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Jennifer Da Mata Gives Top Advice On Retrenchments

Q&A Retrenching staff is one of the hardest professional things a business owner will probably ever have to do. Labour specialist Jennifer Da Mata explains why companies decide to retrench, and how the process can be completed in a fair and professional manner.

GG van Rooyen

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Vital Stats

  • Player: Jennifer Da Mata (CEO)
  • Company: Strata-g Labour Solutions
  • Established: 2008
  • Background: Strata-g provides solutions to employers of all sizes and in all industries. These solutions include retrenchments, as well as consultation in all areas of labour legislation, Human Resources, Industrial Relations, BBBEE, Skills Development, Employment Equity, Recruitment services and Payroll Outsourced Solutions.
  • Visit: www.strata-g.co.za

What is the business’s responsibility towards its employees?

Retrenchments do not always occur as a result of financial issues, but no matter what the reason is for the possible retrenchments, businesses have a duty to be open and honest with their employees regarding the reasons for the possible retrenchments.

Employers need to engage with employees in a meaningful and joint consensus-seeking process and should provide employees with sufficient information regarding the business’s rationale for going through the retrenchment process in order for the employees to constructively engage in the process.

The process needs to be fair and transparent and ultimately no final decision should be made without affording employees an opportunity to provide their input.

Related: Walking the Tightrope: Women Entrepreneurs Lize Sadie and Gillian Loos

How does the owner know that retrenchments have become viable?

Retrenchments will only become a viable option once all other alternatives have been explored and none of these alternatives are considered to be viable in order to secure the operational and/or financial sustainability of the business.

Alternatives that could possibly be considered include, transferring employees to other departments or branches, salary reductions, the implementation of short time, reduction of overtime, termination of the services of temporary or contract workers, placing suitable employees on retirement and so on.

Only once the alternatives have been considered and there are valid reasons as to why the alternatives are not viable, will an owner know that the possibility of retrenchments has become unavoidable.

So the CCMA is not involved in retrenchments? Does it not play any role?

The CCMA does not ordinarily become involved in so-called small-scale retrenchments but in circumstances where an employer employs more than 50 people and contemplates dismissing a specific number of employees due to operational requirements, the CCMA must appoint a facilitator to assist the parties engaged in consultations if the employer requested facilitation, or the consulting parties representing the majority of employees have requested facilitation.

The CCMA can play a very important and useful role during the facilitation process and the services are offered free of charge.

Do companies need facilitators?

All companies do not need facilitators to be appointed and the process can be handled internally. However, given the legalities and complexities often surrounding the process and the fact that many employees may become apprehensive about the process, it may be beneficial for companies to enlist the services of experts to ensure that they receive adequate guidance and assistance during the process of consultation and/or facilitation.

The process can potentially affect the job security and livelihood of many employees and a facilitator could assist the parties through this difficult time by ensuring the process is conducted fairly.

Related: How Women Entrepreneurs Can Change the SA Business Landscape

What are the requirements of the process?

As the employer you are required to consult with your employees regarding the reasons for the possible retrenchments and various other aspects as per section 189 of the LRA.

In order to engage in a meaningful joint consensus seeking process, you are required to provide all consulting parties with sufficient information in writing, including but not limited to: The number of employees likely to be affected, the timing of the possible retrenchments, detailed reasons why the company is contemplating the retrenchments, the assistance the employer is proposing for potentially affected employees, alternatives the employer has considered to retrenching, proposed severance pay, how the employer has gone about selecting potentially affected employees, the possibility of future employment, the number of employees the employer has in its employ at the time that retrenchments become contemplated, as well as the number of employees retrenched in the preceding 12 month period.

You need to consider the submissions made by the consulting parties and upon this consideration, an attempt must be made to reach consensus on the different aspects.

There are various things that should be considered from a procedural point of view and therefore it’s important to obtain proper legal advice before simply embarking on the process.

It’s a joint-consensus seeking process, so what happens if consensus isn’t reached?

As the employer, you have the right to terminate, even if consensus isn’t reached. However, it’s important to think about the cost, not only in terms of retrenchment packages and potential court cases, but also morale.

Retrenchments are traumatic, and they can have a profound impact on a company. Many companies even offer counselling to employees. Retrenchments are never easy, regardless of the reason behind them.

