprise Development professionals and SME growth specialists. She has owned and operated small businesses in three countries across five different sectors, and has successfully conceptualised, designed and implemented several award-winning community and business development programmes, including the Legends Incubator.
Her most recent initiative, the #JustAddGreen programme aims at facilitating partnerships between sustainable business and Government, corporate and international donor organisations.