The measure of success
All good things come to an end, they say. For a certain affable stalwart of the South African commercial vehicle industry, though, the end is just the beginning. GAVIN MYERS enjoys one last hurrah with Geoff du Plessis.
What’s the measure of success? How much money you make, how early you retire, or how many friends you have? Speaking with Du Plessis, it becomes abundantly clear that it is something much more humble than that.
Success, for him, is achieving your goals – whatever they might be. “Success is when your goals aren’t selfish, but add value; that is important. Success is also achieving this through highly motivated teams and enjoying your job while you do it.”
A career of more than 30 years allows for a lot of time to set and achieve goals. Du Plessis is confident that, measured accordingly, he has achieved success.
In 2013, when Du Plessis came back into the MAN Truck & Bus South Africa fold, he set some specific goals. “I wanted to stabilise the business, make sure we had the right team in place and position the business for the future. I’m now happy to say we have the right people, structure and focus.
“It’s easy to have grandiose visions and dreams, but having the ability to implement them is where organisations differ,” Du Plessis asserts. “You can’t achieve anything without the right people, and I’ve always enjoyed building teams that can take the baton forward.”
This “people element” is, in fact, one of the things that Du Plessis values most from his time as a part of this dynamic industry. “My greatest achievements include building and developing the people around me.
“I’ve often joked with my teams that I want to have been in the Seychelles for two weeks before someone notices I’m not around. Then I would know that they are empowered; that they’re doing what needs to be done and are communicating well with each other and the marketplace. I could confidently do that now. The standard of the next generation is phenomenal.”
Du Plessis reaped the rewards of this empowerment before. “In terms of achievements, I’m really proud of the teams I developed during my time in Europe, especially considering the language barrier. I visited Germany recently, and it makes me proud to see the number of young graduates I identified that have now moved up through the ranks and are at the top of their game.”
This sort of interaction goes both ways, though, as Du Plessis finds inspiration from those working with him and feeds off their input as well. He has some stout advice for those wishing to enter, or further, their career within the industry: “This industry offers a massive variety of stimulation in that we cater to several different sectors. Newcomers to the industry must learn as much as they can, find out about the needs of the customers, and how to add value when meeting their challenges.”
Customers have played a great role in his career. “I remember with great joy delivering trucks to customers. I had the pleasure of interfacing with Bill Lynch of Imperial, for example; I’ll never forget his humility, wisdom and calmness,” Du Plessis recalls.
“I still enjoy being close to the action. I’ve made many friends in this industry and established alliances with many different companies. These relationships endure over time; they become friends at a personal level; we are like a big family.”
Indeed, family has been a rock for Du Plessis throughout his career. Having just become a grandfather for the first time, he is now especially pleased to be able to spend more time focusing on this important aspect of his life.
“My planning has changed from planning per hour to planning per day,” he laughs. “I plan to spend more time with my family and to travel around the country. I’ve got my list of things I want to do and I hope it’ll all give me the stimulation I get from my work.”
One of the most stimulating recent experiences for Du Plessis was that of the One MAN kann road show. “It really was wonderful to be part of such a fascinating project. Many people said the timing made it a swansong, but it has been worthy of that.
“I haven’t been working to retire at this age … I’ve been working, and enjoying it. I’m now able to take a break and enter a new chapter of my life. I look forward to doing a lot of things, and I have a lot of things to do,” he smiles.
It seems there are many more goals and much more success on Du Plessis’s horizon.