Making your Business Environment Work for You

JACO COETZEE
Blog
3 MINS READ
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07 February, 2023

With all of my experience managing various businesses in South Africa, I had a wake-up call when I moved to Malawi. The rule of thumb in Africa is to move at their pace and just adapt to how things are carried out differently there.

Retail is in my blood, and I always believed that there was huge potential in Africa to develop the retail industry. Therefore, I joined the biggest retail group in Malawi in February 2022 as general manager. I was just getting my bearings and learning the business during my first few weeks when I realized I had to change the way I thought about business, even though the two countries are just 1900 km apart from each other. This was something to get used to at first, but it helped me understand that you can change the way you manage people, businesses, and money by just challenging yourself every day to think differently and make decisions you would not usually make. My experience in Africa has shown me that while moving at the pace of those around you is important, it is also necessary to take the initiative and think outside the box in order to create change.

I aspire to be the best among my competitors. I took on the task of adapting and learning the new way of thinking to make this business even more successful; it even changed the way I think about business in my own country. I called my old colleagues and shared my new experiences with them, as it opened up a whole new way of thinking. I began to take action, experimenting with different methods and techniques in order to make a positive change—things I would never do before—and we managed to achieve record sales in the 2022–23 financial year and grow our footprint all across Malawi, merging with another retail group and making our presence even greater among the rest. The real challenge for now is to accept that you will not always succeed and that you can't always be right. However, you have to understand that you have to keep your head up, push harder, and do things that change the game for your success.

You become rigid in your ways and fall into a rut that can push you in an unintended direction, costing your career and, most likely, your passion. My daily routine has changed now that I want to learn more by interacting with different business industries. I strive to explore what opportunities exist and learn more about different cultures and the way they run their businesses. In South Africa, I was stuck and bored doing the same thing for years, rarely seeing significant improvement year after year.

My advice to anyone looking to change careers or simply quit is to take a step back and look at the small details that are often overlooked; the answer is usually right in front of you. You can be the change that changes everything in that business—not just performance but also the environment in which it operates. It's all about mindset.

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