1. Why did you start your own business?
I always knew that I would start my own business and not work for someone else. It was almost an automatic growth stage for me after I had completed my Miss South Africa year. I wanted to remain in the field of education but not in the 9-5 schedule of regular teaching. I started dial-a-teacher inspired by a personal need that I had as a child. I was fully aware of the change in our dispensation at the time in the 90s and the turbulence in our South African educational world. I then spotted the need of affording a grass roots service to assist all learners in SA with extra tuition using our existing call centre infrastructure.
2. What are the hours that you work?
I have flexible hours. My business is my passion and my life so I don’t have any set hours. However the call centre service operates from 4pm-9pm at night on weekdays.
3. How many people work in your business?
530 people work in the group of companies of which a portion of those are my teachers.
4. What are the goals for your business?
There are so many. To grow the business across Africa and internationally. We are currently processing this plan.
5. How do you handle pressure?
I deal with stress relatively well and I am quite effective under pressure. When I’m under pressure I don’t procrastinate and I immediately attack the project at hand. It’s also very important for me to exercise; I prefer doing exercises where I’m alone. So I either go for a walk or a swim, where I can settle the noise.
6.How would a man run your business differently?
No differently at all. Because I have so many men involved in my business I find it exceptionally important to have a very good mix of males and females to keep the balance of the conversation on the table at the time. I think there is huge value to having both sexes contribute 50 50 in any business.
7. How do you juggle being a mom and running a business?
I believe that running a successful business and a successful family life does not need to be mutually exclusive. I have a passion to lead by example for my children and show them it’s possible to do both. Because of this outlook my children have a very good understanding of the demands of the business world and they adapt exceptionally well to the frequent changes in our routine and our lifestyle accommodates for it. So in our family we know nothing different. We all support and understand each other regardless of the demand on our lives. And I’m happy to say so far so good.
8. Would you ever go and work for a boss again?
Yes, if the individual is inspiring; an incredible mentor who could take me to the next level of my life and my business. I love keeping my options open and I take every opportunity to grow and learn. And if it can give me the opportunity to work alongside someone particularly influential then all the better.
9. Do you ever take work home with you?
Yes of course. I find that it is better to be flexible with my work hours. Also, I have a work space at home where I am able to get so much done. So yes, working at home is definitely something that helps me focus and concentrate.
10. What do you do to relax?
I love being around people. I love entertaining. I find it very relaxing. If I’ve had a hard week I’ll call friends and we will go for lunch. I read. Love a good novel. I jump on the trampoline with the children. I also love lying in the tv room with the kids just watching whatever they are watching and being around them. I also love my individual time with the kids and our chats. And of course reconnecting next to the fire with my husband and a glass of wine.
11.What would you like to know more about to run your business better?
I want to fast track finding a way to get all my teachers to work from home instead of coming into the call centre hub at night. Many of them are parents and I would like to know how to fast track the process we are currently in for them to work remotely. It is important to me that a parent is at home in the evenings wherever possible.
12.If you had to start again what would you do better knowing what you know now?
I often wish I was a little bolder. I wish I was a lot clearer or bolder with my vision; I could have achieved so much more. But I guess this comes with experience, maturity and obviously retrospect.
13. Did you have to borrow money and if yes what route did you follow?
Yes of course. I was fortunate enough that I found seed capital from my husband’s company at the time. But it wasn’t easy. I had to address the board with my 5 year plan and my strategy for paying back the loan. I also approached other corporates for seed capital. I was fortunate enough to secure Vodacom for the first year. I know how access to finance is the biggest hurdle for small businesses so I have a lot of empathy for new businesses starting out and their struggle.
14. What satisfaction do you get from running your own business?
The freedom of choice. I love the challenge of making a big call. I like the responsibility that goes with that. I love the fact that I personally create jobs. I mentor and grow my employees to be financial independents. I love working in a team where we can spontaneously make changes and often avoid heavy corporate red tape..
15. What makes your business successful?
This quote comes to mind ‘If you can solve a problem or a need you have a business.’ And that’s what I do. I tackle a huge need in South Africa in education. That’s what makes my business successful.
16. What form of marketing do you use?
Everything below the line. I would love to get into above the line situations where the service we provide becomes a household name were people can identify what we do as something really powerful.