Dare to take risks

Aug 29 2012 13:39

THROUGHOUT my career I have often had to invent the job as I went along, but knowing that I make a contribution is my driver to succeed.

Be a team player

As an industrial ceramics design student, I did some holiday work for Johnson Tiles South Africa at a time when the company brought in all its designs from its parent company in the United Kingdom.

My designs were put into production and sold well, so when I graduated I was given the job of establishing a design department at Johnson Tiles. I was a good designer, but clueless about business and setting up a department.

Fortunately I had a very supportive boss and the experience taught me a lot.

I later joined Tile Africa to set up a new division where nothing had existed before, and when Tile Africa was rebranded and relaunched we created something new and different from that also.

The advantage of challenges like this is that whatever you do is an improvement. The disadvantage is that you have to be willing to take risks.

The first main ingredient for success is communication – to talk, explain, illustrate and convince the main stakeholders that your plan is viable. Second comes the ability to listen and receive input from others.

In business we can do little of importance alone.

Know your subject

The tile industry used to be very male-orientated, especially on the manufacturing side where I started. When I joined the Johnson Tiles executive team I was the only female manager in the business.

Some of my male colleagues had problems with the idea of a woman in the boardroom, and it was frequently assumed that I would sit quietly, take the minutes and pour the tea. This has fortunately changed in the industry generally, and certainly at Norcros SA.

If a woman knows her subject, does her homework and keeps up to date with trends then she will be afforded due respect.

However, men do things differently from women, and often guys instinctively get together in a huddle, sometimes in the corridor, sometimes in the bar after work or on the golf course to work out a game plan and act.

A woman can give a very important perspective and is often left out of this type of interaction.

I don't for a moment think that this is deliberate, but it can be frustrating. To be a successful woman in business one needs to be creative, open-minded, observant, optimistic, patient and persistent.

The marketing department used to be called the advertising department.

Over the years, marketing has changed from being just a support function to a strategic process encompassing understanding of the marketing environment, identifying profitable target markets and tailoring the business offering to meet the needs of those markets.

Lead by example

At Norcros SA our philosophy for success is to have clear goals, work towards them as a team, and have rock solid values and live by them. This means, as our managing director Thomas Willcocks often says, to do what is right, and not what is convenient.

In the early years it was a major struggle to juggle my career and personal life.

I used to be very envious of my male colleagues who were not having to battle with crises at home - like sick children and blocked drains - as well as crises at work. After my divorce I didn't so much long for another husband as for a capable wife.

These days my children are grown and successful in their own right. Although I anguished over sometimes having to put work first when they were younger, they are both proud of what I have achieved, and both have a strong work ethic in their own lives.

Become a mentor

My biggest lesson in business has been a recent one.

There comes a time when all of us have to manage the transition from being centre stage where we are doing, achieving, and taking bows to a place off stage where we are listening, facilitating, and equipping the next generation for their time in the spotlight.

I am very fortunate to have had wonderful role models and advisers in this process.

To improve my knowledge and skills I read very widely and attend seminars, exhibitions and conferences whenever possible to listen to experts in their field and, most importantly, listen to people within our business to understand how all the different parts interact, and how I can help.

 - Fin24

* Kate van Niekerk is the marketing manager of Norcros SA, the parent company of Johnson Tiles, Tile Africa and TAL. She is the latest guest columnist taking part in Fin24's Women's Month campaign celebrating women in business.

Fin24 welcomes your participation in the campaign. Send your views to editor@fin24.com and you could get published.

Previous women's month columns:

Seducer or slavemaster - Jacqueline Allschwang, inspirational and transformational NLP coach and facilitator and owns Inspire Transformations

Knowledge is power
- Mimi Viviers, key accounts executive at Connection Telecom

Sweet and simple - Sandy Wilde, head of Sanlam icover

Does money matter
- Jessica Pryce-Jones, CEO of the iOpener Institute for People and Performance

Starting from scratch
- Karen Short, founder and chairperson of By Word of Mouth

It's all in alignment - Anli Kotzé, general manager at Ladbrokes.co.za

Make it a team effort - Lulu Letlape, executive head of group corporate affairs at Sanlam

Life isn't like the movies - Judith Middleton, founder and CEO of DUO Marketing + Communications

Ramp up your fun factor - Marteen Michau, head of fiduciary and tax at Sanlam Private Investments

Map your delivery plan - Jackie Carroll, managing director for Media Works

Fine balancing act - Managing director of MUA Insurance Acceptances

Small victories are sweet
- CEO of Save the Children South Africa

Head in the clouds - Marketing manager at kulula.com

The sky's the limit - Tsidi Luse, quality control manager at Lafarge's Lichtenburg plant

In the driving seat - Dawn Nathan-Jones, CEO, Europcar

Get your hands dirty - Sandra Burmeister, CEO of the Landelahni Recruitment Group

Manage like a woman - Wahida Parker, director of Equillore

Four tips for working moms - Glynnis Jeffries, head: business development at Futuregrowth

Women a force for change - Amelia Jones, CEO of Community Chest

Don't be an ice queen - Nicole Fannin, financial consultant at deVere Group


* Follow Fin24 on FacebookTwitter and Google+.

workplace  |  business  |  women



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