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Women Leaders In Business: 5 Lessons Learnt

Communication, corporate culture and leading by example are important factors in effective management.

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For an executive in a fast-growing digital firm, the rules of successful leadership are slightly different from those in more traditional organisations. Digital innovators must be agile and creative – they cannot afford to stifle entrepreneurial flair within their teams.

As a woman heading up such an organisation, where time to market is crucial, innovation is our differentiator, and delivery must be ensured across the sometimes-challenging markets across Africa. I have learnt that leadership style has to be firm, balanced and empowering rather than restrictive.

Five leadership approaches proving invaluable to me to encourage innovation and efficient delivery are:

1Creating a culture of mutual respect and trust

This is more important than confining people to policies and procedures. I have found that the more I model respectful and responsible behaviour, the less I need to micro manage the team.

Related: How Women Entrepreneurs Can Change the SA Business Landscape

People who feel appreciated and understood will always do more than what is expected of them. Staff who understand that the high standards you set apply to you as much as they do to everyone else, tend to take the same approach to their own teams and to their work.

2Build the right team from the start

During the early days of our business, we grew faster than we could staff up and I quickly learnt that taking extra time at the interviewing stage to ensure a good cultural fit is vital.

It is important to use recruiters who understand you, your business and the importance you place on company culture, to ensure that any candidates you consider can do the job and will also be the kind of people who infuse life into your business and not sound the death knell for it.

3Don’t lose sight of the little things

It’s tempting to focus all your efforts on navigating the large company decisions that directly impact the bottom line or determine future value, but I have learnt that keeping a keen eye on the detail is equally important.

This is particularly true for a new business that is growing quickly. Rapid growth creates its own issues, as structure and process don’t have time to be implemented and the funnel of work grows faster than the systems required to support it.

Taking the time to stay involved in the granular level detail of the business’s operations means that the correct foundation will be built for staff to flourish and for the business to deliver.

Related: 10 Successful SA Women Entrepreneurs’ Top Advice On Balancing Work And Family

4There are no shortcuts

There are simply no shortcuts to success. Although I don’t expect my staff to work crazy hours or be available over weekends I do expect them to take pride in their work and be accountable for what they deliver. Nobody should have the mindset that something falls outside of their job description.

Success takes sacrifice, and anything worth doing is worth doing well and it is important to me that those around share the same point of view.   

5Communicate carefully

Communication is critical for successful leadership, and digital communications should not be overlooked. In an environment where almost all communication is digital, it is crucial to answer all emails timeously; and when you do, you need to watch your tone and guard against improper interpretation of your words.

Too often, people simply never respond to emails given their own workload, forgetting that their feedback may be hindering progress on another side of the business. I believe it’s crucial to carve out time every day to answer emails and provide feedback. Timeous responses mirror respect between team members and help create a culture of collaboration and accountability to others.

Leigh Watson is the Executive Head: Project Management Office, Discover Digital. Leigh started her career in Advertising in Johannesburg after completing her Humanities Degree in 1999 with a specialisation in Organisational Psychology. With a keen interest in efficient, fast paced organisational processes and production deadline management, she moved to London to direct a large team in the Corporate Publishing Industry, working at a Conde Nast WPP owned Company, with a focus on high volume FMCG Accounts producing monthly and quarterly magazines.

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Support for Women Entrepreneurs

A Great Time To Be A Woman In Business

South Africa’s growing band of female entrepreneurs have many lessons to teach us all.

Morné Stoltz

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South Africa’s growing band of female entrepreneurs have many lessons to teach us all. In our first article in this feature, Marine Louw showed us the power of passion.

In this article, Cresi Heslop offers living proof that opportunities are everywhere – if we can see them and are prepared to seize them. She is building a business by identifying opportunities as they open up and then working hard to exploit them.

“It’s all about using what you have and thinking a bit laterally,” Heslop says.

Heslop and her husband started a youth sports blog in order to provide a motivational platform for a new generation of South African sportsmen and – women. They saw the blog, Heslop Sports, as a labour of love, with no commercial intent. However, spending so much time among athletes did reveal a potential commercial idea: a towel specially designed with sports in mind and that South African athletes could use with pride, especially at international events.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

The result was a new business, Wonder Towel. Its flagship product is a microfibre towel designed to look like the South African flag, supplemented with a range of other microfibre products.

“Microfibre is environment-friendly because it’s so absorbent – it dries easily and stays fresh longer, and it takes less water to wash,” she says. “It’s also super light, thus great for travelling.”

