Queen of recruiting

After matriculating, Busi Ntuli went on to study marketing at Wits Technikon in Johannesburg. She took part-time jobs for pocket money.

Ntuli recalls with a grimace unpleasant roles she had to perform, such as stocktaking or handing out pamphlets.

She started Flexi Personnel with her savings and reinvested earnings into the business. Now she employs 12 permanent staff and the company has sustained a growth rate of between 10 percent and 15 percent.

"It is very important to surround yourself with people who know more than you, but you will always have to lead by example," she says.

"Being good to other people at all times and taking interest in their [concerns] also helps."

What are the hardest decisions in business?

"You need to be able to take bold decisions. You have to be bold enough to harass those who do not pay; you also need to be able to refuse business from people with unscrupulous ways and without proper business ethics."

What about marketing?

"[I choose] word of mouth, dedicated sales staff and getting involved in every project."

No project is too small for her. She recently launched a blog on a website that deals with trade shows and networking.

Ntuli says she got into recruiting after fighting for black students to be given better jobs. She would argue with the manager of the technikon's in-house employment agency about the jobs she and her colleagues were getting. They became friends and she got a job as a marketer at the agency. There she picked up the experience to run Flexi Personnel.

Ntuli learnt early how to turn adversity to advantage. She was kicked out of the college's residence because she could not afford the fees. Many students would just have given up or slunk back to their parents' homes.

Not Ntuli. She started her own agency for temporary staff with a friend equipped with only a telephone in a corner of a friend's office.

Flexi Temps rose from this humble beginning as she began recruiting students for temporary and holiday jobs. She placed them in big companies like Pick 'n Pay, her first big account.

One day a client asked to take on one of her temps permanently. That was not her field, but Ntuli took the bull by the horns, did research on permanent positions and placed her first permanent employee.

So she started another division, Flexi Personnel, and then arranged temporary and permanent placements.

Her first permanent candidate prepared Ntuli for her big break, in 1997 when South African Airways chose Flexi Personnel to recruit flight attendants.

Flexi Personnel now recruits permanent and temporary staff for big companies.

Ntuli soon saw another opportunity in a related field when Flexi Ads, a recruitment advertising division, was born in 2002. The Flexi Ads team recommends the right medium for recruitment campaigns, then designs and places an advertisement for clients.

She says they help clients "bark at the right tree". The selection allows clients to attract more appropriate candidates and helps deter responses from unqualified candidates.

Flexi Ads has also forged a partnership with Moneybiz, with which its places clients' advertisements, designed by Ntuli's team.

Her formula works. Ntuli recently won the 2005-06 Top Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award.

"Flexi Personnel is about building relationships; we are your partner," she says.

The company is looking to go national, starting with the Eastern Cape this year.

But Flexi Personnel is not all Ntuli does. When she is not spending time with her daughter and her partner, she is also the managing director of TransAfrica Media Holdings. That company produces African-centric media content primarily for sub-Saharan Africa, but also to export markets.

The company's core business is to develop and control programming content distributed across a multiregional network to drive high audience share in radio, music, films, television and the Internet.

Ntuli has proven she is not just a pretty face; she is a hard worker and has all the qualities an entrepreneur needs.