I am not an educated man and never had the chance to educate myself further than High School. Yes, I completed a home study Agricultural Diploma that I received the highest distinction results for but it was as if I was revising notes that I had learnt at school. I don’t credit myself with that Diploma. At 56 years of age, what I know and implement on a day to day basis at work is what I learnt, at work. The daily motivation from a young age to feed and provide for my family kept me going. The need to learn and my hunger for knowledge kept me asking questions.
Today I run a pallet factory that, in the last 2 years has been through so much, it should have shut down. I was employed by the oldest of two brothers to carry out my role as Factory Manager. Hired locally, I was paid and treated like a local. (In Ghana, this is a big difference to that as being hired as a foreigner.) I was referred the job by a friend of mine and at the time I had a choice of two jobs to take. He said, “Alan, I know you, go and fix that factory. ” I have no idea why I took this job over the other two as it paid less, working conditions were not good and my then Boss had lost all interest in his business for various personal reasons. He once told me that he wanted to sell up and buy a boat and live on it.
Some days I hated the job. I hated my boss and I hated the challenge set before me. Some of the labour were militant against management and it was difficult to get things done. Finally I got the chance to make a change and reluctantly I fired the main Foreman as he was actually as demotivated as my Boss but more militant in his behavior. One day he refused an instruction from my boss and I had all the reasons to have him on Insubordination charges. He was gone. My Boss then asked me what I was going to do. I had no answer for him at the time.
A couple of days went by and I remembered back to a pineapple farm that I managed in the Ciskei in South Africa. I had a very militant lazy tractor driver that basically did what he wanted. I solved his problem by promoting him to Leader Tractor Driver and part of our management team. Overnight he went from being the most feared worker to work with to being a strong supporter of management. The next day I went into work and told my Boss we would promote the biggest trouble makers and make them Foremen in the Factory. He laughed and told me I was crazy.
Two of the biggest trouble makers were promoted and now 18 months later we have come to the end of May 2019 and just experienced our best ever production Month coupled to the best ever sales month in this companies existence. This has not been a small achievement in any measure.
My biggest regret about this effort is only one thing, in January 2018, my Boss (the one that hired me) died on his motorbike and will never see what we have done and realized with his dream. The dream he nearly gave up on. When he died I stood next to his lifeless form and in the hospital tried to get him out of his coma, and in his coffin, made him the promise that we would stand together and reach the goal that he always wanted to reach. Well, I think we have honored that promise and you can now rest in peace.
Everything I have learnt, taught myself and experienced went into this effort. When I needed it, it all finally came together. What I know can not be taught out of a book or in a classroom, you learn it by getting dirty and working and understanding people.
I hope that this is the last job of my life because I now love it.