CFO Thembi Mazibuko on Masslift’s agile approach to Covid-19

Thembi Mazibuko accredits Masslift’s success during Covid-19 to its employees.

Despite being declared an essential service during the initial Covid-19 hard lockdown in April 2020, forklift company Masslift’s operations came to a virtual standstill as few of their clients were trading at the time. But instead of waiting it out, Masslift CFO Thembi Mazibuko and the rest of the executive team jumped to action in laying out a foundation for resilience by realigning job descriptions, KPIs and commission structures, as well as updating policies, adjusting procedures and retraining their staff.

From here, Thembi and the team focused on regular, more frequent reviews of their operational strategy as they became aware that this was now evolving at far shorter periods than it had before due to rapidly changing circumstances. Masslift’s agile approach extended to their offering and customer service models as well and several customers were provided with ‘special terms’ which reinforced Masslift’s relationships with a large percentage of their customer base. This, along with strong relationships with their OEM, Mitsubishi, and local suppliers, kept Masslift’s operations moving forward.

Thembi says that these efforts had the desired effect, as the business was able to start turning things around just a month later. “The financial results from May 2020 onwards were outstanding. Our aftermarket department turned their attention to short-term rentals, which cushioned the blow of the contracted new sales market. Masslift was able to pay full salaries monthly throughout 2020 with no retrenchments and we were able to put through an annual salary increase and pay incentives twice. Looking ahead to our upcoming financial year end in March 2021, we are likely to report a more successful year than the one before, despite the pandemic and lockdown.”

The heroes of Masslift’s success
Thembi accredits this success to the Masslift team. “Our employees are the heroes of the Masslift success story during this pandemic. Our field technicians and salesmen were on the frontline, in the uncertainty of an uncertain virus, maintaining our service levels and selling the Masslift dream. They kept our lights on during hard lockdown while the admin teams were focusing on how to streamline processes to ensure efficiency amidst a remote working structure,” she says.

She and the rest of the executive team made taking care of their employees’ physical and mental health the first priority during the lockdown. This ensured that their staff were in the right frame of mind to maintain the high service levels that their customers have come to expect.

They also looked at managing their staff’s work-from-home challenges, realising that not everyone was having the same experience working from home. A 24-hour counsellor was also made available to both Masslift staff and their immediate family.

Next up was dealing with the emotional and mental impact that the isolation and remote working has on employees. “We gave the team additional leave days throughout the course of 2020 to allow them time to de-stress away from work, spend time with their loved ones and to maintain a clear head during these trying times. We also issued a digital fatigue guide in early June to assist teams in managing their times on and off screen,” Thembi explains.

Leading into the future
Thembi says that, going forward, businesses will need to be agile, adaptable, and innovative to be able to weather this still difficult period with any degree of success. “We will all have to accept that Covid-19 will probably be with us for a while, and we need to be able to safely navigate around it. Leaders will need to be flexible and open to doing things differently, but effectively.”

She explains that digitisation has moved at a rapid pace due to the pandemic and it’s important to have controls in place to manage the risks around that, but also foresight needs to be applied to situations. “It’s business unusual, we don’t have the comfort of the experiences from the past to draw from and thus it becomes critical to have a clearly articulated strategy on how to steer the business to profitability.”

But most of all, Thembi says that focusing on the company’s employees is the most important, because they are the heart and the engine of the business. “If you take care of them, they will take care of the company for you,” she concludes.