Agility key for organisations – Ndlovu

NDAMU SANDU

Edgars group CEO Tjeludo Ndlovu says organisational agility gives a company the latitude to respond timeously to challenges.

She says her eight years at the listed retailer occupying a number of positions was adequate foundation she can build on during the reign as CEO.

The chartered accountant was appointed Edgars CEO in July taking over from Linda Masterson who left the group last year after 10 years at the helm of the listed consumer discretionary concern.

Until her elevation, Ndlovu held positions of group financial accountant (also doubling as company secretary), MD Jet Chain and MD Edgars Chain—the necessary apprenticeship for the top post.

“Going through the different roles allowed me to learn and understand the business which I now lead.

“Today’s world demands organisational agility. I can quickly identify focus areas and assist in providing solutions to challenges as I have an intimate knowledge of what happens right from the bottom,” she told Business Times this week.

The executive said distinguishes Edgars from other players is the ability to “think innovatively in this dynamic and volatile environment that we are operating in”.

“We have not reinvented the wheel but we constantly introduce products and initiatives that fulfil our customers’ current needs,” she said.

Her ascendancy to the top post came as the nation was in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic which brought uncertainty and changed the way business operates.

“It has been a challenging period; the trading environment is uncertain owing to the economy as well as the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. Challenging as it has been, I have enjoyed it,” Ndlovu said.

For the business it had to adopt and Edgars was no exception, especially after the government ordered non-essential businesses to halt operations as part of measures to contain the spread of the pandemic.  Companies recorded subdued demand which affected revenues.

Edgars had to adjust to ride the Covid-19 storm.  

“We have had to adapt to remote working for the roles that are capable of working from home, particularly in times of lockdown. We have also focused on online trading- through our WhatsApp and Online shops,” Ndlovu said.

This year alone, Edgars lost two months of business after the government imposed lockdown measures which required only essential businesses to operate.

Ndlovu said the lockdown negatively affected Edgars, although she could not be drawn into revealing more since the company is in a closed reporting period.

The retailer went for digital solutions to reach out to customers who could not visit its shops due to lockdown measures. Online stores and WhatsApp trading were introduced.

Ndlovu said WhatsApp trading has been well received by customers.

“It is highly interactive and flexible and brings a human interface to the shopping experience which our customers appreciate,” she said.

But, Ndlovu said delivery costs have become inhibitive for customers. This, Ndlovu said, has seen Edgars offering free delivery in Bulawayo and Harare as well as collection from stores as an option.

The limited payment gateways also posed a challenge in the early stages, she said.

The new normal has changed the way business operates with experts predicting the death of the brick and mortar stores.

 The revolution has seen some banks closing or merging branches as digitisation becomes the new norm.

Ndlovu said the brick and mortar stores are here to stay, “particularly for apparel retail, as customers want to touch and feel garments”.

“Technology will increasingly be integrated into these stores through the use of Artificial Intelligence to enhance overall customer experience.

Closer to home, online platforms will have a limited role in retail as long as we do not have low cost efficient courier services,” she said.

The clothing manufacturing industry has taken a battering from cheap imports from Asia, especially China which have priced local players out of business.

Ndlovu said the government should heed the clothing manufacturing industry’s calls for reduced duties on raw materials which are not available locally and keep the existing policies that protect the local clothing manufacturing industry.

“This will enable local manufacturers to be more competitive with exports, where volumes are larger than the local market,” she said.

Ndlovu is one of the two female CEOs of companies listed on the Zimbabwe Stock Exchange, an indictment on firms on the bourse, at a time female executives have trail blazed in the corporate sector.

The executive described herself as strong willed, ambitious, empathetic and introverted.

Her guiding philosophy is “your work will speak for you”.

Ndlovu derives inspiration from the satisfaction that comes with winning.

“Taking calculated risks and pushing boundaries of what others believe is impossible and succeeding inspires me to keep going,” she said.

A member of the Catholic Women’s League, the executive is reading Robert Greene’s masterpiece, The 48 Laws of Power, a manual for those whose intention is to sleep, dream, talk and eat power.

She is also reading Rolf Dobelli’s book, The Art of Thinking Clearly. The book uses small excerpts to illustrate the decision making process and it challenges the way a human being typically makes decisions.

“The reality is CEOs are not the only ones that need to think clearly, but the difference is as the captain of the ship – you drive agile decision making in attaining the business objectives for the benefit of all stakeholders,” Ndlovu said. 

She has advice for women (old and young) in business or those that aspire to be CEOs.

“As an individual you must have an understanding of yourself [understanding what your personality is and what your strengths are] so that you can leverage on those strengths in order to succeed in your chosen career or business,” Ndlovu said.

“From a business perspective, don’t try to be everything within the business. If you don’t know how to do the books, get somebody who can do the books for you. Get professional assistance, and if you cannot afford it, build a network that will give you access to the professional assistance.”

She described her family as the “biggest cheerleaders”.

“I draw on them for both emotional and tangible support. My children motivate me to be better and do better,” the executive said.

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