Mokgethi Magapa is relatively new as the head honcho at G4S Botswana yet despite the challenges at hand his outlook is positive. He fields questions from Patriot Business.
How have the first few months on the job been?
I completed seven months on 27 October 2017 and it has been an exhilarating journey in which both key learnings and achievements abound. Most importantly I am extremely honoured and humbled to be part of this awesome team of 2900 odd employees, who day-in and day-out do their best to keep you and your assets safe. At a regional and global level one can only benefit from the massive support structure that one gets. It has been and it will continue to be a lot of hard work but the gratification comes from the needle being pushed in the right direction one customer at a time.
What is your key mandate and how are you going about fulfilling it?
It is really a simple (yet very challenging) task of ensuring that the company achieves sustainable growth and in so doing delivering above market yield for its shareholders. Key in fulfilling my mandate is making the right diagnosis with respect to bottle necks and areas of opportunity. Once you have made the right assessment of what needs to be done, you then ensure that you have the right team to deliver the needed interventions. ‘Right Team’ refers to both quality and quantity but most importantly appropriately inspired and motivated to deliver their outmost best every single day. Inspiration and motivation is normally derived from ensuring that employees have clarity of purpose and are aware of the bigger organisational objectives and where they fit in.
Every institution has its own culture – what positive culture did you find and how are you improving on that to improve efficiency?
The greatest and most positive thing I found is the willingness of our on-field workers to delight our customers at all times. This level of commitment is very rare to come by and it was a good base for one to build upon. With other members of the Executive, our key focus was ensuring that we put in place polices relating to staff and clear out most of the niggling issues. I undertook a countrywide roadshow of which its primary objective was to reignite the excitement and also offer a message of hope and oneness to all our branches. It has been well received and this is evident in the impact we have been able to make in the short time as a team.
What competitive advantages are you championing to keep the business ahead of competitors?
Over and above global best practice in the field of risk management, we have specialised competencies in the field of cash management, systems as well as specialised deployments in sectors such as mining, manufacturing and big infrastructural projects. Within our business we remain the only company that can provide you with fully outsourced facilities management and meet your physical security requirements within that set up. Our approach to market is offering our clients solutions in respect to their shared services. We are the market leader in cash solutions and we intend to leverage.
How did the business perform at the last financials reporting period?
As you might be aware, we announced our half year results for the period ending 30th June 2017 on the 28th September 2017 of which I’m extremely proud of the great traction that the team has been able to attain. Under our stabilisation strategy underpinned by the following objectives: Engaged People, Operational Excellence, Customer centricity and Revenue Growth, Cost Containment , we have set up a solid base in which to launch our next phase of growth. Our revenue grew moderately at about 2.4% in a very tough trading environment which has been characterised by subdued consumer demand due to business closures and general frailties of the economy. The closure of businesses in the mining sector has had a negative impact on revenue growth and thereby offsetting the gains made from new sales, positive product mix and strategic pricing. We made significant gains in productivity in which our gross margin improved by an impressive 7.4% and this was mainly in productivity gains arising out of streamlining our operations and order to cash process to ensure alignment between resources and revenue generation. We continued to make great strides in our PBITA which grew by 5.1% and most importantly our operating cash flow (OCF) grew by 25.8%. This (OCF) achievement has been driven mainly by strong focus on extracting cash out of the order to cash (OTC) process. This has seen a surge in our OCF as % of PBITA grew to 167.5% which is 27.6% higher than LY. Overall I must say it’s been an encouraging start and we aim to build on this very strong foundation.
Is it possible to forecast on how numbers would be in the next reporting period?
Based on our plan and resolute focus on creating value for our shareholders, we are encouraged that our half-year has set us in the right direction and we are optimistic about the future. Our re-focus on the systems business and facilities management will give us the impetus that we need to go past the finish line come end of the financial year in December 2017
Being a key player in the security space, what are the new worrying trends of criminality that you are being forced to deal with?
Crime generally across board is of great concern to us and we come in contact with it on a day to day basis. What is key is to understand that the role that we play is very different from that of law enforcement agencies but we have been able to establish a great working relationship with all of them given that we act as an early warning system and also some parts of our business tend to be susceptible to criminal activities. Our view is that we have trained our staff members on how to deal with such incidents from a safety perspective and we continue to train them. In our alarm and monitoring business, our ability to respond quicker to alarm notification is one area in which we have invested heavily on given the opportunity to deter potential acts of criminality just by being on the scene. It is important that we continue to engage our customers and the public at large on how they (and their assets) can be safer.
How do you ensure that high standards of customer service are met and maintained?
As you will be aware, we are a multinational company with operations around the world as well as skin in the game having been in this line of business for decades. We have over time managed to develop and deploy processes and systems around our business that ensure great service quality and consistency across our businesses. One of our key strategic pillars is operational excellence and this is purely aimed at ensuring that we fully optimise our business for the customer’s benefit. Our quest in being customer-centric means understanding our customers’ value chain as well as the pain-points that we are to eliminate for them. Once our employees appreciate the impact that we have on our customer’s ability to deliver their core mandate, then they start seeing themselves as piece of the puzzle.
You are also a growing player in the facilities and cleaning space; how is your performance in this area? And what are the arising challenges here?
Yes, that is a growing part of our business and it complements our service offering. It has had steady growth and we have focused on re-engineering tis processes with service quality at the top of our mind. The scope is immense but we need to ensure that we have the appropriate resources and structure to support this line of business. It is also becoming a highly contested space given the number of entrants (facilities management); however the opportunities are limitless given that organisations are now revisiting their business model around shared services.
