Namibia: Enjoy the Journey

TRAVELLING from Windhoek to Katima Mulilo takes time, about 13 hours of driving. Tourists like the route, as it takes them to the spectacularly magnificent Victoria Falls and the Chobe National Park, jam-packed with wildlife.

Tourists cite the journey as being a highlight of their Namibian experience, as they get to see up close the country's cultural diversity. Namibia's far north-east extends into central southern Africa, and is the only place on earth where four countries, namely Namibia, Zambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe share a border.

Katima Mulilo is the administrative centre of the Zambezi region, one of Namibia's 14 administrative regions, formerly known as the Caprivi. The fast-growing town serves as the geographical region's commercial hub, attracting cross-border shoppers from neighbouring Zambia and Botswana.

Travelling the route to reach the destination of a work assignment I decided on as an analogy. I would compare my travels to an entrepreneurial journey, one typically encountered by many a Namibian entrepreneur.

Like an entrepreneur musters resources and then prepares carefully before embarking on an entrepreneurial journey, I checked the vehicle for roadworthiness, filled the fuel tank, and checked the tyres, oil and cooling system. I adjusted the seat and rear-view mirror for comfort, and then headed out.

Travelling north, one is easily lulled into a false sense of security, as the road exiting the northern side of Windhoek is a lovely, newly-constructed highway. It entices one to speed, but constraint is necessary, and one must remind oneself that there are traffic rules and speed restrictions to adhere to. The same applies in business. Abide by rules and regulations, or you will encounter problems from the onset as you embark on that entrepreneurial journey.

Irritated and at times much annoyed by the driving style of other motorists, I adopted a defensive driving style, where one considers other motorists potentially reckless, irresponsible and even idiotic. I was constantly on the lookout for speedsters, and slowed down to let them pass, thereby eliminating the potential risk of some fool overtaking on a blind rise or dangerously close to oncoming traffic.

The analogy here with business is to allow competitors space to do silly things, and thereby face the consequence of their actions in the form of an accident and the demise of their enterprise, or paying a costly financial penalty.

Just like an entrepreneur must maintain control of their enterprise or run the risk of sloppiness, substandard customer service delivery or inefficiency creeping in, both hands on the steering wheel all the time, helped me keep control of the vehicle.

Periodically, I checked the rear-view mirror for potential hazards approaching. But it was merely a glance, and not a stare. My eyes were on the road ahead, as that was where the greatest risk would emanate from.

In business, it is important to know where you are coming from, but more important to know where you are going, or wish to go to. For a vehicle driver, the human and animal hazards are ahead, and not behind. Isn't that somewhat similar in business?

There are stretches of the road where markings have faded, but I just had to remain alert and take care. The same in business, isn't it? As those lines between what's right or wrong, good or bad, are often blurred, it requires concentration, integrity, honesty, steadiness and perseverance.

Entrepreneurs pause, take breaks and in this way look after their own well-being. So, I did the same on my journey, broke the monotony of a long journey by listening to music, stopping for breaks and taking time to view Namibia's lovely landscape.

Entrepreneurs, enjoy the journey, and continue doing a great job growing Namibia's economy.

* Reach Danny Meyer at danny@smecompete.com

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