I want to excel in my role as CFO, says Mampe Gololo, CFO of Great North Transport

“I joined the company at a time when it was struggling, so I’ve had to be innovative and creative,” says Mampe Gololo, CFO of Great North Transport, a public entity focused on commuter transport in Limpopo. “The company has been loss-making for the last five consecutive years, so issues of turnaround are key. We’ve got to get the company back on its feet.”

Mampe, who has been in her role for almost 18 months, is a firm believer in the power of mentoring and coaching: "I believe these are inherent attributes that every executive should have. As an executive, you are a leader and should mentor and coach every day," she says. Mampe is involved in numerous professional organisations, including the Association of Black Accountants of South Africa, the Business Women's Association of South Africa and the South African Women's Network. "Networking is about self-empowerment and development. Being in Limpopo, issues of career advancement, especially in the area of finance, is lacking. My contribution is in these areas, as well as to business leadership," she says. In addition, she is a NYDA Youth Entrepreneurship Mentor and Coach, something she finds "exciting".

"NYDA gives you one or two emerging entrepreneurs to mentor for six months. You help them with issues of compliance, help them build a strategy, assist with people management. You work according to NYDA timelines but after that, the entrepreneur can move on and themselves become a mentor."

What are some of the challenges you face in this role?
"The company has been loss-making for the last five consecutive years, so issues of turnaround are key. We've got to get the company back on its feet. Being state-owned, external factors such as politics are a challenge. It's a daily battle but being politically aware and staying informed of current events takes you out of the sphere of finance. This is also a highly regularised entity. Organised labour poses a further challenge, and you have to build your relationship with organised labour. I've worked hard on this. We try to be transparent and have transparent communications."

What external factor has the greatest impact on the business and its performance and how do you mitigate this?
"Competition is one of our biggest challenges. There are a number of bus operators, especially with government trying to empower emerging businesses. The only way to mitigate this is to focus on operational efficiencies and building relationships with customers and ensuring they are the priority. We also work hard to build stakeholder engagement."
"Another challenge pertains to operational costs. We run commuter buses where overheads are high. Price increases affect our margins, particularly diesel. In this regard we can only focus on cost-cutting measures and operational efficiencies, and systems of internal control, to manage the costs as much as possible."

Your career has seen you work in various areas - public sector, consulting, finance, academia - in which area did you learn the most and why?
"I've learnt the most in my current role. I think because it's a culmination of all experiences I've had, and in my role as CFO I've been able to apply all of this. I'm an executive and joined the company at a time when it was struggling, so I've had to be innovative and creative."

One of your roles was a senior lecturer role in the accounting and auditing department of the University of Limpopo. Do you have a passion or aptitude for teaching?
"I think it's both. I was told several times when teaching that it seems that I have this magical touch on people. Learning and development is my passion - I was involved with it as Deloitte and at SizweNtsalubaGobodo. Without learning and development, my passion is dead. Excellence in everything I do comes out when I'm involved in learning and development."

What is the toughest business decision you've had to make in your career?
"When I had to change focus from learning and development as a career back to auditing. This was tough because I've always excelled in this area and I knew when I had to go back to auditing that it wasn't my strongest point and I was going to start from the bottom again. I didn't have much confidence in myself. But, I wanted to be a key player so I decided to go back to finance, because learning and development takes a backseat if a company does not do well financially."

What are your strengths as a CFO?
"I speak my mind, I'm emotionally mature, I'm analytical. I'm an excellent team leader and believe so much in learning and development. My ability to build rapport with people at different levels, including board and various stakeholder levels, is another strength, as is conflict resolution. When it comes to resolving issues, it's important to get both sides of the story. I always challenge people to focus on facts and not opinions. I also try to encourage people involved in the conflict to find their own resolution, independent of me."

How did you come to pursue a career in finance? Did you ever consider a different career path?
"I actually knew nothing about finance. When I went to university I wanted to do a degree that wouldn't make me a teacher. I was fascinated with accounting in the degree I registered, B.Sc., even though I was doing accounting for the first time. I then wanted to know more about it. But now I'm exactly where I want to be in finance, on the career path I want to pursue. I have fallen in love with the public sector. I just want to move higher up in this sector. I want to excel in my role as CFO."

What keeps you busy outside of work?
"I am raising five children, so they keep me quite busy. My oldest is 12, my youngest is three. We keep quite busy doing children's activities. There's very little time outside of this!"