A Leader With An Eye On Tomorrow

Tsholo Kubheka, Sales Director of Virgin Active Health Clubs, on being a successful leader.

Tsholo Kubheka

Vital stats

  • Tsholo Kubheka
  • Designation: Sales Director
  • Company: Virgin Active Health Clubs
  • Sales Team: 650 national sales consultants, 114 sales managers, 17 area sales managers, five regional sales managers, a head of technical sales, a corporate sales manager, a sales project manager, and a national sales training manager who leads a team of five sales trainers.
  • Career Summary: Khubeka has a BCom degree in marketing from the University of South Africa. He has been with Virgin Active for 15 years, barring a 14-month gap in which he left to work for the South Africa Rugby Union. He began his career in sales at Virgin Active. He has filled a number of roles including a stint as chief marketing officer for Virgin Active Red, a new back-to-basic gym concept, and has worked his way up to his present role of sales director.

What makes your team successful?

We understand our strengths and how to play to them. We sell to a niche market and we do not compromise when it comes to the team. We recruit based on demonstration of the Virgin Active DNA – our purpose is to enrich people’s lives.

Related: Accommodating Your Boss’s Work Style

To do that, you need a big heart. We only recruit employees who show passion, hunger and a will to win. We can provide knowledge and develop skills, but we cannot teach passion, so that is what we look for first and foremost.

What is the best advice you have ever received about sales management?

Don’t manage. When people agree to work for a company, a contract is signed by both parties, basically stating that you agree to travel a journey together. If you are the type of leader who can move people towards their goals, there is never a need to manage.

Managing limits people, whereas leading cultivates the right behaviour. I’m more interested in spending my time developing the leaders of tomorrow.

What’s your sales leadership style?

It’s about people and values. My team can make mistakes, as long as they do not lose sight of their goals, or of the reasons why we are in business. That approach cascades all the way down from the top. It’s how we manage risk – we allow our teams to set their own goals and targets.

What’s your greatest sales learning?

Every week I am reminded that I am here as a sales leader and I continually feel that I have accomplished something big whenever my salespeople achieve their goals. Everything I do is related to my team and why they are here.

What’s the worst mistake you have ever made?

My biggest mistake was three years back when I left Virgin Active; I focused on me rather than the role I needed to play in growing others, which is a fundamental of my passion.

What is your most significant achievement?

January is always a big month in our industry as people make resolutions for the new year. This year, my sales team outdid themselves – 77% achieved their sales targets and 80% achieved goals set at the beginning of the month. It was extraordinary.

What business lessons have you learnt from your mentors?

My mentor is our MD, Ross Faragher-Thomas. He taught me what he learnt from Stephen Covey: “The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.”

Another lesson I learnt from him is that not everyone has to reinvent the wheel – you don’t always have to be the innovator if you can be the fastest follower. If you rock up today before everyone else, you can realise the biggest share.

Your favourite business quote?

As a sportsperson, I have always idolised American football player Ray Lewis, who said, “I figured something out. And it is no secret what I figured out. Whatever the majority of people were doing, I found myself doing the opposite. I wanted to chase something great.” That is what I strive to do in this business.

Related:  Why Managing Up Matters

What motivates you every day?

I want to walk away at the end of each day knowing that I have helped someone in my team to be better than they were yesterday. As a developer of talent, if I cannot add value, I should not be at work. Every day is an opportunity for me to help someone fundamentally change their lives.

As I tell my young leaders in the business, you cannot sustain leadership if you do not develop the talent of others. If you allow the pipeline to shrink, where will the future leaders come from?