a country of proud and welcoming citizens.
Ghana is a wonderful country filled with tragic ironies: big, beautiful government and corporate buildings next to lavish apartment complexes surrounded by
shanty houses; a Rolls Royce driving through a fishing village with no paved roads or source of clean water; a family currently living in a house they
recently purchased while it is still under construction; low-income families who smile and laugh as easily as they endure horrendous living conditions -
who may beg you for money but would never steal from you. These ironies are powerful when seen first hand.
It is a country of proud and welcoming citizens. You are always greeted with a handshake and a smile. Ghanaians are genuinely interested in what your name
is, where you came from, and why you are in Ghana. Coming from New York, my initial reaction to this was to think that they were trying to sell me
something. A few were, but most Ghanaians don’t have the means to travel outside of the country, so making friends with visitors is a way for them to
experience different cultures and to introduce us to their own way of life. It has been a great cultural experience and has allowed us as visitors to feel
very welcome and comfortable. For those Ghanaians involved in what they call the “street hustle” (a.k.a. street merchants), they use a similar process of
introduction. They shake your hand, learn about who you are and what you do, find commonalities between themselves and you, and only once they feel they
have built up enough rapport with you, they go in for the sale.
Our client, The HealthKeepers Network, is a social marketing NGO that adopts a franchising business model in order to address key health objectives in
local communities around Ghana. Their focus is primarily on prevention and education of HIV, malaria, effects of drinking unsanitary water, along with
family planning and hygiene. The organization buys products wholesale and sells them to community leaders (mainly women), called “HealthKeepers,” for a
small mark up. The HealthKeepers then walk door to door in their communities and educate families on health issues, and ultimately sell them products based
upon their needs. Upon the sale, the HealthKeeper also charges a small markup on the product to the end client, so they are essentially running their own
for-profit business. This is an effective model that also has other key benefits, such as empowering women and educating local communities, which are
critical to creating positive long-term behavioral changes in health. This organization is unique in Ghana in the fact that it reaches people at the
community level, often in one-on-one discussions resulting in door-to-door sales. We’ve had a chance to attend some of their community outreach events,
where hundreds of local citizens attend at the request of the HealthKeepers and learn about how to keep their family healthy. The personal relationships
they develop with their clients are long lasting and help them understand the needs of the community, ultimately resulting in more product sales. I am
privileged to have the opportunity to help this organization.
So here has been the lesson thus far I can take back to PIMCO: Personal relationships are more important than business relationships. Whether you are
selling preventative health products, clothing merchandise on the street, or PIMCO products, the lesson remains the same. We are often too eager to tell a
client everything we know about a product that we think is right for them, something going on in the financial markets that we think they will be
interested in, or interacting with them only in a transactional manner because we are busy and are trying to be efficient. Stop. Get to know the client on
a personal level and find commonalities: get to know their background, what they do for fun, about their family, their sports teams, then the
needs of the organization they work for. Don’t call them and offer an update on our outlook or pitch a prospective product. Call them to see how they are
doing, how their families are doing, bring up something personal from your last conversation with them to let them know you’re paying attention. Then
provide them with the update or pitch the product. More meaningful personal relationships will ultimately lead to more productive and prosperous business