Co-Founder and CEO of Zambeef Francis Grogan Gives 5 Success Tips

Co-Founder and CEO of Zambeef Francis Grogan Gives 5 Success Tips

Meet Francis Grogan, the CEO of Zambeef, a US$300 Million-plus business with operations in Zambia, Nigeria and Ghana.

Born in Ireland, Grogan arrived in Zambia in 1991 to help a struggling meat factory before starting Zambeef in 1994 with his Zambian-born business partner, Carl Irwin. The company got its first big break when South African retail giant ShopRite entered the Zambian market in 1995 and asked Zambeef to operate their in-store butcheries.

Today Zambeef is a market leader in the production, processing, distribution and retailing of a range of meat and agro products – such as beef, edible oils, flour and stock feed, to name a few. In addition to over 110 independent retail outlets and ShopRite butcheries throughout Zambia, as well as three wholesale depots, the group also runs the fast-food brand, Zamchick Inn.

In an interview, Grogan shares some of his tips for growing a successful company in Africa.

  1. Working with government is Vital

“It’s absolutely important,” emphasized Grogan. “If you don’t have good working relationship with the ministries that are particular to your business, I think you are going to have serious problems. If you are going to butt heads with policy makers, you are asking for trouble. It’s the same with every country. That’s normal.”

  1. Hire local talent and have a training programme to promote them

Zambeef has invested in a training programme for its management and staff, which aims to develop skills and bring promising employees through the ranks. And according to Grogan, this is the backbone of an African success.

“The people we have at Zambeef are the reason we are successful. Its not me in particular, it’s the fact that we have, over 20 years, managed to hire and train really good, passionate, hard working, devoted staff,” said Grogan.

  1. Don’t ignore the informal sector

Grogan advices business people not to underestimate the large informal market In Africa. In fact, he believes the sector holds some of the greatest potential for business. “The informal sector in Zambia is massive – it’s probably about 75-80% of business.”

  1. Diversify and add value

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

While Zambeef 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 (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.

5.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.”