I remember my very first interview with Michael Joseph in June 2007 at the Laico Regency, Safaricom was then announcing it’s full year as well as talking on the possibility of an IPO, which was of course not being run by Vodaphone but by the Government of Kenya. I was jittery as I had just joined CNBC Africa and began by doing some pretty high profile interviews with people I was only used to watching on TV. He was my 4th Interviewee after Richard Branson, Central Bank Governor Njuguna Ndung’u and the then Finance Minister Amos Kimunya. But still I had butterflies, the Interview though went well, and he declined to comment much on the IPO. Since then I have interviewed him a couple more times, and his passion about Safaricom is unquestionable.
During my different interactions with Safaricoms and news around it, Michael strikes me as one of those types that had it mapped out right from day one, strategy wise, but kept going back to it and altered it as the market grew. He and his team also has an eye for the best talent, and better still; know how to keep them there.
So I when I heard recently that he is leaving on the 1st of November, I began to envision what the company would be like without him. He has been what many refer to as a visionary leader, with impeccable integrity. Those that work for the company or know him personally would know better, but what I can say , as an outsider who has spoken and interviewed economists, stakeholders, stockbrokers and shareholders almost every week in the last 3 years in my job as a business reporter, there is something about how MJ lead the company that is above impressive.
I remember watching him recently On Citizen TV as he defended his company over proposed regulations by CCK which would hurt them as the market leader; it felt as if he was dealing with a personal attack.
But, his was a strategy that held on.
This week I have been reading this months HBR and I couldn’t stop making references to CEO’s and MD’s that I know who have great strategies and manage to deliver them.I could almost write MJ across the bullet points as I indulged the writers opinions( KCB’s Martin Oduour Otieno, Equity’s James Mwangi and Even President Paul Kagame could fall in this category)
It’s one thing to have a great strategy and it is another to deliver it. Michael Joseph is one of those who managed both successfully. Top Exec’s create the strategy, but those below them carry it out. If the team shares in the goals and believes in the strategy, it will be carried out to the T; then that’s what you can call a great company, and if Safaricom’s financial results over the past decade is anything to go by, then I would say he mastered the art of the steering the team in line with his strategy; (Mobitelea not with standing)
Safaricom’s products, services may not be what every Kenyan is happy with and the share price not what shareholders anticipated, but the company is the most profitable company is East Africa, the biggest taxpayer in the country, as well as the company that has the biggest number of shareholders across East Africa.
Safaricom is Michael Joseph’s baby, and my two cents is that he has been a great parent. It will be interesting to see how the company fights it out for what has been a marginally declining market share in the past two years, which now stands at 78%.
He has left a legacy, and is surely a great example of how great leadership works.( I wonder if he will be sipping martini’s and playing golf from Nov 2nd!;-)…That’s my ultimate goal when i’m done working smart!
We will miss him at the top, but we will be watching Bob Collymore as he steers one of EA’s best ran companies.
In other news…When our wings are strong enough to fly…then lets let them fly…mine’s on that path;But I will still be here.