Down to a, fine, art
Some know what they want to be right from the start, while others decide as they move through life … Godfrey Hani, divisional manager for Freightliner, Fuso and Western Star Trucks, at Mercedes-Benz South Africa, used the skill set acquired while pursuing his original dream to build one that he loves living – and is happy to share with others.
Hani says that he originally wanted to become an architect or a movie actor – “nothing to do with selling trucks”. Life had a different path in mind, however, and instead he completed an honours degree in fine art – specialising in painting. This has served Hani well … “I looked at life differently because of the creative nature of the kind of art that I did,” he tells FOCUS. “It opened up my world.” He adds that you’ll be successful in whatever you do if you embrace your creative side.
This has also helped Hani in his current position at Mercedes-Benz South Africa – a company wholly owned by Daimler AG. “Leadership needs a lot of creativity,” he points out. “You have to think differently about how you handle various situations.”
His experience prepared him for what lay ahead: “I had a different dream then, but I love the dream that I’m living now.” His journey wasn’t a straight path, however …
“After I finished my art studies I completed a few diplomas, one of which was in financial management,” Hani recollects – adding that he then decided to join the corporate world; starting out in an accounting and finance department.
This is where Hani first entered the transport arena. “I handled creditor payments and did month-end reconciliations at Translux and City to City, which is owned by Autopax Passenger Services.”
He adds that he began to appreciate the bus business for its tenacity; from the discipline that drivers demonstrate to the value that’s placed on the maintenance aspect. “It started to intrigue me – I wanted to understand what transporters truly go through.”
From there Hani quickly climbed the corporate ladder, taking over the reins of financial manager, which exposed him to all aspects of the business – from the service and marketing to the sales department. “Then sales began to pique my interest,” he relates – adding that he later became the senior manager for sales and operations at Translux and City to City.
His experience led to Hani being head-hunted by MAN Centurion as its deputy dealer principal. “I was the dealer principal for two years. I then became a financial manager and, finally, I was appointed to the board of MAN Truck & Bus for four years – responsible for all the African countries below the equator, excluding South Africa,” he tells FOCUS. “This grew my love for trucks.”
After his seven-year stint at MAN, Hani’s love was broadened to include not one, but three brands … the achievement that he is most proud of. “That really is my number one highlight, I am very fortunate that I run three different brands in one stable.
“If someone prefers products from the United States – likes some ‘bling’ and power – we are happy to offer the Western Star or Freightliner,” says Hani. “And when a customer is looking for something that is easy to run and manage, as well as being ideal for stop-start operations, then we’ll offer them a Fuso product.”
He also loves the teamwork across the rest of the brands. “If I have clients who want a Mercedes-Benz truck, I don’t try and offer them a Fuso, Western Star or Freightliner – just because those are my brands – I’ll rather direct them to my colleagues who will have the right solution.
“It is that internal understanding and arrangement that makes Daimler totally different,” Hani emphasises. “We have a good working relationship between our colleagues. As much as I love representing my brands, at the end of the day, we come from the same family and whatever we do advances the family as a whole.”
It isn’t only about building brand awareness, however, as Hani remains humble after everything his journey has delivered. “What touches my heart is the different lives that we impact in the process of doing our jobs … Regardless of the type of operation you are in, you have to ensure that you grow the people around you, show them what to do and guide them! It is about empowering people.”