Since then, the business has grown, selling primarily to the travel, beauty, baby and household markets, as well as the sports industry. Much of the selling is done via her online store and agents in Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria – as well as the e-commerce platforms. She singles out Takealot.com which, she says, does a great job in helping small businesses put themselves on the map.

She’s also just signed up a new distributor who is targeting independent schools, and schools with big water-sports teams.

Mentorship provided Heslop with welcomed inspiration and stability. She has built a solid relationship with a businesswoman who she respects enormously, Hendrien Kruger, the head of Inoar SA, which distributes a range of imported Brazilian hair products.

“We met seven years ago and I can turn to her at any point for sensible advice or just a good chat over a cuppa,” she says. “You should find some worthy people who inspire you in your field. They could even be people that you admire from a distance or whose books and lectures have become part of your way of seeing things.”

Because mentorship can play such a positive role, it’s vital that women offer themselves as mentors. Many successful women don’t realise how great an influence they could have on the next generation, starting what she calls a “cycle of future goodness”.

We’ve always heard about the power of the old boys’ club, and how it gives men a head start in business, but says Heslop, networks seem to be opening up.

“Female small-business owners are still in a bit of minority in South Africa, I believe however we are in a wonderful season of change at present,” she says.

Related: How Women Entrepreneurs Can Change the SA Business Landscape

“I recently had dealings with one of South Africa’s oldest and most established suppliers in a particular market sector, and I found them both welcoming and nurturing to an industry newcomer – something for which I am very grateful.”

Of course, entrepreneurs must also learn how to cope with challenges all the time. Heslop says that she keeps strong by sticking to a set of habits and actions. Her religious faith is an important mainstay and she daily affirms her commitment to making a difference, to being alert for hidden opportunities, and to spreading love and respect always.

“At the end of the day it will all boil down to confidence, belief in ourselves, joyous passion and delivering extremely high quality of products and services that will command respect and ensure us our rightful place in our beautiful nation’s economy,” she concludes.

MiWay is an Authorised Financial Services Provider (Licence no: 33970).

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Celebrating Women In The Signage And Printing Industry

The event will take place from 13-15 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.

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Women are increasingly making their mark on the traditionally male-dominated signage and printing industry. For those who want to enter this industry, or want to grow their businesses, the Sign Africa and FESPA Africa expo, co-located with Africa Print and Africa LED, offers many opportunities for entrepreneurs. The event will take place from 13-15 September at Gallagher Convention Centre.

Diane Jacobson, Managing Director at Ellis Lehman Signs, has been in the industry for 25 years, and enjoys being in a career that is dynamic, creative and interesting. ‘No two jobs are identical, and because it is an industry that serves a variety of businesses, it offers exposure to many types of people and companies,’ she said.

Related: Ideas To Start Your Own Business In Signage And Printing

‘I’ve worked with fantastic people and managed very interesting projects, from manufacturing plants to religious institutions, to petrochemical companies to retailers and sports events. I have met wonderful people over the years and have had the opportunity to travel to interesting places. It is an industry that has allowed me to grow my business skills in a creative space.’

Sign Africa candidates

Lehman’s key to success is understanding and servicing the needs of customers. ‘They are the lifeblood of all business. There is so much poor service out there, so doing things better and paying attention to detail and the final finished item sets anyone apart,’ she said.

Printing SA, the official trade federation representing printing, packaging and associated businesses in the industry, has a number of projects to empower women. The organisation runs a screen printing programme, which most recently trained 10 unemployed women from Cottonlands. The programme includes three elements: the theory of screen printing, practical application, and basic business skills that would assist in growing a small business.

A success story from the programme is Eunice Ngwenya, Managing Director of Eunique Printing, who completed Printing SA’s very first screen printing pilot course during 2014. Printing SA recommended Ngwenya to Konica Minolta South Africa.

Eunique Printing, which operates from Konica Minolta South Africa’s Johannesburg campus, has been in business for almost a year, employs three people and prints books, magazines, business cards, calendars, receipt books, brochures, invitations, photographs, as well as offering ring binding and glue binding services.

Ngwenya has always been interested in printing, and had done silk screening on plastic for 25 years. She is glad that she applied for the Printing SA training as it has led her to where she is today. ‘I’ve learnt so much from Printing SA, I wouldn’t be where I am without them, and with the help of Konica Minolta South Africa, I see myself going very far,’ she said.

