The road to the corner office of Lindsay Saker on Katherine Street in Sandton – Audi’s flagship dealership – was not a straight one for Thembinkosi Pantsi.
Born in the Eastern Cape on the farm that his parents worked on, Thembinkosi completed his schooling in Grahamstown before enrolling for an engineering degree in Port Elizabeth. Unfortunately, funding soon ran out and he found himself working as a cleaner at a restaurant in Knysna.
For the next couple of years, he slowly climbed the ladder to barman and waiter before a regular customer spotted his easy way with customers and invited him on a development programme for financial brokers.
Thembinkosi decided to take the leap and spent several years as assistant and broker before his love for cars landed him a position as salesperson at McCarthy Peugeot in Tyger Valley in 2007.
By this time, he was very used to a life of variable income, where your effort equals your commission and he soon became the top salesperson.
“I believe that my childhood and some missed opportunities along the way left me with a burning desire to achieve, says Thembinkosi.
The next decade saw Thembinkosi rise and grow through the ranks at McCarthy, moving from Peugeot to Volvo and from salesperson to ultimately Brand Manager of Volvo before the brand changed hands and moved to CMH. He stayed with McCarthy.
“At McCarthy, I was privileged to learn from industry greats like Cyril Khambula and Brand Pretorius directly and as part of the group’s management development programme. It also brought me to Gauteng,” says Thembinkosi.
Up North, Thembinkosi looked after the Chrysler, Jeep and Dodge dealership in Centurion before spending time as a business development manager for Sewells, looking after brands like Volkswagen, Audi and Toyota.
But the dealership life was calling and in July 2017 Thembinkosi decided to accept a very challenging role in a world he did not know as Dealer Principal of Audi Polokwane.
“We were fortunate to be able to turn Audi in Polokwane’s fortunes around and by the time I left in 2019 to head up Audi in Fourways (Johannesburg) we were profitable.”
At Fourways, Thembinkosi had an opportunity to put his experience in customer service, sales and business management to good use, both to drive the dealership to profitability and in coaching an understudy.
“There were some late nights as we worked on assignments and crunched numbers, but it was highly rewarding to be able to help. My understudy completed the course as one of the top students,” says a visibly proud Thembinkosi.
In January 2020, Thembinkosi was offered the role as Dealer Principal of Lindsay Saker Audi Sandton, South Africa and Africa’s largest Audi dealership.
“It is perhaps my most challenging role yet, especially since we had to close our doors for lockdown a couple of weeks after I started. I remember I was in Germany when they started talking about lockdown and soon after landing, the instruction came to stop trading.
“As a dealership, we decided to use this time to rethink our marketing strategy and, importantly, to also connect with our families. I think it has paid dividends, and we are on the road to profitability and have definitely seen our marketing and market awareness grow,” says Thembinkosi.
To read more about Thembinkosi’s novel post-lockdown marketing approach, please see: https://bit.ly/39LrN0I
It does not take long to realise that the person on the other side of the telephone is a remarkable woman, someone who knows the motor trade by heart and defiantly not a pushover.
There is no substitute for hard work with passion, doing the things you love.
As the most awarded Volvo dealership in South Africa, TCM is the current South African Volvo Car Dealer of The Year as well as Service Dealer of the Year. Their secret? Making sure their focus is on their people.