Leadership at the peak – Corporate executive vs the entrepreneur

By George W Nyabadza

LAST week I met one of my friends, who is an entrepreneur of note. Her husband on the other hand is a high flying corporate executive. We were catching up on events taking place back hom

e when our discussion turned to the challenges they were facing in their new family business venture in Zimbabwe’s rapidly transforming food retail sector.


It seems that one franchise food retail supermarket group is taking over the market whilst another centrally controlled food retail supermarket chain that previously dominated the market with two very strong brands is floundering and wallowing in the murky waters of poor management, lack of vision and focus resulting in a rather dramatic loss of market share and credibility with both suppliers and consumers.


How the mighty have fallen! What is happening between these two retail giants is a depiction of the scene unfolding in many organisations across the nation; the battle between cushy boardroom executives and hungry dynamic entrepreneurs. As the economic collapse continues unabated, many executives have to supplement their rapidly eroding corporate incomes with ventures of one sort or the other that they find time to manage after hours. Some are into different types of farming ventures, others are into trading of all sorts, others into haulage and others find themselves entering the highly competitive food retail market.


This is where the upcoming franchise retail supermarket group is scoring as it offers lucrative and attractive retail sites to eager corporate executives. My friend is one such lucky recipient of a new franchise. The business model that these executives are using to manage their private ventures seems the same throughout the land. The hardworking executive lurches onto a priceless idea, does what needs to be done to secure the new business venture, gets it off the ground with a good dose of working capital and then immediately leaves its day to day running to some bright-eyed unseasoned manager or as is the case with my friend to the ever loving wife, limiting his involvement to board meetings (yes even for family businesses) and hurried tours of the operations.


More often than note such delegation spells trouble and doom for the new venture. What the executives do not realise is that there is a world of difference between managing a corporate entity where your presence is not missed even during your annual leave and a nascent family business.


The latter, an entrepreneurial venture demands a different mindset. Entrepreneurs are hands on, hard workers who do not watch the clock. They love their businesses and take the time to get to know them thoroughly by getting immersed in all the operational processes; marketing, human resources, sales, finance, administration, housekeeping, training and development. Nothing is unimportant. Most successful corporate executives are not entrepreneurs bold enough to step into the unknown to create or even lose wealth.


My friend is fortunate in that his beloved is a true entrepreneur; she gets immersed in the businesses, with the people, the customers and the suppliers. I am afraid that what appears to be an opportunity to create real wealth for those executives patriotic enough to remain in the motherland may turn out to be endless black holes where the seed money will be forever lost. This may be a good opportunity to reflect on strategies being employed in building up personal wealth.


There is a need to master the ability to switch between the corporate mentality and the entrepreneur’s dynamic way of thinking. There should be a burning desire to immerse one self in the new ventures, to become an expert in whatever field you have invested in, to get your hands dirty, literally, and to make a success of what is rightfully and legally yours.


* For more information on leadership development programmes please visit our website www.achievement-success.com or e-mail George on info@achievementsuccess.com