Zoliswa Mashinini to set a new pace at Bidvest Automotive as CFO

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Bidvest Automotive CFO Zoliswa Mashinini reveals what it’s like joining a new industry, and why it’s the move she needed to grow as a leader.

Zoliswa Mashinini has taken the helm as the new CFO at Bidvest Automotive – a move that, at first, seemed improbable given her seven-year tenure at G4S. However, having served as both CFO for the security company’s South Africa division and FD for its Africa and Middle East divisions, she had gotten used to the unyielding toughness that came with the industry and found the culture shift at Bidvest Automotive appealing when headhunters came knocking.

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Zoliswa was appointed into the role in November 2023, after CFO Carla Seppings was promoted to CEO. She reveals that what drew her in was not just the lure of a new challenge, but a need for fresh, positive energy.

“Carla actually said to me: ‘When faced with tough decisions, you must always think with your head, but speak with your heart’. That, and some of the other things she had said to me about how they engage with each other and how they run the business, eventually convinced me that this is the right place to be,” she says.

As she delves deeper into her new role, Zoliswa is adamant about focusing on managing energy effectively for holistic wellness. “I’ve always been a ‘pace-setter’. I like to be in the detail, walking with you on the journey, but still leading from the front,” she says. However, she is cognisant that this is an industry she’s not yet familiar with. “As much as I want to set the pace I need to spend more time understanding the industry better.”

She adds that this move has presented her with the perfect opportunity to “unlearn and relearn”. “I am open to exploring new territories.”

Recognising the challenging times the automotive industry is facing due to economic pressures and shifting market dynamics, she emphasises that now is the best time to join the company.

“The opportunity to see an industry going through a downturn and then start growing presents a fertile ground for learning.”

Joining Bidvest Automotive in November, she was fortunate to find the company in a scaling-down phase as South Africans prepared for the holidays. “It gave me enough room to just apply my mind and understand the business at a much slower pace,” she adds.

With the new year well underway, she has spent the last month helping to craft the company’s communication strategy for 2024, which will not only address business objectives but also places a strong emphasis on the wellbeing of the team. Now, it’s up to Zoliswa to implement the strategy. “The proof of the pudding is in the eating, right?” she says optimistically.

Employee wellness is an important cog in any progress, she reveals that they will be working with some consultants to roll out overall wellness programs to help employees realise their true potential. “We also have ways of keeping the team engaged and ensuring everyone stays healthy internally, including starting a steps challenge with floating prizes, for example.”


Navigating a new industry

Speaking about the automotive industry, Zoliswa’s focus will be on ensuring Bidvest Automotive stays ahead of its competitors. She stresses the importance of a balanced brand representation, especially with the influx of Chinese brands that have disrupted the market's traditional landscape.

“A lot of the Chinese and other brands that have entered the market appeal better to South Africa in terms of affordability. So if we want to make sure we have the right balance in terms of brand representation, we have to diversify more and explore partnership opportunities with these new entrants,” she explains.

“We also want to diversify the business further with complementary automotive services which are market related. and these will include commercial and heavy vehicles,” she adds.

On top of that, there has also been the introduction of electric vehicles (EVs) into the market. Zoliswa explains that global players are moving quickly in this space, and that Bidvest Automotive has to do the same in order to stay ahead of its competitors.

She adds the global teething problems we’re currently experiencing in the EV market are going self correct and the country needs to be ready for when that happens. “There’s no other way than to move in that direction. South Africa needs to ensure that our infrastructure can support the implementation timelines stipulated in the Electric Vehicle whitepaper that was recently released.”

Zoliswa says to “watch this space” for when the rebound comes. “We need to be innovative, do things differently, and think outside of the box as we navigate the changes in the market, and in the country,” she concludes.

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