How Waldi Joubert is boldly embracing leadership

Calgro M3’s CFO Waldi Joubert shares his formula for meeting challenges head-on.

A self-described Type-A personality, Calgro M3 CFO Waldi Joubert says that what helped him reach CFO status at the age of 29 was the willingness to work hard, and an unrelenting pursuit of excellence and approaching problem solving as a dynamic process.

Growing up in the very small town of Trichardt in Mpumalanga influenced the way he thinks, he says. The simple, pared-down life of his upbringing made him the type of person who gets to the point quickly and who is very logical in approach.

The UP alumnus did his articles at PWC, where he audited Calgro for three years. After a great working relationship, the turnkey residential property and Memorial Parks developer which primarily focused on the lower end of the market, asked him to get on board. Waldi joined the group in January 2012 as group financial manager and was then appointed as financial director in June 2015.

“What I enjoy about the finance position is how it places you in a unique position to see all aspects of the business, in this way, allowing you to see how to solve multiple problems at once,” he says. He doesn’t consider himself a traditional auditor or accountant: “I like the creative side of problem-solving so I’m not your typical number cruncher.”

Waldi says the power of understanding the numbers is that they give you good insight into other facets of business such as decision making and deal structuring. “The finance person in the business generally has a big advantage in that they see the organisation as a whole. From an operational perspective they can see the impact of certain decisions, and anticipate how new systems and technologies may affect the business.”

Leadership style
The young leader approaches his work more like an entrepreneur and isn’t keen on just repeating the old way things have always been done, “I like to infuse some fresh thinking when faced with a challenge.”

His style is one that operates off a basis of freedom. “I don’t like micromanaging; that rigidity feels a little old school. You need to give people the opportunity to show you what they’re capable of and trust them enough to express it.”

He believes that if you enrol people in the bigger vision and give them room to flex their abilities, you get more creative solutions to the problems you are facing. “Your people are your company. It always goes back to people and creating an environment where they want to follow you.”

Waldi brings a curiosity to those he leads and invests in spending time with people to better understand who they are, what drives them and how they see things. “If your employees feel like you care about them, they perform much better and are free enough to approach you with a question or challenge,” he says. He makes time to get to understand their circumstances, what they are feeling and where they are operating from.

He prizes a proactive attitude and thrives when working with people who get knocked down, get up again and keep moving forward. His philosophy is that you can’t stop; you must keep moving. Sometimes it’s very difficult and you want to give up, but once you get the momentum going, you start to make progress.
Surround yourself with a strong support system

Waldi says having great people around him has been a game changer. His first instance was when he first made the transition from Mpumalanga to Gauteng. “Having a solid group of friends in university helped me to adjust. I also met my now wife then, and she was an incredible support from the start.”

He says having good people whose opinions you respect around you is important, but you need to be prepared to let them shape your views. “There’s no point in asking someone what they think and when they give you the answer, you have already made up your mind. You need to be able to tap into your support structure and be willing to really listen to the advice they give you. I view my parents as some of the wisest people that I listen to for advice – funny how I couldn’t figure this out as a teenager!”

He says a great support structure at work has been an essential part of his success. “People who came ahead of me have not been shy to share their knowledge, while letting me craft my own path, make mistakes and when I do, learn from them.”

He says the support of his wife, who is also a CA, has given him the space and ability to thrive at work, while creating a family life. The father of two boys, aged three and five, Waldi says the pair work as a team – even though his wife does most of the heavy lifting – to meet their work obligations while staying engaged at both work and home.

Beyond work
The avid sportsman loves mountain biking, running and participating in a few triathlons here and there. He also enjoys being outdoors, reading business books and listening to audio books. Cycling allows him to process his thoughts, get time to think, refocus himself and he finds that often he comes back with an answer to something, or feels calmer after a long ride.

As a working dad, Waldi tries to find the balance, but has found you need to make dedicated time for family. “It can be hard to draw that line, force yourself to take a break and holidays, but you must be deliberate, and with small children, they grow so quickly. Invest in their lives as much as possible,” he says.

Looking forward, Waldi says Calgro is a great fit and he enjoys working in a fast-paced environment that isn’t repetitive, but is ever changing. “I thrive in an environment that is entrepreneurial and dynamic, where I’m not only limited to growth opportunities within finance, but those that will keep me on my toes, force me to learn and be stimulating.”