Name of company: Thabile Engineering
Years in existence: 12
Can you tell us a little bit about your background – personal, educational and professional?
I have a BSc Electrical Engineering and MBA. I have been working as an electrical engineer in various private electrical engineering practice and have specialised in energy projects. Earlier in my career my tasks included liaising with customers, project feasibilities and concepts, design, tendering, project management and commissioning through to hand-over of green-field, refurbishment, extensions and upgrading projects. Now most of my time is spent on managing the company, focusing mainly on regulatory and financial aspects.
Can you tell us a little bit about your company and what you do?
Thabile Engineering is a company in the energy space, and has over the years provided engineering, project management and management consulting services to diverse and multicultural national and international clients. Thabile Engineering is a 100% South African company and is a Level 2 B-BBEE Contributor.
“When I entered the engineering world some 20 years ago, it was largely male dominated environment and there was a lot of resistance to female engineers”
How did your journey begin and how have you achieved success so far?
I started in a consultancy environment working for an American utility based in South Africa as an engineer in training. During this period, I worked on a series of local and international projects and was based abroad for a large part of that time. I then worked for a local engineering practice which was later acquired by a multinational company, after which I decided to start my own consultancy. My success is largely due to hard work as well as a largely dependable core team of people.
Has it been difficult? What were some of the obstacles you face and how did you overcome them?
It has been difficult. Initially when I entered the engineering world some 20 years ago, it was largely male dominated environment and there was a lot of resistance to female engineers, and a general unwillingness to train females. I worked hard to learn as much as possible – at first by doing smaller, more trivial type of work people didn’t really want to do, thus winning the confidence of people. There were also some very forward thinking males within that environment that were willing to take more risk by giving me larger projects.
How many people does your company employ?
What is your overall vision for your business?
To be the largest engineering consultancy in Africa by 2020.
What do you think it takes to establish and run a successful business in South Africa?
In the type of business I am in, one has to have the expertise that is recognised in the marketplace.
“Nothing comes for nothing, success is achieved through hard work”
How did you finance your business, how difficult or easy was the process?
Access to finance is always a challenge. Fortunately, my business grew organically and cashflow was always one of the key focus areas for the management team.
What are the three things you attribute your business success to?
Understanding the importance of people, prudent financial control and hard work.
When did you know that you were an entrepreneur?
I guess I never have really thought about it but then I guess for as long as I remember I was always trading. My entrepreneurial journey began when I was a child, selling at my mom’s shop.
How would you describe your leadership style?
Very relaxed, a true open door policy. I know my employees by name, birthdays and spouses names, children etc.
What are some of your favourite motivational books and motivational gurus that have inspired you in growing your business?
Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey; Lean In, Sheryl Sandberg
What three pieces of advice would you offer young entrepreneurs starting out today?
Develop a business plan including a financial plan and cashflow. Account for every single bit of money that you have spent in the business, and work hard at achieving your dream.
What’s the worst and best business advice you’ve ever received?
Best business advice: Nothing comes from nothing, success is achieved through hard work.
Worst business advise: Start a coffee shop!
And finally, do you believe in luck, hard work or both?
Both, hard work and luck.