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Guest lecture: Mr Pretorius, CEO of McCarthy Limited
2004-11-05

The challenges facing business leaders in a rapidly changing South Africa

“The world we used to know does not exist anymore. Leaders are continually dealing with crisis and opportunities, in a high-pressure environment,” said Mr Brand Pretorius, honorary professor from the University of the Free State , delivering his 13th guest lecture on the challenges facing business leaders in a rapidly changing South Africa .

Mr Pretorius, CEO of McCarthy Limited, identified certain trends which are responsible for changes to the South African business environment. He said the South African business environment is ever-changing, fast moving, complex and unpredictable. “As business people we have to deal with the impact,” he said.

“Years ago we were globally isolated. Now we live in a shrinking borderless world with crumbling trade barriers. Globilisation of our economy is accelerating. For South African business leaders this creates a sea of export opportunities,” he said.

Although there are ongoing demands for substantial profit growth from shareholders, the days of focussing only on their interests are gone, said Mr Pretorius. Stakeholder commitment now enjoys high priority and business leaders have to deal with the challenges accompanying black economic empowerment and employment equity.

Customers are also well-informed and demanding. Business leaders could easily loose the loyalty of their customers because of a hyper-competitive environment with an oversupply of goods and services.

Mr Pretorius stated that staff want to be involved and are looking for meaning in their workplace. Employers also have to deal with HIV/Aids in their workplaces. Trauma, absenteeism and financial implications could have a great effect on the viability of a business.

Against these changes Mr Pretorius pointed out the challenges business leaders are facing. In doing so a number of questions arise. The external business climate is characterised by turbulence and change. Internally there is a need for stability and meaning. How do we handle both challenges effectively?

Because of changes strategy decay is taking place and past strategies become irrelevant. Mr Pretorius said that business leaders need to modify their business models to prevent the downfall of their companies.

It is important for leaders to know what is happening in their world. “Continuous innovation is a critical success factor. The reality is that innovation is the only insurance against irrelevance,” he said.

Because of a changed environment leaders must perform and transform, simultaneously. How do we strike a balance between focused transformation and the achievement of world class performance, asked Mr Pretorius? “We need to bring about meaningful and sustainable empowerment, in order to create an inclusive economy and society. Leadership and management profiles should reflect the diversity of our teams, however at the same time every effort should be made to stop the brain drain and retain the expertise of experienced white managers.”

He also stated that leaders have an important role to play in terms of employment creation and corporate caring. “Sustainable stability and prosperity will not materialise without efforts in this regard.”

Mr Pretorius said that above challenges could be addressed by developing the ability to focus on creating a better future, rather than defending the past, a long-term vision, facing new realities, enhancing the value of brands and mobilising IT and the Internet to serve the business and customers better.

Retaining a positive vision of the future, embracing change and transformation, building your business according to the right principles and values and aspiring to be the best are some of the guidelines, according to Mr Brand, for future business success. He stated that creating a value advantage above one’s competitors, customer satisfaction and retention and inspirational leadership will add to the success of one’s business.

“We are indeed living in the era of the ultimate challenges, but also the ultimate opportunities. Let me clearly state that I have hope – in my view the tide has turned. Every day I experience small miracles inspired by ordinary people making an extraordinary difference,” said Mr Pretorius.

 

Media release
Issued by: Lacea Loader
Media Representative
Tel: (051) 401-2584
Cell: 083 645 2454
E-mail: loaderl.stg@mail.uovs.ac.za
5 November 2004

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