Escape from the Boardroom is a new BBC World News series that follows six high-ranking executives from around the globe – including some South Africans – as they head to the front lines of their organisations in a bid to better understand their company, staff and customers.
Business bosses are set a series of challenges by staff at different levels within the organisation. The CEOs are challenged to get out from behind their desks and experience their businesses at the sharp end.
From Beirut, where one food entrepreneur delivers a busy lunchtime service to a swarm of hungry customers, to Zambia, visited by a charity CEO who explores where donations raised on UK streets end up, the business leaders are given a corporate workout before going on to deliver their findings to the staff.
Is their business in good shape to tackle today’s global challenges? Or will it be a case of out of the boardroom and back to the drawing board?
Meet the CEOs
The CEOs and companies featured in the series, include:
- Victor Muller, CEO of Spyker Cars
Muller’s Dutch car company, Spyker Cars, plans to unveil its new luxury offering, the Spyker B6 Venator at California’s prestigious Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance automotive event. His £100,000 concept model wowed spectators at the 2013 Geneva Motor Show but will he achieve the same success on the other side of the Atlantic? Stakes are high, and next to established brands like Porsche and Ferrari, Muller finds out whether his Netherlands HQ has the capacity to take the business to the next level.
- Mark Goldring, CEO of Oxfam
Goldring has been the CEO of Oxfam for just three months but already the size of his challenge is abundantly clear: what does Oxfam stand for? Known as a charity that fights global poverty, the lines between aid-giving and development funding have become increasingly blurred. Meanwhile, the public’s perception of how their hard-earned donations are spent has become cynical. On a trip to one of the poorest countries in South Africa, Mark will have to tackle how to position Oxfam in today’s global market and what he needs to do to make it stand out from the competition.
- Christine Sfeir, CEO of Semsom Restaurants
At the tender age of 22, Sfeir introduced the American coffee chain Dunkin’ Donuts to Lebanese society. Thirty branches later, she is now hungry to introduce her own restaurant chain, Semsom, to the American people. From its humble beginnings in Beirut expanding into Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and soon UAE, Qatar and Iraq, Christine will now have to compete with multi-national food heavyweights without losing focus on her Semsom brand back at home.
- Jan Smits, CEO of InterContinental Hotels Group (Asia, Middle East and Africa)
With just 13 hotels currently in India, InterContinental Hotels Group – one of the world’s leading hotel chains in the world – aims to establish 150 hotels in India in the next 10 to 15 years. In charge of this mammoth task is CEO of Asia, Middle East and Africa, Jan Smits. From the upscale Crowne Plaza to the more basic Holiday Inn, Smits will have to establish a variety of seven brands in a country of over 1 billion people, all with differing tastes and cultural attitudes.
- Ian Moir, CEO, Woolworths
Woolworths, South African food and clothing retailer, are at a vital point in their history. Although profits are up, the stagnant state of the South African economy along with competition from rival stores suggests that the task of expansion couldn’t be any more challenging for CEO Moir. His mission is to make Woolworths the number one choice in fashion and food retail for all South Africans, but will he convince them that they have no reason to shop anywhere else other than his store?
Find it here!
The programme will be broadcast weekly on BBC World News (DStv Channel 400) from 21 September for six weeks on Saturdays at 16.10 and Sundays at 10.10 & 22.10.
Use The December Shutdown Period To Do Just That: Shut Down
by Greg Morris, CEO, Sebata Holdings
Most businesses – retail and entertainment excluded – resemble ghost towns during the first and last weeks of the year. Energy levels are low in December, and employees daydream about cocktails on the beach. Come January, it takes a few days to get back into the swing of things. Before we know it, South Africa takes another extended holiday in April.
We’re accused of having a “holiday culture” in South Africa. That’s a fair comment. We get 12 public holidays a year, which is more than most countries. And many people use their annual leave strategically in April and December to maximise their time off. As a result, we only really work for 10 months of the year, while other countries work for 11 months.
There’s no doubt that public holidays affect the economy. One extra public holiday in 2011 resulted in an estimated R7 billion loss in turnover. But there’s also a lot to be said for taking time off. And when we know the holidays are coming, we can prepare for them, so employees make the most of their downtime and start the new year on a strong footing.
Burnout is not good for business…
Productivity and motivation are like fuel tanks. While driving, the fuel dries up. At some point, we need to fill up, otherwise we’ll break down. People are the same; we can’t run on empty. Weekends are one thing, but in our culture of always-connected busyness, we don’t get a chance to recharge over weekends. That’s why we need the longer break in December.
