CFO Prinisha Khoosal’s people focused approach at Bridgestone


Prinisha Khoosal's people-centred approach as CFO at Bridgestone South Africa makes a compelling case for the importance of managing with emotional intelligence to drive excellence, and got her promoted to FD of its AME region.

Within the realm of finance, emotional intelligence is often undervalued. Prinisha Khoosal's journey into the world of finance began with her natural affinity for numbers. Excelling in mathematics and accounting during her school days, she went on to pursue a Bachelor of Commerce, specialising in Business, Finance, and Economics. This academic foundation laid the groundwork for a career that would have her cross international borders, including significant roles at Universal Studios and Calvin Klein in the UK.

Upon her return to South Africa, Prinisha joined Gillette, where her talents in deciphering complex financial data quickly caught the attention of her mentors. They saw in her not just a skilled accountant, but someone who could bridge the gap between finance and business strategy. Encouraged to pursue a role as a finance business partner, Prinisha embraced the opportunity to blend her analytical skills with a more holistic view of business operations.

Prinisha began to appreciate the importance of balancing the 'hard skills' of finance with the 'soft skills’ of EQ. This realisation aligned perfectly with her ability to connect with people on a deeper level.

“I'm very much people-focused. I love building capability and future leaders,” she says.

So, when she joined Bridgestone South Africa as CFO in July 2020, Prinisha got to work transforming her team into the force capable of standing shoulder-to-shoulder with global peers that it is today.

At the time, the Bridgestone was on the verge of exiting South Africa, with low morale and year-on-year sub optimal performance.

In 2021, the company paid out record bonuses which wasn't just a financial incentive; but about getting people invested in the company's vision and success.

“I like to co-create solutions,” Prinisha explains. Her leadership style fosters inclusivity and co-ownership.

She's a staunch advocate for diversity, inclusion, belonging, and equity. Prinisha explains that, by creating a space where her team feels they belong, she ensures they buy into and own the company's agenda. This involves including them in creating KPIs, developing solutions, and encouraging innovation.

She introduced a ‘70-20-10’ learning model at Bridgestone, which stands for 70 percent learning by doing, 20 percent learning from mentors, and 10 percent learning from structured, formal training. “It proved to be more than just a learning strategy, and became a catalyst for the organisation’s transformation,” she says.

Not only did the staff count nearly double, but the business also experienced a 400 percent growth.

Navigating international markets with EQ

Prinisha’s journey hasn't been without its hurdles, especially considering the gender biases prevalent when she began her career in the mid-1990s. “Back then, it wasn't uncommon for me to be mistaken for someone who was there to serve coffee rather than to lead a business discussion,” Prinisha recalls. Her response was to gracefully accept the request to serve coffee, then take her seat at the table and impress with her knowledge and insight, challenging their preconceptions.

As Bridgestone expanded into new territories, Prinisha’s EQ played a pivotal role in facilitating this growth. Her ability to build trust and understand diverse cultural nuances was key to forging successful international relationships.

She reflects on her experiences, particularly in the Middle East, noting the stark contrast in business culture compared to the UK or Europe. “In some of these more traditional markets, as a woman, breaking into the business scene can be challenging," she explains.

Initially, her presence was met with scepticism, with counterparts often looking for the male colleague they assumed would be leading the discussions. However, Prinisha’s approach of fostering personal connections helped her establish the trust she needed to bring in the data and insights she needed to show how the company could add value.

“It’s about looking people in the eye, having genuine conversations over lunch or dinner, and building relationships,” she says, explaining that it’s the best way to make people willing to engage and collaborate.

Keeping it real with integrity and ethics in leadership

At the heart of Prinisha's leadership philosophy is a deep commitment to integrity, an integral aspect of her five-pillar CFO framework, which encompasses purpose, people development, business partnering, process efficiency, and protection.

“Integrity means doing the right thing, especially when no one's watching,” Prinisha frequently reminds her team. This principle is more than just a motto; it's a daily practice that guides the team's decision-making process, ensuring that their actions are not only profitable but also just and equitable.

Prinisha understands that cultivating a culture of ethical behaviour goes hand in hand with developing and retaining a capable team. She emphasises the importance of providing clear development paths for her staff, helping them understand their career trajectory and grow within the organisation. “It's about setting a direction and supporting our team to grow in that direction,” she explains. This approach fosters a sense of responsibility and accountability among her team members.

Operating in various international markets, Prinisha encourages her team to always consider the broader implications of their actions. “We ask ourselves if what we're doing is best for the business, our customers, and the whole ecosystem we operate in,” she says. This mindset is key to identifying new opportunities and driving innovation while staying true to ethical standards.

Prinisha’s approach is a balanced mix of professional rigor and moral responsibility, ensuring that Bridgestone not only thrives financially but also maintains its reputation as a principled and responsible organisation.

Her ethos is straightforward yet powerful: lead with humility, don't sweat the small stuff, and focus on what truly matters.

“It's not about proving a point," Prinisha often says. "It's about making a difference.”

Building a team that thinks big and owns it

Prinisha has a clear vision for what makes a finance team great. “I want strategic thinkers who can both zoom out to see the big picture and zoom in on specific issues,” she says. This ability to adapt and pivot between overarching strategies and focused topics is crucial in today's ever-changing business landscape. She values agility and proactiveness, believing that understanding business drivers and market dynamics is essential.

Her approach is about nurturing self-starters who take ownership of their work. “People want jobs and titles, but often shy away from true ownership and accountability,” she observes. This gap is something Prinisha addresses through resilience training and a culture that promotes leadership at all levels.

In her pursuit of a more inclusive and dynamic workplace, Prinisha has been instrumental in projects like ‘Women in Motion’, which sends women from South Africa to global platforms, advocating for diversity and inclusion. This initiative not only empowers women but also brings fresh perspectives to the table, keeping the workplace vibrant and forward-thinking.

Prinisha's concept of 'people equity' is equally noteworthy. She explains, “You might have three people with similar backgrounds, but their needs and strengths are different and that needs to be taken into account.” Her personalised approach to development plans and mentorship ensures that each team member's unique capabilities are recognised and nurtured.

This focus on individual strengths and motivations has been a game-changer at Bridgestone, revolutionising how the team operates and contributes. By embracing this diverse and inclusive approach, Prinisha has fostered a culture where innovation thrives and everyone feels valued and empowered.

Now, Prinisha starts the next phase of her journey at Bridgestone as the FD for its Africa Middle East region.

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