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Nandi Ngwenya

NANDI NGWENYA is the CEO and principal operator of Siba Management, a KFC Franchise Group in the fast-food industry, which operates 17 stores in KwaZulu-Natal

Be bolder in the way that they do business

NANDI NGWENYA is the CEO and principal operator of Siba Management, a KFC Franchise Group in the fast-food industry, which operates 17 stores in KwaZulu-Natal.

Nandi says that she has been on 'a life long business journey'. Siba Management is a family-owned business that was started by her mother. As she was growing up, conversations around the dinner table often revolved around the business and how the family saw Nandi's career to be in the group.
"My family practically moulded me into the person I am today. My family life and business life have been very much intertwined, and I have grown organically into the position as CEO."

Whilst Nandi was still at school, she would work in the stores during the holidays, performing all the tasks, from serving over the counter to working in the kitchen. Over time, when she had become fully acquainted with the stores and their functioning, she moved to the head office. Once there, she moved from department to department, learning about the different issues that must be dealt with, including internal as well as external KFC requirements until she understood the whole business operation.

When all directors concerned felt comfortable about her knowledge of the business and her ability to take control, she took over as the CEO. Knowing all the facets of the business now enables her to give direction to the group. Her daily tasks involve meeting with the management team to discuss reports and key performance areas in the group. Nandi also does regular store visits to motivate the teams, and to see if there are opportunities to be aware of or problems to address. A major part of her role is to make sure that all the stores are brand compliant, and that their customers are happy.

Nandi says that her mother has played a major role in mentoring her progress in the business environment and in her general development. Being in a franchise business, she has also benefitted from relevant training and development programmes associated with a franchise. "The KFC franchisor looking after Siba Management has helped immensely as he had not only given direction and advice on how the stores should be managed, but also on how the business should be led, and how things should be done successfully in general."

She has met many people along the way who have inspired her. "The success achieved by other people gives me the confidence and inspiration to succeed and improve. People who have been able to grow a mom and pop type store into a corporate business are also an inspiration for me."

Be bold in business

Nandi does not believe that women need to approach business fundamentally differently from men. However, she says that men and women could learn different aspects of approaching business from each other. "I think that women could take a page from the men's book and be bolder in the way that they do business. Women tend to be more cautious and concerned about small things. They tend to feel the need to prove themselves to themselves and others before tackling something in business. Men are often more prepared to take the risks involved in grabbing an opportunity. They are less worried about being perfect to do business."

Focus on what needs to be done

For Nandi, achieving a work-life balance simply comes down to prioritising what has to be done. She says, "If there is a work issue for me to deal with, I give it my 100% focus until it's done. That leaves me with time for my family." Similarly, she says, "If there is a family issue that needs attention, I just put my blinkers on and focus on addressing it."

"Whatever needs your focus, just do it," added Nandi. Sometimes her family and work demand her time and attention simultaneously, in which case she tries "to package them together". For example, she is fortunate that the way she engages in the business allows her to take her baby and nanny to work and can therefore deal with family and work matters at the same time.

If you follow your passion, the money will follow you

If she could go back in time she would make sure to encourage her younger self to explore more avenues, including those that, on face value, don't look like they can make money. She has come to believe that, "If you follow your passion, the money will follow you." She says she would certainly advise her younger self to be bold and follow her passion.

Nandi is happy about what she has accomplished so far and where she is in business. "I have come to learn and understand the retail industry very well and feel confident in the space that I work in. I have much to offer to my team." Looking back, she realises that there have been missed opportunities over the years and that she could have acted more dynamically in certain areas and explored more avenues.

"There are still many opportunities for me to take and I can keep on learning, improving and growing in business and as a person," she concludes.