A Pulse Institute study found that, when employees are not rested, they experience:
- 23% reduced concentration
- 18% reduced memory function
- 9% increased difficulty in performing tasks
Fatigue-related productivity losses amount to R26,000 per employee per year. Sleeplessness can also result in mistakes and increased absenteeism, accidents, or injury.
Well-rested employees, however, are happier and more creative, engaged, and productive. They get more done in less time than their sleep-deprived, low-energy colleagues.
… but if you’re going to burn the midnight oil…
Businesses often think of December as a slow period that will harm the bottom line. Yes, it can be disruptive and there will be financial impacts. But if you’re going to keep the doors open til the end, this is the perfect time for internal housekeeping. Even the most efficient and streamlined businesses can improve some internal projects or processes.
Allow teams to be inwardly focused during this time, so that you start the new year with less to worry about. Whether that’s planning for 2019, reflecting on what worked and what didn’t in 2018, cleaning up databases, servicing air cons and office machines, connecting with customers over coffee, updating your website, or creating new marketing campaigns, employees can achieve a lot when they’re not focused on the day-to-day grind.
Our best ideas come to us when we’re relaxed and not thinking about them. (If you’ve ever scrawled on the steamed-up shower door, you’ve experienced downtime creativity.)
Make the most of skeleton staff time in December. Host fun creativity sessions that have nothing to do with work. Pay for your people to complete short online courses that will give them skills and motivation boosts. When they do go on holiday, perhaps their new knowledge will result in a major ‘a-ha moment’ around the family braai.
My best advice for businesses that are shutting down in a few weeks is this: shut down. Since the business is not generating income, everything that’s left running – that one employee watching the phone that never rings; that one light left on – hurts the bottom line.
Encourage teams to disconnect. Don’t expect them to answer mails and don’t contact them about work while they’re on holiday – unless it’s an emergency. Block access to mails if you have to, Volkswagen style. Give your people time to think, reflect, and sleep.
When we respect employees’ time and give them freedom to work when they’re most productive, we develop motivated, positive workforces who are enthusiastic about achieving the business’s goals. They work harder to get the job done and, in our experience, actually finish projects ahead of deadline because they want to be able to switch off and go fishing.
Downtime is often seen as wasted time. We don’t take breaks, we eat lunch at our desks, and we work when we’re sick and should be at home. But working longer hours doesn’t mean that we’ll get more done. In fact, it can be enormously counter-productive.
Neuroscientist David Levitin cautions against the “false break”, when we feel guilty for taking time off and compulsively check emails. Napping, daydreaming, and “taking true vacations without work”, he says, is biologically restorative and essential for rebooting cognitive energy. So, if you’re going to shut down, do it properly. The same business challenges will be there when you get back. But you could solve some of them while you’re sleeping.
Seasonal SMEs: Don’t Spend Your Extra Cash All At Once
Save a portion of festive season profits for an emergency fund.
The festive season is a time when many seasonal small and medium enterprises (SMEs) reap the rewards of increased consumer spending, such as additional sales and accommodation bookings from the influx of holiday makers and festive season shoppers. This spike in earnings offers the ideal opportunity for these businesses to save some of the extra money that they make for an emergency fund.
This is according to Jeremy Lang, regional general manager at Business Partners Limited (BUSINESS/PARTNERS), who says that a major risk faced by many businesses is their vulnerability to an unexpected financially-draining mishap such as a big client loss, a lawsuit, or any accident that is not covered by insurance.
“Despite this, few SME owners have an emergency fund in place to deal with such unforeseen events,” he says.
“This is understandable since a growing business tends to require a lot of cash to move forward. Another likely reason for this is because most SME owners are more focused on the immediate practicalities of building their business, rather than on vague risk assessments and planning. By nature, entrepreneurs also tend to be chronically optimistic about the future good luck of their business,” adds Lang.
“However, considering South Africa’s underperforming economy and rising consumer price inflation, it is essential that all SME owners save for a rainy day. Those that have boosted seasonal business have an advantage and should capitalise on this by putting aside a portion of their seasonal profits,” he explains.
Related: 5 Small Business Money-Saving Myths
When saving towards an emergency fund, it is key to set a goal, Lang points out. “A good rule of thumb is to have three to six months’ worth of overheads set aside, but even just one month’s expenses are better than nothing.”
The next step is to decide what constitutes an emergency, he says. “If an emergency fund can be dipped into every time you want to avoid an awkward phone call to the landlord to say that the rent will be slightly late this month, it won’t last long. A true emergency is one that threatens the survival of the business.”
With this in mind, thinking through and writing down a list of possible emergencies that would justify the use of the fund is a good risk-assessment exercise for any business, suggests Lang.
