How to become an African success story: Six tips from Zambeef’s boss

4. Invest in the supply chain

Zambeef has grown to own much of its supply chain – from the production and feeding of a chick, to the processing and packaging of the poultry sold to the end consumer. The group also has its own logistics arm with one of the largest transport and trucking fleets in Zambia, and the company even owns a maintenance workshop to service them.

Being involved throughout the supply chain not only improves profit margins for companies, but can also be a necessary requirement for businesses to operate more efficiently, meet demand, and expand in African markets. Zambeef’s operations along the supply chain grew organically through trying to meet the growing demand from consumers.

“For example, we were buying chickens originally from chicken farmers but they couldn’t give us the amount we wanted, when we wanted, so we set up our own chicken houses and chicken abattoir processing plant.”

5. Diversify and add value

Having a diversified business, explained Grogan, can help protect companies against market shocks.

While the company grew on the back of its meat (particularly beef) operations, today its largest divisions are actually within the cropping and edible oil businesses. Its animal feed division (Novatek), which was originally formed to address the company’s own supply needs, has now grown a strong market share in supplying the livestock industry in Zambia.

The group is also developing a palm project, with its most recent subsidiary Zampalm.

Zambeef adds value to almost everything it produces and, according to Grogan, nothing goes to waste. For example, once cattle are slaughtered, the meat, head, hooves and organs are sold. The hides are then processed by the company’s Zamleather subsidiary and produced into footwear under the Zamshu brand.

6. Find the right business partner

“You need to have complementary skills,” noted Grogan. “I was very lucky with Carl. He is a chartered accountant and very good administrator, whereas my skills are on the meat production and operations side.”

But, he added, the most important thing to look for in a business partner is complete trust. “Trust is everything, and so is having confidence in your partner. If you don’t have the confidence and trust in them, then it’s simply not going to work.”