Italtile’s outgoing chief executive Jan Potgieter joined the BizNews Power Hour on a day that the retailer announced record financial results. Italtile has been one of the best performing companies on the JSE for the better part of a decade with management’s decision making and capital allocation at the centre of its success. The home improvement trend has been a tailwind for the industry but Jan remains confident that its disciplined investment in organic growth will continue to lead the business to new heights. Jan’s tenure ends in December, another unfortunate case of ‘brain drain‘ in South Africa, although he outlines his successor Lance Foxcroft is a more than able replacement to lead one of the darlings of the local bourse. – Justin Rowe-Roberts
Jan Potgieter on running a successful retail operation during a dire macroeconomic backdrop:
I think these results are testament to the agile response of our resilient team – our robust business model with integrated supply chains, especially in these disruptive times – world class manufacturing and in our trusted retail brands, which is a safe environment for customers to shop. And over and above that, I think our unwavering focus on continuous enhancement of the customer shopping experience, whether it’s online or in stores. Then we continue to invest in innovation and for the future. I think our ethos of profit sharing and partnership with our people is really what made the difference. I am really humbled to have led such an awesome team and to be able to deliver such great results. So we are very proud of the efforts of everybody during very, very difficult times.
On the importance of leadership:
It’s always difficult to talk about leadership, but one thing for me – it has to be authentic. You really need to be an authentic leader that can connect with people at different times and understand what people are going through. Our culture is very much about rolling up your sleeves and setting the right example. And I think during tough times, that’s when real character is tested and that’s where real leadership is needed. You constantly have to create that hope for people and then walk the talk. It’s not for me to advise other leaders. I think each one needs to define their own way that they can get the best out of people and to live up to their own full potential. I think there’s so much potential in people that we are not extracting. Leaders can really get people as a combined unit to deliver so much more.
On the record financial results and home improvement tailwind the industry:
I think notably the industry did benefit from this enforced stay at home and change in lifestyle and priorities shift. We’ve been on a journey where we’ve focused on a lot on initiatives over the past three years. I think it just came together for us during this period. I guess we focus on things that’s within our control – levers, cost leadership, productivity and a high performance culture. So although we benefited from it, a lot of the things that we’ve done helped us not only to get the volume growth but to get the margin improvement and to really generate a lot of cash. So despite a bit of a tailwind, you still need to go and execute. We really tried to bring affordable fashion, which we say is the right product at the right time and place for our customers. Some of the innovations in the retail side through the scanners or what we’ve done on our web or in the distribution through our transport management system or in the manufacturing through our eco- textiles – it’s world class in the sense, it’s less carbon emissions – it’s some of the latest technology. I think all of those things combined with our people really has given us a step change. We know that this DIY trend won’t be there forever. But we tried to focus on the things that’s within our control and really try and drive that.
- Italtile prospers as ‘home improvement’ trend continues
- What’s next for JSE darling Italtile as it rewards shareholders with double-digit growth in profit, dividend
- Italtile plans African expansion, high-tech customer service to counteract tough trading conditions in SA
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