Breath of fresh air

STAFF FOCUS: Kgosientso Ramokgopa places great emphasis on nurturing people. Pic. Bram Lammers.  18/10/2008. © Unknown
STAFF FOCUS: Kgosientso Ramokgopa places great emphasis on nurturing people. Pic. Bram Lammers. 18/10/2008. © Unknown

Zweli Mokgata

Zweli Mokgata

The youngest person ever to be appointed chief executive of the world's largest fresh produce market is this year's recipient of the Boss-of-the-Year Award.

Thirty-three-year-old Kgosientso Ramokgopa is the chief executive of the Johannesburg Fresh Produce Market and he has proven to be the right person for the job by leading the organisation from its routine loss and turning it into a thriving, profitable business.

More importantly, workers are happy and staff turnover has begun to stabilise for the first time in over five years.

Ramokgopa says: "I'm enjoying the work, even though there are challenges and pressures. The position of chief executive and the authority that goes with it means I have disproportionate influence on people's quality of lives.

"I try to ensure that people are continuously trained with new skills and I try to create an ambience where people are free to express themselves."

He joined the the market in late 2006 as interim chief executive. The board of directors intended for him to stay for six months, during which time he would resuscitate the ailing company.

"When I came in, it was a turbulent time for the company - it was financially in the red, there were certain ventures that were affecting the market adversely, relations between the board and management were broken down and there was high staff turnover.

"A number of policies were not in place and the organisation needed to be rejuvenated. There were people who owed us money for as far back as three years ago. We went on an aggressive debt collecting drive and fixed up some contract management issues," says Ramokgopa.

Sputla, as he is affectionately known, places great emphasis on nurturing people: "The one thing I'm aware of that I do better than other people in a similar position is that I give people space to apply themselves.

"I don't follow people around or look over shoulders. I request regular feedback, but I also encourage people to generate ideas. I don't know the business as well as some people here who have as much as 20 years experience, so I value people's input," he said.

His ideas seem to be working because the organisation has boosted revenue from R2,3billion last year to R2,8billion in 2008.

He says that by 2012, it will be generating R6billion and will be the best market of its type, complete with state of the art facilities.

Ramokgopa is not married nor does he have any children, meaning he can dedicate himself fully to his job and his community social development work.