Turning challenges into opportunities

Online since 22.03.2018 • Filed under Industry news • From Issue 7 - March to August 2018 page(s) 8-11
Turning challenges into opportunities

Pam du Plessis, the managing director at the helm of Invincible Valves, is an enterprising woman with global awards under her belt to prove it. She talks to Emma Dawson about her company’s success, its culture and the positive impact they have on young people’s lives.

Established in 1982 by Rob Macpherson and Paul Kirchmann, Invincible Valves began operating as a valve reconditioning and rubber lining business. From inception, the company has grown from strength to strength and is now one of the top valve distributors, reconditioners and rubber liners for the South African market. ‘We have a broad array of new valves that we distribute globally, as well as its own brand, the Inval® range,’ comments Pam.

Over the last few years, to keep pace with changing technology, industrial advancements, and customer demands, Invincible Valves has restructured and diversified to other industries. ‘Since the business was taken over by new management in 2013, each department has been reshaped into a simple team structure with a team leader and no more than five others in a team. We’ve also upgraded our IT infrastructure to ensure more efficiency when responding to customers’ needs. This also provides more accurate feedback, and the ability to speed up processes by submitting documents with ease,’ Pam points out.

Products and markets

Invincible Valves’ primary markets include the global mining industry, as well as power generation, paper and pulp, water and sewerage, fisheries, and many more. The company supplies a full range of imported and locally-manufactured low-pressure valves with all the control mechanisms they required. ‘We also offer a reconditioning service for these valves and fittings and have an in-house rubber lining facility for valves, pipes and fittings. This service is used by many of the country’s major valve manufacturers,’ Pam adds.

‘It’s Invincible Valves’ simple structure that I believe makes it easier to work within the parameters of the business,’ explains Pam. ‘This philosophy is also rolled out to our stakeholders, which means that our customers enjoy our flexibility and commitment to service excellence too. ‘We also offer a number of ancillary services that give customers the one-stop-shop deal they’ve come to expect from us.’

Valves are an essential part of our daily lives – just consider the plumbing in homes and offices as an example. Each time you turn on a tap, you’re operating a valve that controls the waterflow and enables you to open, close or control the speed of the flow. On the industrial side, valves are of utmost importance for the operations of most industrial processes that use oil, water and or gas.

‘At any given time, Invincible Valves has 90 days of stock on the floor. Our ordering process works on minimum stock levels and is replenished monthly. We have a team of technical sales personnel in the office and on the road who have combined industry experience of more than 100 years. We also have excellent working relationships and access to our principles, which enables us to offer the best advice for any query,’ Pam comments. To service the African market, Invincible Valves has agents located throughout the continent.

At the helm

Invincible Valves operates under a new-age management system with team leaders who have each been promoted from within the organisation. ‘With just five employees on each team, these leaders can forge meaningful relationships with their team members and easily identify training needs or social issues, for example. Each team leader reports to me, and we have an open-door policy and family-value system,’ Pam insists.

‘From a governance point of view, we have a full board of two executive directors, one non-executive director, and two independent directors. This ensures good governance and consistency within the organisation,’ she adds.

Being a woman at the helm of a company in a traditionally male-dominated industry has been a challenge. ‘However, each challenge has created new opportunities. So, while it’s been tough, it’s also been rewarding,’ Pam notes. ‘Initially I wasn’t taken seriously, and that was very difficult. But I decided to hang in there and learn as much as I possibly could to be able to engage in the right circles. With new levels of emotional intelligence and working in a sector with aging captains of industry also means that I’ve learnt to speak less and listen more. This way I’ve learnt a lot and can make informed decisions,’ she maintains.

After finishing school in 1988, Pam got her Diploma in Financial Accounting. She initially followed this path into the IT world of accounting software, Accpac, before joining a healthcare facility as the company’s administration manager.

Now, heading up Invincible Valves, Pam is the recipient of two global awards – Enterprising Women of the Year 2017 in Florida, USA; and Moving Mountains 2017 in Lisbon, Portugal. The Enterprising Women of the Year Awards is an annual tribute to the world’s top women entrepreneurs

It is widely considered one of the most prestigious recognition programmes for woman in business.

Accolade winners are recognised in seven categories and recipients of awards represent an amazing group of women entrepreneurs from across the USA, Europe, UK, Canada and Africa. Pam won her award in the Over $5 million and up to $10 million in annual revenues category.

