Written by Daliso Daka
“Being far away from home always seems to excite a sense of wickedness in me. For some it comes from being in a totally new environment, but this trip is different – I am a man on a mission. It’s SME week and we are all being paired with our UK counterparts to analyse businesses on our various placements. Our overall reception was overwhelming by senior management, in the first week everyone was welcomed and introduced to all members of staff and set to work learning about their businesses and analysing all business activities: that proved overall to be a challenging task. For some reason I felt like a magician, I felt as though I could use all my chi and cast spells to fix all the various challenges the business had – this couldn’t be further from the truth, it was only more evident that my counterpart and I were just human and we had a lot to fit in to the next 9 weeks.
All the businesses had one common aim; to increase profitability. However some had neither a strategic plan in place nor any marketing plan and some lacked professional training. With every persuasive argument we brought to senior management, the more contentious situations became. It seemed hard to focus on the problem in some cases – being groomed to be business consultants and future entrepreneurs did not seem as simple as imagined, though the training we’d already had did go a long way in helping us deal with this sometimes difficult first week. I’m not sure about other businesses but another factor to add in was that half the time while we worked we were being baked by the scorching sun rays. We had to deal with all problems in a professional way and one business lesson learned quickly was; “never focus on the person, focus on the problem because the problem is the problem and not the person”. Staff seemed to reveal information that would in cases be considered irrelevant to our mission and sensitive, though we appreciated and understood that every accusation was a cry for help. We have witnessed employees work for our organization with their blood sweat and tears all because they’re eager to engage their sense of purpose, could it all be attributed to these hard economic times and desperation? That was out of the question, these employees all seemed to have the right motive and that is their daily drive. They say purpose is the new currency of life and Eilidh Dunn, who is my counterpart, has been such an inspiration. She has seen hope where I have seen obstacles, and her expertise have been of vitality to our mission. If the purpose of life is to find your gift, and the meaning of life is to give it away I have found mine, at this point nothing seems more certain than this valuable insight. Challenges Worldwide ICS has permitted all the volunteers to defy the status quo by challenging our own beliefs, and allowing ourselves to break out of our cocoons.”