While in South Africa, we have arranged business meetings with several multinational companies to discuss what it takes to do business in South Africa. Among the companies that we met with were Cummings, Eli Lilly, and SAB Miller. The first two are familiar Indianapolis headquarter companies and the other is a South African beer maker who acquired the American firm Miller Beer. We met with director of the South African business unit of Eli Lilly and Cumming and met with the CEO of SAB Miller. Having the opportunity to met and gain knowledge from the management of these companies was priceless.
It was interesting to hear how the businesses had to adjust when developing a presence in a foreign country. A company has to worry about understanding the culture and consumers of each country that they serve. They must understand the population, government regulations, and environment that they are going into. For example South Africa has a large population of undereducated people due to the education system during Apartheid. Many companies stated that they were experiencing a shortage of skilled people to choose from in terms of employment. There are many unemployed people in the country, but they are unable to perform the tasks needed. Also South Africa has regulations that companies must adhere to within the country even though the companies are not headquartered in the company. In order to do business in the country they must be in compliance with these regulations in addition to the ones in the US. Being social responsible was also a key of each multinational company.
All of the meetings were interesting, but the meeting with SAB Miller’s CEO, Norman Adami, was my favorites. He took the Miller brand and nursed it back to life. The company is one of South Africa’s outstanding companies. They take pride in developing their employees with training. They also empower employees within the companies as well. SAB Miller allows their drivers to own their trucks. Not only did it serve as a way to gain wealth for the employees but also made them more productive adding to the efficiency of the business. He also gave some nuggets of wisdom to us:
- Make reality your friend: Look at all the facts
- Strategy is situational: sometimes your strategy will have to change depending on the situation. Don’t be so ridged.
- Strategy must be bold.
- Find the genius in simplicity
- Leadership requires the both the head and the heart.