Tall oaks grow from small acorns, according to an old proverb. Some businesses begin with a simple concept and grow into multimillion dollar enterprises. The Blue Skies fruit processing factory in Ghana was established in 1997 by a small group of UK entrepreneurs and Ghanaian business partners. The idea was to process tropical fruit, chill it, and then fly it to the UK and other European countries. Every evening, passenger planes flew from Accra with room for extra cargo, so there was no shortage of transportation.
Vision and strategy are the building blocks of business success, but they must be backed up by proactive and effective action. We had to identify and overcome obstacles that would have prevented us from achieving critical mass in the first year. It’s much easier to make progress if stakeholders are identified, potential problems are avoided, and resources are effectively allocated. With the launch of a new business, there is a need for new systems to be put in place. The Blue Skies company began exporting goods in 1998.
One thing to keep in mind is that Blue Skies, like any business, needed a team of people to get through the tough times and see the company through its early stages. Initially, it was necessary to verify the potential market, clarify essential distribution steps, and determine how to build the factory. A look at the connections that lead to successful outcomes can be beneficial in almost any organisation. In today’s business world, this is becoming more and more critical.
The Blue Skies case study is a good illustration of how to make smart investments in a growing economy. The start-up raises questions about the importance of personal initiative, teamwork, and the ability to bounce back from failure. There was also the need to appreciate the wider social and cultural context. The Sustainable Agriculture Group of the World Bank included Blue Skies in a guide to making value chains work in agribusiness in Sub Saharan Africa.
The guide observed that since 2000, the company has grown tremendously, expanding its value chain by incorporating additional operations into its processing facilities. It goes on to note that several factors contributing to Blue Skies’ success… such as high levels of trust, sharing of information, innovation, value addition, positioning collaboration, and risk mitigation. Blue Skies emphasizes prompt payment to farmers, the provision of training and education on EurepGAP standards, certification of farmers, interest-free loans for dedicated farmers, and willingness to improve local road infrastructure to improve access to farms by company trucks.
Looking back to 1997, we can see the steps that enabled a small start-up business venture to develop into a multi-national operation with production facilities in a number of countries. The vision provides the start point, but other guiding principles also contribute to long-term success.
The book, 7 Principles for Exceptional Performance explores the importance of developing a clear vision, supported by a positive, proactive approach. This is the Second of the 7 Principles discussed in the book, which challenges old assumptions and identifies the steps leading to positive future change.