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


Take note

Retrenchments are not an easy way to get rid of unwanted employees. The costs are high and the duties on the employer executing the process are onerous and risky, which is why retrenchments should only be considered once all other options have been exhausted.

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Designing Her Destiny

Oh Yay! owner, Emmerentia van den Hoven does business her way.

QuickBooks SA

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In 2011, Emmerentia van den Hoven took a leap of faith when she decided to leave her graphic design job at an agency and pursue her real passion – and it has paid off tenfold. Here’s her story.

“When I started planning my own wedding eight years ago, I fell in love with wedding design and wanted to do that for the rest of my life. Designing for brands had become a set of rules rather than being creative, and I’d always wanted to work for myself. So, in September 2011, I turned my seven-month-old side gig into a fully-fledged business and launched Oh Yay!

I have to hustle every month to get new clients because every client will use my services maximum twice – first for the wedding invitations and then for the stationery on the day – so I don’t normally have returning clients.

Because my main business is seasonal and usually once-off per customer, I have branched out into branding for small businesses in the beauty and lifestyle industry. I also earn a passive income through the Oh Yay! online shop where I sell wedding décor items.  Oh Yay Kids – my other online store – is my passion project. I launched it just before my second child was born, adding items to the store that I made for my two boys when I saw a need for it. I then expanded into prints for nurseries and kids’ party stationery.

I work for myself and have no employees, so the fact that QuickBooks lets me load all my services, products and prices in one place makes running my business so much easier. Being an entrepreneur is difficult because you don’t know if you’ll be successful or not. But if you believe in and love what you’re doing, it reflects in your work and the service you give.”

Less admin, more of what you love

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When Oh Yay! was launched, along with her dream of being an entrepreneur, came the nightmare of other administrative tasks. But that changed in 2018 when Emmerentia started using QuickBooks.

“When I was using spreadsheets to balance my books, I was spending 80% of my time on admin, which left very little time to tend to customers’ orders. I now spend no more than 25% of my time on admin, which is important, especially when it comes to the speed at which I send quotes. You don’t get any work if you don’t send out quotes and it’s tough to juggle the admin with your actual job of running the business.

Numbers were never really my strong point, so having a professional quote done in record time not only projects professionalism, but the format also changes the way new clients see me. In my industry, the quicker you can send a quote out, the likelier you’ll get the clients’ business. It gives legitimacy to my business. The QuickBooks system operates so seamlessly that clients communicate with me differently, like I have my own accounting department, when in fact, I’m a one-woman-show.

I used to dread doing admin, but now it’s so easy and quick. I’m not just saying this – QuickBooks changed my life.”

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Watch List: 50 Black African Women Entrepreneurs To Watch

These female entrepreneurs are breaking barriers, transforming industries and inspiring change on the continent.

Diana Albertyn

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Women Entrepreneur Successes

Owner Of Nouwens Carpets Shares Success Lessons From Running A 50 Year Old Family Business

Embrace technology every chance you get.

Nadine Todd

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A company that’s been active for more than five decades in an industry that’s hundreds of years old doesn’t sound like a recipe for innovation — and yet that’s exactly what Luci Nouwens, owner of Nouwens Carpets, is focused on.

The modern carpet has a history that goes back thousands of years. And despite the hipster trend of reclaimed and hard wood flooring, the carpet still remains a popular choice for consumers.

In South Africa, a name that’s synonymous with quality carpeting is Nouwens. When Cornelis Nouwens arrived in the country in the 1950s, bringing the skills of a trade which he had mastered alongside his father in Tilburg, the hub of the Netherlands’ wool textile industry, he passed on the skills and the love of the craft to his family and to workers in the Harrismith region in KwaZulu Natal.

More than 50 years after her father started it in 1962, the company remains family owned, and is headed by Luci Nouwens, who has been with the business for 48 years.

“We have maintained our reputation for premium quality all this time by paying meticulous attention to crafting standards and selecting only the finest raw materials,” says Luci. “Equally important is that we have innovated at every opportunity, embracing technology without ever compromising the traditional craftsman’s spirit.”

Innovation drives growth

Businesses that innovate are able to grow and hire more employees. As a result, they grab a bigger share of the market. That’s true regardless of the size of your business: If you innovate, you can scale up.

