Standard Group CEO Joe Munene has called a staff meeting next week at which he is expected to announce far-reaching reforms expected to give the media house new direction. The staff communication meeting, scheduled for Wednesday 16th August 2023, is expected to be a turning point for Standard Group, Kenya’s second biggest newspaper company that is facing financial difficulties.
The meeting invitation, sent on a digital card, has raised eyebrows within the Standard family as it comes with a cryptic theme: “If the rhythm of the drums changes, the dance steps must adapt.” Even the mention of breakfast being served has not warmed hearts at Standard, where employees are scratching their heads to decode the message.
For many, it simply means that: they have to toe the line of the new boss, Mr Joe Munene and Team. But others see it as a warning shot for those thought to have been aligned to the previous CEO, Orlando Lyomu, who is being blamed for sinking the company further. Also, there are those seen as part or causes of the Standard Group problems – through, for instance, their self-serving decisions – who may not be able to adapt their dancing moves.
Mr Joe Munene, a Nation Media Group protege, was appointed Standard Group PLC acting CEO after Orlando Lyomu resigned and relinquished official roles and responsibilities, effective 6th July 2023. In his first memo, Mr Munene acknowledged the situation Standard Group has found itself in.
“Our business has been facing numerous challenges – including the serious matter of salary delays,” he noted. “But we have trudged along in the face of great adversity, and I’d like to sincerely thank all the staff who have shown immense dedication and even made personal sacrifices to ensure we continue to keep our commitment to our audiences, readers, and customers.”
He said he would take matters into his hands to chart a new recovery path for a company that has been making losses for over five years. It is not a mean feat to turn it around. “We have a big fight in our hands and each of us has a huge role to play, as we work to get our business back on track,” he said in the Memo sent to staff a few days after taking over.
He said the board and management are fully committed to addressing the challenges and to normalising the issue of timely payment of salaries, “but we all have an important role in determining how fast this is achieved.”
According to latest reports, Standard Group employees are yet to get June and July salaries. The company has been paying a percentage of each employee’s salary at end month and mid month, with the last instalment having come through in mid July. “Let us all commit to going that extra mile – working hard and smart to guarantee our success,” Mr Munene urged employees.
Long road to recovery
The company recently engaged the services of a transformation team to advise and assist in driving business recovery initiatives. The team is said to have identified a number of issues that should be communicated at the Wednesday meeting.
One of the sticky issues identified is the shocking discovery of ghost workers who are said to have been blowing about Ksh50 million every month. It is said the company’s wage bill remained the same despite annual layoffs over the years.
“The wage bill is around Ksh70 million but they (management) kept saying it is at Ksh104 million. They kept insisting on this even after people were laid off and other resigned,” someone close to the committee told BT.
Mr Munene has been bullish about recovery. Being an insider he knows one or two things about what ails the company – and what can be done about it in time to avoid an implosion. “The challenges we have faced and continue to face are going to make us stronger, more determined, and more resilient! And they shall be overcome.”