MELINDA COOKSON, the CEO of Futurelink, a national staffing solutions company, is unwaveringly passionate about the diverse industry she works in. In 1995, Melinda entered the staffing industry as a business development manager for a national staffing company. Five years later, armed with fantastic training and work experience, she took a huge leap of faith and started her own recruitment agency. "I started without any capital, however I was filled with loads of passion and tenacity to see this dream realised. I was fortunate to be given a small corner in a business friend's office to work from. I put my head down and worked very hard. All my planning took place at night and during the day I made sure that every productive minute was spent sitting in front of the right clients." Since those humble beginnings, Futurelink has grown to have a footprint in most of the major regions in South Africa.
Experts in our field
Melinda's major role is to drive the business forward and to ensure that standards and customer service continues to be fulfilled and exceeded. "We view ourselves as the experts in our field. We align ourselves with our clients' staffing needs, tailoring our services offerings to meet their diverse operational requirements." Futurelink places skilled people in various positions across a range of industries. "Our Flexible Staffing Division allows our clients to operate their businesses profitably through the peaks and troughs of their production cycles by allowing us to place bulk temps throughout these seasons."
Futurelink enjoys a buoyant and well-staffed Industrial Relations (IR) Division wherein they have access to over 30 IR consultants as well as labour lawyers and attorneys around the country to assist clients with matters that may end up at the CCMA or Labour Court. Their Cleaning and Hygiene Division boasts well trained staff to ensure they keep their clients premises and factories spotlessly clean and hygienic. Futurelink's Payroll Division offers an efficient and accurate payroll service to their clients. "Futurelink's success to date has been based on service. As a business owner, I have made it my priority to ensure that exceptional staff are interacting with and supporting our clients. I remain passionate about the industry I operate in and my hands on approach to ensuring that my staff go over and beyond to ensure client satisfaction will remain an integral part of Futurelink's ethos."
Inspired by ordinary people
Melinda says that she is inspired by ordinary people who have faced adversity and have overcome challenges. These are the people we should be applauding. "Helping my clients, inspires and motivates me by offering workable and profitable solutions to sustain their businesses. For many of our clients, we have contributed to their success by placing good, productive people in their businesses. We have watched companies transition through all sorts of changes in the economy and are now running very successful and profitable businesses."
Manage people upwards
In addition, Melinda recognises that her company's success can be attributed to the great team with whom she has surrounded herself. "A business is only as good as the people it employs. Over time I have built an atmosphere of mutual respect amongst my staff, all of whom operate in an environment of integrity. I manage people upwards to make sure that they are doing their jobs properly and really encourage my staff to take ownership of their responsibilities, get involved and make the right decisions."
A level of excellence
Reflecting on the role of women, Melinda says that she does not believe that women should have a different approach to business to men. "I deal with a lot of men in business and I have never felt inferior or that they are treating me differently because I am a woman. I have always enjoyed a mutually respectful and professional relationship with my male clients. That said, make sure you deliver regardless of the gender of your client or customer." "We operate at a level of excellence that sets us apart in the marketplace. I am steadfast when it comes to following procedures and 'doing things properly', and nothing is too much trouble for our clients. The staffing industry is highly competitive, and you need to out-perform your competitors at every opportunity. We have done this time and time again. I am happy and grateful for what I have accomplished but there is still a lot I have to do."
Melinda believes that it is essential for businesses to get involved and give back to communities. She was an active member of the Ukuthula Trust, which is an NPO based in Chesterville near Durban. She has also since formed the Futurelink Empowerment Trust which focuses on developing young people through educational support and career guidance. Melinda says that her family is a huge part of her life and in her leisure time she enjoys the outdoors and wildlife. "To my younger self I would say trust and enjoy your journey in this life. All the ups and downs, failures and successes, bad and good times. These all help to develop you, to teach you, to build great tenacity within you which will equip you for great things." she concluded.