By Joyee Zhou
There is a kind of plant growing in Africa.
In the first half year after it germinates, it is one of the shortest grass on African savannah, and people can hardly see its growth. However, when the rain season comes, it starts to grow crazily, and some can even reach 2 meters in 3 days. Its name is Giant King Grass, famed as one of the highest grass in Africa. Actually it does grow at first, but it is the root rather than the stalk. It is because of the long and strong root that it can grow so fast afterwards.
I hope what we are doing can be a blade of giant king grass.
Three weeks has gone, and it is almost time to leave. Something seems to have changed: the new banner of shop is hanged up, and a new Facebook page is created. While some changes come too slowly to be perceived: Mr. G’s business is still stuck by the capital constraint, and the partnership has not fully operated. Have we really brought some changes to them? Personally I regard this process as “rooting”. Just like giant king grass, the growth may be negligible at the beginning, but with a solid foundation the efforts will be paid back as the “rain season” comes.
There was one time I asked Josh my deepest concern about the trip: can we really make a difference? The eagerness to help them grow better sometimes make me stressed and depressed. What Josh said relieved me a lot: it is always hard, even impossible, to change something in three weeks, but you may think of what you are doing as something like planting a tree.
What is in common of these two? We all expect to amaze the world, but changes seldom happen overnight. It always requires patience, endurance, and faith. Regardless of the uncertainty of outcomes and the frustration of waiting, the sweetness of fruits is always something we should strive for. That is the reason we are here, contributing our time and sweat no matter how long it takes or how disappointing it can be. All the wonders start with saplings.
Compared with writing a report, Haider and I think providing practical help is more important. After all, brainstorming ideas and writing something on paper is not enough to bring changes. We are struggling to leave something more than a fancy technical report which they may not read one more time. Haider proposed us to offer such practical help by being the salesman of Z-Network (Mr. G’s shop) and piloting our marketing plan in schools and government offices. By the end of this week, we have visited 7 education institutions and 6 government offices to introduce Z-Network to them. Apart from marketing Mr. G’s business, we also collected the feedback from different customers to improve our strategy. Another thing I learn from the whole-day “salesman” experience is to jump out of circle. I always think face-to-face visit may annoy people, but it turns out that most customers welcome our visits and show great interest in Z-Network. In this small island, networking is not like in a super developed business world like Hong Kong. It is simply based on personal interactions and the attitude.
What fulfills my experience is that I also tried some technical work which I had never done before. For marketing purpose, we need a leaflet about Z-Network. Because Mr. J (Mr. G’s brother-in-law) is too busy to design one, we learned to make a leaflet in one night and it worked well when we visited the customers. Moreover, we are also using excel to construct a customer database and an accounting system for Z-Network. Though it is a small business, there involves a lot of considerations when designing the functions. How to quickly locate the customer? How to track the previous transaction? How to examine the performance and project the revenue? Etc. The hand-on practice is also a self-improvement process which makes me think more comprehensively about their needs.
Maybe so far the change is little, but the tree has been planted and the root will be growing. This is already what we can be proud of: regardless of the difficulties, we plant a tree.