After months of speculation on who would fill in the big shoes of the astute business man Harold Pupkewitz, with pessimists foreseeing the end of the road for the Pupkewitz Group, fresh blood steps in.
Meet Jerome Davis who takes over as the managing director of the Pupkewitz Group of Companies.
Davis is no stranger to the business empire, neither is he stranger to the late company owner, Harold Pupkewitz. The two had known each other in the 1950s. Their friendship would eventually culminate into a business relationship. Davis seemed and still happensto be the backbone of the company’sstructures to ensure continuity.
The interesting part is, Davis, who seemingly was cut from the same cloth as the late Harold Pupkewitz, is a successful businessman himself. One can safely say, therefore, that the company is in safe hands.
Davis enlightens us on the Pupkewitz Group’s happenings in this unfolding interview.
PF: Could you tell us about your career trajectory and background?
JD:My parents moved to Namibia from South Africa when I was four years old. So I spent the formative years of my life in this country. My biggest disappointment is that I was born in Cape Town and not here. But that is a part of history that I could not have changed.
I went to St. Georges until Standard 2, after which I joined a boarding school in SACS in Cape Town, then subsequently to the University of Cape Town. I have an intimate knowledge of this country. I have always held it close to my heart, never lost my passion for it.
I am a qualified Chartered Accountant (CA) and I am currently a member of long standing of the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants.
Shortly after my marriage in Cape Town, my wife and I moved to Windhoek where three of our four children were born. During this post-qualification stint in Windhoek, I held senior financial positions with the O&L and Barlows groups of companies where I gained a broad understanding of the business environment.
I have since been a financial directorfor various large corporations with exposure to the following main trading activities:
•Builders merchants and hardware outlets
•Earthmoving equipment and heavy trucks
•Electronics manufacturing and systems developments
•Defence systems and hardware manufactures
I spent 15 years of my career as a financial trouble shooter for one of the largest industrial companies in South Africa.
For 20 years, I owned and ran a manufacturing and refining company of precious metals for jewellery and industrial applications. A major portion of the products were sold in export markets. After selling this company to a large gold mining group, I engaged in general business consulting, although focused specifically on forensics.
At the late Mr Harold’s request, I joined the board of Pupkewitz Holdings as a non-executive director during the first quarter of 2011.
After his passing, the board members requested me to assume the position of the group managing director, fundamentally to oversee the transition from the era of Mr Pupkewitz to the next phase of the Group’s development.
PF: What are you bringing to this reputable business empire?
JD:I bring with me a vast spectrum of experience. It suffices to say that during his later years, Mr Harold made an unsolicited approach to me to join the company’s board, which was an honour to accept. Being the incisive business icon that he was, Mr Harold must have seen in me the ability to make a meaningful contribution to the ongoing success of the company.
PF: What kind of model do you use to run the business?
JD:Your question assumes that the business model currently in place is different from that espoused by Mr. Harold. That is, with all due respect, a wrong assumption. Besides the legacy of the Pupkewitz business, which Mr Harold left behind, he left behind a legacy of a dedicated, hardworking and loyal staff of the organisation. The team is committed to the model he put in place. As such, it will continue to run and grow the business as efficiently as it did in the past.
PF: A lot was left hanging - take overs, mergers, sell offs, labour matters - what has happened since then?
JD: The board’s message during the second half of last year was a clear; the Pupkewitz business is not for sale.
It will become evident, with the effluxion of time, that we are steadfastand that business is very much as usual.
PF: Would you say that you are talented, knowledgeable and committed to the Namibian people to make an impact?
JD:As far as talent and knowledge is concerned, I would not have the arrogance to respond to that myself. Clearly, the Board of Pupkewitz Holdings believed that I could deliver. History will dictate whether or not the right decision was made.
As for my commitment to the Namibian people, I state without any fear of contradiction, that I am passionate about this country and its people. I will involve myself in whatever spheres are necessary to make as big a contribution to the overall good as possible.
PF: To what extent is the Pupkewitz family involved in running this business?
JD:Mr Harold’s heirs are well represented on the boards of all the companies.They make a significant contribution to the running of the business, just as they did when Mr Harold was still alive. This may not be generally appreciated by the community at large.
While ours may be a “family business”, it is not necessarily a “family-run business”. All of the trading operations are well managed by highly competent teams that report to the board of directors, which consists of members with many years of business experience to their names.
PF: What formula do you use to maintain the competitive edge?
JD: Our business has been built up on the philosophy, “Customer satisfaction through service excellence”. Our growth and results, therefore, evidently state that this has worked for us over the years. I see no reason why we would change this fundamental philosophy.
PF: Customers are smart, they vote with their feet. What is the current state of service against complaints that queues are becoming a day to day feature?
JD:Your observation hits the nail on the head. Our customers indeed voted with their feet during the financial year, which ended in February, to the extent that our revenues grew over the previous financial period by 15%. There is no better measure than that.
PF: Relationships do matter in business, so do little things. How are you geared for it all?
JD: The relationships established by Mr Harold were built over a period of 75 years. I subscribe to the philosophy that business is fundamentally all about people. I therefore spend a large part of my time establishing relationships. However, it is not something that can be fast-tracked. I do believe, however, I have made some measure of progress in this direction.
PF: Creating sustainable demand for your products and services remains a number one business challenge; what is your strategy as far as it’s concerned?
JD:As a group MD, it is my duty to harness the excellent human capital. We are privileged to have the expertise within the group, so we manage the transition to the next stage of the group’s development. Although that entails ensuring that we continue along the path of organic growth, it also means being alive to the various business opportunities that invariably get presented to a group such as ours, and together with my fellow directors and management team, select and incorporate those that would add value to the group going forward.
We trade in areas that have encouraging growth potential. Most of our businesses are not only mature and have strong management structures in place but they are also significant players in their market segments. I see no reason why we cannot grow the business meaningfully in the years ahead.
PF: What are the pre-requisites for an effective business leadership, from your experience?
JD: Business is all about people. No one can achieve anything meaningful in isolation. The secret is establishing a team where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. If one can motivate and get the best out that whole, then you would create magic.
PF: Where to from here?
JD: We aim to use the incredibly solid foundations of business and human capital, which was Mr Harold’s legacy and then build upon it in a meaningful and competent manner, so that the enormous energy invested in creating the business enterprise that is the Pupkewitz Group is not in vain. PF