Why Combi Drivers are the Ultimate Entrepreneurs
Combi drivers. We love them. We hate them. We love to hate them. But no matter how you feel about our local public transport professionals, there’s a lot they can teach you about success in business – and in life.
By CELIA AJUBA
‘Main Mall! Main Mall! Hurry Mama. I’m going your way. Main Mall! Main Mall! A re tsamaye. A re. A re. Let’s go now, Mama!’
I remember my first year in Gaborone. I had to learn the ropes and take combis everywhere.
We may take them for granted, but I have so much respect for these street-wise entrepreneurs.
Combi drivers get an A* in perseverance. Every day, at every main opportunity, without fail, they do everything they can make sure their vehicle is full.
They keep jockeying for the best spots, all the while calling out to every person who comes remotely within earshot – until every seat is occupied.
The combi driver understands that his is a volume business, and he knows that even one empty seat is revenue gone for good. A few pula here. A few pula there. It all adds up.
Maybe you too have a volume business. Or maybe you don’t. Either way, nothing, and I do mean nothing, is more important in business than perseverance.
Combi drivers advertise themselves relentlessly.
The constant horn-honking and calling-out tells pedestrian that a seat is available. If there is a combi with space available in your vicinity, you know all about it.
Do they do this only some of the time? Just when they feel like it?
No. All the time.
And that’s how advertising should be done: all the time. Invisibility is not a good business strategy.
Prospecting for business
Combi drivers, and their right hand man, the condi, are constantly on the look-out for business. The have the observation skills of an eagle, spotting potential passengers from side streets, across busy main roads, or emerging from offices and school gates.
Are you making the most of your prospects? There’s no point in complaining about your lagging sales if you’re not doing much to keep your funnel full.
Collect business cards.
Don’t let shyness or demotivation prevent you from putting yourself out there.
You never know where all this might lead.
Focus on the customer experience
Customer service, on a minibus? Certainly. I’ve been on combis which have made detours down side roads, onto dirt patches, and occasionally practically to someone’s front door, to pick them up. They make it easy for the customer to buy. Combi drives know that this is important.
Unless your customers find it easy to deal with you, they’ll look elsewhere – to one of your hundred other competitors.
Go the extra mile and you will be rewarded.
You might not be used to using the words considerate and minibus in the same sentence, but I have witnessed a significant amount of generous behaviour.
Combi drivers acknowledge their role in the community and often give free rides to young school children and the elderly. They’ve helped me when I’ve been on the completely wrong route, stopping the vehicle, re-funding my money and flagging down a compatriot to take me in the right direction.
Are you also known for your acts of kindness? How does the community see your business? Remember, your reputation follows you everywhere you go.
I’ve worked in the offices of many private companies, NGOs and Government departments. I often hear office staff complaining about ‘fatigue’. Interesting.
The combis start running before sunrise, and come off duty well into the evening. One driver – one shift. That’s the longest working day out of any profession in this country.
Successful entrepreneurs generate more wealth than those who follow the crowd because they do things that others just aren’t willing to do.
They spend more time honing their craft and perfecting their business skills. And they do it every day – even when it’s not fun. (Especially when it’s not fun.)
There are lessons in life and business everywhere you go in Botswana. All you need to do is open your eyes and appreciate them. A re!