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It is Alexander Osterwalder who, in his book Value Proposition Design: How to Create Products and Services Customers Want, says “Your customers are the judge, jury, and executioner of your value proposition. They will be merciless if you don’t find fit!”
For years I believed “creating value” was just a business and marketing abstract concept and that once a business convinces itself of its value, the targeted customer would automatically be willing to pay money in exchange of goods and/or services.

I probably was not the only one who underestimated the importance of this concept, perhaps explaining why most businesses fail to invest adequate time to dig into the subject, developing and articulating their value proposition until they find a strategic ‘‘sweet spot” — where the target customers’ needs fit with what’s special about the product or service offering and its capabilities in a way that competitors cannot match.
In my consulting years in the private sector, I recall how potential clients would knock at our doors to request our solutions and services (of course this was at a time when I was working for a global IT and business consulting firm).
My later experience in the public sector was a sharp contrast.
Customer Service Managers and marketers were always at pains trying to sign-up new customers and renewing service level agreements.

It would take months and years to convince a client of our products and services.
Even upon signing up the client, there were never-ending customer satisfaction issues that we, as lines of business, would constantly have to address — with little success.
But why would our customers be so unhappy with our products and services?  Is our pricing not right?
Is it our customer-facing personnel that is not well-trained?
We would ponder on these questions constantly, yet still not grasping what value means to our customers. It was always assumed.
Once the light bulb came on, it dawned on me that “value creation” is not just a kind of business-speak.
Rather, creating value captures a salient distinction from doing other things that businesses do to make profit. It is the essence of any business.

The ability of a business to create value is what causes people to want to trade with it.
When a customer is willing to take out their wallet and hand you their money, it is because something is compelling them to give up their money.
They are convinced that, out of that money exchange, they will get something that addresses their need, which is value.
Granted, value can mean many different things, it really depends on the context.
From a business perspective, there is a direct correspondence of relative worth of a good or service and value as determined in an exchange for money.

Thus the latter refers to financial value and the former addresses intrinsic value.
Successful companies have somehow found a way of understanding their customers, properly constructing their value propositions and delivering that value.
Their ability to do that has helped them focus on what their offerings are really worth to the customer.
Not all those successful have been the first to introduce products and/or services to markets.
They have, however, done key things right and one of them is developing smart business models centred around a Customer Value Proposition (CVP) — a promise of potential value that a business delivers to its customers and in essence is the reason why a customer would choose to engage with the business over existing market competition.

Defining a good Customer Value Proposition helps articulate the relevance of a product or service offering by explaining how it solves a problem or improves the customer’s situation in a manner that is different to competitors. There may be several ways of solving the customer’s problem.
Your promise may be premised on delivering quality cheaper and/or faster than everybody else, or you may deliver a better product or service.
Some of those ways may be in existence on the market through competition, also promising to solve these problems.

It is, therefore, important that this promise of value be unique and lucidly expressed in terms of the target buyer, the buyer’s problem being solved, and why the offering is distinctly better than existing alternatives.
More importantly, the promise you make to your customers is the one you have to keep. Your unique value proposition, therefore, is not just a list of customer benefits.
Depending on the type of Value Proposition, it may have to include all favourable points of difference your offering has relative to the next best alternative (favourable points of difference) or key points of difference — and perhaps, a point of parity — to deliver the superior value to the customer for the foreseeable future (resonating focus).

It may be new value, additional value to what you have been offering or better value.
Whichever is adopted, your Value Proposition needs to be well-thought of and crafted as it will dictate and influence your marketing and overall business strategy.
There is no point in dazzling value propositions and yet not actually having the people, processes, tools and requisite experience to back it up.

The truth is that value creation and capture are crucial aspects of any strategic analysis. Innovators, business strategists and entrepreneurs at large work hard to understand exactly what value means to their customers so they can generate it.
However, though on the surface, value propositions seem simple and very straightforward, consumer research studies suggest that value propositions that resonate with customers are exceptionally elusive.
One reason for this is little attention paid on researching and understanding customers prior to developing an offering.

Once companies instil discipline in understanding their customers, they can start making smarter choices about where to allocate limited resources to deliver the value.
If given enough attention, a value proposition can breathe clarity into your business.
A good value proposition is the keystone to developing a strong marketing strategy and moving everyone in your business in the right direction.
The question is: Can you say what your customer Value Proposition is?
Are your customers, who are “the judge, jury, and executioner of your value proposition” crystal clear about how your offering solves their problem?

l Fundisile Serame holds a Masters in Business Information Technology from Tswane University of Technology. She is a Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) alumnus.
She has extensive training in the IT sector both private and public sector

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LEC to switch off households over debts



MASERU – The Lesotho Electricity Company (LEC) will from Tuesday next week begin switching off clients who owe it money.

The LEC issued a seven-day ultimatum to all customers who owe it on Tuesday last week. The deadline ends on Monday.

It is expected that the LEC will begin switching off households that have defaulted.

The state-owned power company, however, is not going to touch any government department or business entities that owe it on grounds that they are in payment negotiations.

The LEC move comes barely two weeks after it cut electricity supplies to the Water and Sewerage Company (WASCO) thus causing it to fail to pump water to communities countrywide for more than two days.

The LEC says it is owed close to M200 million by government departments, businesses and individuals.

The LEC spokesman, Tšepang Ledia, told thepost that the government and the businesses will not have their electricity cut because they are in negotiations.

“We are in negotiations with the government and businesses and hopefully they will pay,” Ledia said.

“We advise the ordinary people to pay their debts before the 20th of March 2023 or else we cut the services,” he said.

The LEC says it is running short of funds for its daily operations.

