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Erika Botha, the brains behind business success

Meet, Erika Botha (M.B.A), the brains behind our brand new Business Management online short course. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our course content.

Erika is a highly-experienced manager and has facilitated NQF qualifications in banking, financial markets and business administration, as well as leadership, management and team development training programmes for top-level clients, including: Standard Bank, FNB, Sibanye Gold, Sasol, SAB Miller, Auditor General S.A., Business Connexion, Rennies Travel and Volvo.

What is the highlight of your career?

There are so many, but the one that stands out for me is the graduation ceremony of 250+ students that successfully completed a Business Management qualification through the Learning Academy that I managed. These students worked full time, studied a year-long qualification in their spare time, whilst juggling family time and in many instances, overcame traumatic events in their lives…. and here they were in front of me – all successful graduates! I was so proud of them I thought my heart would burst out of my chest.

Our top student’s story will always stay with me (and inspire me): Just when the course began, her house was burnt to the ground (she managed to get herself, her child and her husband safely out before it burnt to the ground). She then found that the insurance was not enough to cover damages, and a kind neighbour offered a room to her and her family. With all this going on she still managed to ‘Ace’ the qualification and came in top of her class with an above 80% average. Stories such as these are the highlights of my career. I know so many stories of people who overcame many adversities in their successful pursuit of education. Their stories continue to inspire me every day.

How is business management different in start-ups vs well- established companies?

Of course it depends on what kind of start-up we are talking about. Is it a small start-up that will grow organically, or is it a scalable start-up which is intended to go big from the outset?

In general though, a start-up requires much more of the three P’s: Planning, Patience and Pocket (finance!) – it is like planting the seeds and creating a new garden whereas business management in an established company is like ensuring that the garden is maintained and growing; new plants are planted and of course the weeds are regularly removed! In a start-up we have the opportunity to create a new vision of what we believe in and plan towards that future and in an established business we tend to reinforce our vision and mission and revisit, refresh and evaluate our plans.

Within start-ups there generally tends to be more uncertainty (will the seeds take root and grow?) – this can be a very positive aspect if it forces us to be agile and adaptable, something that is often lacking in established companies. Established companies can do well to ensure that flexibility and adaptability stays part of its DNA if it is to deal with fast-paced change, industry disruptors and being able staying ahead of the pack.

Perseverance is needed both in established businesses and start-ups. There is a saying ‘every overnight success took 10 years in the making’. Remember this if you want to embark on a new business venture. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time, patience, great planning and perseverance.

Any tips or advice for those starting their careers in business management?

Yes, slow down to speed up! I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but there is a very good reason why I am saying this. All too often, managers in new positions tend to go in ‘guns-a-blazing’ wanting to change everything and make their mark. My advice is this: Take time to listen, observe, see what is already working, understand the organisational culture, and ask: who is our customer?

Once you have a good idea of how things work, involve people in order to come up with a plan on how to proceed. Just trust me on this one. Too many managers change things for change’s sake so that they can look good…. and this often ends up back-firing. Involve ALL the key stakeholders, ask more questions than giving instructions in the beginning, take time to plan and chart your course right from the beginning – you will not regret it.

Another thing to consider in business management is a very key question: Do I care? Do you really care about the business you are in and do you really care about the people? If you really care, you won’t make it all about yourself (or just about the money) and your chances of success will be that much greater.

What are the most important skills to hone, in order to be a successful business manager?

The ability to be organised and systematically approach a problem objectively – in other words, stay calm and follow a systematic approach, is a very important skill to learn. Knowing how to frame information and knowledge using the right models, tools and techniques helps with this. We know that ‘the map is not the territory’, but, having the right map will always help you get to your destination faster. I believe this course is packed with some great models, tools and techniques that can provide you with a map to chart your course towards success in business.

Learning to really listen effectively is another one of the most useful skills in a Business Manager’s toolbox. The ability to really listen to those around you but also to ‘listen’ to what is going on in the business environment is key on the pathway towards success.

Learning to see the ‘bigger picture’ is an important skill to master. To have the ability to zoom out, gain perspective and then zoom back in to ensure the detail gets done, really is a mind-set that requires practice and also wisdom. Truly great managers have mastered the skill of seeing the big picture as well as what is required in the detail at the same time. This is something that does not come without focus and practice.

What book are you currently reading? Or what is your favourite thing to do to take a break from the everyday hustle?

I have just finished Dan Brown’s latest book: ‘Origin’. Really a good read, I enjoy his writing style.

Other than reading, my favourite thing to do to take a break from everyday hustle and bustle is to go canoeing on the dam (although it does get tough to continue this during the cold winter spells!). I love being on the water and find that I can paddle just about all my stress away after 5 kilometers on the water!

And finally, what is the one thing you can tell us about yourself that we won’t find on your resume?

I suppose my resume does not communicate just how much I care about education, training and the development of first-class leaders in Africa. It is a true heart-felt passion of mine. I believe everyone can learn to lead companies, departments and people better. As we become better leaders we also become better people, and the knock-on effect on society is almost always positive. Better leaders spell a better future for all of us.