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7 Questions with Alexander Pettefer
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7 Questions with Alexander Pettefer
Name: Alexander Pettefer
Current title: Group Chief Executive Officer
Current organisation: Technologia Lifestyle Group Limited
Alex is a hands-on Chief Executive Officer (CEO) with expertise in business development, finance, and operations, catalysing business cultures that innovate businesses. He has built a strong foundation for successful multi-million dollar companies.
In 2018 Alex acquired Technologia Group (formerly a British PLC), since then the company has gone on to become one of the most successful after-market consumer businesses in Southern Africa. In 2019 Alex launched its sister company, The Technology People, that provides an innovative approach to FinTech solutions that has seen the business deliver affordable care and leasing solutions to consumers with the flexibility of not being tied down to a specific mobile operator.
As a leader and innovator, Alex is comfortable in any role from the executive boardroom to the operating floor driving forklifts. He is a savvy negotiator known for his strong business development, relationship management and financial skills, having negotiated deals with and for Fortune 500 and FTSE 100 companies.
Since 2020 Alex and his wife have been investing in multiple businesses providing debt and equity to SMEs and hands-on support to assist the companies in realising their ambitions through their family company Macallan Walker.
1. What have you found most challenging as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise?
I have found that ensuring customer expectations are met and maintaining quality within an organisation are one of the biggest challenges. Working in the technology industry means that changes are effective multiple times per annum, and ensuring quality is maintained and knowledge transfer is successful is key to an organisation. It allows the business to ensure it keeps developing and transforming constantly.
2. How did you become a CEO or executive of a large enterprise? Can you please briefly tell the story?
Hard work and dedication, and as simple as it sounds, getting on with people have allowed me the opportunity to become a CEO. I have always found success comes from getting on with people and learning from other individuals. Whichever business I have worked in, I have always found a mentor within that organisation, and spent time learning. Coupled with the old fashioned “back to the floor” mentality really works. I promise you whenever you join a business don’t even enter an office for the first two weeks. Get out with your employees and learn what they do. Then you are talking with knowledge and not just reading numbers from a spreadsheet. It helps grow and develop an organisation much more successfully.
3. How do you structure your work days from waking up to going to sleep?
When I wake up, I spend the first half an hour of my day reading the news and current affairs, having a cup of coffee, and planning my to do list for the day. I generally wake up before the rest of my family, and this quiet time allows me to focus on the priorities for the day. Then it's family time for half an hour to an hour before going to work. Waking up my little one and just sitting there with him on the sofa is a great way to relax before starting the day.
Once working, I check in with my management team to see what support they need for the day and then work through my priority list. I have always found that prioritising tasks by day helps me achieve my goals on a day-to-day basis. Calls and meetings are also a large part of my day and with zoom becoming more prevalent during Covid, I have found that meetings have become much more efficient and straight to the point.
I always ensure that I am home by 5, to spend a couple of hours with my kids before they go to bed. Then I spend time catching up with my wife over dinner, before relaxing and then trying to get 6-7 hours of sleep per night.
4. What's the most recent significant leadership lesson you've learned?
The most recent leadership lesson I have learnt is how to handle an unexpected crisis. Covid-19 presented one of the most significant challenges I have seen in business. Our businesses in South Africa were closed for a month and our staff concerned, our customers asking us to provide solutions to a month of no production and our finance team concerned about the obvious revenue losses.
What I learnt from this was how loyal and supportive our staff were. How supportive they were and how they grouped together as a team to ensure we were safe and sound. I have worked in a number of businesses and the loyalty our staff showed was exceptional. The lesson here is always treat your staff with kindness and treat them the way you would want to be treated, as you never know when you will need their support. Covid has shown that as a business regardless of size, we have a great team.
5. What's one book that has had a profound impact on your leadership so far? Can you please briefly tell the story of how that book impacted your leadership?
When I was younger, I was given a book called Fish by Stephen C. Lundin, Harry Paul and John Christensen. It is set in Seattle’s pike place market. It was about a fishmonger who managed to turn their workplace into a fun and joyful market with exceptional customer service. I must have first read it when I was around 18, and for some reason it has resonated with me since then.
6. How do you build leadership capacity in a large enterprise?
Building leadership is about trusting the team around you, to empower them to make decisions and most importantly to let them make mistakes. It is also to look beyond the CV and focus on someone’s abilities and desire to succeed. I have worked with many people with great CV’s, qualifications and experience, but not all of them see leadership as an opportunity. They just see it as the ability to have your own office and nice salary. The leadership teams I have now are not all people with brilliant CV’s or MBA’s. They are people that understand how to work hard, nurture people and provide opportunities to others within their teams.
7. What is one meaningful story that comes to mind from your time as a CEO or executive of a large enterprise so far?
One of my most meaningful stories was how not to be a CEO. I was working for an American NYSE listed company in the UK and Ireland in the commercial department and had a new boss whom you could never please. His rules were a number of pages long and his timelines were never negotiable. It was such as shame as he spent more time focusing on how to benefit himself than he did on developing others.
My previous boss at the same company was a great guy, and I actually went to work for him about 6 months after he had left.
It all comes back to treating people, and something I had vowed never to try and be like as I grew in my career.