In December last year the company increased power tariffs by 7.9 percent on both energy and maximum demand charges across all customer categories for the Financial Year 2022/23.

Last week the LEC boss, Mohato Seleke, said postpaid consumers and sundry debtors owe the company M169.4 million.

He said unless the debtors pay he will be unable to buy electricity from ’Muela Hydropower Project, Eskom in South Africa and Mozambique’s EDM.

This, he said, could cause serious load shedding in the country and could be devastating for businesses.

Seleke said the LEC spends M630 million monthly to buy electricity.

“If postpaid consumers do not settle their debts this could prevent the LEC from being able to buy electricity which can lead the country to encounter load-shedding,” Seleke said.

Seleke said collecting debt from government department ministries was a challenge as there is an understanding that since LEC is a state-owned company, it will continue supplying government agencies with electricity and they will settle their bills when they have funds to do so.

Seleke said the LEC has lost M21 million to vandalism during this financial year.

Relebohile Tšepe

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Bumper payout for former mineworkers



MASERU – AT least 11 316 current as well as former mine workers are set for a bumper payout after Tshiamiso Trust began disbursing the first billion Maloti to workers who are suffering from silicosis and tuberculosis.

The payment comes two years after Tshiamiso Trust began processing claims for the historical M5 billion settlement agreement between mineworkers and six gold mines in South Africa.

Speaking at the payment announcement in Maseru last week, the Trust’s CEO, Lusanda Jiya, said it has been two years since they officially began accepting claims.

“Our people come to work every day with the mission of impacting lives for the better, and the first billion rand paid out to over 11 000 families is just the beginning,” Jiya said.

“We know that there is no compensation that will ever be enough to undo the suffering endured by mine workers and their families,” he said.

“However, we are committed to deliver our mandate and ensure that every family that is eligible for compensation receives it.”

Jiya said the Trust is limited both in terms of the time in which they can operate, and the extent to which they can assist those seeking compensation.

Broadly speaking, the eligibility criteria include among others that the mineworker must have worked at one of the qualifying gold mines between March 12, 1965 and December 10, 2019.

Secondly, living mineworkers must have permanent lung damage from silicosis or TB and deceased mine workers representatives must have evidence that proves that they (the deceased) died from TB or Silicosis.

Tshiamiso Trust has a lifespan of 12 years, ending in February 2031.

Over 111 000 claims have been received to date, through offices in South Africa, Lesotho, Botswana, eSwatini, and Mozambique.

The Trust is working with stakeholders in these countries and others to mobilise its efforts and expand operations.

The history of silicosis in South Africa goes back to the late 1880’s when the first gold mines began operations.

The gold was stored and locked in quartz, a special rock that contains large amounts of silica.

Crystallised silica particles can cause serious respiratory damage if inhaled.

In the earlier days of gold mining, dust control, health and safety standards and the use of PPE (personal protective equipment) were not as advanced as they are today.

Tshiamiso Trust was established in 2020 to give effect to the settlement agreement reached between six mining companies.

The companies are African Rainbow Minerals, Anglo American South Africa, AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold, Sibanye Stillwater and Gold Fields.

The settlement agreement was reached and made after a ruling by the Johannesburg High Court as a result of a historic class action by former and current mineworkers against the six gold mines.

Justice for Miners is a coalition of interested parties in the mining sector launched at the Nelson Mandela Foundation in Johannesburg in 2020.

The Johannesburg High Court approved the setting up of the Tshiamiso Trust to facilitate payment by the companies to affected miners.

Keith Chapatarongo

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Farmers cry over cost of livestock feed



MASERU – Lehlohonolo Mokhethi is a farmer who has been running a successful poultry business, thanks to a small loan he got from a local bank.

He now has 300 chickens.

He says his vision is to rear 5 000 chickens by 2025 and employ 30 youths. But he is now grappling with a new challenge: the ever increasing cost of chicken feed.

That is threatening the viability of his business.

“The biggest challenge is that food prices increase every day, feeding is expensive,” Mokhethi said.

“It is quite difficult to make profit in business if each and every day food prices increase. Today I am buying a bag of food with a certain amount then the next day the price has increased,” he says.

“Our customers fail dismally to understand that food has increased and the Chinese are taking our market because they sell at a low price thus I run at a loss.”

Last week, a top attorney in Maseru who is also a prominent farmer, Tiisetso Sello-Mafatle, called a meeting for farmers to discuss these challenges.

She says the government must regulate the prices of livestock feed.

That is critical if the farming business is to succeed, she says.

Attorney Sello-Mafatle says farmers must come up with a structure for livestock feed prices which they would present to the government for gazetting.

“We should state our regulations and give them to the government to make everything easy for both parties because we cannot wait for the government to make regulations for us,” Sello-Mafatle says.

She adds that “farmers should be bullish about what they want and never have fear endorsing new things”.

“I will not be challenged or cry (because of) what life throws at me but I will cry when things are not happening the right way,” she says.

Mafatle says farmers need to know who they are and know the capabilities they have.

“This will help a farmer in becoming the best in any field they are in once they are confident about themselves,” she says.

Karabo Lijo, another participant, said they have to influence the cost of inputs in agriculture, especially livestock feed.

“We have to go back to cost-price analysis where as farmers we are able to derive the selling price and the break-even point in our production,” Lijo said.

“We can also derive the stable or constant mark-ups on our products,” he said.

“We need to do research to increase the ability to produce byproducts which are likely to have the longest shelve life,” he said.

The meeting urged farmers to diversify their products by introducing such things as mushroom farming. They said mushrooms can grow very well in Lesotho due to its favourable climate.

The farmers also demanded that there should be regulations on how land can be sold or borrowed in Lesotho.

Tholoana Lesenya and Alice Samuel

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