Paving the way to success

By Honorine Kaze
November - December 2015
Women in Business

Christine de Bruyn, General Manager of Eqstra Fleet Management Namibia and Omatemba Fleet Services, notes that having an appetite for learning, loving the job, being a good communicator as well as engaging in a lot of networking factor into the success of one’s business.

Eqstra Fleet Management Namibia is a unit of the billiondollar Pan-African fleet management and leasing solutions’ service provider initially based in South Africa, and is also listed on the Johannesburg Stock Exchange (JSE).

In the past decade, Eqstra Fleet Management has expanded its South African operations to other parts of sub-Saharan Africa, with fully-fledged operational branches established in Namibia, Botswana, Swaziland, Lesotho, Nigeria and Zambia. The company expects to open offices in Tanzania and Kenya soon.

Leading the Namibian unit, which she labels as the crown jewel of the African division as it contributes about 50% of the profit, De Bruyn takes pride in the fact that Eqstra Fleet Management Namibia, through the Group, offers fully-integrated fleet management solutions to customers.

“A customer can take the complete package of products, or simply choose which products suit his organization best. We are the only company which owns and manages all our products, and we don’t outsource any part of it. Our fleet management solution offers full maintenance leasing, operational leases, managed maintenance products, accident management, maintenance and service plans, extended warranties, insurance, fuel cards and tracking solutions.

The customer gets one invoice, which can give him his complete cent-per-kilometre cost of his entire fleet on a monthly basis”, she says.

She adds that their year-on-year growth has been satisfying as they have had 97% customer retention. Being part of the Eqstra Fleet Management team for the past 10 years, where she started as just a sales manager in 2005 and was then promoted to a country manager in 2007, she says one of her highlights include the complete outsourcing contract for Namdeb in Oranjemund.

“It has been a fantastic learning curve with a lot of challenges, but very satisfying, as we were able to assist and develop SME’s to start their own businesses, and today, six years later, they are all going strong. We are providing Namdeb with the full suite of products, and have established an office which employs five Namibians”, she explains.

She notes that to lead such a big company does not come easy as there is pressure to continuously produce good turnover.

“There is always pressure to provide our shareholders with good returns, and to grow our share price. We all play a role to achieve this, but the company also rewards us by giving us company shares, so in a way I am working for my own pocket and future.

I am very fortunate that I have excellent staff members who work with me, and on whom I rely heavily for support. We are all multi-skilled, and can therefore take care of all aspects of business”, she says.

While Eqstra Fleet Management concentrates on national clients who make use of their services in various countries, Omatemba Fleet Services is a Namibian BEE company with a Namibian shareholding of 30%.

Under her management, she has formed a fleet of around 1200 vehicles in Namibia while in Bostwana, there are around 500 vehicles.

Going forward, De Bruyn emphasizes that Eqstra Fleet Management can only go from strength to strength as they are constantly evaluating the relevance of the business against the requirements of the market.

“We are continuously developing new products to assist our customers and grow our business. Eqstra has a very strong social responsibility programme, training and educating students through bursaries and then absorbing them back into our business.

By doing this, we ensure that there is knowledge continuation and succession plans in place”, she stresses.

Being a woman in leadership and one of the nominees for the Businesswoman Award for 2015, De Bruyn notes that the pressure is not different because of her gender, but explained that both men and women in leadership receive the same pressure.

“I do believe that I have the advantage of being administratively very strong, and I have competent male employees who can assist, should I have technical-related queries which I am not confident about. Our company supports female employees, and our CEO is also a female”, she adds.

She further notes that her strength lies in the fact that throughout her career, she has always been in either a marketing or management position.

In addition, her extrovert character makes it easy for her to interact with people, and it has helped to open many doors for her.

Besides that, she has been in the fleet management industry for the past 17 years since she started in the sector as a sales manager at Avis car rental.

She characterizes the fleet management industry as an ever-evolving industry which keeps things interesting. Beforehand, she had a career in the hotel industry as a conference manager.

She describes her last 10 years within Eqstra Fleet Management as having given her various opportunities to grow and develop through the company’s learning academy.

“I have been challenged, but also given the mandate to make my own decisions, and to manage the company as it is my own.

I have learned a lot from my peers and colleagues though the years”, she continued.

Advising other women trying to launch into the corporate and business world, she says “my advice to other women is to believe in yourself, educate yourself and put your hand up for those menial jobs which other people might think are above them.

You often pick up new skills and learn new things that way. Stay humble and kind, and empower other women to grow with you. We all need each other, and the more people you have on your side, the easier your journey becomes”.