Home > Development, General > Growing through sharing of information

Growing through sharing of information

The right information in the hands of the right person is worth a million dollars. Without information it is difficult to get ahead at anything. The bible says, my people perish for lack of knowledge. The right information at the right time can set you up for life. Zimbabweans tend to keep their cards to themselves. They don’t tell how they make their businesses work, the secrets they have that keeps their businesses going , where they get their supplies from , how to enter the market, contacts and so on.  A scarcity mentality thinks that if they share anything, there will be less for them to take advantage of. However the pie is extra extra large, and if you gave your nieghbour a piece, there’d still be enough for you and your family and still some more left over. In fact, you could even invite the whole village out for some pie and there’d still be some more left over. The world is our village. The opportunities are limitless so we all can afford to share.

One business cannot exploit all the opportunities available, most businesses do not have the capacity to do so. Yet business people give out as little information as possible and if they can send you off the beaten track, they would certainly be pleased to do so. Together we can achieve more. Maybe by sharing information with a fellow business person, together you may be able to collaborate and do more. Instead we keep information to ourselves even when we cannot make use of that information. If someone told me that there was a car auction on Friday and I was in the market for a car that would be useful information. If I wasn’t looking for a car, it would not even catch my attention, but if I knew a friend looking for a car, I could get that information to them, and they would benefit, and that information would have just become a useful.

Last year one of the government departments had a conference on the new COMESA customs agreement. I didn’t hear about that meeting, but somehow, it came to my attention that there was new favourable agreement within the COMESA countries. I began looking for information. I knocked on government doors, the SME ministry, Trade and commerce etc, to no avail. The SME office hadn’t attended the workshop and didn’t know about the new COMESA rules.

We eventually found an organisation that had sent a delegate to the workshop. We thought we had made our breakthrough but the lady practically refused to give us the information, even though her manager had referred us to her. She had been sent to the conference so that she could inform flea market operators of the new agreement. Fair enough, we didn’t run a flea market, so maybe she wasn’t obliged to give us the information. Sadly, weeks after the workshop, she still hadn’t briefed the people of the new rules and the file was sitting at home, unread, she was just too busy. She told us that if she gave us the information we would hold our own workshop and charge other people. We explained how we would use the information and how part of our mandate is to disseminate information, for free. In her own words she told us, nothing is for free in Zimbabwe, not even information. Mahara akapera! There is nothing for Free. Maybe she wanted us to pay her to give us the information, or maybe she was saying, you should have been there yourself, because I had to pay to get this information, why should I give it to you for free.

I imagine that she never got to open the file, she probably kept all that information to herself and the people she had been representing never got to learn about the new agreements. I eventually went online and after much searching, found the information in the most unlikely place, the COMESA website, ha! There was definitely a lot more information that was not on the website, that was sitting in the ladies’ file. I just had to make do with the little information I could find.

Zimbabwe has turned out to be the conference land, where if you need to find out anything you may need to attend a workshop, conference, breakfast meeting or summer school. There are few libraries with relevant information, research or general information. Most don’t even have current newspapers on their shelves, not to mention books. Those without the means to attend workshops, summer schools, breakfast meetings, and conferences have very limited access to general information. While we live in an information age where most people complain of information overload, there isn’t much important information circulating around in Zimbabwe. The internet doesn’t have much relevant Zimbabwe information either.

Last year SEDCO offered loans to entrepreneurs and I promptly went into their offices to get as much information as possible. Telling them I wanted to inform my readers about the loans, the man told me that they only gave out loan information to those who want the loans. If we dish out information, we’d have lines circling the building he told me. Funny enough, I had seen news of these loans in the newspaper.

Accessing general information may also prove to be challenging. Visiting government departments is always an experience worth writing about. Government employees are paid to provide a service, but often times one has to pry out information from them. The corporate sector isn’t much different. Transferring money seems a straight forward thing to do, but my experience has been that it can take at least five visits to the bank, to finalize the transaction. Instead of giving the relevant information all in one go so that the client can bring all the information required, the bank tellers prefers to furnish one piece of vital information at each visit. Business shoots itself in the foot by failing to provide information as and when required. With the use of the internet, information should be at the tips of the fingertips, one click away. It should not be necessary to physically go to a department or office, it should be possible to just click and get the required information.

Write it and make it known

Individuals and business must put out as much information out as possible. This is why blogging has taken on really big around the world as people share information across the Internet. To start a business in the United Kingdom, there is no need to fly there to get information. Simply search the Internet, send an email, make a phone and get the assistance required right away. The beauty of Modern technology allows business to transact across oceans without even travelling. In Zimbabwe, you have to be there in person, repeatedly knocking on doors. Now how many business people have the time to do that, they’d really need to want to invest in Zimbabwe to do so. To compete globally, Zimbabwe needs to join the information revolution. The information available online is often biased and inaccurate. Perceptions can change if we document things and share the information we have. The pen is mightier than the sword. Share the information that you have. It may not be important to you, but it can be the nugget that another person has been looking for. If it is your job to disseminate information, do it with pride, because this is a very important function, do not take it forgranted.

Get a website

Companies and organisations must take advantage of the Internet and put all the relevant information on their websites. Shall we continue to walk into offices to find out information? Some things should just be a click away. Put a frequently Asked Questions page and answer the most frequently asked questions. This will definitely make doing business with your company a lot easier. Anticipate questions and answer them in advance.

  • Think about the business person abroad who wants to partner with a business similar to yours, they may never know about your business unless you are online.
  • Think about the customer who wants to purchase products similar to what you make, will they ever find you or they will have to settle for your competitor who has online presence.

The Secret Customer

 Test the affectivity of your system by employing the secret customer. The secret customer is a staff member going to the business and pretending to be a customer and see how the customer experience is like. Most customers will purchase given the right information. On a number of occasions I have walked out of shops because staff members ignored me or were no interested in providing the information required. The result is that business goes to another company.

If you have any information you need to post or announce, please send it and we will post it on the blog.

Check out the blog for information on how to do business with China, coming soon

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Categories: Development, General
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