Mokgethi Magapa will officially leave G4S Botswana on December 31, 2020 after a three-years-nine-months stint as the company’s CEO. He hails tenure as a having been a ‘rich learning experience’. Though cagey with where he is heeded, those close to him claim he will be focussing on his businesses
Your time as G4S MD
MAGAPA: It has been a rich learning experience and by December 31st 2020, I would have been in the business for three years and nine months. Whenever I come into an organisation, it is with a view to learn and take away as much as possible and in the process hopefully add some value. My stay at G4S has obviously included exciting and in equal measure, challenging times and the latter are those that I relished the most, given that one learns best under the circumstances. I have met and worked with some amazing people, from the frontline security officers who day in and day out wake up to give their best, to the Board of Directors as well as the G4S Group Executives for Africa and PLC and the G4S management team in general.
The highlight of your tenure
MAGAPA: There is definitely been many highlights and all different and depicting different aspects of my stay. For me however, the most humbling was the opportunity to lead and navigate the team through the murky and uncertain terrain at the onset of the COVID 19 pandemic at the start of the year. I appreciate the trust that was bestowed upon us (leadership team) to keep our team and our customers safe as well as to ensure that we continued to provide excellent services. Botswana at the current moment is experiencing a rise in number of daily new cases and the level of vigilance and adherence to health protocols becomes even more critical. In my view, the management team has been able to set up very robust Covid 19 protocols as well as build resilience in the business, which will continue to offer first class service to its customers. As a business we were able to weather the COVID 19 storm and even though our revenue was reduced by seven percent (7%), we managed to still deliver a five percent (5%) growth on our profit for the half year ended June 2020.
What was your biggest challenge in navigating the organisation to growth?
MAGAPA: In any business, there will always be competing needs for resources at any point in time and balancing those will always pose a big challenge in navigating a company through difficult times. A couple come to mind but for me top of the agenda was obviously the culture as one found it. Clarity of how we made our money needed to be re-enforced, meaning a very clear and calculated message on customer service and making it top of the agenda. This meant skewing investments to those initiatives that would position us as a customer-centric organisation. The other major and prominent challenge would be the short-term success versus a drawn out longer term game plan, which created a challenge for shareholders as one is now changing their view of their investments. Some of the actions and decisions only meant that we will yield returns in at least 2-3 years later, but were necessary for continued sustenance. This involved investment in vehicles, infrastructure and well-being of the front-line officers.
You had to undertake a restructuring exercise to improve the organisation’s efficiency – how successful was this?
MAGAPA: The appropriate view (at least from where I sit) would be organisational transformation and not just restructuring which is often associated with laying off people for short-term gain. The transformation was in three phases and the first 6-12 months was more about stabilising the business and general hygiene issues that had bothered the business for quite some time. Thereafter the next phase was to look at the overall business model and re-focused on our strengths and capabilities and identifying exactly what we were good at and starting to look at the systems, processes and people in these areas to re-organise our self-better. Identifying what we are good at meant that our Manned Security Services (MSS) Alarm Monitoring and Response (AMR) as well as Cash processing (CP) business lines needed to be given more attention. This was in terms of investment in fleet-renewal, uniform, training, systems and re-looking at our processes. This came with setting up a fully-fledged customer service department to really drive our pillar of being a customer centric organisation. This also meant cleaning our balance–sheet and removing non-paying customers. The difficult decision also needed to be made included discontinuing the facilities management business, which had been bleeding the organisation for years and not, aligned to our future growth strategy. The last part of the re-organisation was really setting up a five year plan which was aimed at integrated solutions and new products and services in the cash /banking space. This now spoke to investment for the future and currently we are scaling up capacity in our integrated solutions and new offerings in cash management services.
What do you want to be remembered for during your tenure at G4S – your legacy?
MAGAPA: Generally, I shy away from saying what my legacy is as my firm believe is that it would have to be looked at through someone else‘s eyes and not mine. However, for all the many things that I can be remembered for, I am hoping that “a passionate, committed and purposeful individual who could infuse that in the organisation” would be amongst the many. I try to give my all in any role that I assume and G4S was no different
Given another chance, is there anything you would do differently in the running of G4S?
MAGAPA: I do not believe in retracing my steps or pondering on what could have been to a point where it borders on second-guessing oneself. I am very happy with how I tackled the opportunities and challenges and would still bring the same approach. I brought key learnings from my prior engagements as I came into G4S and I will take away learnings to my next endeavour.
Your last three appointments were at multinationals – Samsung, DHL and G4S – are you joining another?
MAGAPA: Ha, Ha, Ha. I guess I have grown to be addicted to multinationals mainly due to the culture of a fast-paced and outcome-based environment and the ubiquity in learning opportunity that exists. I definitely cannot comment on what my next move is at this particular moment, save to say it will definitely be something very different to what I have been accustomed to but I am looking forward to the next chapter of my life.
What are the typical challenges for a multinational CEO based in Botswana?
MAGAPA: Generally, you tend to have stakeholders across the whole world and two sets of principals and it’s very critical that the roles and responsibilities are very clear. The domestic agenda is critical to the success of a multinational and it is the role of the local CEO to ensure that there is “localisation” of a lot of actions and outcomes.
What is your advice to upcoming professionals who want to become highly successful CEOs?
MAGAPA: I probably would not think myself qualified to profer such advise but for what it’s worth, the cliché of hard work, resilience and having a wide and varied network is one of the most important ingredients in a work environment, particularly at the highest level. A pragmatic approach to issues and “keeping the main thing the main” things is probably a good way of ensuring that you stay on course. A good support structure (personal) also goes a long way.
How has been your typical day as G4S CEO?
MAGAPA: Fortunately, there is no such thing as a typical day as each day brings with it new set of challenges or opportunities in the security and risk space. A highly operational space means that in between one’s wake up time, gym and getting ready for the office, you would have received operational and health & safety notifications for the previous night and this would mostly set the tone for the day. At the office, being in contact with the team based on key operational issues, your customer requirements and stakeholders take up the rest of your day. My all-time favourite in our environment is the “toolbox talks” that the supervisory and management team will have with the frontline officers every morning. It would range from safety issues to key operational matters and captured in sound bites for about 5-10minutes with very rich interactions on probable solutions and what the day would look like.
Share your secret to success
MAGAPA: Just grateful for the opportunities that I have had and no silver bullets for making the most of them, except to immerse oneself in them. Learning and relying on the teams I have had the privilege to work with has been the driving factor to the modest contribution that I have hopefully been able to make.
Your most influential mentor?
MAGAPA: I learn from a lot of people and have a very close circle of family and friends who are my biggest support structure and most importantly my wife and kids who inspire me every single day to become a better person.
Business books that your recommend for upcoming professionals
MAGAPA: I am a firm believer that one must read what tickles their fancy and fulfilling your objective so I generally do not recommend books for people to read. Freedom of thought and independence of the mind is something I take very seriously and therefore try to avoid doing the opposite (being prescriptive).
Your life outside work – how do you relax, best holiday spot and your family crew?
MAGAPA: It’s a simple life, which I enjoy, very much. Family (extended) take up a lot of my time with the normal customary socials. No particular destination for holiday, Mmutlane and Mahalapye quite good places for me to relax. I was born a footballer, lived in my youth and early adult-life as a volleyballer and now back as a footballer. So, I also spare sometime for a kick-about with my other family called Harerata (HSC) on Sundays.