Balancing two occupations with family life, while having success in both careers, is the latest career trend among young South Africans.
In today’s day and age we see a lot professionals engaged in more than one occupational role. This trend has been popular in countries such as the United States and we are seeing it manifest in our own business world today.
University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB) Graduate 2010 MBA, Lebo Thagane, is currently working full-time as human capital manager at Adcock Ingram while assisting her family’s business, M’hudi Wines as wine marketer. M’hudi Wines is South Africa’s first wholly black-owned and black-managed wine tourism farm.
Her family initially wanted to buy the farm in 1994, and after some hold ups, finally acquired ownership in 2003.
“My parents moved to the farm in 2003. They had been trying to buy a farm since 1994. It was such a huge relief to be able to purchase a piece of land that they did not stop to think about the fact that they had absolutely no knowledge on how to embark on such a task.
“In 2007 my mother, Malmsey Rangaka, who is the CEO of M’hudi Wines, began encouraging me to join them on the farm. I did not hesitate. I resigned from my job as human resources manager in Johannesburg. Life on the farm was absolute bliss. I loved waking up to a view of the Simonsberg Mountain and seemingly endless vineyards.”
She identifies her mother as one of the people who have been most influential in her life to date.
“She is an amazingly intelligent and hard-working woman. The best decision that we have made as a family was to appoint her as CEO of M’hudi Wines. She has a quiet strength and is able to pull us together to work towards a common goal. She led us to achieve the Emerging Tourism Entrepreneur of the Year Award in 2010. She is not only my mentor but also the sanity centre in my brain.”
A family affair
The joys of working with her family has been a very positive experience for her thus far. She has often been referred to as the creative brain behind the business, thinking out-of-the-box and in line with solutions and ideas going forward.
“For some reason my family thinks that I am creative and this creativity also comes across in the way I perceive the business and its challenges. I am also the family Rottweiler. My family can call on me for any situation that needs a firm approach, even though I am also good at diffusing tension and conflict. They know that I am not afraid of saying what needs to be said openly, honestly and with respect. I am also able to defend and justify my decisions no matter how difficult they may be,” says Thagane.
Being trained in wine retail by British professionals, Marks & Spencer, she has found her engagement on the wine farm to be very comfortable.
“Not only because I work for my mommy, but because the environment is very relaxed and informal. We share a common goal and there is seldom a need to doubt anyone’s loyalty and commitment to the business.
“We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses and are able to step in to support one another. We are brutally honest with each other. There is never a need to walk on eggshells because we realise that whether or not the business relationship succeeds, we will always be family.”
Although she sees her future as one where she will be involved full time with the family business, she is currently very satisfied with her position at Adcock Ingram, which is giving her an outlet for one of her major passions; working with people.
“I love interacting with people. I love people. I also love the fact that I am able to show other people that no matter how big your dream, it is possible to achieve it. They just better be willing to get down and work for it.”
Being recently married with two young children, Thagane is balancing work and family time with a lot of discipline and useful personal skills she has picked up along the way. Some of these skills and learning experiences were assimilated during her training in MBA at the USB. She says these skills are now coming to the foreground at Adcock Ingram where her love for people meets the corporate environment.
“In the corporate world, it is the people that get me going. At Adcock Ingram my love for people makes my job fulfilling. I find that I am most effective in team building. I have been able to get teams to the point where they have a better understanding of each member, firstly as individuals, then as members of a team. This is where I draw on a lot of what I learnt in the Sustainable Leadership course as part of my MBA.”
She also makes reference to the fact that following directly from her MBA, her current career goal is to continue in management consulting. “I love the idea of helping to co-create sustainable business solutions, especially ones centred around leadership development.”
She makes special reference to the way her MBA training has helped her establish a sense of self-awareness and personal skills that contribute her role at Adcock Ingram.
“Acquiring my MBA has helped me to bring out-of-the-box solutions to the challenges that both professions present, as well as build my strategic management, leadership and problem solving skills and develop my entrepreneurial and entrepreneurial thinking.”
Besides this, her MBA training has also provided her with a wealth of personal growth experiences which she attributes as the foundational cornerstone to much of her current leadership style. “I am able to be honest with myself. More than anything, the MBA has made me more aware of my own strengths and shortcomings. I have learnt to have authentic conversations with myself and to evaluate myself firmly but also caringly. I have learnt not to crucify myself for things that I wish I could achieve or do better. I have learnt to look for assistance in areas that are not my strengths. I have learnt that asking for help is not a sign of incompetence but a sign of maturity.”
Besides her corporate and family engagements, Thagane is also involved with other matters of interest. Being a trustee to the FunDza Literacy Trust is one of her achievements she values most.
“I am a trustee of the FunDza Literacy Trust, a non-profit organisation that aims to play a significant role in creating a culture of reading among previously disadvantaged youth, which will hopefully increase the levels of literacy in the country.”
With regard to her family life, she tries to keep an essential balance. “Most of the time during the week I focus on my work for Adcock Ingram, and some evenings and on weekends I market the wine. I have to remind myself to ‘check out’ of work when I get home. Sometimes it isn’t possible, but fortunately, because I enjoy my husband Letshego’s company so much, it is easy. We’ve recently bought a house, so when I get home I cannot wait to get started on redecorating.”
Although her work and family life is quite balanced, her passtimes reveal a love for family and home that is apparent to anyone enquiring about the topic.
“I am a chronic home body. It doesn’t help that I am also married to a hermit. We spend most of our time at home with the kids. I’ve embarked on a quest to learn how to draw. I must say my first attempts were really good. I think there is some talent!”
As for her future, she sees herself returning to the family business full time and continuing the legacy. “I intend to go back to work for M’hudi on a full-time basis in the next five or so years. My return to the corporate world is not the end of my journey but a detour for a traveller thirsty for knowledge.
“I look forward to teaching my children about the wine business and preparing them to take over the baton from my parents, brothers and I. Our dream is to create a legacy for our children and their children. We would like to be a fixed feature in the South African wine industry landscape for many generations to come.”
With a strong emphasis being placed on empowerment in South Africa at the moment, it is quite refreshing to find a young black businesswoman so skilled and successful at what she is doing.
She may be deemed a role model to youth in the market, and though both men and women can learn a lot from this ambitious young woman, it is especially black women to whom the challenge falls nowadays in ascertaining and driving their own economic development.
Lebo Thagana is by all means an example of what might be achieved through the harmonious incorporation of interests, family, business and skills. As she herself notes, the acquiring of personal skills and self-development has brought her to the point where she is now able to accomplish such a feat.