When Trevor Rogers, a decorated Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) pundit, took over as Interim CEO of Kamoso Africa, he was tasked by the board to perform an in-depth strategic review of the business which had been underperforming due to a combination of own goals and COVID pressures. He tells Staff Writer KEABETSWE NEWEL that he has since stabilised the business and that the good times can now roll.
To Kamoso Africa, a home grown Africa-focused retail distributor, Rogers’ role is similar to that of a cleaner. He was head-hunted by Kamoso at a time when the company was against a tide of troubled waters. It was just after the former CEO of Kamoso, Ian Dewar, was suspended while its Chief Financial Officer (CFO), Wilfred Mwiwa, resigned following revelations that the company had lost money in a possible misconduct.
The Kamoso board of directors identified Rogers as the right man to restore the fast growing retail distributor to its glory. Rogers has an impeccable record in the FMCG field and is no stranger to Botswana’s FMCG industry. He was the CEO of CA Sales, the largest FMCG distributor in Botswana between 2012 and 2017 where he was key in its growth. He also worked as the CEO of Bolux Group here in Botswana. Rogers has also served as an executive for the Tiger Brands Group in South Africa. His professional history qualified him as the right man for the job, hence he was head-hunted by the board to save Kamoso Africa.
In the interview with The Business Weekly & Review, Rogers stated clearly that his preliminary findings were that indeed there was some wrongdoing. “But the misconduct is far smaller than what was reported in the media,” he says. “The magnitude of the misconduct and its contribution to the Kamoso challenges was insignificant.”
What Rogers found was that Kamoso was operating from a sub-optimal strategic direction, resulting in administrative/managerial and operational inefficiencies. Under the previous leadership, decision making was centralised at the top. Rogers believes the centralisation played a major role in the mismanagement of the business. As a result of the centralisation, the business lacked efficiency, especially in ensuring that product pricing was right to generate an impressive turnover and grow profit margins.
By decentralisation, his goal was to divide a group of functions and activities into relatively autonomous units with overall authority and responsibility for their operation. Decentralisation is simply a matter of dividing managerial work and assigning specific duties to various executive skills.
As a large retail distributor, Kamoso runs nine independent businesses, namely Liquorama, the largest liquor distributor in Botswana, a building supplies company called Builders Mart, Mediland Healthcare Distributors, Waves Sales and Distribution, Tissue Manufacturers Botswana (T.M.B.), ILO Industries, Mont Catering and Refrigeration and a company called Real Plastic Mould (Pty) Ltd.
By decentralising the business, Rogers has ensured that all the nine operations are managed separately and independently. Their unit managers report to him as the interim Group CEO but they are empowered to make decisions. He believes that decentralisation relieves top executives of the burden of performing all the functions.
“Centralisation of authority puts the whole responsibility on the shoulders of an executive and his immediate group,” he explains. “This reduces the time at the disposal of top executives who should concentrate on other important managerial and strategic functions. So, the only way to lessen their burden is to decentralise the decision-making power to the subordinates,” he says.
Rogers believes that with decentralisation, diversification of products, activites and markets are facilitated. A centralised enterprise with concentration of authority at the top will find it difficult and complex to diversify its activities and introduce additional lines of manufacture or distribution. However, he notes, when authority is decentralised, executives in the organisation get the opportunity to develop their talents by taking initiative, in that way also making them ready for managerial positions. The growth of a company greatly depends on its talented executives.
“Decentralisation ensures better control and supervision as the subordinates at the lowest levels will have the authority to make independent decisions. As a result, they have thorough knowledge of every assignment under their control and are in a position to make amendments and take corrective action,” further he says, adding that decentralisation brings the decision making process closer to the scene of action.
This leads to quicker decision-making of lower level managers since decisions do not have to be referred up through the hierarchy. Under the current structure, Rogers believes that he will be able to monitor the performance of each unit independently and identify which unit is weak. Further, by empowering the managers of the business units separately, they are able to independently negotiate the right pricing, operate at minimal cost, and ensure higher turnover and bigger profit margins. Rogers says, “Cash is King.”
As a result of the decentralisation process in which some of the cost cutting measures include reducing consultancy fees and operational costs, as well as restructuring, some positions proved redundant. Kamoso entered into a mutual separation agreement with some of the members of staff whose positions were redundant, approximately 130 of whom signed a mutual separation agreement. The company offered them a retrenchment package of a one-off payment plus two months’ notice pay, severance pay and leave pay in return for an amicable termination of employment.
By restructuring to save costs, Rogers says Kamoso was actually saving over 1 200 employees whose livelihoods depended on sustainability of Kamoso. “We are already seeing signs of improvement,” he says. “In July, Kamoso actually made a profit and we expect the trend to continue,” he discloses.