Many of us, day in and day out, eat at KFC religiously. As they pop up one by one all over the city, we rarely give thought to the person that makes it happen. `Mè Lerato Majara is a Franchisee and the Principle Operator of KFC, one of the more successful franchises in the country. She started off with one outlet and now there are five, four in Maseru and one in Butha-Buthe.
`Mè Lerato completed her education at Lesotho High School and did not pursue any further studies. Like many high school graduates she was idle for two years before finally getting a job. She says at the time people did not have the luxury of career advice. Opportunities were few and were mostly reserved for those who had attended University. Once she had children she made the conscious decision that she would not go off to school and leave them to be raised without her as she did not want to instigate a cycle of her children and her children’s children going through life without the guidance and support of their mother.
One of her friends had advised her to go to school to “better yourself.” `Mè Lerato’s response was: “You may go to school and come back better educated, maybe even earning more money than I, but definitely not better than me… because education only improves what is already there, it will not build what is not there.”
Before venturing into fast food she worked in the banking industry, initially working with Standard Bank and then going forth to join Lesotho Bank where she worked for 11 years. She left her job there due to being discontented with some issues with her Supervisors. Initially she was reluctant to leave her job at the bank fearing that she would end up unemployed, so she decided “Better the devil you know.” She reasons that you will always find problems in any working environment. `Mè Lerato says “It is almost impossible for you to work and not have problems.”
“As long as you work with people there will always be problems.”
She makes an example of an issue at work that had her so frustrated that she resolved to resign the following day. However, after cooling off she rationalised that, it would not be the best decision as she still had responsibilities to think of including her two young girls. She re-evaluated her decision and planned to resign at the end of the year instead. “In almost anything in life there will be problems but it’s about how you handle them,” she says. “I think I am one of those people who when there is a problem, I look at myself and say: ‘what am I doing wrong?’ or ‘what can I do?’” She emphasises that wherever you are you should try and look at the problem objectively, find out exactly what is wrong and don’t act irrationally. Resigning would eventually prove to do her well as she had always envisaged going into business, especially the food business.
`Mè Lerato joined KFC in 1986 acquiring the business from a family friend, who was not happy with the way things were going as he was unable to manage it properly due to residing in Ladybrand. At the time she was running a fast food outlet and it was in line with what she was already doing. She says she does not know whether to call KFC a success or not here in Lesotho, as she continuously faces challenges just like in any other business. Instead she considers herself ‘lucky’ rather than successful as she witnesses businesses closing down every other day and counts her blessings to be able to have remained open. Another aspect she regards as a blessing is her two daughters, who schooled in Europe, decided to return to the country and join `Mè Lerato at KFC out of their own accord. She muses that most kids do not want to fall in line with what their parents do.
In regards to her system for maintaining standards she says: “KFC as a franchise is very demanding and you have to be on your toes all the time.” She adds that this is good, because you develop a sense of “doing things right.” She believes that she can now run any business with the experience that she’s had and the challenges that she has faced have only built her up.
KFC prioritises service and believes the country really needs to learn how to provide quality service. KFC keeps up with the set standard of service by constantly and consistently training its staff. She says they also try to encourage their staff with recognition for a job well done and service well provided.
In regards to the regretful business culture in Lesotho `Mè Lerato says: “Basotho don’t seem to bother about honouring an appointment… about honouring time and it’s a very bad attitude towards things.” She adds that she herself can be guilty of this too. She reflects back to a time of the British rule and says, she doesn’t support being under the English rule but whatever they were doing back then was right because that was a period when people respected time and people respected their work.
Attributing her success to discipline and an accumulative know-how of the business, `Mè Lerato shows us how to get it right, “Be disciplined in how you do your work and strive to do the best… don’t cut corners.”