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OOM Manifesto


Introduction by Jonathan Oppenheimer

Dear visionary business owners and leaders,

Twenty years ago, my father and I called for South Africa to balance growth with a just and broad-based model of economic transformation in the wake of the country’s miraculous political transformation in 1994.

Now, Africa as a whole faces a new set of challenges and opportunities that require a different sort of balance. We must find a way to provide the economic growth and prosperity our societies need, without pushing our planet beyond its environmental limits.

I believe that our continent has a special role to play in achieving this. But it is a global challenge. This manifesto is a call to action: it sets out how you, the leaders of exciting, growing businesses in Africa and beyond, can make them a force for positive change.

It distils the key lessons of a lifetime of operating companies in Africa. I have learned that for businesses to thrive, they must have a laser-focus on eradicating what I call “frictional costs”. These are the non-revenue generating activities that weigh businesses down. Removing them brings direct benefits to profitability, but the process of doing so also causes wider positive spillovers as well.

This is because tackling frictional costs means engaging the people in your organisation to think about the goal they are working toward and equipping them with the right information and tools to support them in doing so. Empowering them with the autonomy to make the most of their expertise, and rewarding them for doing so, is the key to unlocking this ownership mindset.

Elsewhere, I have called for investors to generate long-term value by acting as engaged owners of companies, something I term “engaged capital”. In many ways, this manifesto sees the challenge from the bottom up; asking how employees can be given a stake in the value they create and the efficiency and innovation they apply to their work.

I have called this the “Optimised Operating Model (OOM)”. This is intended to be a simple and descriptive (and memorable!) name for what I hope is a transformative way of thinking about a business. It goes beyond a checklist or a step-by-step guide. It acts as a catalyst to inspire your own understanding and encourage independent thinking. It is not a magic bullet. But it aims to provide you with some of the insights, thought-starters and
the strategic direction to help your business evolve into a catalyst of enduring growth, all the while supporting our vibrant local communities and safeguarding our beautiful ecosystems.

Imagine your business thriving, standing resilient, while also enriching the very fabric of the economy and its societies. Imagine creating not just wealth, but a positive, lasting imprint on our earth. OOM isn’t about prescribing you the answers; it’s about igniting the questions that lead you to find your own solutions.