When last did you listen to your people?

How much better would our businesses be if we paid attention to the little people, those in most organisations who are sometimes seen but seldom heard? Too often, junior employees are not deemed worthy of the attention of those in the C-suite who dictate strategy from the ivory tower for implementation without question.

 

Fortunately for Nando’s it had a different approach and when Bruce McInroy who worked in the central kitchen at Nando’s where the firm brined its chickens and made its various sauces, approached co founder Robbie Brozin with an idea – he was taken seriously.

 

“You need to meet family friends of my parents. You share similar values. If you are thinking about expanding to the UK, you should talk to them, they are South African but are there now,” McInroy told Brozin.

 

The initial rollout of Nandos was slow as founders Robbie Brozin and Fernando Duarte spent two years figuring out their proposition and went from one store in Rosettenville south of Johannesburg to three, with one in Germiston and another in the suburb of Savoy. The young and ambitious brand boxed above its weight category from the start and was always assumed to be heftier than it was.

 

Most brands establish themselves in their home market first before having the temerity to expand elsewhere. But it was thanks to the conversation with McInroy that Brozin set up a meeting at outlet number 3 in Savoy. Dick Enthoven was the scion of the Hollard insurance business and was always on the lookout for good ideas. He was blown away by the chicken, checked out the small operation, and made a speedy commitment to funding its growth.

 

As McInroy predicted, their values, passed down through generations on both sides were strongly aligned. 33 years later there is still no written agreement between the families whose more than three decades long association is based on trust.  They did check each other out, having each given their respective lawyers phone number to the other. Their lawyers turned out to be the same person who vouched for both parties to the other.

 

Enthoven said something like: “we want to make a lot of money. If you make a lot of money, so will we,” and uncharacteristically of many start up investors took a modest minority stake and over the years has provided additional capital in tough times.

 

I disclose the number in my book Genius: How to Take Smart Ideas Global.

 

He continued : “I know that money is going to be a commodity for you one day and I never want to feel that we took advantage of you.”

 

And so the deal was struck. The pair hit it off immediately and they have been fortunate to share a similar vision for the business which operates globally.

 

It all started because an employee felt sufficiently empowered to talk to the boss. And critically, the boss paid attention.

Do you?

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