Tourvest: Martin Weist

Tourvest: Martin Weist

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What is one of the most valuable lessons you’ve learned over your career?
I started out as a bus driver in 1987, worked my way up to an office job and eventually took up the position of CEO of Tourvest Inbound Operations in January 2009.

So my experience shows that the opportunities people dream of really exist in South Africa. There is no way I could have had this career, starting where I did, in Germany. But while opportunities do exist here, you have to take them and make the most of them. I learned that if you do that and you work and learn hard, you can get ahead. Were there any parts of the business that didn’t come naturally to you, that you had to work hard at to master? Yes, the financial side. I come from a strong marketing and sales background but I needed to gain financial skills as well, particularly when I was appointed COO in 2006. I did a Postgraduate Diploma in Business Administration, amongst other courses. Again, it comes down to learning hard in order to get ahead.

Apart from a steep climb up the business ladder, what are you most proud of having achieved?
Managing to maintain average customer satisfaction ratings of 4,8 out of a possible 5 while hosting 72 000 corporate hospitality guests during the 2010 FIFA World Cup. We usually manage around 150 000 guests a year in the leisure business and we devised a business strategy to position the company for the World Cup to allow us to compete with major global and domestic players in the market. I’m also proud of the fact that we managed to do this while being profitable, which is not necessarily a given on these kinds of projects.

What measures did you have to put in place to ensure the company was ready to take on the demands of the World Cup?
There are a range of competencies we needed to develop and we spent a lot of time overseas attending other similar big events to get an understanding of what was required. We imported a great deal of skills from overseas for the event and this allowed for a highly successful skills transfer that will benefit our local team in the long-run. In future we will also be moving some of our local skills to big events overseas.

What keeps you motivated and inspired?
The fact that no two days in the business are the same – this keeps me interested; I’m inspired and motivated by the team of people with whom I work. They are young, strong, empowered people with tremendous team spirit and it’s gratifying to watch their success. I see my role very much as one of guiding them and building a strong team that will shape the future of  the business.

Was there anyone in particular who influenced you in your career?
I was lucky enough to have a number of bosses over the years who entrusted me with responsibility and allowed me to grow. Their faith and mentorship gave me a great deal, and influenced the way I try to interact with my own team today.

Juliet Pitman
Juliet Pitman is a features writer at Entrepreneur Magazine.