1. What part of your job keeps you awake at night?
I would say that it is service and living up to the promises we make to our clients. I need to ensure that not only are we making money on an ongoing basis and that the sales team is supported so that the business can grow, but, most importantly, that we deliver human-centric offerings to our user base in a cost-effective manner.
2. Name three traits required to survive in this role.
i) You need more time – a 25 hour day – as, in many instances, there is so much that one needs to cover. For me, as a new CEO, it’s even worse, but after some more time in this role I will be able to create a solid team around me that can assist.
ii) You have to be a psychologist because a whole lot of people look to you for direction and sometimes they sit with challenges – be it on a personal or professional level – and they will come to you with these.
iii) You need to be able to perform a balancing act when it comes to expenses and sales and still ensure that you make a profit for your business. In our business, we have quite a number of different stakeholders – customers, shareholders, and employees – all of whom have different needs and we need to balance these, but at the same time remain profitable.
3. What is the biggest misconception about your job?
I think that the biggest misconception is that when you are the CEO, you must know everything. This is not the reality – there is no way you can have all the answers. As the CEO, you must be self-aware so that you know what you can and can’t do. That is why being surrounded by a solid team is so important.
4. Who has had the greatest impact on your career?
I think that the one person who has really made a huge impact on me is Elon Musk. He grew up in Pretoria and went on to influence the whole world. Today, he is going even beyond the world! I try to put myself into his head to see how he, as someone who breaks all boundaries, thinks.
I come from a very small village in Venda and used to walk 20km to school every day when I was in high school – having to be on the road at 5:30am and running some parts of the route to make it to school by 8am. Coming from an area like that, you can sometimes limit yourself and think that your world is going to end up there. Now, when I see someone like Elon Musk, who is influencing the whole world despite where he comes from, I say to myself, “Why can’t I do exactly the same, regardless of where I grew up?”
5. What is the best career advice you’ve ever received?
I remember when I started working, I was a graduate-in-training with another insurer in Gauteng. After about 18 months of undergoing training, I was asked to take up a branch manager role back in Venda. Having grown up there, I didn’t want to go back and I considered resigning. Gavin Coetzee, who was my manager at the time and is today a business coach, said to me: “At this stage of your career, you are guaranteed that even if you have to go to Venda, you will still get other opportunities to come back here. When you do that, I can assure you that you will have grown and will be able to do anything.” I, of course, didn’t like the idea but I went. I don’t regret it – I learnt so much and after about five years, I did come back. I don’t know what would have happened if I didn’t take that opportunity.
6. The top reason for your professional success?
For me, there is no substitute for hard work. Sometimes we set goals for ourselves and hope and pray that we will achieve them. I don’t believe in that. For every goal that you set, you need to consider what the minimum effort threshold is that will enable you to achieve it. Then, if you are struggling, or if you are not seeing the results you want, you have to work even harder.
7. How do you relax?
I play golf and because I travel frequently, I also utilise the weekends to catch up with family and play with the kids.
8. By what time in the morning do you like to be at your desk?
I would like to be at my desk at 10am, but unfortunately I don’t have that luxury. I am normally at my desk at 7:30am or 8am. If I don’t have a morning meeting, I am usually at my desk by 8:30am or 9am. Sometimes, to avoid Jo’burg’s notorious traffic, I work at home from 5am to 9am and then go into the office thereafter. However, I am most productive at night and usually start after dinner at around 8pm and work until 1am or 2am.
9. Your favourite job interview question?
Whether I am interviewing or being interviewed I like the question … tell us about yourself. The answer to this question allows one to go where the energy is and allows you to talk about anything you want to share.
If I’m the one being interviewed, I like having the opportunity to share some of the hardships that I have been through to show how I have overcome these. Even if the question is not directly related to that, I will try pivot it to tell my story. I do it to show that, given some of the things that I have endured, there is no obstacle I cannot surmount. This allows me to show what I have done to get to where I am as well as what I can achieve.
10. The biggest perk of your job?
Getting to host the top sales achievers on an annual overseas trip.
Metropolitan, part of JSE-listed MMI Holdings Ltd, is a financial services company with a presence in South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Kenya, Ghana, Lesotho, and Swaziland.