Lindani Dhlamini faced two challenges when starting Xabiso Consulting. The one related to skills. “There are roughly 30 000 chartered accountants in South Africa. Of these, only 1 200 are black and only 300 are black women. Those are pretty tough statistics if you’re trying to build a company of black CAs with a particular focus on women,” she explains.
Dhlamini’s first step in tackling this skills challenge has been to create an environment where people feel nurtured. “We invest a lot into developing our people and helping them on the journey to qualify as CAs,”
But once qualified, these very employees are in high demand and at risk of being poached from elsewhere in the industry. However, the company’s ‘give back’ ethos has encouraged people to stay.
“We run a number of school initiatives to raise awareness among young black people of the accounting profession, and inform them early on what subjects they need to take in order to become a CA. And we pride ourselves on being a place that nurtures young black talent. This resonates with people and they choose to stay with us because they want to be part of a company that makes a difference to the profession,” she explains.
Xabiso also offers flexible working arrangements. “As a woman it’s very hard to get ahead in this profession because of the long hours you need to put in, and balancing those demands with that of a family is tough. Flexible solutions help to keep women in the profession,” Dhlamini indicates.
The result of these efforts? A company that has grown from just two employees in 2003 to over 60 in 2011.
Dhlamini’s achieved similar success when it comes to her second big challenge – landing large projects. As she explains, “Most small emerging firms only get awarded small jobs, but we really wanted to be able to take on large auditing and consulting projects.” Her solution was to partner with established firms on co-tenders and project pitches. She details the benefits: “This allowed us to land the kind of work we wanted and in doing so, enabled us to build up our reputation so that we were in a better position later on to pitch for big projects. It also helped us build relationships of trust, which is so important in this industry.”
Player: Lindani Dhlamini
Company: Xabiso Consulting
Started in: 2003
Contact: +27 (0)11 802 4155; www.xabiso.co.za