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Z Capital Founders on Inspecting What You Expect

How sisters Yolanda and Amanda Cuba used their skills in project management to launch their own business — and acquire a 45% stake in Re/Max.

Monique Verduyn

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Z Capital

Vital stats

  • Company: Z Capital
  • Players: Yolanda Cuba and Amanda Cuba
  • Est: 2011

When project failure happens in an organisation, fingers are often pointed at the hapless management consultant. ‘What is it that you do anyway?’ people mutter.

In the case of Amanda Cuba, the skills she developed during her time as a management consultant in the corporate environment enabled her to start Z Capital, an investment and management consultancy group, which she launched in 2011 with her sister Yolanda, former CEO of Mvelaphanda Group, and two other family members.

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Z Capital recently bought a 45% stake in Re/Max Southern Africa, the largest estate agency in the country, as part of a move to help transform the property industry. The group now comprises businesses in investment and consulting, as well as waste management.

Project management

Ask Amanda how it was possible to grow such a diversified group and she’ll tell you that it’s because she manages it as though she is running multiple projects.

Given that project managers are able to take a concept, create a business plan out of it and then find ways for it to be delivered within a certain timeframe – using the set budget and resources that have been allocated – the success of Z Capital, which now employs 80 people, should come as no surprise.

Management consultants are primarily concerned with the strategy, structure, management and operations of an organisation. They will identify options for the business and suggest recommendations for change, as well as advising on additional resources to implement solutions.

Start with strategy

“When you launch a start-up, the first step is to understand the business and the strategy,” says Amanda. “Why are you in business? Why have you chosen a particular type of business? What are your strengths? As the business grows however, these important questions take a back seat to daily operations. They shouldn’t. They should remain front and centre. If you continue to regularly ask – and answer – them, you will to map a path that will enable you to continue to grow the business from one level to the next.”

Another key to growth, she says, is to make sure that you inspect what you expect. “Inspection of how your expectations are being met is the only way to ensure success,” she notes.

Part of the management consultancy approach requires her to look at business holistically to shift it forward. “In the beginning, I was involved on a tactical level, and strategy came second. Then my coach advised me to set aside time for strategy unless I wanted the business to fail, even if that meant putting a ‘do not disturb’ sign on my door.”

The business is not you…

Z-Capital-woman-entrepreneurs

Related to that is the understanding that you are not the business. “Without a great team, your company is not going anywhere,” says Yolanda.

“When we started out, the four founders were seasoned business women with loads of skills and expertise that were different but complementary. To grow, we had to hire other smart people who can demonstrate passion and commitment. If we are in the process of completing a tender, they have to be willing to work through the night with us.”

Don’t expect what you don’t inspect

Delegation is a leadership skill, but insisting on updates will make sure that your people create the results you expect from them, say the Cuba sisters.

On his blog, management consultant Timothy Carroll says that without proper inspection methods, things can quickly go wrong in a business. He says there are three rules to follow:

Inspect what is important

Let your team know that they are important and that their work helps the company to achieve its vision, and grow the bottom line. Empowering your people creates motivation, responsibility, and accountability, and gets everyone working towards the success of the organisation.

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Inspect what is agreed

Over and above job descriptions and key performance areas, set clear expectations with your team, and make sure that everyone understands what is required and agrees.

Inspect to create results

Micro-management is not support. Ordering people around will not result in effective leadership but is instead more likely to result in defiance and poor performance. Servant leaders empower employees to be better at what they do so that they can achieve better results.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

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