Brett Chulu (BC) caught up with Divine Ndhlukula (DN), the award-winning lady entrepreneur and chief executive of Securico, a highly-respected security and risk management solutions firm.
Report by Brett Chulu
Ndhlukula has successfully led Securico from a backroom operation into the top brand that it is today. Ndhlukula has managed to build a very strong and highly-differentiated business organisation using strategic HR principles revolving around talent, leadership and culture. Below are excerpts from the discussion.
BC: When you began Securico how many employees did you have and what is the staff complement today?
DN: We started with four and now we have slightly over 3 600. Let me add that 900 of these are women whom I am so happy are now recognised in the security sector after my conscious and deliberate effort for their acceptance.
BC: I have noticed that so far every employee of Securico I have interacted with displays the same traits of courtesy and respect. How have you succeeded in building such a powerful culture?
DN: Securico was founded on two core principles, namely, a happy, motivated and disciplined workforce, and secondly, service excellence, areas that were observed as begging attention. We set out to challenge the then existing negative stereotypes in the security industry and to set new benchmarks — the desire to create something world class from what people generally perceived as ordinary.
I decided to start a security company when I observed that service standards in the sector were very low due to the low self-esteem the employees had. This had to do with the industry being associated with people who were perceived as failures.
Inculcating a culture of self confidence, mutual respect, smartness and having pride in what they do is what we really worked on. I was personally involved in training every employee the first five or so years, just to ensure that everyone came on board with the same vision that I had.
I managed to inculcate the culture of quality into every employee joining the organisation through thorough training and making sure that on the ground every employee walked the talk. We are also very meticulous in ensuring that every small detail of our desired customer service experience is attended to in the prescribed manner.
Besides that we have invested a lot in the welfare of employees to ensure that their individual aspirations are aligned with the company goals. The win-win relationship that we have created has ensured that our employees are highly-engaged, hence our ranking as Zimbabwe’s 7th Best Employer for two years running, 2010 and 2011.
BC: Besides courtesy and respect, your organisation is building a reputation of being innovative. Your security personnel are helping with your clients’ Safety Health and Environmental (She) programmes. From where did you draw the inspiration?
DN: In the quest to offer the best value proposition to our valued clients, we looked at ways to enhance their businesses through cost-effective measures. We have seamless integration with our clients, such that our operative at a bank can actually induct a new bank employee the same way our operatives at mines are safety and health specialists.
Our company has very talented people, so we have created a platform to harness that talent. Ideas, on how to add value to our clients businesses come from staff at all levels and as management we have trained ourselves to listen carefully.
We deliberately reward staff who bring innovative ideas and we also ensure that there are no communication barriers between management and employees. I regularly meet with security operatives at the lower levels and sometimes I take some of them out to lunch. I get fantastic ideas and some of the ideas are quite futuristic such that we cannot implement them now.
BC: So you are enriching the jobs of your employees while adding measurable financial value to your clients. You can’t do that with ordinary talent, can you?
DN: We have been very careful in our recruitment. From the start I made sure that I surrounded myself with good people, those with the skill to complement me and others. We have a very intensive selection process at all levels and it is quite involving, but it’s worth the bother because we have a well-balanced team.
Some of the people that have done very well appeared ordinary talent when they came in but our culture encourages employees to give their best, unlock their talent and develop their careers. That is why we have people who came in as drivers or security operatives who are now in management.
BC: You won a continental award on entrepreneurship. Tell us a bit about that.
DN: We were truly humbled by our winning of the Africa Award for Entrepreneurship. At the same time we are very proud that we made such a mark, considering there were 3 400 companies from 48 African countries that entered from some big economies like Nigeria and Kenya.
The competition adjudication is very rigorous and involves four different sets of judges, two of whom visit the final 15 finalists in their countries, just to ascertain that the submitted info is correct. Then the final 10 went before a panel of judges that included McKinsey International consultants and top world entrepreneurs. The award was quite a revelation to me.
Throughout the years, I have been vigorously building this organisation mostly from a national outlook. However, the awards opened other doors for me and affirmed my conviction that before I retire Securico shall be a bigger legacy than what it is now. I want to make it one of the biggest institutions in Africa.
BC: There is no way in which you could have built Securico into the strong brand that it is today without a strong performance culture aligned with rewards. What’s your take?
DN: We have a very robust reward system that we incepted right from the beginning and have developed it over the years. The Annual Performance Awards Day is the biggest and most important day on our calendar and every employee looks forward to it. We give out more than 20 awards on this day.
Besides that we also run monthly performance awards for departments and these are the winners who subsequently qualify for the annual awards. For the past eight years our managerial staff and senior supervisors have been on the Balanced Scorecard Performance Management System. So our remuneration system is performance based — in other words performance, quality and reward briefly sums up the bedrock of our organisational culture.
BC: Who do you admire, other than yourself? Why?
DN: I admire Zimbabwean entrepreneurs such as Nigel Chanakira, Strive Masiyiwa, Kubi Indi, Hope Sadza, Lea Dauramanzi and others. These are people of my generation who have built empires with very little other than their passion and intellect. I also believe that they have good value systems in their companies.
BC: Who is Divine Ndhlukula and what makes her tick?
DN: I grew up and attended school in the rural areas. I am a true believer in life-long learning, hence I graduated with my MBA just last year. I love reading as that has also made me who I am today.
I read lots of business journals, including your column which I never miss as it is very relevant in today’s business I read biographies of business people, political and social legends and motivational books. I have so much passion in whatever I do and want to see the best in what I would have decided on and that makes me tick.
I like to see people’s lives transform for the better, in particular women’s economic empowerment. I enjoy sharing my story with thousands of other women so that they have a paradigm shift in their mindset on the possibilities of becoming successful entrepreneurs. I am a very firm and fair person.
Disclosure: Chulu has no personal interest in Securico’s business.
Chulu is a strategic HR consultant who has consulted to both listed and unlisted companies. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org