You can almost see motivation sparking off the sales staff as they work the phones at desks lining the walls around a dozen gleaming vehicles. We asked Dealer Principal Anthea Walter-Girout how she managed such “gees” in her business, and she proudly pointed to her lieutenant, Cindy Potso, amid a noisy chorus of hallalas, ululations and hoots as staff send off another client in a new car.
“It is a little ceremony we give all new clients to celebrate their and our success,” explains Potso - Sales Manager at Hyundai Pietermaritzburg - as she signs a paper proffered by a staff member, tells another to dig in her handbag for a key and scans a message in her phone.
Such multi-tasking comes easily to any mother, but Cindy lists her WhatsApp status as being “mother to a diva”. “She’s four, but already I’m hearing from her that people are not respecting her!” laughs Potso.
She started working after school at a micro-lender, and then took a job at a large used car dealer in 2012 before starting in sales at Hyundai Pietermaritzburg.
Fitting into the corporate structure felt like a home-coming. “What I appreciate most is that the rules don’t change from day to day like in my previous jobs. It is a transparent and honest environment to work in.”
And work she did. Between selling cars, she did Hyundai’s mandatory courses, finished a Bachelor of Business Administration (BBA) degree through Southern Business School cum laude — while pregnant — and got promoted to manager. She is the first black female to do so at Hyundai South Africa.
“I am proud to be the first black female manager. But that is just the start. I am going to train a lot more females to be strong managers.”
Asked what she looks for when appointing a job seeker, she has one word: “hunger”.
I don’t want people who want to earn R10,000. I want people who want to earn ten times that. My sales staff have all moved from normal banking to private banking. They now have black cards, and that is how it should be. The time they spend away from their families to work here must be worth something.”
Potso herself spends a lot of time at the dealership, working late most nights to get paperwork done. She says the business averages 50 new sales a month. June was her best month yet, with 60 sales. “It was lockdown and maybe people wanted to show their value, pushing that little bit harder.”
One thing Potso cannot abide is when someone wastes an opportunity and if you want to see her furious, just try breaking her trust. “I fight when I need to fight, then we move on and it is done.” In this, she said she copied her DP’s management style. “The best thing Anthea does is to trust us and let us learn.”
As we talk, laughter and snatches of song drift into the office. She nods to the sounds. “I like to keep a happy mood. Then it is easy to see when someone needs a little bit of motivation or help, or just a hug. I am big on hugging,” she laughs. “Even our CEO (Niall Lynch) gets one.
Another person pokes a head in to say it’s time to send off the Meyiwa couple, who bought their second Hyundai, a Tucson. “We don’t allow unhappy customers here, so come help us celebrate,” she says as the staff line up to give another client a loud send-off.
Watching her marshal her sales staff to spread a little more happiness, it is clear to see that in Potso, Hyundai has a rising star that is blazing a new trail for women in the auto trade, for she embodies a line from poet Lebo Mashile: “There is a me that I could be. If I just let her breathe outside. A thundering song that I could sing. If I just let her breathe outside.”
Since their launch in 2017, rent-to-own company Planet42 (which started out as CarGet), has quietly grown into one of the single biggest clients for used car dealers in South Africa, having bought well over 2,000 cars from over 300 dealers.
Maemo Motors in Rustenburg is now a fully fledged four-brand dealership with Mercedes-Benz, Jeep, Mitsubishi and the recently acquired Kia, all under one roof.
“You can describe me as a no-cost-to-company salesman,” Alec Harris told Dealerfloor.