Passion, eagerness to learn, key to success, says Thembinkosi

If you are not passionate about your job, you might run into problems down the line. Passion equals the way you live, the way you work and the way you will succeed on your career path.

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These wise words come from Thembinkosi Pantsi, the Dealer Principal at the Hatfield Motor Group’s Audi Centre in Braamfontein, in the heart of Johannesburg.

We chat to him again after the recent Audi Vorsprung Awards ceremony (see our previous interview with Thembinkosi here.)

Not only was the dealership declared the winner in category 2 for medium sized Audi dealerships in the manufacturer’s Vorsprung Awards ceremony for top achieving dealerships, but it also took the silverware for the best run parts department under Joas Malesa.

The Audi dealership in Braamfontein, Johannesburg.

“Our approach of ‘we are in the people business instead of the car business’, plays a major role in our success,” Thembinkosi tells Dealerfloor. “The way to care for your business and to make the numbers work, boils down to how you treat your customers and prospective customers.

“The numbers are generated by people, and if you give them a first-rate experience right through all departments of the business, the results will follow. This dealership has been open since the Hatfield Group bought it in September 2019 after it had been closed for several years.

Thembinkosi Pantsi.

“The location in the heart of Johannesburg and the rundown infrastructure and maintenance are problems as in most urban areas in the country. We revamped the dealership and bought additional surrounding property to give our customers a world-class experience that you would expect from a top premium brand like Audi,” Thembinkosi says.

Thembinkosi who’s first job was as a cleaner in a restaurant, says you must decide in life what you want to do and chase that dream with every means possible. Your passion will change a job into a career. When the opportunity presented itself, I grabbed it with both hands and my heart, and I learn from people who are successful.

“I still read a lot. Books about business, leadership, motivation because you can never stop learning and refining your approach to business and leadership. One of the doyens of the motor industry is Brand Pretorius from whom I’ve learned a lot. I bought into his management style of be ‘soft on people, but hard on performance’. This truth is one of the principles on which I base my leadership style.

“It also closely follows the principle to be ethical and honest, not only in the way you run the business, but also in your personal life. You cannot separate your belief system at your work from what you have in your home,” he tells us.

Thembinkosi’s career in the motor industry started in 2007 in Cape Town with the McCarthy Group where he quickly proved his worth on the sales side by becoming a brand manager at the Volvo dealership. After being transferred to Gauteng, he was instrumental in turning around various dealerships, and after just a short space of three years, he became one of the youngest ever Dealer Principals.

He then decided to use an opportunity to learn even more about the financial side of running a business by joining Sewells (these days Sewells MSX International) where he worked closely with big motor groups of different OEMs on executing their business plans, training people and getting dealerships on the road to profitability.

After some time with Sewells, he was approached by an independent motoring group to assist with one of their Audi dealerships in Limpopo that needed some TLC to get back on the right track. After this, he was appointed DP at Lindsay Saker (Motus) where, among other things, he oversaw the moving and establishing of the dealership to a new premises in Bryanston during 2019.

Thembinkosi then decided to leave the corporate motor retail world and establish his own business also in the motor trade, but the partnership did not go according to plan and in course of time, he was back in the Motus fray.

He was appointed DP at one of the group’s Ford dealerships, and in September last year, his favourite brand gave him an opportunity when the Hatfield Motor Group asked him to be the new DP at Audi Braamfontein.

Asked about the role of transformation in the industry, Thembinkosi says transformation should not be the ticking of boxes to boast the right number of employees of colour. “Talent from young people of disadvantaged communities should be nurtured, trained and assisted. But above all, the will and passion should be there to make the most of every opportunity that presents itself. The talent is there, how we take care of it and provide guidance, is what is important,” Thembinkosi says.

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