By Jeremy Boles
One Week. Two Projects. three Workshops Delivered. Four Group of Students!
In my Global Business module during the second semester of college last year we had a guest lecturer who started the class with a question; “who thinks they will do business in Africa during their career”. I was amongst the first small handful to shoot up a hand, little did I know that fourteen months later I would be running workshops to train a team of consultants working on a growth strategy for a Tanzanian SME.
We have packed so much into our first week. Through the quick progression of the first stage we have steadily increased the structure of our work, learning to be more decisive in our discussions and quickly solve problems. We have completed 8 workshops facilitating and working with over fifty students, started two projects for RISE, and inspired many people through the benefits of student consulting. Our continuous interactions have shown how simple the idea is; it is such a clear win-win situation that everyone wants to commit to its development. The dean of the business school has enabled key resources, students are keen to plan out the organisation’s future, and tomorrow we are meeting another SME owner who is eager to use TSCG’s services.
Before meeting the Dean of the business school we were a little nervous; “what if he didn’t like what we were trying to do”, “maybe he misunderstood our emails”, “surely he’s too busy and important to help us”. Dr. Ulingeta O.L. Mbamba turned out to be one of the most welcoming people I have ever met. All of our conversation with him was narrated by his warm gentle welcoming smile. We discovered that he loved the idea and the work we are doing for the Tanzanian Student Consulting Group. He supported us by reserving a room for our workshops and introducing us to some very impressive masters students who had expressed interest after he shared our details with them. Our small gift of a lucky Blarney stone was received with great delight and placed neatly on his desk, a reminder of our work together.
Immediately after meeting the Dean, on our first day at the university, we met with some students we had been communicating with prior to the trip. This was our first opportunity to run a workshop, our plan was to introduce ourselves, the idea of management consulting, and the impact of ISCG. We had scheduled one hundred and twenty minutes to complete all of this, along with some administrative tasks such as a survey we had created. It took us about thirty minutes. The workshop was a success as we covered everything we planned to and shared a detailed understanding, but we quickly realised the workshops deserve much more preparation and content. We have learnt from this; each of the eight workshops so far has gotten progressively better.
Our second day of work in the city was spent “on client site” as most professional consultants would say. In a morning of reviewing the business and questioning the management team we quickly identified problems that our consulting teams could help with. It was fun seeing how quickly we could go from knowing nothing about solar panels, or rural Tanzanian culture, to being able to contribute valuable ideas to the business. This is what I love about consulting. We built a strong relationship with RISE, and sent over two project scopes before our next meeting with students. RISE confirmed the project’s value and we have now been using the real examples to focus the students on practical cases during the workshops.
As we have continued to discuss the idea with more people, we’ve heard more and more positive feedback of its value. Many of our Tanzanian colleagues are passionate about training more students to structure how they face problems so that the students can continue to build successful businesses. Somehow, despite our experience and positions, both physically in the room and career wise, I feel a little intimidated by the caliber of some of our colleagues. It is nice to still be successfully achieving one of my career goals of never being the smartest person in the room.