Pam’s Moving Mountains 2017 award was presented by Unitedsucces, a global business organisation of credible women entrepreneurs interested in accelerating the growth of their businesses. It connects and unites women entrepreneurs to amplify positive global impact.

Philosophy and drive

Pam is a widow of 10 years. She has three young adult sons, a daughter-in-law, and a beautiful grandson. ‘My philosophy in life is that “too busy” is a myth. People make time for the things that are important to them. This is how I live my life. I am a mother, business partner, managing director, counsellor and socially responsible person. This is what fulfils me and makes me happy, so I make time for these things. My passion to add value to the universe is what drives me,’ she enthuses.

Knowledge is power

While Pam is usually the driving force behind Invincible Valves’ CSI projects, her staff are fully supportive and involved. ‘We primarily focus on women and children, which is very special to me and I feel privileged to have been able to touch many people’s lives.’ Invincible Valves’ ongoing projects include a reading programme that donates dictionaries to primary school children, a mentorship programme for young budding entrepreneurs that offers support and advice on the day-to-day running of their new businesses, and a partnership with a local technical high school to provide internships within our organisation. This gives students opportunities to learn about basic business practices and acquire new skills.

We extend our support to a training centre in Gauteng that trains unemployed, disabled people, and we also focus on healthcare education relating to HIV Aids, TB and general wellbeing.

‘We take these initiatives seriously and integrate these people into our business to offer them an array of opportunities. I believe these projects are essential.

If every company undertook one project a year, we would see a significant impact on our communities.

Knowledge is power. The more we share and transfer our skills, the more chance there will be of change through empowerment,’ Pam maintains.

A chance in life

‘I believe that everyone deserves a chance in life – particularly that leg up when moving from being a scholar to embarking on the world of work. Employers are usually driven by candidates having experience, but this is something you can’t buy or achieve without an opportunity. We have had great success with our intern programme and often identify talent for our own business.’

Invincible Valves has a training facility on site, and all training is provided to our staff free of charge. We currently offer the South African Valve and Actuator Manufacturers Association (SAVAMA) Working with Valves course, and a Basic Business courses. ‘Because we’re passionate about education, we extend our training to our interns and our partnered technical high school scholars.’

addition to the SAVAMA Working with Valves course, Invincible Valves also offers SAVAMA’s Introduction to Valves, and its Control Valves courses. ‘90% of our staff attend these courses because we feel it’s important to upskill everyone so that they have a better understanding of the products the company sells.’

 

Invincible Valves’ custom-developed Basic Business Skills programme covers topics that include emotional intelligence, communication, and buying and selling, to name a few. ‘This falls in line with our company value system of transparency and allowing people to grow in other areas of business and life,’ Pam adds.

‘The health awareness initiatives we offer provide training and testing and include an HIV Aids Day programme in December each year, a Tuberculosis initiative twice a year, and an annual Wellness Day.

These initiatives give our staff and local community an opportunity to learn about prevalent diseases and to take advantage of the free testing. Our Wellness Day covers high blood pressure, sugar diabetes, and cholesterol, among others. Again, we focus on our family value system of caring for each other and we challenge our staff to share their experience with at least one other person in their community.’

Setting the bar

‘Our internship programmes create opportunities for youngsters to gain work experience and for us to set the bar high when it comes to how they view company culture. I believe this is a great asset for interns to take away with them. In our case, very often our interns are offered positions within our organisation. We then move them between departments to identify their hidden talents and passions, which also gives us the great advantage of having multi-skilled employees,’ Pam enthuses.

‘My personal mentorship sessions are for students, young entrepreneurs and anyone who requires assistance with self-development and those facing tough times.

I’ve studied psychology, and mentoring is very special to me. I remember how alone I felt when I entered this industry and I now do my utmost to create support structures for mentees. I mentor on a personal level, as well as in communities outside our businesses because I’m passionate about seeing people grow, rise against the odds, and turn challenges into opportunities.’ Pam concludes.

Invincible Valves

Pam du Plessis, managing director

T +27 (0)11 822 1777

E          pamdp@invalve.co.za

W         www.invalve.co.za

Issue 7 - March to August 2018

Issue 7 - March to August 2018

This article was featured on page 8-11 of SABI Magazine Issue 7 - March to August 2018 .

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