STRONG COMMITMENT - JSE MAGAZINE

STRONG COMMITMENT

Innovation and uncompromising service excellence are components
of what have made Invincible Valves the success it has become,
says its MD Pam du Plessis

Invincible Valves has grown from strength to strength since the company was founded 34 years ago, establishing itself as the largest Saunders distributor in Africa and a key valve distributor to all four corners of the globe.

The success of Invincible Valves is due to the fact that, having successfully identified a gap in the market, they then took an innovative step and developed their own brand of valve, more commonly known as the Inval range.

Their strong track record in the industry over many decades attests to the trust they have built with clients and stakeholders, how well they’ve been able to adapt the business model for ongoing success, the invaluable knowledge they have accumulated over the decades and the lessons they have learnt.

‘It’s extremely important for our business model to show that we have years of experience, and it proves our commitment to the industry,’ says Pam du Plessis, managing director of Invincible Valves.

Now two years into their five-year plan, Invincible Valves are implementing systems and controls that will be able to cope with the business growth and expansion. They’re also striving for diversification within the business – expanding their markets and product range, which will result in business expansion throughout Africa.

Price is an issue in any business, and with the current economic climate Invincible Valves has been forced to look for ways to ease the financial pressure on their clients

‘We do not want to sacrifice the quality of our products, so that proves to be our biggest daily challenge,’ says Du Plessis. Their solution has been to create an additional range made from a lower grade of stainless steel in order to give their customers options to balance quality and price to suit their specific needs, while still ensuring that customers receive a top-quality product.

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Compromising on service excellence, however, is not an option, and Du Plessis believes that the key to ensuring clients receive quality service (and that the staff are able to professionally and adequately handle any problems that may arise) is communication. For Du Plessis, it’s paramount that her staff, customers and suppliers are all kept in the loop.

This approach – the result of years of leadership and experience – has proven highly effective.

‘I learnt from my own mistakes and communication, and education is essential for corrective measures,’ she says. ‘So, if we drop the ball we understand why we did it, how it came about and how we prevent it in the future.’

Her staff members are also thoroughly educated on the value system that’s run within the business through a revolutionary employment and training blueprint that Du Plessis and her team have created.

This includes an initial ‘speed-dating’ interview process, as well as a 30-day immersion into the inner workings of the company that ensures that every staff member (from upper management through to receptionist and tea lady) knows precisely how every department works and functions.

This thorough training period also ensures that staff get to know, trust and respect each other as well as the company before they officially begin performing their duties – and they’re paid their full salary during this integration process.

‘It’s a family-orientated approach, based on honesty, integrity, innovation and communication,’ says Du Plessis – and it’s this very approach and work ethos that has yielded the company incredible staff loyalty, an exceptionally low staff turnover rate and a fervent dedication towards service excellence.

In 2007, Du Plessis joined Invincible Valves as an accountant and she has since has grown from strength to strength within the company.

‘I joined in January and I think that by April I had already started buying shares in the business. I became a majority staff member shareholder within the first year, after which I was promoted to financial director.’

From day one she aspired to become the company’s managing director … and three years ago she achieved her vision. Du Plessis attributes her incredible drive to her dad, who was a business owner for most of her life.

‘Growing up, I witnessed first-hand how he worked with ethics, passion, dedication, accountability and ownership. He studied all his life and shared his knowledge. He just loved what he was doing and that was – and still is – the key to his success,’ she says.

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‘It is definitely the passion that I have for this business and for people in general, because we are very community orientated and those are the kind of things that make me really tick, knowing that we’re doing a good job here and that we’re helping other people on the outside.’

Invincible Valves run a number of community programmes, notably an Aids day as well as running TB days twice a year for the local community, which includes providing information about the devastating disease. Du Plessis is also highly passionate about the education of children, and she and her team distribute picture dictionaries sourced from the UK within the local communities and schools, along with other educational material.

The company also runs its own Mandela Day drive, during which staff are divided into five teams that each visit various organisations and establishments, handing over product donations, food parcels and so on.

There’s no denying Du Plessis’ dynamism – and her exuberance and innovation as a leader is an inspiration for women throughout SA.

‘My advice for all the ladies out there is to get up, get dressed, put the big girl pants on, show up, and work hard,’ she says, adding that a leadership role can only be achieved by learning every aspect of the business, by knowing and understanding the people, being proactive, innovative, by learning a lesson with every encounter and by educating instead of over-compensating.

‘Whether it’s other people or yourself, you are only as successful as your team, and that’s what it’s about. You cannot do everything, but you do need to understand everything,’ she says.

Du Plessis’ ambitions are boundless when it comes to inspiring young girls to study engineering and she’s currently working on a programme to draw young girls into the field. Her aim is to challenge Grade 11 learners to grow their skills and talents.

At stake is a bursary to enter into an Invincible Valves engineering programme, sponsored by the company, with a place open for one boy and one girl who have good science and maths marks, in addition to a strong interest in engineering.

‘We are in constant contact with MERSETA and with the local technical high school to ensure we unearth the right talent for this programme,’ says Du Plessis.

One of the most valuable lessons she’s learnt throughout her steady rise is that no-one can define you but yourself.

‘Just be true to yourself and stick with what you know,’ she says. ‘If you’re unsure, ask the question then educate yourself.

‘Of course, some things are best left to professionals in certain fields. For instance, I am not a fundi on clearing or shipping, so we give that work to agents who know what they’re doing. Instead of trying to cut costs by hoping to figure it out yourself, rather pay the price, and then you will have confidence in knowing that it’s been done properly.’

Du Plessis believes there is strength in acknowledging your weaknesses.

‘Own your own destiny,’ she says, and you believe her when she says it. After all, these are words she has lived and breathed herself. 

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33 Shaft Road, Johannesburg, Gauteng, 1416
Tel: +27 11 822 1777/+27 11 027 1831
Fax: +27 86 632 6456/+27 11 822 3666
Email: pamdp@invalve.co.za
www.invalve.co.za