PwC strategist: How to bridge the gap between strategy and execution
You’ve expanded your business in Africa. You’ve produced a watertight strategy. But how do you secure continent-wide success? This question remains largely unanswered the among those growing businesses in Africa. According to Strategy& (PwC’s strategy consulting company) as many as 66 percent of business expansions into Africa resulted in negative shareholder returns.
To find the answers, African Business Review quizzed strategy specialist Jorge Camarate. Camarate is Partner at Strategy&. He has spent 12 years consulting across the globe, but has now settled in Johannesburg to advise clients in business strategy. As part of his role, Camarate gives companies tips on how to bridge the strategy-to-execution gap in Africa. We ask him to share his guidelines with us.
Acknowledge that Africa is not a country
Rather, Africa is made up of 54 diverse countries. According to Camarate, many large Western companies fail to recognise this, instead viewing Africa as a homogenous hub. This perception is “quite prevalent, especially if you talk to companies outside Africa, like multinationals in Europe, the States, or Asia”, Camarate explains. “There are multiple realities that people struggle to understand, like how different two countries can be and the slight nuances that can make a business either very successful or impossible to grow.”
Watch out for cultural differences
Different African regions have different cultures. Camarate explains how this should affect business decisions. “I’ll give you an example that I find quite interesting,” he says. “Funeral insurance or funeral plans are very popular in parts of the continent - they’re extremely popular here in South Africa. There are certain societies within Africa where it’s taboo to talk about them and there’s certain societies where you can talk openly about that, where people find importance and a moral imperative to make sure that funeral costs are covered, because they don’t want to pass on any debt to their offspring. In these countries, funeral plans are extremely popular. In countries where you can’t talk about death, it’s impossible to sell the product. There are societies where talking about death means inviting death. So although two countries may look very similar, they have a slight cultural nuance that might make products either easy or difficult to sell."
Capitalise on your capabilities
What are your business’s strengths? Identify them, build on them and gain the ones that you don’t have. Camarate uses South African financial services company Sanlam to demonstrate this process. He tells us Sanlam’s capabilities are risk, actuarial, and capital management. When expanding from South Africa into wider Africa, Sanlam didn’t have “low cost distribution channels, the knowledge of customers from low income levels and how you build these simple, straightforward products that need local nuances”, Camarate says. In order to fill this void, Sanlam “looked for partners and acquisition targets who investigated their access to the local population that they needed”.
Take your time when securing deals
“There’s always this perception (especially a couple of years ago) about Africa: that you need to secure a deal at any cost.” Camarate explains how Sanlam bucks this trend, thus providing another lesson. “They always took the view that they should invest the time in due diligence, and the minimum time it took for them to secure a deal or secure a partnership was a year and a half. So they invest their time, do a lot of due diligence and they even invite the management team of the companies they acquire or partner with to come to their office. They invite them to understand how they operate and build that relationship.” Can’t Sanlam lose deals by not acting fast enough? “It’s better to invest and let many deals fail, and for the few deals that come through to be the right deals,” Camarate explains.
Source some local talent
According to Camarate, local talent pools are remarkable, yet shallow. But that doesn’t mean that foreign businesses must rely on expat talent when expanding into Africa. If you search for local talent in universities or try to poach from competitors, you won’t find a substantial amount of potential employees. “Ultimately, you must do a combination of both,” Camarate advises. Developing this talent will also yield results, e.g. providing graduates with training. He also recommends sourcing staff from the African diaspora, of whom some are looking to return from the West to Africa. “They’re now trained and have a Western mind set and a work ethic that be extremely useful,” says Camarate.
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.