The story is told of a Rwandan lady who arrives for the first time in Nairobi, Kenya. Upon seeing everybody walking very fast, she rushes into the first shop to buy an umbrella. When asked why she needs one, she responds that in Rwanda, the only reason why people rush is when it is raining.
Much as I cannot testify the authenticity of this story, it depicts the reality of how many behave in Rwanda towards promptness; or being fast. We all know that the level of development of this country is incredibly encouraging but things could have been much faster if more people understood the power of promptness.
Too many people are simply too slow in many organisations both in public and, unfortunately, in private institutions. Doing things in a timely manner is simply one of the missing ingredients in Rwanda’s vibrant business community. A simple answer like Yes or No takes ages to be given. I often think it is because many are afraid to be responsible of their answers.
I still remember how on my first days of arriving in Rwanda, I had to receive a sermon from my driver because I was “too fast”. He told me that in the Rwandan culture, it was a bad thing to rush, especially for women. He gave me the example of the cow and how it was gracious because it was slow. To him and the Rwandan culture, that is how many were supposed to take time in doing things.
I also remember responding that things needed to change because we were no more in that age and how businesses are requested to be fast. I repeated to him the quote “Time is Money”.
In any business relationship, time is valuable and business should be done with promptness whether we are in Rwanda, in other East Africa nations or in any other part of the world. There is competition and we live in a fast world where customers want fast answers.
It still baffles me how service can be slow and how many waiters still drag their feet as if they were forced to be there or as if they were on a catwalk. Promptness is any business relationship is an important requirement that helps us to perform without delay. It is the ability of being on time to carry out duties in a timely manner.
The last time I had to order some goods here, I sent an email for a quotation to three suppliers in Kigali and one in Kenya. Within two hours, the Nairobi one had acknowledged reception through his phone. He promised sending the quotation the next day at 11AM.
By 9AM, he sent his quotes and offered other useful information on other products his company supplies. Three days later, the Rwandan Businessman N°1 responded only to ask more information about my mail…He promised to get back but never did.
Businessman N°2 responded five days later but his prices were three times higher than the Kenya one. Obviously, making my choice was simple. I received my goods by bus from Nairobi and was impressed by the service of Peter, the Kenya supplier. A month later, I met Businessman N3 at a function who was asking me to remind him what my request was.
People of Rwanda, business is serious and must be dealt with promptness and seriousness. Business requires responsiveness and quick actions. Lord Chesterfield says that “Promptness is the soul of business.” And I totally agree with him even if he wrote this to his son way back in 1747.
Promptness is an essential element in the character of any businessman. It implies that we fill all engagements at exactly the appointed time and avoid putting off till the next day what can be done today because in a competitive world, it is the fastest that wins.
A prompt person is valued, as he/she respects his word and has due regard for the convenience of others. In a nutshell, businesses that want to survive, compete and prosper must simply return to the priority of promptness.
The author is a Customer Service Consultant and the Publisher of The ServiceMag