The Tonga Skills business development strategy involves working closely with businesses through coaching and business management, address skills gaps and support business growth.
One business that has recently participated in business coaching is ‘Esiaola Quality Furniture. This long-established wooden furniture manufacturer makes everything from beds, to benches, bookshelves and caskets. Taniela Fonongaloa Lolohea founded the business in 1981, and it has provided his family with an income for many years. On Taniela’s retirement in 2015, his daughters Tepola and Meliani (Ani) took over the business operations.
As Ani explains, the transition has been a steep learning curve. “I didn’t have much prior business experience,” she says. Someone within the family had to step up to honour my dad and keep on providing for our family.”
Tonga Skills’ business development process usually starts with identifying individual business strengths, opportunities, threats, and challenges. This process provides space for a deep and meaningful dialogue between business managers such as Ani and her team at ‘Esiaola, and the Tonga Skills coaches. It is an opportunity for business owners to share their hopes and plans, as well as any concerns that are keeping them awake at night.
For a family business such as ‘Esiaola, business operations are discussed and shared between family members. “I may appear to be the one working in the office, but all the decisions are made together,” says Ani.
“It has been a tough road for me. The business wasn’t performing well enough, we have increased import competition and, on top of this, the factory building, which had been destroyed during Cyclone Gita, had to be rebuilt.”
Ani approached the Tonga Skills program and expressed interest in skills training assistance for the business.
Tonga Skills’ Business Mentor, Mr. Rolf Huber, was assigned to support Ani and her team through business coaching discussions with each part of the business. “This stepy-by-step approach was manageable and started to show results early,” explains Rolf.
While developing and growing business takes time, ‘Esiaola Quality Furniture, as an established business, is well on the road to achieving this.
“Ani and her newly established management team were proactive in integrating the new business principles,” said Rolf. Ultimately, it is up to businesses to embrace new approaches and principles and as Rolf explains, openness to change “makes a big difference to how much traction the individual and the business gets from coaching.”
The resilience now built into ‘Esiaola has prepared the team for the future. The business has also implemented promotional campaigns to attract ongoing sales.
“The COVID-19 restrictions affected our sales,” says
Ani. “However, as a result of the coaching work, we knew what to do – with a massive promotional effort, we were able to generate additional sales and gain new customers.”
The ‘Esiaola factory now has sufficient work again and the team are shifting their focus to stabilizing their branch in Vava’u.”
“A big thank you to Tonga Skills for the coaching support and the encouragement during the last 12 months,” says Ani. “The trainings gave me the necessary knowledge, and I have come to accept my leadership role with more confidence and courage to weather through the storm alongside my dynamic team.”