This week was a field visit to our Eastern and Southern Sales teams and some key partners (and to do some industry networking) with Brave, our National Sales Director. Every company I’ve worked in there’s been constant back and forth between the ‘Field’ and ‘Office’. The Office thinks a Sales role means a funded social life with no appreciation of process and the Field view the Finance and Operations team as bureaucrats who wouldn’t last 5 minutes in-territory.
In Management positions it’s easy to let the demands of Head Office chain you to a desk so I was determined to get on the road and make sure everyone was aligned with our business objectives, to understand the challenges faced by Sales and see if Brave and I could generate some business.
The plan was to leave in our Hyundai van (no cars working) Monday morning at 9am for a 2.5 hour drive to Balaka and a noon meeting with some agents and our returning (from maternity leave) Eastern Region Sales Manager, Ivy, then head off to Blantyre to Martin and Joseph, and back solo Wednesday by bus.
The Hyundai wouldn’t start and once that was fixed we left at 1pm with the van suitably decked out for a long drive;
By the time we got to Balaka at 3.30pm, Ivy and our Agents were patiently waiting for us. And Ivy’s 6-week old son, Watipa. Everyone has missed Ivy and it’s great to have her back and, as you can see, she looked wonderful (the green wrap Ivy is a wearing is a chitenje used traditionally as sling on her back for her baby);
Our next Sales rep, Martin, had changed his plans to meet us in Balaka but he was delayed so we consoled ourselves with a few bottles of hop-juice. Our lodge was right next to a (very loud until 3am) bar so I was desperately in need of coffee in the morning especially after an ice cold shower. Looks like the lodge had a sense of humor as they only served weak tea on this coaster;
A quick meeting with Martin over breakfast and then to off to Blantyre. At this stage I realized my departure on Wednesday morning wasn’t going to happen so I elected to ride shotgun with Brave the whole trip (including a presentation to the Salima School District on Friday). With clothes for 3 days this was going to get a little tight. So I started to fill my Wednesday schedules (Brave was going to very Southern tip, Nsanje, to see more agents) with Blantyre meetings; Practical Action (regarding their MEGA and SE4RC projects), BIF and our Retail and Financing partner FINCOOP. Plus a special meeting at First Merchant Bank thanks to some networking from, Paul Howard, my good friend in Manchester.
But first, more agents, this time with Joseph once we picked him up. On the way, while I was behind the wheel, we got ticket for a faulty brake light at one of the many police checks. And then we stumbled into a large protest at Lunzu just outside Blantyre; the teachers are currently on strike so the school children were rioting and had formed a blockade on our route in. Luckily, Joseph was on it and met us on our side of the trouble but we had to conduct our meeting on the footsteps on the local post office.
The second picture is Joseph, Jonas (agent), Brave and Bright (agent) who has our new t-shirt on the wrong way. Kind of works, right?
After another agent visit and finding that our petrol tank cap had been stolen we arrived at Doogles lodge and we had a great discussion with Joseph about his territory. A long day so we only had enough energy to go for a quiet dinner at the Palace Bar at MASM house but our spirits were lifted by the decor;
Next morning we visited the FINCOOP office/bank and proudly saw our lights on display…
… and Brave left for Nsanje (and to buy a petrol cap) and I bounced around Blantyre for my meetings included the hook-up with Hitesh Anadkat the chairman of First Merchant Bank. What a gentleman he was, graciously sparing some time to give me advice on how to grow the SunnyMoney business in Malawi. Hitest is one of the most influential and successful businessmen in Malawi and also the Vice-Chairman at TNM a large network provider so this was a real bonus.
Solo Wednesday night so an early night and then I had another meeting Thursday morning before Brave returned and we met United Purpose, our partner on the DISCOVER project. Timely, as they have a second phase of the project and we got the ball rolling there and then.
With the speedometer now not working we decided to take the Zomba route (with less police stops) for the 5-hours to Salima. Zomba is higher in the mountains and has some spectacular scenery. Therefore, we stopped for some dinner and headed back to Balaka to meet Martin again (I forgot to give him his repaired units). We arrived Salima late and went out for a few beers to prepare for our meeting with the District Education Manager (DEM) and this team of Primary Education Advisers (12 of them who each manager a school zone in the district).
We were on our game in the morning, finalizing a handout and our presentation. Brave subtly told me my shirt couldn’t be worn another day so I had to wear one of our t-shirts. But we looked the part in our SunnyMoney logos and everything was ready and the presentation went flawlessly. Brave was magnificent; controlling the flow, mixing up group breakouts, product demonstrations, humor and driving the meeting to clear actions and next steps. I was just eye candy.
Brave artfully dovetailed the Malawi’s Government Initiative on Climate Change with SunyMoney’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Ministry of Education that allows us to work with all levels of the education system, presenting SunnyMoney as the practical example of a positive impact on Climate Change. We have a great case study in the making here.
Back home at 5.30pm. Not too bad. I’ve been given a lot to thinking about from our Sales team – they are our front line and we’re very lucky to have such dedication from them. We had great agent and partner meetings, and opportunities were unearthed and closed (by Ivy and Joseph).
And a reminder that you don’t know your business unless you travel with Sales.