Related: Celebrating The Multi-Faceted Woman

Sonja Groenewald is CEO of Colourtech Design & Print CEO, which has operated for 26 years. Its main focus is the publishing and education markets. The business has a unique set up as in addition to printing, there is also an in-house dispatch and deliveries division, which helps service 350,000 students.

Being in the printing industry, you’d think technology would be Colourtech’s most important asset, but it’s not. ‘Our staff are our most valuable resource – we consider each and every one of our employees as part of our family,’ said Groenewald.

They are integral to the business’ success. ‘I’ve always told my employees to treat each customer like royalty – whether a client is just popping in for a small pack of business cards, or taking on a major order. Good service is crucial.’


For more information about the Sign Africa, FESPA Africa, Africa Print and Africa LED expo’s, and to pre-register online, please visit: www.signafricaexpo.com/entrepreneur

 

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Celebrating The Multi-Faceted Woman

Fedhealth celebrates #WonderWomen this August for the multiple roles they take on and excel in.

Fedhealth

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Fedhealth celebrates #WonderWomen this August for the multiple roles they take on and excel in. Whether you’re the CEO of a multinational company, the CEO of your home, or managing both, we’ve got plans to cover you every step of the journey — so you can focus on what you do best.

In celebration of Women’s Month, Fedhealth celebrates the strong women in our lives, and the various roles they fulfil with commitment and enthusiasm.

From mothers to caretakers to business owners and mentors, “Sisters are doing it for themselves.” And, since women are the backbone of so many families and communities, women’s health deserves to be cherished, during pregnancy, the childbearing years, and beyond.

Related: Why Donna Rachelson Believes The Secret To Your Business Success Lies With Women

Fedhealth’s family focus recognises the maternal role and how important women are in the family decision-making process. Fedhealth will take care of your family and your children through family-focused plans like Maxima Basis.

Fedhealth’s role in each stage of a Woman’s health

When you are young and single, Fedhealth looks after you by providing the contraceptive benefit

Oral contraception, contraceptive patches and certain contraceptive injections, as well as IUDs, are covered from Risk on Maxima Plus, Maxima Exec, Maxima Standard, Maxima StandardElect and Maxima Basis.

When obtained at a pharmacy, GP or a gynaecologist, the cost will automatically be covered by the Scheme and funded from the Major Medical Benefit.

When you are ready to start a family, Fedhealth has amazing maternity benefits

The experience of becoming a parent is priceless, but sooner or later you’re going to run into the expenses involved with a pregnancy.

The actual cost of pregnancy and childbirth can be steep, especially if you don’t have medical aid. The price tag of a healthy pregnancy can really add up, starting with prenatal care to ensure a healthy baby and a healthy delivery.

You’ll need to visit your gynaecologist throughout your pregnancy. If you have medical aid, prenatal visits and diagnostic tests such as ultrasounds, will be covered. They are generally considered as ‘preventative’ care.

An ultrasound could cost anything between R600 to R800 upwards, while delivery could cost up to R13 000 at a private facility. Every day, scores of women in South Africa scramble to find a medical aid that will cover their pregnancy and childbirth.

Maxima Basis is an excellent medical aid option to consider if you’re thinking of starting a family in the future.

Related: Funding And Financial Assistance For SA Women Entrepreneurs

At the later stages of your health, Fedhealth provides screening benefits

Yes, fifty being the new thirty would be particularly true for those who can afford good health care or have access to good health care.

Because of this, people are staying healthier for longer, and lives are starting later due to longer education times and difficulty finding jobs. People are settling down into careers in their mid to late twenties instead of earlier, making traditionally older ages, like 50, feel younger.

Women should have a general check-up every year, especially as you get older (even if you don’t feel like it yet). Have you scheduled yours?

Protect yourself against some of life’s nastier surprises by learning more about the most commonly misdiagnosed women’s illnesses:

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: When tasks such as getting ready for work, which usually require an hour take several hours, you may want to look into why. CFS affects women in their 40s and 50s. Women are four times more likely to suffer from this disease than men.

Multiple Sclerosis: Women are three times more likely to be diagnosed with MS, and it generally appears between ages 20 and 40. Having a mother with MS can be the strongest risk factor. Blurred or double vision, fatigue, tingling, dizziness, lack of coordination and tremors are symptoms to look out for.

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Fedhealth has a strong social presence and, through the use of its blog, Fedhealth’s team will produce great articles along the #WonderWomen theme, such as women in the workplace, breastfeeding in your lunch hour and celebrating being single. To follow the blog, go to www.fedhealth.co.za/healthy-living-tips/

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