From strength to strength
Newly appointed managing director of Volvo Trucks Southern Africa Mark Erasmus has great plans for the company, while aiming to stay true to his and Volvo’s roots. He spoke to
JACO DE KLERK.
Erasmus took up his new appointment on May 1, after serving as general manager of truck sales and marketing at the company since 2008. “It’s a major responsibility and, to be honest, I’m still trying to get my feet back on the ground,” he says. “I’ve taken over from a predecessor, Anders Lindblad, who was fantastic in his leadership way and has built a good business.”
Erasmus says his aim is to continue the business in the same manner, making sure it doesn’t lose ground and continues to grow. “I want to maintain the fantastic performance for our customers and employees. That’s my main challenge – to keep that going, then to hopefully take things to the next level.”
He plans to do this by focusing on three areas: customer interaction, employee engagement and ensuring that the business is doing well. “I have to tie all this together in a good way without dropping any balls, and that’s not easy,” he says. But with his history within Volvo, and his previous affiliation with the company, it’s a juggling act he’s likely to be adept at.
“When I was invited to join Volvo, it was a globally-established brand, and its return to South Africa in the early 1990s meant I’d get to start relatively early in the company’s history.” He says that was one of two determining factors, with the other being more personal: “My father was with Volvo for many years, back in the day – so the attraction was a bit of both, and I’m very happy with the decision I made.”
When asked about the number one highlight of his career, Erasmus’s answer reflects his humility: “Qualifying as a diesel mechanic.”
He explains: “I was young and it was a massive achievement for me, especially not having been the most diligent student. Of course, I’m also proud of what I’m doing today. Working for the Volvo brand has been magnificent.”
Erasmus’s comments show that there’s still a place in the world for people who work hard, especially if you consider that this qualification is the only one he had before joining Volvo, honing his skills with various courses along the way.
He joined the brand as a truck salesman in 1997, then an opportunity to work in customer care presented itself. This tied the technical aspect of his experience and the people side of the business together, laying the foundation for great things to come.
Due to his technical background, Erasmus then moved into the product support department. He was promoted to workshop manager when the company was taken over by Volvo in 2000. He moved to the after sales department in 2005, and worked his way up to GM of sales and marketing before adding the prestigious position of MD to the list.
He says this new position is very different from those he previously held, which focused more on everyday operational functions. “In this position, I have to let go of the day-to-day matters and focus on the strategic long-term business plans for the company. But I like to be in touch with our customers and I don’t see that stopping.”
As he says: “We know what our customers like and what they don’t like – none of us is bigger than the game, so it is important to keep your ear to the ground, and the best way to do that is to listen to one’s customers.”
He believes it’s the people who work for a company, and the customers who support it, that make an organisation what it is. “We mustn’t lose sight of the fact that, while we are working for a massive and wonderful organisation, it’s the individual who makes the difference – every individual; those who work for us and those we provide our products and services to. This makes us who we are, and we should never lose track of that.”
With Erasmus’s experience, dedication and commitment, and the steadfast business that Lindblad built, Volvo Trucks Southern Africa looks set to shine well into the future.