Meet the Boss: Tameron Haralambous, founder and owner, Eco Furniture Design

Tameron Haralambous. Photo: National Small Business Chamber

1. What was your first job?

I was a bar lady at one of the go-kart tracks where I was racing.

2. What parts of your job keep you awake at night?

Cash flow as usual. Cash flow and the staff.

3. Who has had the biggest impact on your career?

It is so cliché, but my mom. My mom is a legend and a single parent. She taught me how to just keep going and just to have faith and be positive – so everything in my life. Definitely my mom.

4. The best professional advice you’ve ever received?

The best professional advice I actually got from my father-in-law who has many businesses that he runs. He said: “That it never really gets easier, and the problems never really end, so you just have to keep going. You have got to be practical and you have to be objective. You have to be aware that as you solve one issue there is going to be another. So you just have to be ready for that. Have practical solutions and be objective about it.”

5. The top reasons why you have been successful in business?

I think because we have a product that is unique and affordable, stylish and functional. So we offer a unique product and service. And because we are always trying to be better and we are always trying to improve our quality and offer nice things and improve our range. So we don’t just sit back and expect things to come to us – we actually go out there and see how we can improve as owners and how we can improve the business every single day.

6. Where’s the best place to prepare for leadership? Business school or on the job?

I think it is always good to get some sort of training or some sort of practical experience before you start a business. In our industry, whether you do a basic course or whether you get some experience in the industry – both are important if you are looking to start your own thing.

7. How do you relax?

The only way we relax, which we don’t do enough of, is actually just to get out of town. We find if we are in town and the staff are able to call us, we are the kind of people that always answer the phone or we always answer the emails. So the only way we relax is to actually get out of town, go somewhere where there is no cell phone signal, make a commitment to not put the computer on. But, that is the only way – and we don’t do that enough.

8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?

For me it is different because I take the kids to school. But my husband, or my partner who runs the factory, he likes to be here at 7:45am. And he would be here even earlier if he could because obviously he would normally want to get there before the guys arrive so he can set a good example. And I would be the same; so as soon as everyone is in school or I am able to. If I could I would want to be there earlier, but for me it is basically as soon as I can.

9. Your favourite job interview question?

The most important thing I ask them is: “Is this just something that you want to do or you can see yourself doing in the future?”

So basically for me I need to know that it is more than just a job… For me it is important that that person will come to work every day and do something that they love. I know it is difficult in South Africa because of a lot of people will just take any job that they can to survive. But for me a bonus would be if that person comes to work with a smile on their face. Most of the guys do because obviously they are learning a new skill, it is something that they are really doing for themselves. So that’s quite important for us when we are taking new people on, that it is something that they are really passionate about.

10. What is your message to Africa’s aspiring business leaders and entrepreneurs?

I think it is quite important that people help each other out. As a small business you really have so many challenges, especially in South Africa – there are so many challenges. So my message would be just to establish what you want to do from the start. If you have got a good idea and you put your heart and your soul into it, it will be successful… If you take the time to formulate a good plan and a good idea, and it is something that you are good at and you are passionate about – then you just don’t give up, you just keep going. Don’t ever give up.

Eco Furniture Design is a furniture store and supplier based in South Africa. It specialises in crafting eco-friendly wooden furniture and decor from reclaimed timber.