Bella shows huge impact

a huge impact

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Bella has been an inspiration and had a huge impact on me.  It is sad when a great project (as all good things must) comes to an end.  I was initially nervous about working through a translator, but William has been brilliant even to the extent of facilitating a bit harmless flirting with the 70 year old widow safely out of reach down a 5000 mile digital pipe.  You can read more about the early stages of the project here

In the 6 months we have been working together (8-9 hours over Skype in total) Bella has had some amazing success.  She has:

  • quadrupled her sales of charcoal
  • added “upsell” items like small containers of salt to increase transaction value
  • established several new sales channels.
  • taken on a new employee to help with sales
  • opened a bank account for the first time in her life to save up the surpluses from her business

A huge impact on confidence and capability

coaching had a huge impact on charcoal seller turned pig farmerBut it was our final meeting where she really blew me away. She has just started a pig farm.  Now such wide diversification is not something that I would normally suggest, but when I asked her about the business case there was not even a flicker of hesitation. Her logic was unassailable.  She knew exactly how much she was investing, what her return would be and how she was going to sell her pigs once they were ready for market.

This was not the reticent lady with little spare cash that I had first met 6 months earlier.  Bella is now a hugely confident business woman with an eye for an opportunity and a simple but effective way to evaluate its profitability.

Which is more than can be said for many SMEs in developed countries.

How can such a simple project have such huge impact?

For the record, I have never stepped foot in Malawi and know not the first thing about the market for charcoal.  Not knowing has its advantages because it avoids over thinking and encourages the development of a partnership with the client.  I bring the process skills and the client brings the market context to apply them – both are equally vital.

We did a lot of experimentation.  Our initial plan of finding customers at the local hospital failed completely, but that did not matter.  It served as a really useful illustration of the process for identifying target customers.  More importantly, it showed Bella better than a major success could, that there really is no rocket science to this.   This gave her a big confidence boost.

I gave her plenty of homework.  We had a pretty standard format for our calls:

  1. How did you get on with the actions we agreed last time?
  2. What can we learn from them?
  3. Let us learn something new to try next time – how might we get it to work?
  4. Let us agree the actions to try between now and our next call

People learn so much more from doing things than talking about them.  And if it really doesn’t matter if they don’t work then there is nothing to fear.

We kept things simple.  No fancy market analysis or segmentation, just human behaviour.  Why do your customers buy from you?  So where can we find more people in a similar situation?

Enterprise skills are really not so very complicated.


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