CFO Day: People need meaning to thrive, says Altron CEO Mteto Nyati

Speaking at CFO Day, Altron CEO Mteto Nyati shared the learnings from his own turnaround journey at the company.

Speaking at the inaugural CFO Day at Marble Restaurant in Rosebank, Johannesburg, Mteto Nyati, CEO of Altron, said that people do better in an environment where they feel that what they do has meaning and that they are making a contribution. He said that when he joined Altron, he was tasked with resolving issues at an iconic company that had somehow lost its way.

Mteto said:

“This company could contribute significantly to the growth of South Africa, and I saw this as a great opportunity to help with this agenda. As a company, we have come up with a purpose – we want to deliver innovation that matters. I told myself that we will be helping to address in four areas – safety and security, healthcare, financial inclusion, and training and development.” 

When asked by Graham Fehrsen, MD of CFO South Africa, what CFOs should be doing to help purpose-driven organisations, Mteto said that while some people like strategies, others like strategies and execution:

"You need to understand the person that you are working with. Try to see how you can complement that CFO. There are many leaders who will come up and excite people, but those people can very quickly become disillusioned. That’s where CFOs come in. They make sure that there are key measures that are aligned with those ideals, and track them on a day-to-day basis in a way that people can connect to. That’s what I think that CFOs can bring to the table.” 

Mteto said that on his journey to turn Altron around, he went out into the operations and engaged with the business leaders in one-on-one sessions, holding townhall meetings and deep dives to understand the issues facing the organisation and the individuals. “People were surprised that the CEO was going out to the organisation, but that to me is very important," he said. "If you want to have people aligned to your agenda, it has to be linked to your values. You have to engage with your employees, that’s where the knowledge is. On a daily basis, they are connecting with our customers. I took three months to engage with operations and to listen. Then you start to understand the things you should keep because they are working for the company – they are part of the tradition and the history.” 

However, he added that it’s also necessary to be decisive. “Identify quickly that there are certain people who are not going to be part of your agenda of changing. Be decisive. Those actions send the right message to the rest of the company. It’s a difficult thing because you are going to be judged. But that’s a good thing. It keeps you honest.”