Sicelo Nyandeni, (34) Dealer Principal for both Halfway Hyundai and Halfway Mazda in Port Shepstone, radiates energy even when standing still. He walked a hard road to become principal of two modern dealerships as well as the director of Halfway Group’s Fleet Services company and he can rightfully call himself “a self-made man”.
“I lost both my parents at a very young age and grew up in Eshowe, northern KwaZulu-Natal, under the guidance of my late sister, who was only six years older than Í was. We had a very tough and unusual upbringing as orphans and — against all odds — I survived.”
He landed in the car trade in 2007 at CMH Fiat and Alfa Romeo in Umhlanga after working at WesBank as a new business agent. Nyandeni said he was awarded a WesBank scholarship after working very hard in matric, and completed a Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal.
He went on to complete an MBA at Mancosa in 2018, which he says added the most to his professional skills in over a decade in the motor trade. The course included sound advice, which he applies to this day, to have fun every day, to respect people, and to continuously improve.
Apart from the theoretical training, Nyandeni managed to pack a lot of work experience into the last 13 years. His CMH career included working as DP for Infinity Pinetown, as sales manager at Datcentre in Durban, and then as DP for Imperial in 2016, where he ran a multi-franchise dealership with five brands: Renault, Kia, Mitsubishi, Tata and FAW, in Wonderwaters, Pretoria.
He joined the Halfway Group in the middle of 2017, and has been running the Port Shepstone dealerships for almost two years.
Recalling the first car he sold — a Fiat Strada bakkie to a police officer in Umbilo — he says he felt comfortable making the sale. He notes that he survived as a young man by negotiating all the time and today he calls himself a deal maker. “I enjoy seeing customers happy and my staff too.”
His dealerships in “Sheppy”, as the locals call the town, serves a lot of upcoming youth and government employees at his 2019 Dealer of the Year team sells a lot of Hyundai i10 models to the former, while Tucson and Grand i10 models are popular with the latter.
Social media the way
Nyandeni has seen the best advertising results from social media and he now has a team of eight people employed at a contact center to respond to social media inquiries.
“We have invested in a stand-alone contact center that specifically works on social media enquiries and action all the leads. We are hoping for this department to be a 24-hour convenience stop. At the moment we work right up to 22:00 at night. We believe in the technology and have embraced it completely."
All dealer principals have a favourite story about a sale to a happy client, but Nyandeni says each new sale is that favourite story for him.
“When your client have tears of joy for finally being able to afford a particular car and get so over excited when we unveil the vehicle to them, each time that still brings tears of joy to my eyes too.”
‘Digital migrant workers are coming’
One thing a Master in Business Administration teaches is to never lose sight of the future, and Nyandeni is looking forward to the days when flying cars will be normal.
“Hyundai has announced their plans to build vertical-lift-off flying cars and I think it's a great idea for the world, as the standard for most is to use electricity, not fuel. Where flying cars are adopted and implemented, it will mean less pollution and less congested traffic on the roads. It’s a great idea, but when — and whether — it will work in South Africa, that's a story for another day.”
Flying cars are not the only things Nyandeni predicts will soon have vertical lift off, but properties on the South Coast too. He said the southern seaboard is often seen as remote, poor and rural, but the area is a sleeping giant.
“There so much potential in the South Coast, not the least of which is the facts that this region has the most affordable coastal property in South Africa, that a lot of Johannesburgers learned during lockdown they can work from home — and they are now thinking of moving that home closer to the ocean, to become digital migrant workers.
“During the coming December holidays, I fully expect to see a lot of cars with GP plates parked in front of estate agencies, as their drivers gawk at our property prices,” said Nyandeni.
“No doubt times are likely to be tough for the next few months owing to the lockdown’s effect on the economy, but I think my region especially will benefit from the long-term social changes that lockdown forced on all of us, starting with digital migrant workers.”
Looking even further ahead, Nyandeni says rural KZN is a sleeping giant with mostly untapped possibilities from the youngest nation on earth — the amaZulu.
“People in semi-rural areas still want their own cars for the independence and business opportunities this brings. And the Dezzi Raceway nearby on Oslo Beach shows the passion we have for cars.
“No doubt times are likely to be tough for the next few months owing to lockdown’s effect on the economy, but I think my region especially will benefit from the long-term social changes that lockdown forced on all of us, starting with digital migrant workers.”
Notwithstanding difficult economic conditions, both locally and nationally, a businessman from Aliwal North is forging ahead with huge developments in this Eastern Cape town which will inject millions into the local community.
Retaining clients and keeping them happy takes real effort these days, no matter what brand or manufacturer you represent.
Mokopane (previously known as Potgietersrus) now boasts a brand-new Kia dealership that covers an area of 2 230 square metres and can service up to 45 cars a day.