Monday, 10 June 2013

A Note from the CEO's Desk

By Farzana Rasheed

The past few weeks have been quite challenging and stressful but also exciting and promising. Is that possible? Yes it is when you are trying to run a business and, a business in Liberia no less! 

Strengthening our team

We recently hired two expatriates in a burst of enthusiasm in a single month and unfortunately, only one hire was successful. It was a set back back since we spent a considerable sum of funds to hire the person and, even more importantly, had introduced this new staff to all our clients. We had to send the fellow back to the country of origin and, inform all our clients of our decision. It was a bit embarrassing since it all happened within a month's time. One minute, we were excitedly introducing our new guy as the Head of IT services and the next, telling everyone, he failed his probation! Luckily, our clients were understanding and, no sarcastic remarks were made! At least not to my knowledge. 

Nevertheless, the other hire, a hardware expert, has proved to be a success. Our on-site maintenance services have improved significantly. We are conducting much more professional and comprehensive maintenance of our clients' hardware. Also, faulty equipments are being diagnosed and repaired in our workshop. We are now able to repair damaged motherboards instead of having to replace them entirely. 

My own Macbook Pro's power cable got damaged and, Tauseef repaired it in a jiffy. I sighed in relief since otherwise I would have to pay double the price to replace it in Monrovia. 

Our workshop has been re-organised, re-ordered and is finally looking like one! 

Our junior staff is also seemingly flourishing under the tutelage of a qualified and experience hardware expert. In fact, Tauseef is drafting a training plan for our trainees which will introduce the boys to all the major topics. This will give them a firm theoretical foundation and, boost their confidence on site. 

So, even though I have been unsuccessful in hiring an expatriate network engineer to improve my network/internet/connectivity/security services on site and, to manage the whole show, I somehow feel the team as a whole is coming together. Staff is often working late at night without us asking them to. They want to get pending jobs done! No more leaving it to tomorrow. And, it feels like there's finally a system in place and, things get done as they should. 

My senior IT staff, Jonathan, who still remains the head of IT and our network engineer has also come a long way. Jonathan is producing more accurate and technical reports, shares his plans, and is much more pro-active. I think he finally gets what I really want from him. 

I peeked at his desk and was happy to see he was preparing some training materials for our staff. 

During a recent weekly staff meeting, I felt that our team was focused, enthusiastic and optimistic. We were all on the same page. I have not felt so good about my team as a whole in quite a long time. That made my day!

So, I will still keep my eye out for an expatriate network engineer so I can take NATC to the next level but meanwhile, will continue to lead the team and, try to get the best out of them. 

Are we making money?

This critical question has really been put to the test in the past few weeks. Our expenses have shot up with the hiring of an expatriate staff and there are much higher operating costs. We are spending more than $ 500.00 per week on electricity alone! 

We are also providing round the clock services to our clients and, in turn, we have not been able to negotiate higher fees. It is going to be my target to reverse this! 

Our supply side of the business - chasing public bids, fulfilling complex supply orders and so on - is expanding and, our hands are literally full! However, in order to execute the supply orders, we have had to seek finance from our bank at a stiff interest rate. We are getting better and better in improving our delivery time but certain factors such as delays in air shipments and/or the client taking forever to pay us has choked our cash flow situation. 

Putting all this together, it has seriously been a challenging few weeks!

End Note

It is perfectly normal to feel a little stressed out at this critical phase of our company history. We are growing, seeking more business, borrowing money, and hiring more people! It is this critical hurdle we must jump and, land on our feet.  

Lastly, I enjoy bringing my daughter to work every day and, feel grateful that I can. Our staff help me out by holding her, playing with her and baby sitting her if I am in a meeting. I am able to pretty much work at the same level as before and, feel content and productive. 

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