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Productivity, profitability and funerals (Part I)

EARLY in my life as a consultant, I tried my best to go to every funeral of a relative, friend, church mate, colleague or relatives of friends and colleagues so much that at some point I could feel that my business and customers were suffering and income was being affected.
It took Kuf Munyinda, founder of Next Technology Limited, to advise me that if I hoped to run a successful business I would have to stop aiming to attend each and every funeral but, instead, learn to delegate or just send financial contributions.
I sat down and reflected on life as we know it today and life as we knew it when I was growing up. Twenty years ago we seldom encountered death in our communities. One would hope that with improvements in technology, advancement in medicine, an increase in the number of health facilities and more consciousness in terms of the pursuit of healthy lifestyles among people in the Third World, we would have fewer deaths. Ironically, with all these advancements it would appear that we have more deaths now than we experienced several years ago. When driving around, on any day of the week, it is quite common to come across a funeral procession. In the last six weeks, we have encountered at least 10 deaths in my circles and I have attended at least five of these funerals. On each of the times that I have attended these funerals, the church has been filled to capacity with some mourners just standing outside. The funerals have been characterized with tributes and bereaved families doing whatever they can to send off their loved ones in grand style and spend as much of this ‘last day’ as possible with the deceased. At the end of each funeral (usually shortly after lunch if you just attend the church service and 16:00 hours if you attend the full funeral) one is so emotionally and physically drained that it is almost impossible to do any meaningful work.
As mourners go through the funeral deliberations and the preacher goes on and on with no sense of time, I always wonder what percentage of time we are spending as a nation on funerals and how much productivity and profits are being lost by organisations.
As a poor country with over 60 percent of the population living in abject poverty, we may have to rethink the way we mourn. How can we still offer support to bereaved families while still being available for our customers? It becomes worse when one has to travel outside town for a funeral – more time and resources are spent. Should we not encourage a culture where mourners based in countries, cities, towns or districts away from the place of the funeral just send financial contributions to the bereaved family (unless they are very closely related with the deceased) rather than travel?
Productivity is defined by the Business Dictionary as “A measure of the efficiency of a person, machine, factory, system, etc., in converting inputs into useful outputs.
Productivity is computed by dividing average output per period by the total costs incurred or resources (capital, energy, material, personnel) consumed in that period. Productivity is a critical determinant of cost efficiency.”
The same dictionary defines the word ‘profit’ as “the surplus remaining after total costs are deducted from total revenue, and the basis on which tax is computed and dividend is paid. It is the best known measure of success in an enterprise. Profit is reflected in reduction in liabilities, increase in assets, and/or increase in owners’ equity. It furnishes resources for investing in future operations, and its absence may result in the extinction of a company. As an indicator of comparative performance, however, it is less valuable than return on investment (ROI). Also called earnings, gain, or income.”
How can we manage or handle funerals better so that they do not adversely affect, profitability and productivity while still maintaining our humanity? Your suggestions are welcome.