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The next generation of East African business

Courtesy of the agricultural magazine Pro Agri, we explore what it takes to run a fast growing, labour intensive security company in a developing market. Have a read of how Josh Mallon and George Saggers tackle the everyday challenges faced running a security company in todays fast growing Zambian economy...

By Quintus Grobler - Pro Agri

You will not find many security companies where the two top managers are working side by side in the dust with their guards to control a car park for over 5000 visitors, however this is exactly what we found when we turned up at the Agritech show in Chisamba. Pre Secure security has a rich history in Zambia and has been operating since 1972. As they celebrate their 45th year, it’s clear to see that this well established company is being steered to new heights by some enthusiastic, new young management.

I catch up with Josh, the General manager as he does a kit inspection of one of his guards prior to deployment. ‘Getting to know the business as best as possible from top to bottom is key for me’ He tells me. ‘Security is a very labor intensive industry and getting to grips with the men and women on the ground is vital when it comes to shaping the future of the company. We do lots of events throughout Lusaka and making sure I understand what issues we face on the ground helps us continuously improve when planning the next’. After studying in the UK, Josh worked in security in Zimbabwe before being appointed to take the reigns are Pre Secure in Lusaka.

‘I’m trying to build a company that all our employees can be proud of. The welfare of the guys is important to me, especially in an industry where there is traditionally a distrust of management. I wouldn't ask anything of them I wouldn't do myself and its important for me that they understand that. I make sure their pay is processed before that of management, run guard of the month awards and make sure they are all able to submit suggestions or complaints directly to me. With nearly 1500 guards, it is a lot to go through and we cant please every guard, but I have noticed a substantial difference in their attitudes now they realise the people at the top are listening’.

I left Josh to finish his checks and found George by his armed response vehicle directing traffic towards the far end of the field. George came out from the UK to run the alarms, response and technical department of the company. ‘Being in the thick of it at events like this helps us understand what kind of service we actually deliver to our customers. It is very easy to talk about quality, anyone can do that. Delivering this quality is where the trick really lies. No amount of marketing will overcome a fundamentally bad service’.

‘I think this is where a lot of companies have fallen short in Zambia. Even with those organisations whose management have been able to capture the key measurables of their business can forget that stats only give you half the picture of what is going on at ground level. The leaders of labor intensive and client facing Zambian business need to put themselves in the position of the client to see exactly what it would be like to be on the receiving end of their service’.

He continues, ‘As a manager with the responsibility to change, implement and enforce procedures, you sometimes need to put yourself in the position of a recruit to figure out how he works, how you can best improve his working conditions and how you can get the most out of him. Most of the time this boils down to clear direction and site instructions’.

We take a break for a drink and a quick photo opportunity. What is clear from talking to Josh and George is that Pre Secure is taking a fresh approach in an industry that has become a pretty stagnant in terms of adopting new techniques and ways of working. It seems to be working for them. Business has been strong throughout 2017 and with lots of new prospects on the horizon, this trend looks set to continue. I would recommend to other business leaders in Zambia to watch this company and what they are managing to achieve. For me, it’s refreshing to see a company who are following through with their promises and commitments with enthusiasm.

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