Cathedral Peak in the Drakensberg is a World Heritage site and while its natural splendour draws awestruck sighs from thousands of visitors every year, it was the people congregated at the site’s hotel over a mid-September weekend who provided the animated inspiration. PAUL COLLINGS joined the Professional Movers Association of South Africa (PMA) for its 2010 Annual General Meeting and congress.
“I’d never join a club that would have me as a member,” said Groucho Marx almost 100 years ago. Some may interpret his statement as a means of avoiding signing up for anything that involved after-hours effort with no immediate financial reward. But then, it was and is, a dog-eat-dog world out there and Groucho’s sentiments regarding close-knit allegiances prevail today, especially in business, where ‘confidentiality’ is the rule of thumb and cards are held very close to the chest.
For many industries however, the benefits of being part of a “team” far outweigh the pro-bono work (and cost of membership) an association demands. By joining forces under a single banner, individual enterprises can unlock synergies, define quality standards and build collective bargaining power in a global economy that is becoming increasingly competitive and regulated by new legislation.
Working together for success
The PMA has been achieving this for over half a century and, according to PMA president, Heather Badenhorst, “PMA membership equals superior service, and the fact that more and more tenders stipulate PMA membership as a prerequisite for tendering, bears witness to this. This is the 51st PMA AGM and its theme is ‘Moving Mountains, building bridges’. Thanks to all the hard work of our members, this year’s congress brings members face to face with suppliers and international partners in surroundings that are perfect for relaxed networking and knowledge sharing.”
With over 100 delegates seated in the main conference room of the hotel, there is obviously much scope for “cross-pollination” to occur. After the official opening and PMA meeting on Friday morning, the group is addressed by a number of keynote speakers on issues affecting the industry right now.
Quinton Coetzee, environmentalist and presenter of 50/50 Veldfocus on SABC TV, inspires the group with his “Back to Basics” presentation, which draws parallels between the survival strategies found in the Kalahari with what it takes to succeed in the business world.
“In nature, alliances are essential for survival and it’s no different in business. In order to thrive, one must master one’s environment and adapt to change. Remember – focus is a planetary law of success,” Coetzee says.
He is joined by the RFA’s Gavin Kelly, advising on the rights of fleet owners under the yet-to-be-implemented AARTO legislation. “It is a system based on funds generation and it has the power to effectively shut down an operation through the removal of licences and attachment of assets,” Kelly states, injecting a dose of dread into the room.
Magretia Brown of the Furniture Removals Chamber then discusses wage issues with members in a “closed session”, followed by a Speed Networking Luncheon, expertly orchestrated by professional Master of Ceremonies, Gerry Skerritt of Dream Team.
Here, members are seated at round tables with suppliers (who are also sponsors of the AGM) and partners from overseas to “talk shop”, but only for five minutes, when sponsors and partners move on to another table of professional movers.
“This is a great way to keep sponsor/delegate integration fresh,” enthuses José Rodrigues, chairman of this year’s congress and owner of Master Movers International. “I learned everything I know about professional moving at PMA conventions, through interaction, knowledge sharing and cross-pollination with competitors, suppliers and international partners. ‘Iron sharpens iron’, as they say.”
And being an industry all about mobility, trucks are a central feature of the event with representatives from Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles, Volvo, Hino and Goodyear on hand to promote their latest models and services.
“This a key market for us and as a sponsor of the congress, we are able to form solid relationships with the top people in the removals industry,” says Kobus van Zyl, vice-president, Mercedes-Benz Commercial Vehicles. His sentiments are shared by other sponsors from the packaging and air/marine freight industries, all agreeing that the event offers excellent exposure to the individuals who are professionally carrying the industry into the 21st century.
With more motivational talk from magician/forensic pathologist, Dr Ryan Blumenthal, and insights on the Consumer Protection Act from Advocate Neville Melville, there is still ample time this weekend for hiking, golf, fishing, fine dining, rock ‘n’ roll and dancing. Like all smart operators, the PMA delegates and their partners know how to join hands and have fun.
Heather Badenhorst sums up the congress: “The feedback I’ve received from all attendees has been excellent and I’m fully confident that next year’s congress will be even better. This event has proved that even when times are tough, great things can happen when we all work together.”