David White, Charles Henzi And Akhona Mahlati - International Influence


David White and Charles Henzi of DRG have held senior HR roles in global corporates and subsequently have become independent leadership process facilitators. Both recently visited London and Switzerland.

Firstly, we participated in an informal workshop on effective leadership styles with seasoned facilitators. The central theme for discussion was enabling purposeful work as a fundamental responsibility for business leaders. This discussion provided encouragement of our thinking around the 'Leading for Purpose' theme as the focus of the DRG leadership development process.

Our second engagement was a meeting with Professor Martin Hilb at the University of St. Gallen, which incorporates the Research Institute for International Management. Professor Hilb holds the position of president of its supervisory board, in addition to several senior roles within similarly prestigious institutions.

As chairman of the board foundation and its International Centre for Corporate Governance, he has developed a key interest in the South African King Commission and its emphasis on enterprise sustainability through stakeholder focus.

We confirmed with him our notion that an effective leadership style plays a vital role in sustainability; in terms of our model which emphasises the enablement of Purposeful work which, in turn, promotes employee engagement. Or, in simple terms, effective leadership is a fundamental element of good corporate governance.

Our subsequent visit to London, where, during our previous visit (November 2017) we introduced the BusinessFit model to influential people, including Michael Miller, director of the South African Chamber of Commerce UK and South African business owner in the UK. This interaction prompted an invitation to attending its annual Business and Community Awards event, a gala dinner featuring the 12 course Tastes of South Africa menu, which took place on 16 May 2018 in the Conservatory at the prestigious Millennium Gloucester Hotel in Kensington, London. BusinessFit was further invited to sponsor and present the Micro Business - South African Abroad Award.

The Micro Business Award is awarded to an individual who owns, runs or has a significant influence on a micro business or activity in the United Kingdom that is South African led or serves the South African community in the United Kingdom or South Africa. The judges were looking for a candidate who differentiated from competitors through products and/or services, showed leadership and innovation, has focused on a specific customer need as well as showing ingenuity and courage. In addition, the judges looked for evidence of a business that is sustainable, shows competent managerial leadership, is an ethical employer, delivers value to customers and has the potential for future growth. The award was duly presented to the winning candidates Nyasha Gwatidzo and Dawn Denton by BusinessFit CEO, Akhona Mahlati.

Cherry Armstrong, executive director of Celebrate Life, South Africa; was presented with the Sapro.co.uk/Magic Moments (see below) Award recognising an individual who has made a significant contribution to the community through their dedication and personal effort.

Mahlati then delivered an inspiring address to the two hundred South African business leaders at the awards ceremony on BusinessFit objectives, endeavours and desired outcomes. He started by describing the legacy of South Africa's past, namely, the very limited inclusion of black citizens in the mainstream economy, the high rate of unemployment and resultant state of poverty and deprivation. He noted that BusinessFit was founded by a group of business owners who had grown to understand that this state of being had the potential to undermine the sustainability of the economy and therefore the future viability of their businesses. Also, that increasing the number of people in employment would accelerate the number of viable consumers of goods and services.

This realisation coupled with a genuine desire to make a difference in enhancing the standard of living of fellow citizens, reinforced the need for establishing organisations such as BusinessFit. As such he noted that, in the modern era, it is small, entrepreneurially-driven businesses, who were the most prolific job creators. He touched on some of the details of the unique BusinessFit methodology which comprise aspects such as: He went on to describe how BEE legislation provided a framework for established business to make a material contribution to the transformation process and, in so doing, providing a means of establishing competitive advantage. He mentioned that government sponsorship of entrepreneurial development initiatives of various forms had been made accessible in leveraging private sector investment in transformation initiatives. In closing he commented, "We salute all of those entrepreneurs who have turned an idea into a going concern, to the benefit of society. This award symbolises our sense of solidarity with you.

We look forward to networking opportunities to learn of unique business ideas and models for transfer to South Africa and, maybe, even to recruit volunteer mentors and coaches." He quoted Nelson Mandela, "Vision without action is just a dream, action without vision just passes the time, and vision with action can change the world."

This event attracted a number of high profile leaders including The High Commissioner for South Africa and Honorary President of the South African Chamber, Her Excellency, Tembi Tambo, who expressed to us personally her great interest in the work done by BusinessFit (undertaking to provide for funding BusinessFit in her future budget) and Lord Peter Hain, a great supporter and promoter of South Africa who was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony.

Other VIP guests included: UK Chamber Founder and current Director) and his wife and business partner Liz Miller who have supported us in our introduction to the UK market. Mike, through his South Africancentred trading company SAJE International Ltd (www.sapro.co.uk), has undertaken to promote the products created by Daisy White's employment creating company, Magic Moments, an enterprise which enables unemployed rural people to produce hand painted fabric items through providing authentic African designs, specially blended paint and painting lessons. Such items, manufactured in turn by a small sewing business, include shopping bags, place mats and table runners.

Samples were displayed and then sold at the Chamber event, as an example of creating hardcurrency earning opportunities for disadvantage people.

Recently, State President, Cyril Ramaphosa, in support of his 'New Dawn' theme for repositioning South Africa as a haven for investment, led a team of influential persons on a global tour promoting this. We, as BusinessFit, believe that in promoting a replicable vehicle for supporting emerging business are, in our small way, complementing this initiative.

We intend to return to the United Kingdom soon to capitalise on our expanded influence base and new friends won.