By Basiru Cham
Now, more than ever, businesses in The Gambia are struggling for survival and growth. All businesses in all industries are suffering in one way or the other. Business, as we all know, is a nation’s engine for growth. A growing economy, one that produces goods and services with fewer resources over time, yields income for business owners, their employees and stockholders. Hence, a country depends on the wealth of its businesses generate from large enterprises such as QCELL, GTSC (Gambia Transport Services Corporation), GACEM, just to name few.
To succeed, business firms must know what their customers want so that they can supply it quickly and efficiently. You will see through this article what business in The Gambia needs to grow and succeed to merge in the global market. The key elements they are highly in need of to grow and perform effectively are, people, strong administration, funding, infrastructure and access to market. Each of the factors is discussed in this article in detail.
A skilled and knowledgeable workforce is an essential resource for keeping pace with the accelerating rate of change in today’s business world. Employers need reliable workers who are dedicated to fostering strong ties with customers and partners. They must build a workforce capable of efficient, high quality production needed to compete in both global and domestic market. Savvy business leaders also realize that the brainpower of employee also plays a vital role in a firm’s ability to stay on top of new technologies and innovations. In short, a first-class workforce can be the foundation of a firm’s competitiveness and differentiation, providing important advantages over competing business.
The question we should ask ourselves is: Are we dynamic to cope with the changing face of the business world? Being a master employee who is reliable, dedicated, committed and hardworking is a fundamental element that all businesses need if they want to succeed. Are we also having that workforce? Does the education system provide such a talent? Are students nurturing themselves to be that person all business organizations will want to work with? Answers to these questions will leaded our businesses to success and we all know without doubt that businesses are the drivers of economic growth in any country. Great things mean great jobs, and great things aren’t easy to get. Career success today requires lots of initiatives, self-awareness and continuous personal development. The question is: Are we ready? It is everybody’s responsibility to make change happen to improve our institutions.
Companies in The Gambia today face several trends that challenge the skills of managing and developing human resources. These challenges include the old age domination, especially in the public organizations; undisciplined workforce; growing diversity of workforce; the challenging nature of work; the need for flexibility and mobility; and collaboration to innovate. Most businesses in The Gambia today are dominated by the aged population who are occupying key positions- people who are resistant to change. By virtue of their experience, we cannot say that we don’t need them. Of course we do them, but their occupancy needs to be addressed in order to move forward. Businesses need change to succeed (to understand this better, read my article Managing Change in Gambian Institutions).
At the root of the differences in industry, organizations search for the traits or attributes which will objectively identify the ideal executive who is equipped to cope effectively with any problem in any organization. As we all know we live in a very uncertain world where many factors can affect the operations of business in a click of second. Without the presence of a strong of administration that is proactive, the success of business will be in doubt.
“The assumption that there is an executive type is widely accepted, either openly or implicitly. Yet, any executive presumably knows that a company needs all kinds of managers for different levels of jobs. The qualities most needed by a shop superintendent are likely to be quite opposed to those needed by a coordinating vice president of manufacturing. The literature of executive development is loaded with efforts to define the qualities needed by executives, and by themselves these sound quite rational. Few, for instance, would dispute the fact that a top manager needs good judgment, the ability to make decisions, the ability to win respect of others, and all the other well-worn phrases any management man could mention. But one has only to look at the successful managers in any company to see how enormously their particular qualities vary from any ideal list of executive virtues” From Harvard business school.
We may notice that, in a very real sense, conceptual skill embodies consideration of both the technical and human aspects of the organization. Yet, the concept of skills, as an ability to translate knowledge into action, should enable one to distinguish between the three skills of performing the technical activities (technical skill), understanding and motivating individuals and groups (human skill), and coordinating and integrating all the activities and interests of the organization toward a common objective (conceptual skill).
This separation of effective administration into three basic skills is useful primarily for purposes of analysis. In practice, these skills are so closely interrelated that it is difficult to determine where one ends and another begins. However, just because the skills are interrelated does not imply that we cannot get some value from looking at them separately, or by varying their emphasis. In playing golf, the action of the hands, wrists, hips, shoulders, arms, and head are all interrelated. Yet, in improving one’s swing, it is often valuable to work on one of these elements separately. Also, under different playing conditions, the relative importance of these elements varies. Similarly, although all three are of importance at every level of administration, the technical, human, and conceptual skills of the administrator vary in relative importance at different levels of responsibility.
It is the purpose of this article to suggest what may be a more useful approach to the selection and development of administrators. This approach is based not on what good executives are (their innate traits and characteristics), but on what they do (the kinds of skills which they exhibit in carrying out their jobs effectively). As used here, a skill implies an ability which can be developed, not necessarily inborn, and which is manifested in performance, not merely in potential. So the principal criterion of skillfulness must be effective action under varying conditions.
Technical skill is responsible for many of the great advances of modern industry. It is indispensable to efficient operation. Yet, it has greatest importance at the lower levels of administration. As the administrator moves further and further from the actual physical operation, this need for technical skill becomes less important, provided he has skilled subordinates and can help them solve their own problems. At the top, technical skill may be almost nonexistent, and the executive may still be able to perform effectively if his human and conceptual skills are highly developed.
