I do a considerable amount of travelling within Africa and sometimes get the opportunity of working in North and West Africa – an area hosting millions of people, all creating a vibrant mix of energy and opportunity for those who are willing to become involved in the business processes of the respective cultures. On one such occasion, I did a workshop for a group of sales people from a large courier company operating in West Africa – 26 professionals who knew their environment well.  They had saturated the market with their brand and were highly respected by the local population for their reliability and service excellence. Their service worked!

We had been examining organisational “stretch” during the workshop and had dealt with the obvious system efficiencies and opening appropriate communication channels within the business. Real stretch seemed a distant reality. The sales managers struggled to find possible areas for growth. I then asked them to explain a typical delivery in an outlying area – once letters and parcels reached the distribution centres in the main cities and towns, delivery agents on “scooters”/motor bikes would then further transport the goods to little villages, dropping off the consignments at huts and houses that had no physical addresses, but the owners and residents of which were well-known in their respective communities. Then the agent would leave. I commented: “Why not make your delivery people your sales people?”

The system now works as follows – delivery agents come into a village, offer some sweets to the children and ask them to tell the village that the courier person has arrived. They scamper off shouting out to the residents, telling them of the arrival. The agent delivers the one parcel that he brought, but now picks up another eight letters and parcels from the local residents, thus making additional sales and making the trip to the village really profitable. This courier company has tripled their business results by making the delivery agents their sales people.

Organisations need to be looking for stretch possibilities within and outside of their normal business processes. Doing the same over and over, maybe faster, will not give one exponential results, will not grow the business substantially and sustainably. For real growth to occur, change is necessary – in the way we look at things and in the way we do things. All staff within a company should be brand ambassadors and sales people – the ability to represent the company/product brand to everyone and to entice their contacts to buy from them. The possibility of stretch and growth for the company is thus multiplied.

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