As a big employer keeping staff focused and motivated can be a huge challenge. Please discuss the interventions that you are employing to ensure a consistent high performance by your work force?
You could not be more correct and with a workforce of just over 2900 it is a challenging but exciting environment in so far as employee engagement is concerned. In our stabilisation plan, you will notice that one of the pillars is engaged people (employees). This speaks to a deliberate effort to ensure that we keep our employees highly motivated and in doing so get them to enjoy serving our customers. This spans from ensuring that they have the right resources and tools, appropriate and adequate training, assure their health and safety, effective communication and most importantly giving them feedback and recognition. As you can imagine, given the size of the workforce it is not a very easy thing to accomplish but what is key is to lay a foundation and framework supported by policies that speak to staff issues. I encourage my management team to spend most of their time with their teams so as to be able to get first-hand information of the issues as well as experiences. Over and above the scheduled staff engagements session, I am a great believer of walkabouts and impromptu discussions with staff. I find it an enriching and very sobering exercise that puts a lot of issues into perspective so I purposefully make the time to walk the floor. I must say, I have been humbled by the G4S Botswana team in the way they have embraced the change that come with new management. Some of it has been very difficult as it had to be swift but the more we engage with them the more it becomes apparent that we have a team of hard working and dedicated people who just want to be given an opportunity to make a difference.
What are the Corporate Social Investment (CSI) projects that you have engaged in or shall be engaging in soon?
We have been focusing a lot on grassroots development and using Rugby as a vehicle for imparting organisational and leadership skills to primary school going kids. Our Bhubesi Rugby Project, which is Pan–African, has touched the lives of over 5000 kids since its inception and the legacy projects that go with it include maintenance of Tshwaragano Primary School (Naledi) as well as donation of Fire hydrants and systems to Gabaresepe Day Care Centre (Naledi) and alarm monitoring and response systems to both schools. We will continue to partner with our communities and ensure that we invest in the areas or localities that we do business in. We do partake in adhoc/once-off donations, either through other CSR vehicles or directly to society. We have introduced, and with great success, a system in which staff members not only donate their time but money for the CSR initiatives that we partake in. The organisation then matches the contribution made by staff. When one sees the pride and joy in the faces of the G4S Teams after a successful CSR activity, you will then realise what it means to us as people. The society has received us very well and we are in the process of reviewing our policy to ensure that we now refocus on youth, education and leadership.
You have been involved as a leader of a number of multi-nationals in Botswana, is there a particular reason why you tend to favour them against local businesses?
I didn’t realise that. Seriously though, I think I like the set-up and the focus on nothing but business and of course the learning opportunities are many. Remember most of these multinationals have been in existence for many years and have managed to perfect the art of business and it is a good place to benchmark and learn. Leadership fit in relation to the strategic objectives of the company is to me what defines multinationals. The level of responsibility and accountability is clearly defined and you are really the master of your own destiny. It is an extremely tough environment given the high pressure to deliver great results and of course above market returns, given the premiums that go with these type of investments. I have enjoyed myself in the past two roles I have performed and so far the seven months in G4S have been equally rewarding from a learning and development point of view.
How long do you intend to lead G4S Botswana?
I’m a firm believer of succession and definitive parameters in so far as one’s length of stay in an organisation is concerned. I will lead it up to a point where it would need to renew its leadership to take it to the next level. Remember that I also inherit this solid business from my predecessor, Michael Kampani who was here for an odd four years or so as the Managing Director. I will forever be grateful to him and his team for having given me a platform in which I could build on given the level of great work that he and his team had done over the years. With regards to my intended length of stay, I have set my own time frames, which I have shared with my principals in the Africa Regional office as well as my Board of Directors in Botswana. These are obviously aligned to the objectives and the milestones which would be indicative of having achieved what one set themselves to do.
What are your other future goals as a business leader?
In time (not so distant), I hope to work myself towards short stints (6-12moths) in which I would be coming in with short to medium term impact, particularly for ailing or sluggish operations. This would also enable me to achieve my second goal of having more time for my family. My four kids and their mother unfortunately don’t see me as much as they should and I have learnt over the years that one would need to purposefully adjust to make it work. Lastly, my wife and I have set up “Kagelelo Kokobele Charitable and Educational Foundation” which we use to give back to our community and specifically we have chosen (over the last three years) our home village, Mmutlane. It is focused on orphans as well as supporting the primary school in the village. I hope in future to be able to spend more time and resources growing this aspect of our lives and hopefully see it take on other villages. The level of inequality and poverty in our country is disheartening and I guess as people we deal with the challenges the country faces in different ways. We have chosen this path as a family and no matter how small the impact, we hope that it will get our kids to appreciate humanity and hopefully work for its betterment.
Which book would you recommend to a budding entrepreneur or an upcoming executive?
The only thing I think is common to people is their uniqueness so I’m not in the habit of recommending books, learning materials etc. given our diverse nature. I can only share that you must appreciate and cherish your being different and use that to make an impact. Controlled- thinking has never really produced pioneers, industrialist, revolutionaries or innovators, so go on and trust yourself and make what you believe are appropriate choices for yourself and those within your sphere of influence. Learning and benchmarking still remains a cornerstone of your development and turning you into an impactful human being. It is important that one gets to understand themselves and really know what drives them before embarking on any developmental journey. This would ultimately feed into your preferences and style and it’s important to recognise that it will always be different from the next person.