In 1968 Nouwens launched a pure karakul wool carpet that was extremely hard wearing and took the company into the commercial carpet market. Luci recalls the manufacturing of the carpet as “a major feat of unique textile engineering.” Another innovation in 2005 was the introduction of a totally new style of flat weave wool carpet, a very clean, minimalist and natural look requiring much less wool without compromising on wearability.

“These innovations are just two of many that have allowed the business to boost its market share over the years,” says Luci. “But beyond that, innovation has enabled Nouwens Carpets to form the backbone of economic activity and upliftment in the local community around Harrismith. This has allowed us to make substantial investment in providing education and skills development for the local population, to ensure that the craft is preserved for generations to come.”

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

Innovation enables sustainability

Innovation in technologies and how they are applied is key to enabling a manufacturer like Nouwens to create new business value, while also protecting the planet.

“We have used technology to enable sustainable manufacturing, for the benefit of the business, the community, and our customers.”

Nouwens selects equipment, materials and manufacturing methods based on their degree of sustainability and protection of the environment. The company is also a member of the Green Building Council of South Africa and submits its products for VOC testing to ensure that harmful emissions are significantly reduced.

“Ultimately, we are driven by a passion for textiles and the ability to constantly find better ways to produce beautiful products. After the downturn in the economy, we started to produce more cost-effective commercial nylon yarns, and in 2017, we became the new kid on the block for synthetic grass. The bottom line is that a true entrepreneur does what has to be done when the time comes.” — Monique Verduyn

The role of disruption in creating value

A disruptive business is a business that challenges and potentially changes the status quo. From a mindset point of view, a culture that questions ‘why’ can help foster organisational and market disruption. But disruption for the sake of disruption is self-defeating, it needs to be on the back of making things better and based on commercial principles, i.e. people or market players actually wanting to be disrupted.

The starting point is this: Does someone, or a market, value what you’re producing? If the answer is yes, you have a commercially viable disruption. Disruption that is valued by its target market has the best chance of resulting in success.

Get that right and you’ll have a customer base, you’ll gain traction and you’ll attract investors, provided you’re also making a meaningful and sustainable difference to your target market or community. — Ian Lessem, CEO, HAVAIC Investment and Advisory Firm

Collaboration

Team up with customers and competitors.

There’s more power in collaboration than competition. We’re stronger together than when we’re apart. When it comes to working with competitors, consider this: They may have something that you don’t, or vice versa, and 50% of something is always more than 100% of nothing. You’re then positioned to add value before you add an invoice, so your clients benefit from your relationships, and the market wins. From there, you become your client’s go-to-person, because you’re putting them first.

Customers are also a great source of knowledge: They might just have the answers you’re looking for, but are you asking them the right questions? They often know more about an entrepreneur’s business than they know themselves, because they’re on the receiving end of your offering. One way to collaborate with customers is to ask them more questions about yourselves, themselves and their clients. Harness their perspective and develop yourself to give them what they want, not what you think they want. — Wes Boshoff, founder, Imagine Thinking

Related: Watch List: 50 Top SA Business Women To Watch

PR

Know what your audiences are interested in

As a brand, there are many ways to ensure your audience is paying attention to you, but you can’t expect them to find you unless you’re sharing content that captures their interest. If you send out press releases, don’t be too rigid or plain. Audiences want to be engaged, and not to have to deal with long, cumbersome information. An infographic, along with a video or pictures will make your release easier to ingest and more memorable. People don’t want boring figures, they want relatable stories.

One way to be relatable is by tapping into influencer marketing. This doesn’t mean you need celebrities with the highest followings to endorse you. Micro-influencers are proving to have just as much clout as those with larger followings. Evidence shows that micro-influencers have a more established and deeper connection with their audience, which translates to loyalty and a readiness to follow their advice. The trick is to find the micro-influencers who are speaking to the audience you want to reach.

Big data plays a key role in painting a picture of who is ‘out there’. With the right information, you can tailor your content to a specific audience. Big data can show you what topics and problems are trending in your industry, so that you can get the jump on them. Use big data to deliver your own insights on current topics, shaping and leading the conversation, converting your audience’s attention into action. — Madelain Roscher, founder and managing director, PR Worx and Status Reputation Management

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