TACKLING THE DIGITAL BUG
Most of us remember the joy and anxiety of having to script a letter, deposit it into the letterbox and cross your fingers that it reaches its intended reader.
This is but one of the ways people used the post office long before 1989 when the Botswana Post was founded.
Technology and innovation have since given rise to Short Messages Services (SMSes), Electronic mail (e-mail) as well as other technological advancements that will leave future generation wondering what a stamp was, and what it was used for!
This week, the Voice Reporter Lame Modise had a chat with 52-year-old Malolwane native, Cornelius Ramatlhakwane the man at the helm of the country’s postal service, Botswana Post, to unpack the company’s plan in the digital age.
Q. Most people would only know that you are the Chief Executive Officer of Botswana Post, who would you say you truly are?
A. I am a father of two beautiful kids, a 17-year-old boy, and his 14-year-old sister. My wife and I have been married for 21 years.
Q. What do you do when you are not in your official capacity?
A. I enjoy fitness training which includes swimming, aerobics, cycling and spinning, of which I am a certified instructor.
I am also an avid reader.
I read motivational material on personal mastery, leadership, and coaching.
Contrary to what people might think, I have a keen interest in farming.
I have cattle, goats, sheep, I am also into horticulture and poultry.
I have an establishment in Malolwane where I get to practice my farming skills.
Q. How do you balance family life, hobbies, and work?
A. I do most of these with my family. We spend weekends together mostly doing farming activities and my wife runs our small businesses.
In order to make up for all the hard work we do, we take week-long family vacations annually to unwind.
Q. Now let’s talk about your career. You entered the post office in 2009 as part of Executive Management, what did your job entail?
A. As a Business Development Executive, I was a driver of the Botswana Post business growth strategy responsible for sales, marketing, product development, business intelligence, business development and revenue growth.
Q. That seems like a mouthful and a lot of responsibility. Where did you get such an aptitude?
A. I hold a Certificate in Management from MANCOSA and a Masters’ degree (MSc Strategic Management) from the University of Derby in the UK.
I also completed an Executive Development Programme at Stellenbosch University in South Africa and have various certification including; Risk Management, Personal Mastery in Investment in Excellence.
Q. Back to present day, take us through your day as the CEO of Botswana Post?
A. My day always starts with a prayer (I understand that God is my master and I only achieve great results by his grace).
Then a reflection on the previous day followed by daily, weekly, monthly plans. Depending on the day and time of the month, I do a review of strategic relationships, evaluation of achievements (KPIs) against the company’s level scorecard, review of risk, Executive, Strategic, Shareholder and Board activities.
Most of my day is taken by staff across the company as I believe that successful leaders are those who lead simply.
Q. What do you mean by ‘leading simply’?
A. I lead simply by modeling the behavior I want from the people I lead and by connecting with them so that I understand them better and they deliver to my satisfaction.
I also involve them in everything I do as this helps in delivering results.
Q. So how does the technique help?
A. My daily job is to create a Botswana Post that is fit to serve and fit for growth, thus endeavoring to deliver a high-performance company with a good service culture!
So the technique helps in getting the entire Botswana Post team to ‘cross the line’ with an extra degree of effort.
My role is to help the entire Botswana Post Team to understand that “We are here to make good Things Happen to Other People”
Q. What are some of the challenges you face in your work?
A. It would say culture because it is not easy to create a constructive culture.
Also leading leaders by enforcing a leadership philosophy that is adequately understood and embraced by my leadership team is not always easy.
Q. But there must be some headway you are making, surely!
A. I am happy that there are some indications are that we are winning as evidenced by the staff attitudes and customer feedback.
Q. How are the complexities of working in a post office?
A. The complexity of the Post can sometimes pose great misalignment challenges between the shareholder, the board and management.
Q. Any other challenges you have observed, from the private sector maybe?
A. There is obviously the competition with the private sector for similar business and customer segments.
Perhaps the most difficult challenges are the financial; capital adequacy, liquidity, cash flows.
Q. Still on the topic of challenges in your work, what is Botswana Post doing to keep abreast with the digital age since the services primarily provided for by the office (mailing and others) have been rendered redundant by innovations such as the SMS, e-mail, and social media?
A. We have leveraged on technology and smart partnerships to enhance our existing products and services and to also diversify into new revenue streams.
We have turned challenges into opportunities by building core strategic foundations specifically on Advanced Payment Systems, Advanced Communication Systems, and Multichannel Access systems (specifically mobile phones).
Q. How has this helped with turning the digital challenge into a positive?
A. By doing this we built a platform to deliver a virtual/branchless post office, e-government and e-commerce services, effective Financial Services Solutions to create financial inclusion and access for those initially excluded.
Q. What is your personal view of the claim that digital innovation is a threat to postal services in connection with the preceding question?
A. Turning this challenge into an opportunity has made it irrelevant for us.
We have positioned ourselves as an innovative leader in a value-added and technology-driven services.
We have delivered bespoken technology-based products and services, and we continue to innovate for even greater success. We are merely responding effectively to changing customer needs!
Q. Millenials (people born after 2000) and generations following them are a fast moving generation of consumers that businesses, such as yours (Botswana Post), has to profit from. Are we going to see BP redesigning their services to offer positive user experiences for them? If so, how are the transformations going to improve the services offered by the post office?
A. We have developed the “Icon of Excellence Strategy – 2011 – 2016” which we have now reviewed into “Executing Innovative Excellence Strategy 2017 – 2020. Our mail product has been enhanced through technology to make it relevant e.g Hybrid Mail Service, Electronic Sorting in our sort center. We also work with legacy service providers such as Botswana Power Corporation, Water Utilities, Insurance Companies to provide service access to Batswana electronically and conveniently. As for the millennials, I can confirm that we already have a plan to keep up. In fact, in some instances we have already provided for them; we have created Botswana Post Mobile App that provides various services including airtime, prepaid electricity, water bill presentment and payment, box rental and renewal. We are already providing various services online, and we have even greater plans for transformative service delivery that speaks to all our customers’ needs. So we have them covered already. “
Q. When do you intend to retire and what would be your ideal exit plan?
A. I am ready to retire at any time.
In any case, I am on a short (three year) contract.
I enjoy transforming both people and companies.
This is my passion and it is worth pursuing, not only locally but regionally and globally.
That’s the plan!
Q. Are there prospects of you joining politics in the future maybe?
A. At this point, I have not considered politics.
Business is my passion and I enjoy the challenges the business environment presents.
Q. Lastly TGIF, what are your plans for the weekend?
A. I am spending this weekend away with my wife enjoying a relaxed environment at the farm, we love the farm life being surrounded by cattle, sheep, goats, duck, geese, chickens, horses; you name it… that’s the plan!