Example, We are all familiar with those “professional managers” who are becoming the prototypes of our modern executive world. These men shift with great ease, and with no apparent loss in effectiveness, from one industry to another. Their human and conceptual skills seem to make up for their unfamiliarity with the new job’s technical aspects.
Human skill, the ability to work with others, is essential to effective administration at every level. One recent research study has shown that human skill is of paramount importance at the foreman level, pointing out that the chief function of the foreman as an administrator is to attain collaboration of people in the work group.4 Another study reinforces this finding and extends it to the middle-management group, adding that the administrator should be primarily concerned with facilitating communication in the organization.5 And still, another study, concerned primarily with top management, underscores the need for self-awareness and sensitivity to human relationships by executives at that level.6 These findings would tend to indicate that human skill is of great importance at every level, but notice the difference in emphasis.
Human skill seems to be most important at lower levels, where the number of direct contacts between administrators and subordinates is greatest. As we go higher and higher in the administrative strata, the number and frequency of these personal contacts decrease, and the need for human skill becomes proportionately, although probably not absolutely, less. At the same time, conceptual skill becomes increasingly more important with the need for policy decisions and broad-scale action. The human skill of dealing with individuals then becomes subordinate to the conceptual skill of integrating group interests and activities into a whole.
In the context of the three-skill approach, it seems that this manager was able to capitalize on this dependence because he recognized the interrelationships of all the activities under his control, identified himself with the organization, and sublimated the individual interests of his subordinates to his (the organization’s) interest, set his goals realistically, and showed his subordinates how to reach these goals. This would seem to be an excellent example of a situation in which strong conceptual skill more than compensated for a lack of human skill.
Conceptual skill, as indicated, becomes increasingly critical in more responsible executive positions where its effects are maximized and most easily observed. In fact, recent research findings lead to the conclusion that at the top level of administration this conceptual skill becomes the most important ability of all.
It would appear, then, that at lower levels of administrative responsibility, the principal need is for technical and human skills. At higher levels, technical skill becomes relatively less important while the need for conceptual skill increases rapidly. At the top level of an organization, conceptual skill becomes the most important skill of all for successful administration. A chief executive may lack technical or human skills and still be effective if he has subordinates who have strong abilities in these directions. But if his conceptual skill is weak, the success of the whole organization may be jeopardized.
This three-skill approach implies that significant benefits may result from redefining the objectives of executive development programs, from reconsidering the placement of executives in organizations, and from revising procedures for testing and selecting prospective executives.
Funding is one of the most important elements that determine the success of most businesses. Money provides the great engine of all businesses. Large or small businesses need certain amounts of money to function effectively and efficiently. Finance is the life blood of an organization. Where there is no blood, there is no life. Today, many businesses in The Gambia are suffering from funding problems, as banks’ lending rates and process are time-consuming. The way they do it is just like lending you an umbrella and taking it the moment it starts raining. For businesses to grow and operate effectively and efficiently, they need funds, and government and banks have a deeper role to play. Funding connection helps in the clarifications of business goals, and financial goal and strategy. Easy access to funds and a cheaper rate will create an environment to promote entrepreneurship which contribute massively to the development of a nation and economic growth.
Along with many other economic measures, businesses rely heavily on a country’s infrastructure. Infrastructure refers to the basic system of communications, transportation and energy facilities. The internet and technology can also be considered as part of infrastructure. In The Gambia, businesses need infrastructure more than ever. Because of globalization, all businesses are inter-related. No business is an island of its own. For business to flourish, the level of infrastructure needs to be improved. In the context of The Gambia businesses, are increasingly incurring cost due to the lack of good infrastructure. For example, the energy facility costs businesses a lot, since the supply of energy from NAWEC is very poor. The consequence of this is high operational cost, which increases the prices of products and services. In this low income earning nation, customers are very price-sensitive. If this persists, businesses will continue to fail, as they will no longer be able to cover their operational cost. Generator running cost is high and sales are down. The same thing applies to the communication, transportation, technology and the Internet. These factors contribute immensely to the success of business in The Gambia.
Access to markets
Strong link to markets is essential for the success of businesses The Gambia where the transportation system is very poor when it comes to the transportation of goods. Market link is vital, as it increases agricultural productions, thereby contributing to economic growth in different parts of the country and reducing hunger and poverty. The improvement of these links can increase and create opportunities for businesses in the country, thereby boosting productivity, increasing income and strengthening food security. There should be better access by small producers to a wider scope in the domestic market and even international market. This will help farmers to have the confidence to invest and take more risk to expand their production capacity. Creating access to markets is the duty of government. Markets should be open for all businesses countrywide. Government should consider tax reduction and easy access to import and export. Good road connections or transportation system that will make goods and services accessible within a short period of time should be provided. GTSC should seize the opportunity in this regard by coming up with a strategy that would boost their turnover and, better still, facilitate access to market for farmers and business people.