It is with great excitement that we introduce you to our new CEO, Mr Mbuyazwe Magagula. He prefers to be called by his first name, Mbuyazwe. He admits that most non-Nguni language speaking people find it difficult, but since he had no choice in the matter, they must just live with it!
He was born in rural northern KwaZulu Natal and herded goats and cattle until he was shipped off to Swaziland to do his schooling. He then studied Chemical Engineering at Wits University before starting a career that has spanned a number of industries such as agro-processing, petroleum, chemicals and finance. The world of finance further exposed him to industries such as tourism and hospitality, plastics, metals and mining, wood and forestry and capital equipment.
We sat him down to answer a few questions for everyone to get to know him a little better.
What are you truly passionate about?
“I am fascinated by entrepreneurs and how they start businesses sometimes against formidable odds. It is always interesting and energising to follow them to gain insights on what it takes to make a success of an idea that sometimes starts small and grows into something significant that creates opportunities, wealth, jobs, good products and services in a sustainable manner. So the opportunity brought by small and medium sized businesses and the courage, ingenuity and the creativity of small business owners is of interest to me.”
What is your favourite food?
“Anything that my dear wife cooks. I love a variety of foods and I am salivating as I answer this question. I am a told I am a fussy, choosy eater though. Comfort food such as samp with beans and lamb stew and vegetables on a cold winter night with a full bodied bottle of red wine is heavenly. I also enjoy grilled fish with starch and vegetables. A good pasta also does the trick on any day. My daughter makes a deliciously decadent chocolate pudding which I cannot resist even with the best will in the world. Good heavens now I am desperately hungry.”
What is your life motto/mantra/personal saying?
Do what you have to do until you can do what you want to do.
“Sometimes we pass opportunities as they do not appeal to us or are not in line with what we want to do or we feel the timing is not right but I believe there is a lesson in every experience. You may have to do something you do not quite like but it could well prepare you for better things. Never compromise your values though. The late Steve Jobs gave the example of how he dropped out of college and with time on his hands he attended courses that interested him one of which was a calligraphy course, which he had no use for at the time. Years later when he was developing the fonts for the first Macintosh, that calligraphy course was invaluable in designing the fonts that Apple (and yes much later copied by Microsoft) devices use today. It can take years to find what you truly love, enjoy and want to do but as you search for it, you have to do the best you can, where you are with what you have and that may mean doing things that you may not like.”
Have you done a lot of traveling? What was your favourite and why?
“I have traveled a bit in Africa, Europe, Asia and the US but not as much as I would love to. It is hard to choose a favorite destination though as there are so many beautiful destinations in South Africa and around the world. My favorite destination is still Sodwana Bay in Northern KwaZulu Natal. The unspoiled coastal beauty, clear blue sea, underwater wonders, warm weather, fresh air, blue skies and rural setting and open spaces does something indescribable for my soul. It may sound corny but there is something spiritual in seeing all that is around you and you feel one with nature. Also driving through the Karoo on a cold winter night and stopping to look at the heavens brings indescribable joy and wonder, especially with Cape Town and the winelands beckoning the next day. The majesty of the Drakensberg Mountains is also hard to beat.”
Are you a car enthusiast / collector?
“No I am not but I would if I had lots of dosh. It is an expensive and time consuming hobby. I do love old cars though, especially old Mercedes cars from the fifties and sixties but I am not much of a collector. I own a 1971 Mercedes 280SE straight six which I am told is one of the best engines ever made. I drive it once every two weeks or so and it always puts a big smile on my face when I drive it. I would still love to own a Mercedes 280SL Pagode from the late sixties and a fiery red Jaguar E-Type. I know, I am showing my age.”
Do you have any hobbies?
“Yes, medium distance running, squash and reading non-fiction. I also love golf although I have not played in a while. The sound of metal meeting ‘rubber/plastic’, the ecstasy of a straight shot, walking the fairways is always a pleasure, provided you do not play with fuddy-duddies who can be anal with the rules.”
What motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
“The promise that today I will be a better version of myself than yesterday. I think we should all strive to be the best version of ourselves. The promise of making a contribution to make someone else’s life better.”
What keeps you up at night?
“These days Lodox keeps me wide awake. I think about how to grow the company in a sustainable manner, having an environment in which employees are free to openly share their views and ideas and identifying the needs of our customers and providing a product and service that best meets their needs. I think about the competition and what Lodox needs to do to stay relevant and ahead in its chosen markets. It is all very exciting and energising for me and it will take hard work to get to where Lodox deservedly needs to be.
Lodox growth, profitability, cost containment and cash flow also exercise my mind. I am however excited and energised about the challenge of growing the company in a sustainable manner.
The current state of SA politics and its impact on the economy and the resultant low growth environment, unemployment, poor public education, poor public health services, deteriorating infrastructure and credit downgrades are of concern. The distressing thing is that it is all man made, willfully or not. Lodox employees are part of a wider society and the negativity, anxiety and concern about events in the country does affect people in the workplace. So how to motivate employees when a husband is out of a job or no decent schools in their area or someone dear is sick and cannot get decent healthcare, is tough.”
What is your vision for Lodox?
“A sustainable Lodox with a globally competitive product with a strong focus on quality standards and a customer oriented company with enthusiastic, energised people. A fun place to work in that attracts, develops and retains talented people. A company that has spirit and is performance oriented where each of us brings our A game. A company that is conscious of its impact in society and the environment.”
What have you learned in this past year that will inform Lodox in the next year?
“The importance of providing people with opportunities for continuous learning. Having an environment in which people feel they are learning, challenged and they are growing and contributing meaningfully.
The importance of engaged people in an organisation. Ultimately it is the people that determine the performance of a company. Open communication to understand why the company exists, who it serves and what part I can play as an employee to make it happen, is a key part of forming an open organisation in which honest and crucial conversations can take place. It is only through the input of all of us that dynamism and innovation can take place to make sure Lodox stay ahead of the competition in its chosen markets.
Lastly, even though I am in a position of responsibility at Lodox it is not about me. I see my role as pointing out the hill Lodox needs to get to, serving those around me such as employees, customers, suppliers, shareholders, the board and regulatory authorities among others, and ensuring an environment in which Lodox can achieve its goals.”
When asked how he got to where he is today, he explained why it can only be by the grace of God that he got to be where he is. “Firstly, the one in a million chance of male and female cells colliding and him being conceived. Surviving cold winter morning showers, a tyrannical matron and awful food at boarding school then surviving the turbulent eighties and nineties at university and eventually the world of work. In as much I would like to think it was hard work, perseverance, self-belief and my own smarts that got me here, I truly believe it is the prayers and good wishes of all around me and the grace of God, which I am eternally grateful for.”
Mbuyazwe, welcome to the Lodox family! We look forward to this next chapter and we are honoured to have you as our leader.