Process-Driven Leadership

Themba Mthombeni on a process driven leadership role.


Vital stats

  • Themba Mthombeni
  • Designation: Founder and CEO
  • Company: Duma Travel
  • Sales Team: 12 sales people at eight branches around South Africa
  • Career Summary: Mthombeni has a BCom from Wits University, as well as Honours and Master of Business Leadership degrees from UNISA. He was employed as a principle consultant for strategy and organisational effectiveness at PricewaterhouseCoopers, and subsequently as the human resources director at De Beers Marine. He left the corporate world in 2002 to launch his own business, Duma Travel.

What is your approach to business management and growth?

I’ve borrowed a lot from my experiences at big companies, while always making sure we retain our entrepreneurial spirit. I started my business with one employee – myself. The group now employs 270 people and has a turnover of more than R1 billion.

We got here through focus and structure. Early on in the life of the business our vision was to be in the top five in our industry by 2015. We soon discovered that 20% of the business gives us 80% of the results. Our focus is on that 20% and any variance is addressed at exco. Our response is quick and potent.

How do you define your sales leadership style?

With many so-called BEE companies the guys at the top know little about what is happening on the ground. I’m hands-on and I believe in leading from the front. I am a challenging and driven leader.

Every year we set a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (BHAG) which is always related to our vision to be in the top five. As part of our strategy to achieve that goal, we outline the reward structure clearly and empower people to achieve by helping them to develop their skills.

What is your greatest sales learning?

I used to think that good-looking outspoken individuals made the best sales people, but I’ve realised that the most efficient people are those who are driven and prepared to operate in line with company structures. They have discipline and their results are self-reinforcing.

Who has inspired you most and why?

I have great admiration for Steve Jobs. He was always so focused on the interface between products and clients. When he designed something, he thought about the impact on users, and was prepared to challenge them to do new and different things.

What is the worst sales mistake you have ever made?

Some years ago we agreed that the SME market was under-serviced and that we would go all out to market our offering to that sector. Because we are proficient at selling, it worked.

Then we discovered some interesting problems. In this space, many of the players demand massive time and resources, sometimes even more than their much larger corporate and government counterparts.

We also found that they were very keen on credit, which was not ideal for our business. Thankfully, we learned our lesson quickly and soon got out of that market. It was simply not a fit for what we are aiming to achieve.

What motivates you?

As the business has started to make real money, I have become increasingly involved in social responsibility programmes.
I come from Glencoe, a small ‘dorp’ in KwaZulu Natal. This year, we provided scholarships for 20 students in the area.

In the process, we discovered that three schools had computer labs that were empty – we equipped them with PCs, installed a network and hired teachers to run the centres.

We also supplied courseware for the International Computer Driver’s Licence certification so that learners can leave school with some IT skills. Awareness of the difference that one person can make by being successful has been a huge eye-opener for me