We are in November now, reflecting on 2020 while planning for 2021 and beyond. On a bad day, it is easy to look back and only see mistakes and failure. 2020 turned out very different from what I expected, both professionally and personally! At Sistema.bio, we did not achieve the 3x growth we had budgeted for, I did not spend as much time in the field as I wanted, we did not finish our R&D projects on time to launch new products, I had to let people go, and so on. On a personal level, I lost loved ones without being able to travel for their funerals, weddings and other celebrations got postponed.
It has not been easy to let go of my imagined 2020 record growth vision, and shifting to different goals has thrown me into deep self-questioning during sleepless nights: “Did I fail as a leader? Could I have done more, should I have worked harder?”
Looking back, I realized that I have been 100% out of my comfort zone throughout the whole year, doing almost everything for the first time. Surprise: I had never led an entire company with over 150 team members through a pandemic before! Despite everything being new, I can confidently say that I did my best, and the results are here.
We have changed the lives of 7200 additional people in Kenya in 2020 despite the pandemic. We sold more biodigester units in Kenya in 2020 than in 2019!!! We have stayed within our budget and our loan portfolio is performing better than ever. Most importantly, our team is healthy, committed, earning their salary or commissions, working every day to support their livelihood and families. This is not exactly changing the world at scale, or “moving the needle,” but it is a huge contribution to humanity’s most important problems: climate change, food security, women empowerment. It proves that Sistema.bio in Kenya and globally is stronger, more resilient, more effective, more united.
Starting in March, the improvements we had planned to work on progressively throughout the year were fast-tracked. We cut costs, reinvented the way we train our team digitally, the way we recruit online, dove deep into our unit economics, worked together, and communicated more. We have delivered impressive results given the context. Some people have stepped up, embraced more and new responsibilities, and have blown my mind away by their commitment to our mission. I could not be prouder of every single Sistema.bio team member, whether they are a sales agent, technician, loan officer, accountant, analyst or admin who is working every day to serve farmers and their colleagues. More specifically, I am extremely grateful to the Sistema.bio Kenya leadership team, three women who have poured their heart and soul into finding the best solutions for their teams and our clients despite tight budgets and uncertainty. It has been an honor to be on this COVID-19 2020 journey with you, Jes (Sales & Training Manager), Madrin (Technical Operations Manager) and Florence (Finance Manager).
I still got married to the man I love, and the long-lost family reunited during a beautiful ceremony on a lake in Switzerland to say goodbye to my grandmother. The most beautiful and surprising things can happen when we least expect them!
I will start 2021 with the same optimism, joy, excitement, and faith with which I started 2020. I have learned to trust my team, to wait just one more day before making the final decision, to take coffee with colleagues over the phone, to make the best out of the most difficult situations, and to stay true to my values. I have learned how resilient and strong Kenyan farmers are in the realm of a pandemic. They have never slowed down, and it is now our turn to accelerate our service to them. The main difference is that I am one year more experienced and one year more confident in myself and Sistema.bio. I am ready to save our planet, serve farmers all over Kenya and the world, and inspire thousands of people to join us. This is only the beginning…