Having now served about two years as Consumer Sales Director at Bridgestone Southern Africa (BSAF), Thandeka Ngoma is well on her way to not just growing the company’s salesforce, but helping the entire entity to evolve in how it serves customers through effective team building.
She was promoted from Head of Marketing, a position she held since joining the company in December 2017 to looking after a sales operation that includes all retail customers, fleet operators and original equipment manufacturers requiring specially designed tyres.
“In heading up the marketing division, I worked directly with a team of around 10 to 15 people,” Ngoma says. “Now, I have over 80 people under my direct responsibility in consumer sales. Although, I collaborated closely with the sales team before, while working in marketing, the perspective I now have of sales is very eye-opening.”
Ngoma took on the role in April 2020, right at the beginning of nationwide lockdown. As the pandemic brought traffic on the roads down to a trickle, with non-essential economic activity shutdown, sales volumes across the entire industry were hit hard, and stress levels we high, as workers stayed home worrying about their futures.
To allay fears and building team engagement, Ngoma, who was still fresh at the helm, committed to a monthly engagement session with the entire sales business, along with more regular sessions with smaller teams, so people could escalate urgent issues.
Even as the pandemic begins to ease, she has maintained this strong platform for team members at all levels to engage on a variety of issues, whether work related or personal.
This clear focus and dedication to people development in her team has yielded an engagement score of 78%, which is nine points ahead the company benchmark. Ngoma also says that retailers and customers report that the Bridgestone consumer sales teams is by far the strongest in the industry, offering a superior service, all the way from the sales representatives up to regional manager level.
“This reflects our serious commitment to service quality that is the direct result of team synergy and mutual affinity,” she says. “While one may talk about people development, we have seen results thanks to solid backing from the very top, including our CEO Jacques Fourie, who has been on a mission to building effective teams. For me building high performing teams is the result of setting a foundation of trust, which enables us to have big and important conversations.
“It might seem like a soft issue, but it is crucial to give people a safe space to tackle tough, robust issues. This leads to more commitment and delivery of results, as everyone feels they have a voice,” she says.
Thandeka is part of a growing contingent of new executives at Bridgestone, bringing a wealth of experience from diverse backgrounds and experience.
Her illustrious career includes a tenure as marketing executive at BSAF from 2017 until 2020, preceded by a four-year stint as Marketing Lead for Personal Care and Coffee at Philips (Africa). She has held leading positions at companies such as Brandtone, Procter & Gamble, Ernst and Young and Investec, advancing the cause of diversity through her personal example and supporting the development of young talent.
“While I may not have a traditional tyre industry background, a universal principle in modern business is to create a truly customer-centric business,” she says. “A big part of this is in our stakeholder engagement, externally with customers, regulators, industry bodies and Government, as well as internally, building close ties with our colleagues from finance, people function, supply chain, all the way to manufacturing.”