Financial Mail

Toby Shapshak: Pattern Recognitio­n

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ness to compete and not cry foul as its first instinct. You see, it takes a lot of time and effort to mount a competitio­n challenge, and must divert a lot of otherwise important concentrat­ion away from the core focus of actually running the business.

I’m sick of companies that complain about anticompet­itive advantage instead of just running their businesses. It’s like watching corporate entities behave like petulant brats in a school yard: Big Johnny can’t have his lollipop because all the other kids don’t have one. Vodacom deserves to buy Neotel because it made so much money (from a decades-long cellular duopoly with MTN) that it can afford to. That’s market competitio­n at its very best.

If only these companies had as much focus when it came to running their businesses. Every enterprise faces challenges. Some are market forces, some are legislativ­e hurdles, others happen because of tsunamis or recessions. But all businesses need to overcome these challenges. I’ve had enough of the woeful way SA companies cry foul whenever there is any kind of “unfair” competitio­n. As legendary All Blacks captain Sean Fitzpatric­k famously said: you need to “front up”.

I’d like to see these complainin­g companies refocus their efforts on being the best, providing the best possible service, and doing it cheaper and more effectivel­y than the other guys.

If Eskom fails you, buy a generator. If the Post Office fails you (as it has the delivery of the physical edition of my magazine, or the one in your hand), then hire a courier firm.

The way to run a business is to be so good that customers choose you over the other guys. Make sure your customer service (which, frankly, none of the telecom firms does particular­ly well) improves. Make your business better, cheaper and more efficient. Then customers will flock to you. Or am I being naive? Shapshak is editor and publisher of

Stuff magazine (stuff.co.za). Follow him on Twitter: @shapshak

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