Finally, some thought needs to be given to where an emergency fund should be kept, he says.
“Gambling with the money on the stock exchange defeats the purpose. A money-market account is a better option, but it may be worth considering an account where the funds aren’t too easily accessible, so there’s no temptation to dip into it on a whim. On the other hand, it should not be so inaccessible that you cannot access it fairly soon when an emergency does strike.”
As such, Lang recommends a set of notice deposit accounts with varying notice periods so that a limited amount can be accessed immediately, and some a little later, which allows for some interest to accrue while the money, hopefully, will not be used any time soon.
“However, ultimately the will on the part of the business owner to attain these savings is critically important. The cash demands in a business are so constant that any vague or half-hearted attempt to establish an emergency fund will fail. It will have to be a conscious and disciplined effort by the business owner,” Lang concludes.
Documentary Filmmaking As A Career Is On The Up In South Africa
The Wavescape Surf and Ocean Festival will offer a free Filmmakers’ Masterclass this Wednesday, 5 December to boost several initiatives to position Cape Town as a key film destination and location.
Wavescape Filmmakers Masterclass
- Date: 5th December 2018
- Time: 6:00pm for 6:30pm
- Venue: Invest SA One Stop Shop, Western Cape
- Address: Cape Sun Corner, 46 St. George’s Mall, Cape Town
- Parking: Picbel Parkade, 58 Strand Street, Cape Town Centre (For own account)
The Masterclass, which is presented by Wesgro and aimed at aspiring filmmakers, producers, film students and those in the film industry, will focus on what it takes secure funding, produce and distribute a documentary film.
The documentary genre has seen a resurgence in popularity, owing in part to increased accessibility via the growth of Video On Demand platforms like Netflix, and an audience response to ‘Block-buster fatigue’ which has seen renewed interest in the documentary format and meaningful stories that reflect the nature and reality of our present lives.
The recent launch of F/LM Cape Town – a joint initiative between the City of Cape Town and the local film industry to promote the City’s amazing locations, diverse talent and world-class infrastructure – solidifies Cape Town as a world-class centre for filmmaking.
Besides its raw natural beauty, the city is rich in culture, diversity and heritage, which offers filmmakers an abundance of content. Curator of the Wavescape Masterclass Christopher Mason, who is co-director of Mason Brothers’ Films, said that you were halfway there if you had a good concept: “These days anyone with a unique idea, a DSLR camera and a laptop, and enough desire can be a filmmaker. The trick, of course, is understanding how to get your foot in the door in a very competitive industry.”
“What makes a good documentary and how does one become a good documentary filmmaker? How has the genre evolved and what are the possibilities for young South Africans interested in the genre? The Masterclass aims to give aspiring filmmakers the answers to these and other questions,” Mason said.
From developing a good idea into an award-winning film; to funding and distribution models; and case studies on the best this genre has to offer, this year’s masterclass aims to provide filmmakers with an immersive roadmap to success.
Steve Pike, co-founder of the Wavescape Surf and Ocean Festival said that the platform laid by F/LM Cape Town and initiatives such as the Wavescape Masterclass could help boost the already booming film industry, and thus reduce the 27.5% of South Africans who remain unemployed. The Wavescape festival, and in particular the Masterclass spoke directly to the F/LM initiative, Pike said.
“Cape Town has it all: Amazing scenery and epic locations for adventure sport. Our festival is a key platform to showcase Cape Town as the Adventure Capital of the World while also celebrating the wild ocean and raw beauty around us.”
The CEO of Wesgro, Tim Harris, said that in the 2017/18 financial year, Wesgro’s Film and Media Promotion Unit “managed to secure nine declarations to creating 2,499 full time equivalent jobs – this shows the potential for job creation in this sector”.
“There are many job opportunities in the film and media industry due to the breadth and depth of skills required across the value chain of this fourth industrial revolutionary industry,” he said, also highlighting massive potential for the cutting edge gaming industry.
Several top speakers will talk at the Masterclass, including Jolynn Minnaar, an acclaimed documentary director; Cliff Bestall, who made16th Man for ESPN 30 for 30 (produced by Morgan Freeman); Karen Slater, a Director / DOP in Sisters of the Wilderness that is eligible for an Oscar; Khalid Shamis, editor of Strike A Rock; Liezel Vermeulen, producer and film finance expert; Izzette Mostert from the Documentary Filmmakers Association; and Monica Rorvik, Head of Wesgro Film and Media Promotion Unit.
Parking at Picbel Parkade, 58 Strand Street, Cape Town (For own account), refreshments will be served.
Please visit http://www.wavescapefestival.com/wesgro-blue-ocean-master-class/ for more information.
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