VOLUNTEER CONSULTANT

Ray Belanger

  • Age: 62
  • Job title: Consultant
  • Location: Toronto, Canada
  • Nationality: Canadian
  • Professional qualification: MBA
  • Key areas of expertise: Finance, accounting, start-ups, scaling up organisations

Brief career history

30 plus years of international business experience within the finance and accounting arena. Multi-industry background including wholesale and retail, distribution, new media, training, hospitality, food service, film and television. My particular interest lies in start-ups and early growth companies looking for seasoned help in building a scalable back office.

Where/ how did you come across Grow Movement?

LinkedIn.

Why did you decide to join Grow Movement?

I had time available to support the aims of Grow Movement.

About your entrepreneur

  • Name: Isaac Mugabi
  • Business name: MIK Design Art
  • Age: 38
  • Gender: Male
  • Location: Kampala Uganda
  • Family: Married with two children
  • What does the business do: Design services and print production on t-shirts, umbrellas, bags and caps
  • How many employees: 7
  • Key customers: Local companies, schools, and NGOs

What was your first phone call like?

Tentative. The conversation was a get-to-know session, with basic Q&A. One challenge was technical difficulties, with dropouts and long delays between sending and receiving. Most of the time we spoke at the same time, then waited for the other to speak, then spoke at the same time.

What approach did you to take to identify the problems facing the business?

I saw two areas of improvement – one was record-keeping and the need to understand the company’s financial situation, the other was marketing and the need to identify a profitable niche.

What business tools did you use?

We used a basic cash flow to track cash inflows and outflows. The idea was to simply identify where the money was coming from and going to.  We shared use of a Google spreadsheet, which was quite a good tool.

On the marketing side, we tried to focus on what to sell to whom. We used Porter’s matrix, mass market vs niche, cost leadership vs quality. This was perhaps too high a concept for the level of the company, but there are few simpler tools to address the problem. The problem being “you can’t be all things to all people”.

How many sessions did you have?

12.

How long were the sessions?

20–30 minutes.

What preparation did you do?

Not much was required, outside of building the spreadsheets online. It was clear to me where we had to go.

How much email interaction did you have?

Very little.

What objectives did you work on? 

Understanding finance and marketing basics.

How did you manage being able to consult when you didn’t know the industry or the country?

Fortunately I had travelled to Africa before, so was familiar with the culture on broad terms. If the business had been more sophisticated, culture would have been a bigger issue, but MIK being as new born as it was, culture differences were not material.

What cultural challenges did you face?

Urgency. Discipline. And their low priorities. As I mentioned above, this was not unexpected, but coming from the North American business world, I was constantly shaking my head at the lassitude and pace.

What was the hardest thing about the project? 

Getting feedback as to whether I was being understood. We would cover ground – and I was assured that the key points were understood, and then a couple of sessions later it would become clear that they hadn’t been absorbed. Back to square one.

What professional benefits did you get out of the project?

Nothing professional.

What personal benefits did you get out of the project?

I am an Africa fan, so any interchange with the continent is interesting. Also, knowing that you have potentially improved someone’s life by improving their business.

What impact did you have?

  • 7 new employees
  • 50% Increase in profits
  • Increase in business planning, customer care, marketing and finance business skills

What would you say to another person who was thinking about becoming a consultant for Grow Movement?

Expect very basic companies with unclear understandings of basic commerce. Very few of these are above market-stall level. You are really starting at the bottom. Adjust your expectations accordingly.

How would you describe your experience at Grow Movement in five words?

Interesting, rewarding, eye-opening, entertaining, educating.

  • Ashridge Business School
  • MCA
  • Cass Business School
  • Institute of Leadership and Management
  • Bull Dog Trust
  • Westminster Business School
  • UK Aid
  • Turkish Airlines
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