Success for DHL boss is delivering on your commitments
ABR: Who are you?
Hennie Heymans, Managing Director of DHL Express South Africa. Born August 27, 1967.
ABR:Tell us about your career to date?
HH: I began my career in 1990 with MNET as a Telesales operator. From there I progressed to a credit controller, then accounts payable clerk and so continued the journey until I became Finance Manager for the Africa Division.
I Left the MNET group in 1998 and joined Olivetti Lexikon, first as Finance Manager and later on became Country Manager. I thereafter joined DHL in 2001 and have held a variety of roles in the business leading up to my current role as Managing Director for DHL Express South Africa, Lesotho and Swaziland.
ABR:What influence did your parents have on your career choices?
HH: I remember my dad always working late into the nights – and that had a profound impact on my work ethic.
As far as my actual career choice was concerned, they encouraged me to do what I thought was best for me.
Coming from a small town in an era where there was very little available from a career guidance perspective there were only a couple of main stream choices ever spoken about, such as accounting, law or medicine.
So I guess my initial thoughts always found its way back to the financial arena.
ABR: Who in your career has been your biggest influence?
HH:I have had the privilege of working with and for some amazing leaders. If I have to start locally Koos Bekker, current chair of Naspers was probably the first real influence.
His vision, his conviction of this vision and the ability to execute it was extraordinary.
However, perhaps what made it real was the humility with which he did all of this and the way (and time he found) to still interact with everyone in the organisation back then.
Currently the global CEO for DHL Express, Ken Allen, continues to be an influence – for the courage he displayed in making some incredibly tough decisions and in the process turning a poor performing organisation into the world leading logistics leader it is today.
ABR:What does success mean to you?
HH:Success is about delivering on your commitments, be it in your private capacity or professional capacity.
It means being the best dad to my kids I can possibly be, the best husband to my wife I can possibly be and being the best leader at work I can possibly be.
ABR:What motivates you?
HH:Seeing people excel, seeing people supporting your goals not because they have to, but because they want to, and being able to making a contribution to people’s development.
Of course a big motivation is also achieving our organisational goals because without that one’s career will evaporate rather quickly!
ABR:What do you consider are the main ingredients for business success?
HH: A clear and simple strategy, a motivated work force, a delighted customer base and a balanced approach between business and personal life.
ABR:What was the best piece of advice you ever received?
HH: There are two pieces of advice I received. The first one is that one should never aim to only reach the moon because that in fact will become your glass ceiling.
If in fact you shoot for the stars instead, that will become your glass ceiling. So in short, never stop dreaming big.
The second piece of advice I received from a wise man who warned me through his own life story that one should never neglect the role of your family and the importance of spending time with them early on. As time is the one thing we never get back.
ABR: What was the worst?
HH: The worst was probably when a manager told me when I just started out that one should never bring your personal life to work and be sure to keep them distinctly separate. The reality is that this is neither possible nor practical.
ABR: What do you do in your free time?
HH: I love cycling and spend a fair amount of time out on my mountain or road bike. In fact for a Christmas present, the staff gave me a cartoonist impression of myself and there I am cycling with a cup of black coffee in hand!
ABR: What advice would you give to young entrepreneurs?
HH: You must have a plan because you can only measure your progress if you have something to measure it against.
Do not ever give up, there are so many stories of people that are incredibly successful today but who had to try tens if not hundreds of times over and over again. It is not about how many times we fall, but rather how many times we get up.
ABR: What was the biggest mistake you ever made?
HH: Firing an employee on the paintball range just when I started my career as a manager!
ABR: What would you like your epitaph to be?
HH: That I was the best father, husband and leader he could have been, with a passion for life, its people and its challenges!
5 minutes with... Janthana Kaenprakhamroy, CEO, Tapoly
Founder and CEO of award-winning insurtech firm Tapoly, Janthana Kaenprakhamroy heads up Europe’s first on-demand insurance platform for the gig economy, winning industry awards, innovating in the digital insurance space, and leading with inclusivity.
Here, Business Chief talks to Janthana about her leadership style and skills.
What do you do, in a nutshell?
I’m founder and CEO of Tapoly, a digital MGA providing a full stack of commercial lines insurance specifically for SMEs and freelancers, as well as a SaaS solution to connect insurers with their distribution partners. We build bespoke, end-to-end platforms encompassing the whole customer journey, but can also integrate our APIs within existing systems. We were proud to win Insurance Provider of the Year at the British Small Business Awards 2018 and receive silver in the Insurtech category at the Efma & Accenture Innovation in Insurance Awards 2019.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I try to be as inclusive a leader as possible. I’m committed to creating space for everyone to shine. Many of the roles at Tapoly are performed by women and I speak at industry events to encourage more people to get involved in insurance/insurtech. Similarly, I always try to maintain a growth mindset. I think it’s important to retain values to support learning and development, like reliability, working hard and punctuality.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
Build your network and seek advice. As a leader, you need smart people around you to help you grow your business. It’s not about personally being the best, but being able to find resources and get help where needed.
How do you see leadership changing in a COVID world?
I think the pandemic has proven the importance of inclusive leadership so that everyone feels supported and valued. It’s also shown the importance of being flexible as a leader. We’ve had to remain adaptable to continue delivering high levels of customer service. This flexibility has also been important when supporting employees as everyone has had individual pressures to deal with during this time. Leaders should continue to embed this flexibility within their organisations moving forward.
They say ‘from every crisis comes opportunity’, what opportunities do you see?
The past year has been challenging, but it has also proven the importance of digital transformation in insurance. When working from home was required, it was much harder for insurers to adjust who had not embedded technology within their operating processes because they did not have data stored in the cloud and it caused communication delays with concerned customers at a time when this communication should have been a priority, which ultimately impacts the level of customer satisfaction. This demonstrates the importance of what we are trying to achieve at Tapoly in driving digitalisation in insurance and making communication between insurers and distribution partners seamless.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
Start sooner, don’t be afraid to take (calculated) risks and make sure you raise enough money to get you through the initial seed stage.